Budapest Travel Summary

“Statuesque Budapest, Queen of the Danube!” is segmented into 4 key travel themes to immerse you into everything Budapest:

  1. An introduction to this wonderful city;
  2. Facts & Figures;
  3. Itineraries;
  4. What to See

In writing this post I hope to inspire you to explore this wonderful City.

Hope you enjoy it!  Carpe Diem!

1. Introducing Budapest

Statuesque and proud in equal measures, Budapest rises above the Danube in a dream-like manner.  There are few cities that capture your imagination in such a magical way – seeing the Parliament Building from Fisherman’s Bastion will evoke a sense of euphoria in a world that has lost touch with its surroundings and nature.   For me Budapest evokes child-like memories of reading Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

The views at night across the River Danube are sensational with all the incredible buildings flickering like candles into the infinite universe – like a calling card to our Lord and our greater Universe.

With a wonderful natural setting straddling the River Danube, beautiful architecture and flavoursome Magyar cuisine, Budapest in one of the most rewarding cities in Europe to visit.  Its magnificent bridges and boulevards and its grand riverside views invite comparisons with Paris, Prague and Vienna.  Budapest boasts a wonderful cultural life from coffee houses to its restaurants and its wine producing tradition.  The city has recently acquired a new modern edge all of its own, with cool boutique hotels and its hip bars springing up in artfully decaying buildings.  The city is also distinctively Hungarian, its inhabitants displaying fierce pride in their Magyar ancestry.  Their language, too, whose nearest European relative is Finnish, underlines the difference, that can represent a challenge to visitors but is no barrier to enjoyment of this most cosmopolitan of Europeans cities.

Budapest Cover

Known as the ‘the Pearl of the Danube’, Budapest is made up of three distinct towns Obuda and Buda (the historic medieval city on Castle Hill) are on the west bank of the River Danube, and Pest (the administrative and commercial city) is on the east.

Buda is older and dominated by the Bar (Castle Hill), a mile-long plateau overlooking the Danube, it was the capital of medieval monarchs and the seat of power for successive occupying powers. Built during the city’s golden age in the late nineteenth century, with boulevards of Hausmann-like apartments blocks sweeping out from the old medieval centre, Pest holds most of the capital’ s magnificent Art Nouveau edifices and has a noisy bustling feel.  Following construction of the first permanent bridge between the two cities in 1849, power gradually moved across the river, culminating in the building of the grandiose Parliament on the Pest side.   The two halves of the city still retain their differences.

Bud Night3

Above all, Budapest is probably known for its spas, which range from fabulous Ottoman-era bathhouses like the Rudas, to fine nineteenth-century Art Nouveau buildings such as the Gellert.  Another of Budapest’s strong suit is its restaurants, which have made the city one of the new gastronomic destinations of Europe.   Fantastically, innovative, contemporary Hungarian food is now firmly to the fore, alongside some brilliant international cuisine.   Hand in hand with the  gastronomic renaissance is Hungary’s superb wine, often overlooked abroad, but the quality of which often comes as a surprise to many visitors.  Catering for a wide range of testes, Budapest’s nightlife is also very much of a draw.  Welcoming and accessible, it ranges from the city’s distinctive “ruin pubs” in decaying apartment blocks or courtyards to tanchaz (dance houses)

There is plenty to offer in terms of Classical music and opera, too: world-class ensembles and soloists can be enjoyed in the Palace of Art’s state-of-the art concert hall or the grander older setting of the Music Academy and Opera House.   Fans of pop, rock and world music can discover a wealth of local talent, especially on the fold scene, alongside big internal names, but the biggest event of the year is the Sziget Festival, held on the island just north of the centre in August, which is one of Europe’s largest musical celebrations.

 

2. Facts & Figures

Budapest Facts Figures

 

  • The Tallest Building:  The tallest building in the city is St Stephen’s Basilica and the Parliament, both are 96 metres tall.  This is a reference to the year that Hungary was founded, in 896.  No building can be taller than this
  • Ruin Bars: Szimpla Kert was rated the 3rd best bar in the world and #1 in Budapest
  • Paprika: Paprika was invented in Budapest.  Hungarians eat more than 500 grams of Paprika per year
  • Subway: The oldest subway in Continental Europe
  • Rubik Cube: Rubik, the inventor of the Rubik Cube was born in Budapest
  • Language: No one knows where the Hungarian Language came from
  • Thermal Baths:  More thermal baths than any other capital city in the world
  • 3rd largest Parliament: The third largest Parliament in the world
  • 2nd largest Synagogue:  The second largest synagogue in the world

 

Bud7

 

3. Itineraries:

Budapest is a very walkable city and can be enjoyed without your day being too action packed.  Whilst every visitor will have their own views of Must Do activities, below are a few ideas to help you decide on which tourist attractions you are going to pick off.  I loved the sights so much that I also repeated the itineraries at night time as once the sun sets, Budapest is arguable even more magical – a real photographers dream!

Suggested Day 1 Itinerary:

Day 1 Itinerary

10am – Walk across the Chain Bridge: 

  • Take in the magnificent views by walking across the Chain Bridge and the statuesque Parliament Building
  • Take the Funicular up to the Royal Palace which houses the Budapest History Museum and National Gallery with its extensive history of Hungarian Art

1pm – Wander across to Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion:

  • Matthias Church is one of the finest churches in Budapest, and the most unique churches in Europe
  • Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest is one of the top Budapest attractions. The present-day lovely lookout towers / decorative fortification of Fisherman’s Bastion were built in the 19th century to serve as a lookout tower for the best panoramic views in Budapest

3pm – Hop on the # 19 Tram to rest your feet:

  • Jump on the number 19 tram, which runs along the Buda embankment. To the right you will see the recently reopened Varkert Bazar
  • The tram then passes the Rudas Baths, with a panoramic rooftop pool, before reaching Budapest’s most famous hotel and baths Gellert

4pm – Delight your taste buds with a visit to Great Market Hall:

  • The Great Market Hall is both a tourist attraction and a one-stop shop for Hungarian souvenirs
  • Then drop by the Hungarian National Museum which collects, preserves and presents the historical relics of the Carpathian Basin and Hungary since 1802

Suggested Day 2 Itinerary:

Day 2 Itinerary v0.3

10am – Visit the grand Danubius Hotel: 

  • Visit the historic Danubius Hotel for a fabulous breakfast in splendid surroundings
  • Next visit the Great Synagogue which is a 5-minute stroll away. The synagogue on the Dohany street of Pest is not only the most impressive one in the country, but it’s the largest synagogue of Europe

1pm – Take a tour of the Parliament Building: 

  • Striking an imposing and impressive figure on the edge of the River Danube in the heart of Budapest, Hungary’s Parliament building is one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival architecture in the world today
  • Ranked among TripAdvisor’s top 15 landmarks, this architectural marvel proved more popular than London’s Big Ben, Athens’ ancient Acropolis and Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral in its 2017 Traveler’s Choice Awards
  • Attracting nearly 700,000 visitors each year, Hungary’s Parliament building is one of the busiest and most intriguing tourist destinations in Europe, with more than a hundred years of history behind it

4pm – Take a stroll up Andrássy út towards Heroes’s Square: 

  • The long 2.5kms stretch of Andrássy út is the busiest boulevard in Budapest that traces its existence back in the eighteenth century
  • The plush strip of Andrássy út opens out from the Erzsébet Square leading its way to the Millennium Monument at the Városliget and is flanked by magnificent Neo-Renaissance townhouses and mansions that boast the finest interiors and facades, which is why this avenue has been crowned as one of the World Heritage Sites
  • Heroes’ Square is the largest and most symbolic square in Budapest. It is dominated by the Millenary Monument (Ezeréves emlékmű), a 36m-high pillar topped by a golden Archangel Gabriel, holding the Hungarian crown and a cross

 

Budapest By Night:

Budapest by Night v0.2

Relax with Spa Time:

  • Every weekend, the renovated Rudas Baths open-up to men and women until 4am.  The Lukacs Baths host spa DJ party Magic Bath until 3am on Saturday nights.  Within the City Park (Pest), the Szechenyi baths operate until 10pm

Drink with a sunset view: 

  • Catch a sunset on the roof terrace of Vorvinteto or at 360 Bar at the top of the ornate Parisi Nagyaruhaz.  For Danube visits, the A38 boat is not only a gig venue but a restaurant too – you can enjoy a meal without having to pay admission for the night

Jump on a City Tour Hop-on-Hop-off:

  • A fantastic way to the city’s magnificent sights glowing in a gem-like fashion in the starry Budapest skyline
  • If you have bought a day ticket these are valid for 24 Hours and include a boat ride.   English commentary is available

Delight your taste buds with Budapest fine dining:

  • Budapest offers fine dining at affordable prices – try Costes Restaurant (Raday Street) – the first restaurant in Hungary to earn a Michelin star   
  • Other notable restuarants include Costes Downtown, Babel Budapest, Oynx and Stand Restaurant

 

4. What to See

 

Hungarian Parliament

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • Viewed from the opposite bank of the Danube (Fisherman’s Bastion) the façade of the Hungarian Parliament is one of the Budapest’s defining sights. Its endless rooms contain boundless treasures
  • Opened after decades of construction in 1902, it represents one of the finest Neo-Gothic buildings in Europe

 

St Stephen’s Basilica

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • With its 96m high dome visible from all over Budapest, St Stephen’s Basilica houses the city’s most bizarre relic – the mummified forearm of King Istvan
  • The Basilica is visible from all over Budapest. Splendidly lit at night, it is one of the most photographed sights in the city

 

Gellert Hotel and Baths

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • Budapest is famous for its numerous thermal baths, and the best are the indoor and outdoor pools at the legendary Gellert Hotel
  • Its main swimming pool is one of the best examples of Neo-Classical architecture in Hungary, and is an ideal place to enjoy Budapest’s warm therapeutic waters

 

Margaret Island

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • Isolated until the 19th century and long a retreat for religious contemplation, the lush and still-secluded Margaret island is an ideal place for a peaceful stroll
  • It was a popular hunting ground for medieval kings, and monks were also drawn to its peace and quiet

 

Hungarian National Gallery

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • The six permanent exhibitions spread throughout much of Budapest’s Royal Palace present the most valuable collection of Hungarian art in the world
  • The Gallery displays art from medieval times to the present day

 

Matthias Church

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • Work on the Gothic Buda Castle Church of the Virgin Mary began under Bela IV. It owes its popular name of King Mathaias, under who the distinctive tower was added
  • 250K coloured roof tiles were manufactured at the Zsolnay works in Pecs. Thanks to its splendid acoustics, it often hosts concerts of classical music

 

Hungarian State Opera

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • Built to rival the opera houses of Vienna and Dresden, Budapest’s sublime Hungarian State Opera is best viewed whilst taking in one of its world class performances
  • A Neo-Renaissance masterpiece build in 1884 and is a rival to any opera house in the world

 

Statue Park & Memento Park

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • Almost all of Hungary’s Communist-era statues, which once stood in publics squares, are now displace at this fascinating open-air museum on the outskirts of Budapest

 

Fisherman’s Bastion

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • In the Middle Ages, the part of the town was under what is now the bastion was inhabited by fisherman
  • The terraces offer a breathtaking panorama of the city.   An undulating white rampart of cloisters and stairways intersecting at seven tent-like turrets – the bastion is as fascinating as it is beautiful

 

Liberty Statue and Citadel

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • The fortress on the top of Gellert Hill was built by the Habsburgs in 1854, after the crushing of the 1846-49 War of Independence, it is now a broadcasting point for several radio stations, while there are restaurants and hotels inside the building
  • Standing by the south-eastern bastion of the Citadel, the Liberty Statue is one of the symbols of Budapest

 

Castle Hill Funicular

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • Until 1928, the world’s second funicular was the only means of public transport to the Palace in Buda Castle
  • The funicular has a 95-metre-long track and carries 24 passengers in each of its carriages.
  • Trains leave every 10 minutes, daily, from the Buda end of Chain (Szechenyi) Bridge
  • Bag a seat in the first carriage for the best view

 

Chain Bridge

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • The first permanent bridge between Buda and Pest was the dream of Count Istvan Szechenyi and was opened in 1849
  • On some public holidays and summer weekends it is transformed into a pedestrian-only bridge

 

Rock Church

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • There are caves inside Gellert Hill where, according to legend, a hermit healed patients with the water of the spring
  • The thermal sprints ensure a pleasant temperature of 21 degrees C throughout the year

Shoes by the Danube

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • The sixty pairs of bronze shoes modelled on footwear from the 1940s commemorate to those who were shot into the Danube by the Hungarian Nazis
  • The composition was unveiled in 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust

 

Hall of Art (Kunsthalle)

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • Standing on Heroes’ Square, Hall of Art is a national hall of contemporary art, which presents the best of today’s visual arts from Hungary and abroad

 

City Park Boating Lake and Ice Rink

AllThingsTravels Top Pick:

  • The 15,000 square metre ice rink, which is just off Heroes’ Square, was opened in 1870 on a section of the boating lake
  • The ice rink is filled with water in the summer and is used as a boating lake

 

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