Buda castle complex covers a vast area on a hill overlooking the Danube, offering great views of Pest (just as the nearby Gellert hill does). It used to be the residence of the Hungarian kings and you can admire their residence and the beautiful old buildings within its walls. As this was the heart of Hungary it’s a place of great significance to the country’s history and therefore it is enriched with many finely crafted works of art which you should enjoy wandering around the place.
Fisherman’s bastion cam be found near Matthias church on the castle hill and it is a 19th century masterpiece, equipped with seven towers, each one representing one of the original seven Magyar tribes that first settled in Hungary. This place derives its name from the fisher-men’s guild, which was the one responsible for this area’s defense during Medieval time. Apart from the statues of the Magyar chieftains, you can view the statue of Stephen I of Hungary, but to us the Romanesque towers and the great view of the river and Pest are the greatest thing about this place.
Matthias church is the Gothic styled church that stands next to the Fisherman’s bastion, at the heart of the castle. It’s an exquisite building and the roof tiles are colored in the lovely Hungarian colors which merge brilliantly with the coloring and architectural style of this great temple.
Gellért Hill is our last suggestion on the Buda side of the city and apart from the view of the river and Pest, you can find lots of sights up there. On the hilltop you will catch sight of the Citadella, the old fortress of the city (there’s a display of Soviet weapons there), where you can have a closer look at the Liberty statue, that is a reminder of the victory over the Nazis. The hill is named after St Gerard of Csanád, who – according to an unverified fable, was thrown into a spiked barrel and rolled down this hill during a pagan uprising and you can also visit a church that is built in one of the hill’s caves.
The Széchenyi Chain bridge was the first permanent crossing of the Danube in Hungary (there is a total of eight bridges nowadays) and it was constructed in the 19th century, when it was considered one of the world’s engineering wonders. George Sinas was among the main contributors and you will most certainly enjoy crossing the river, while admiring the artwork of this great sight.
The Hungarian Parliament and the adjacent Lajos Kossuth square is the largest building in Hungary, established in the beginning of the 20th century. It’s a huge, beautiful construction that really stars on every photo taken from any of the Buda hills point of view. You do not have to limit yourself to outside views though as you can visit the interior and admire the works of art kept inside.
Hősök tere (Heroes’ square) is a vast square that will please your eyes with its immensity. The statue complex will capture your view and will urge you to climb on some of the lower statues, try horse-riding with one of the Magyar chieftains of old if you wish and get some great shots. The image of Archangel Gabriel on top of a high column dominates the complex and seems as if ruling over those important figures of Hungarian myth and history featured on the column’s feet.
Vajdahunyad Castle is next to the Heroes’ square and is a combination of various architectural styles from buildings all around Hungary. Although it was constructed by the end of 19th century, the building seems older and will make you think that you are living in a fairy tale (or a horror story if you encounter the bust of Bella Lugosi and see the statue of the anonymous writer of Gesta Hungarorum, it’s your choice). We visited the site after dark and it proved a great experience, but a day visit is probably a great – if not the better choice.
The Great market hall. Ah! This wonderful place! An indoor market at the end of Vaci street that features a ground level and a smaller floor. On the ground level you can buy anything from souvenirs to local products, like paprika, meats, fruit, candy and other tasty stuff, while on the floor you can explore Hungarian taste in one of the many eateries and find even more souvenir shops.
Vaci utka is a pedestrianized commercial street where you can shop, buy souvenirs or simply enjoy a drink, food, coffee, you get the idea. It is definitely a great place for a relaxed walk and although it seems to be more addressed to tourists, you ‘ll get the vibe of the city.
The Hungarian National museum. A great place if you are curious about the history of the district as we were. I personally wanted to have a look at the Byzantine emperor’s crown, but the exhibition covers the history of the area from the ancient times to the 20th century. It is a great chance to view some prehistoric exhibits displayed, as well as some other from the Huns and the Avars that roamed these lands in the Middle ages. We mostly enjoyed the last rooms of the exhibition, which featured many rooms arranged by decades, that displayed the lifestyle of average Joes and Janes (or the Lászlós and Eszters if you wish) of Hungary at these times.
The Danube promenade is a great place to have an enjoyable walk – especially if the sun shines bright in the sky and simply enjoy life. Would you believe that the site where you can enjoy your ice cream used to be the borderline of the civilized world? Barbaric tribes roamed the lands beyond Pest, while beyond Buda the Roman empire reigned supreme. Nothing to worry now though . Just take a sip of your coffee and enjoy the views and the art, these barbarians can no longer harm you.
Andrássy ut is a fine boulevard, that will offer you some great views of the marvelous buildings Budapest awards its visitors. As in Vaci street, you will also find many places to shop, as well as many cafes and restaurants. An elegant avenue that will undoubtedly please you.
St Stephen’s Basilica is a great 19th century temple, near the parliament, along with which are the tallest buildings in the city. You can enjoy the artwork and even view the catholic ritual for a while. If you are lucky enough you can probably enjoy one of the concerts held inside.
Ruin pubs are a superb aspect of Budapest fun. We were constantly visiting Szimpla and up to this day we feel as if something is trying to draw us back to this place. These pubs are located in buildings that were abandoned, for instance Szimpla itself is located in a spot where an old factory and houses once stood. The facades of these pubs don’t look that special, yet what’s inside will surprise you. No seat is the same as the others and each table is unique, ranging from old cars, bathtubs, toys, old chairs, you name it. The atmosphere epitomizes relaxation and you can enjoy food and drink at great prices. I could go on forever writing about these places. I will limit myself here and stop right… now.
Nagymező street and statues in general are an attraction themselves. There are many statues in the city streets that were created during this century that give the place a modern look that mixes harmonically with the artistic styles of previous centuries found all around Budapest. Nagymező street is a place where you can find some of them, but our favorite is the round bellied policeman near the parliament, while you can also view the little princess, a great piece of art if you ask us, the girl with her dog, the statue of Ferenc Puskás, if you like football (I do and my club owes this man a lot), or even the Michael Jackson memorial tree. Another site is the one of shoes left on the Danube bank, a reminder of the murder committed by Nazi collaborators on the spot during WW2.
These are the places we could visit on our time schedule. Apart from these sites you could visit the Széchenyi Baths (or any other thermal bath facility) or even relax on Margaret island, visit the Roman ruins of Aquincum or even Szentendre, an artistic town extremely close to Budapest. If you would like to escape the city, Siofok on the shores of lake Balaton seems like a party town, while close to Budapest you could have an excursion to the traditional Village of Hollókő. Before venturing on this trip, we also thought that a day visit to Szilvasvarad or Lillafured castle seemed like a good idea and I still maintain the notion that this place is a hidden gem of Central Europe. On our next visit to charming Hungary it will certainly feature first on our list.