Budapest, Budapest, you are wonderful! – as the famous operetta claims, and we cannot disagree. This is my hometown and still, sometimes I feel enthralled by the sights when I am lost in my thoughts on the crowded bus 178. I look out the window and amaze how various my city is. Divided by the Danube, Buda, and Pest are two sides of the same coin. Buda is the calmer, fancier side built on a series of hills. Home of huge mansions, green areas, the noted Buda castle & the ornate Matthias Church. With the seven towers of the Fisherman’s bastion in the forefront, it looks like a living fairy tale. From here you can overlook a tiny corner of the Margaret Island, four of our bridges over the river, and the smooth cityscape of Pest. Bustling streets, cultural attractions, savory street food, eclectic ruin bars, and stirring nightlife await the visitors here.
I collected five of the most compelling places from both sides to give you wanderlust.
They are just a few steps away from each other in the heart of the castle district. The church is over 700 years old and if you turn your head up and look closer, you can see how ornate it is. The roof is made of colorful ceramic tiles from the world famous Zsolnay factory. If you want to take a look — and some photos — inside, there is a 1500 HUF entrance fee (less than 5 EUR) which is a pretty reasonable price for visiting one of the most beautiful churches of Hungary.
The Fisherman’s Bastion is a must-see sight in the city. Not just because it looks wondrously with its massive whitish stone walls, historical statues, numerous turrets and arcades, but it is also a great vantage point to overlook Pest and the Parliament building. The seven towers have a symbolic meaning. They represent the seven Hungarian tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin in 895. Its name comes from the middle ages – the fishermen were responsible for defending this part of the city when it was under attack. There is a small entrance fee (1,000 HUF, which is approx. 3.4 EUR) if you want to visit the upper towers, but otherwise, you can wander around freely.
During the day these places are usually overcrowded with tourists, so if you intend taking a stunning shot without a huge crowd in the background, you should rise and shine early. 🙂
The Castle Bazaar is a newly renovated, picturesque neo-renaissance building complex just right at the feet of the Castle Hill. It can be approached from the Buda Castle and as well from the riverside of the Danube. It is a registered World Heritage site which offers cultural programs, like open-air concerts and art exhibitions and hosts events like runaway shows and galas. You can also plan peaceful walks and romantic picnics on the greenery lawn of the garden or simply dine out and have a cocktail or a glass of wine in one of the surrounding bars & restaurants. The whole place has a lovely, unique charm, which makes it a perfect first (second, third…) date scene. Especially that the garden is open from 6 a.m. to 24.00 a.m. 🙂 One of my personal favorite — kind of a hidden — spot there is the pavilion with the winding staircase. It has a colorful glass cupola and a tessellated facade above the balcony.
If you’d like to take professional shots with your DSLR cam, you might be told to request a formal permission in order to do so. It should be a five minutes process in one of the nearby offices, but without a direct warning, you don’t necessarily have to spend time with it. (There is no fine, no expulsion).
The Chain Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks of Budapest. It was the first permanent bridge across the Hungarian section of the Danube River. The outstanding suspension bridge was built to connect Buda and Pest, which were at that time — before the 1849 completion of the bridge — separate cities. The name comes from its structure: the road-bed hangs on huge iron chains. Near the end of the WWII, it was blown up and destroyed almost completely. Only the pillars remained undamaged. Thanks for the restoration, the current bridge looks exactly like the original one. Either walking or driving through it, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city and the boats cruising peacefully on the river. At nighttime, when the dark surface of the river reflects all the lights of the city, it just gets more magical. Irrespectively of the time of day, when I pass by the guardians, those imposing stone lions situated at both sides, I can feel the historical significance of this bridge. It symbolizes the necessary connection between East and West.
I’m sure that after a whole day walking around the city you’ll be pretty exhausted. Pontoon is a chill, outdoor place where you can relax, eat wood-fired pizza and enjoy live music with a glass of wine right at the feet of the Chain Bridge. Taking a picture is mandatory from here; you’ll have a whole new perspective of the river and Budapest.
The Parliament of Budapest is one of the most significant symbols of Hungary. It is the largest edifice in the country and the third largest parliament building in the whole world. It is also one of the tallest construction in Budapest, head to head with the St. Stephen’s Basilica. The 96 m (315 ft) height of the cupola refers to a historical event, the Hungarian Conquest in 896. This grandiose architectural work took almost 20 years to be complete. But its enthralling beauty cannot be described in numbers. Head across the river to the Batthyány Square, or climb up the Castle Hill if you want to see it in all its glory. The Parliament has a unique, eclectic style – the exterior has Neo-Gothic features and the interior is mixed with Neo-Byzantine decorations and Renaissance and Baroque elements. You can take a guided tour (around 50 min, 2400 HUF for EU citizens) inside where among others you can see such precious treasures like the Coronation Jewels and the Holy Crown of Hungary.
If you are into close-up shots, take a walk around the Parliament building on the Kossuth Lajos square. You will catch sight of chiseled details, find statues of prominent Hungarian politicians, and a bit further you can even bump into Ronald Reagan! After all the tours and walking give your feet a break and take a scenic cruise on the Danube. You can take that perfect picture of the Parliament and the rest of the sights while having the time of your life. I suggest choosing the BKK (Budapest public transport service) boat, since it’s super cheap (750 HUF – less than 2.5 EUR) and run on schedule with high service frequency, even in the evenings.