Attractions in Budapest
City breaks are experiences and attractions. And after all, not many cities in Europe have more and more sights and attractions than Budapest in Hungary.
The Margit sziget, with its vast green spaces and warm health baths, has been a popular excursion area among the city’s inhabitants for 140 years. The island is in the middle of the Danube and is connected to the city by one of the bridges that cross the Danube, so it is quite possible to walk there on foot from both sides. Most of the island is reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. In the past, the island had such different functions as monastery and harem, under the Ottoman rule.
Houses of parliament
Built on the river banks of the Pest site between 1885 and 1904, this neo-Gothic parliament building [see picture first in article] was one of the largest buildings in the world, with a height of 96 meters and a length of 268 meters. Parliament’s grand façade totally dominates the cityscape seen from the Buda side.
You can also enter the House and take a closer look at the three main halls and some of the over 700 rooms. The Hungarian crown jewels are also on display here. Guided tours with English-language guides are available during the summer months. Open daily from 2 pm 1000 to 1700. Entrance fee must be paid.
The Fishing Bastion (Halászbástya) is a neo-Gothic terrace in the castle district on the Buda side of the Danube. This was built as a vantage point as late as 1905, although it looks much older. The seven conical towers here represent the seven original Magyar tribes that founded the nation of Hungary. From here you have great views of Pest, the Danube and the Parliament Building.
Entrance approx. 10 kroner, children half price.
In the middle of the castle district you will find one of Budapest’s most visited tourist attractions, the over 700 year old Matthias church. The church has a significant role in Hungarian history and has been the site of several coronations and royal weddings.
During the Turkish occupation of the 16th century, the church was converted into a mosque, and many of the priceless frescoes were painted over or destroyed. Open daily from 2 pm 0900 to 1800, expect a small amount in entrance tickets.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
This neo-classical church of St Stephen’s Basilica was completed in 1905 and is Budapest’s tallest building next to Parliament. Guests can take the elevator or walk up the 364 stairs at the top of the dome.
Another and more macabre point of interest in the church is the thousand-year-old mummified hand of Hungary’s first king, Stefan, whom the basilica is named after. Free entrance, but if you want to go up in the tower, it costs a few bucks.
To the south of Buda Castle lies Gellérthegy, a height of 235 meters named after the martyr Gellért, who was thrown from a cliff nearby. From Gellérthegy you have the city’s best views of both the districts and the Danube. There is also a magnificent citadel and one of Hungary’s last remaining socialist monuments, the Liberation Monument.
During the 1956 revolution, Russian tanks stood on the Gellérhegy hill and fired at Budapest’s center. Today, this is a better residential area, where you will also find many embassies.
In the district of Óbuda, where the original Roman settlement of Aquincum was located, today you will find the Aquincum museum among 2,000-year-old Roman ruins and an amphitheater. In the museum there are exhibits of Roman coins, weapons, jars and other finds from the site’s archeological excavations.
Open daily from 2 pm 0900 to 1800 except Mondays, entry fee is a few tikrons, children half price.
In the Varosliget city park is a large circus that has performed with its line dancers, clowns, trapeze artists, balance artists and exotic animals for centuries.
Performances every night from Wednesday to Sunday except September and October, ticket prices from around NOK 30.
Franz Liszt Memorial Museum
In Erzsebetvaros lies the house where Hungary’s foremost composer and piano virtuoso Franz Liszt (1811-1886) lived for the last five years of his life. This is now a museum open to the public, and here you can see Liszt’s pianos, pictures and other personal effects.
Open daily from 2 pm 1000 to 1800 on weekdays, and from 6 p.m. 0900 to 1700 on Saturdays. Entrance around 5 kroner.
The statue park, or Szobor Park, is a little outside the city center and is a strange sight. It houses the communist monuments that decorated the center of Budapest until the 1990s. Huge statues and busts of Marx and Lenin, plaques for Béla Kun, large bronze figures of heroic workers and soldiers.
The souvenir shop sells other objects from the Soviet era, such as hats, buttons and coins. Open daily from 2 pm 1000 to 1800, entry about 10-20 kroner.
Tourist in Budapest
Budapest’s city center is relatively small and compact, and it is quite possible for a normally skinny person to stroll around and get the most out of Budapest within a few days.
If you do not live in the city center, it may be worthwhile to buy a day pass which is valid on all buses, subways and trams. The price is approx. 15 kroner, or 25 kroner for a three-day card.
There are also several operators offering guided tours in Budapest in several languages of varying duration. You can pre-book everything from a few hours bus ride to full day Donau cruise or helicopter tours.
Day 1 in Budapest Attractions and Tourist
This will be a long day that includes a lot of walking, so have a hearty breakfast at the hotel before setting the course for today’s starting point on the Pest side, Deák Tér. All metro lines and tram lines 47 and 49 pass through Deák Tér, so it should be easy to find. There is also a tourist information, where you can pick up a map and brochures before you leave. From the subway, you may want to pass the Underground Museum. Here you can see trains and photographs from Central Europe’s oldest metro.
Continue south towards Szervita Tér and you will see a 1700s church in the Baroque style. Take the street to the left of this into Városház Utca, and you will pass the city’s largest Baroque building, the City Hall (originally built as a hospital), and the 19th-century Pest Megyei Önkormányzat, which corresponds to the municipal hall. Walk the pedestrian tunnel under the street and you will come up at the Franciscan Church, which has its roots from the 13th century.
National Museum of Hungary
Continue south on Ferenciek Tér. You will certainly notice the University Library with its colorful verdict, which can be traced back to 1561. Continue on to the University Square (Egyetem Tér) and the Baroque University Church, the Literary Museum and the Law School. Head east towards Kálvin Tér, and a few minutes north on the Múzeum map, the Hungarian National Museum is housed in a large neo-classical building from the 19th century. The museum has artifacts from all over Hungary’s history, and the dress is the crown of the country’s first king, St Stefan. The museum is closed on Mondays.
From here you can go down to Kálvin tér again, where you pass the Calvinist Church en route to Budapest’s largest market hall, where all fresh produce such as meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and flowers are sold on the ground floor. Upstairs there are craft shops and eateries, if you start to get hungry. Next to it is the Toll Building, still with a large statue of Karl Marx in the entrance hall.
Shopping street Váci Utca
The street that goes northwest from the market hall is Váci Utca, Budapest’s foremost shopping street. Most of Váci Utca is a pedestrian street, where you will find everything from modern designer shops, department stores, perfumery and electro shops to small, traditional craft shops. Here you can buy the typical souvenirs from Hungary, such as wood art, ceramics and porcelain. At Vörösmarty tér lies one of the country’s most traditional cafes with decor and décor as at the beginning in 1858, Café Gerbauds. If you have not yet eaten lunch, this is a great time.
Afterwards, continue the street northwest until you reach Roosevelt tér on the banks of the Danube. On the other side of the river is Buda Castle, and Budapest’s oldest bridge, the Chain Bridge, is in front of you, guarded by large lion statues. Here is also a memorial statue of the national hero Ferenc Deák, and one of the city’s most idyllic and photogenic walks extends along the river up to the next bridge, the Margaret Bridge.
Along this river promenade entertain musicians and artists, cartoonists and street vendors, while having a beautiful view of Buda on your left, and the city’s best and most expensive hotels and Parliament on your right.
Városliget Park and dinner
Afterwards, it might be time for a trip back to the hotel to relax a little and put away the shopping bags. In the afternoon you can take a metro to Hösök tére or a taxi to Városliget, the city’s large park, which houses both an amusement park, botanical garden and a zoo. Here is also Europe’s only permanent circus building, with traditional performances with seating for 1900 people.
If you have made a reservation in advance, after the circus show you can walk a few hundred meters to one of Budapest’s oldest and most famous and exclusive restaurants, Gundel, which was opened by and named after Hungary’s legendary gourmet chef Károly Gundel in 1894. Not very cheap, but you get main courses from around 100 kroner, and dishes of this quality cost more than double in the Nordic countries.
Day 2 in Budapest Attractions and Tourist
The next day, we focus on the other side of the river, starting at the Moscow intersection, just northwest of the castle district. Follow Várfok Utca for a few hundred meters and you will reach the northern gate of the old city walls. The entire area here is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Inside the gate you will find four picturesque parallel streets between old houses, museums, churches and palaces.
The poor workers originally lived in this part of the city, but today the homes are sold for astronomical bucks and have become Budapest’s most fashionable residential area. You can easily spend most of the day here. Stop by the Military History Museum, the Apothecary Museum and the Commercial Museum, and take the opportunity to admire the view from the Fishery Bastion.
Next to the Fisherman’s Bastion is the ugly Budapest Hilton Hotel, which with its flashy facade seems somewhat out of place in an otherwise almost intact medieval town, but its location and view certainly do not complain to the guests.
Matthias Church and the Castle District
On the main square in the middle of the castle district lies another and far more beautiful landmark, the 700-year-old Matthias Church, which holds an important position in Budapest’s history. Along the southeast, in the direction of the Royal Palace, you pass sights such as the Ministry of Defense, the Palace Theater and the Sándorp Palace.
At the entrance to the castle itself, notice the huge totem-like statue worshiped by the ancient Magyars as their ancestors. Inside the castle grounds you will find a modern art museum, Budapest Historical Museum, the National Gallery and the National Library.
At the southernmost end of the castle district you will find a gate under a round tower. The road leads to a long staircase down to Szarvas tér in the Tabán district. If you have not yet eaten lunch, the traditional Hungarian restaurant Aranyszarvas is close by, in an 18th-century building with a beautiful outdoor terrace.
Víziváros – The water village
If you are still keen to walk more, you can now continue north again, on the streets between the castle district and the Danube. This district is called Víziváros or Vannbyen, and used to be the center of trade and fishing. The main street of Fó Utca has Roman origins, and you can see many old and interesting buildings on both sides.
Today, Víziváros is the nightlife center of Buda, and you will find many pubs, bars and cafes in the area around the Margaret Bridge.