The Hungarian capital is one of the most stunning cities in the world with a population of 1.75 million. Budapest is relatively young, it was founded in 1873 when the cities of Pest, Buda and Óbuda were merged. Divided by the river Danube the Buda side is hilly, while Pest was built on a plain. Most of the sights are located in the city center and all of them are easy to reach. It’s time to discover them!
Budapest is definitely not one of those cities that you can fully explore in two or three days. However, if you are staying only for a couple of days, you still have a chance to discover the most important sights, some local entertainment spots and perhaps some hidden treasures as well. Let’s see what this city has to offer!
We suggest that you start your tour from Deák Ferenc tér (just a little Hungarian lesson: ‘tér’ means square and ‘utca’ means street). In case you still or already have your luggage with you, you may check it in at the information point of Luggair before starting your tour as sightseeing is no fun with a luggage. When you’ve “exhausted” yourself with marveling at the stunning buildings, you shall head to Deák Ferenc utca (street), aka Fashion Street which takes you almost directly to the Danube and the stunning River Promenade.
After enjoying the view from the riverbank, you can cross the Danube on the Chain Bridge that leads you directly to the station of the Castle Hill funicular (Budavári Sikló) which is the easiest way to get to the top of the hill while also providing a perfect view of the city. In case you are short of time, there is an alternative route by public transport, a bus that also leaves from Deák Ferenc tér. In the courtyards of Buda Castle you will find the beautiful Matthias Fountain, statues of the mythical Turul bird and the lions of the courtyard; the building itself houses the National Széchényi Library, the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. In the Castle District, don’t miss the Matthias Church (Mátyás-templom) and the Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) – all of them are in short walking distance from each other. Halászbástya is the number one lookout point of the Castle District that provides you a truly breathtaking view of Pest. In addition to being a true memento of Budapest’s history, the Buda Tower, aka Mária Magdolna-torony also gives you a unique view of the city.
You can walk back to the Pest side on the Chain Bridge and head north towards the magnificent building of the Hungarian Parliament. If you prefer to see the front side as well, take metro line M2 for 1 stop from Kossuth tér to Batthyány tér and have another look from a very different angle on Europe’s second largest parliament building. If you are not so keen on taking a guided tour to visit the building and see its (stunning) interiors, you may indulge in something sweet at the Szamos Chocolate Museum on the corner of Kossuth tér, which is owned by of one of the oldest and most renowned chocolate manufacturers of Hungary.
History buffs will be more than happy to take a walk past the statue of Ronald Reagan on the nearby Szabadság tér (Liberty Square) where you can still find a Soviet war memorial standing. From there the Saint Stephen’s basilica (named in honor of Stephen I, the first king of Hungary) is just a shout away. The dome of the basilica offers one of the most spectacular views of the buzzing city below. You can reach the top by walking up 364 steps or by taking the elevators.
Continuing your way behind the Basilica, you will find a road full of luxury shops, a nod to Paris’s avenues, called Andrássy út (road), leading directly to the historical Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square). Two museums, a zoo, a spa and a pond is also located in the Városliget (City Park) surrounding Heroes’ Square – the latter turns into Central Europe’s largest open air ice-skating rink in winter time. If you feel your legs giving out, take metro M1 (the first subway line ever built in continental Europe) which takes you back to Deák Ferenc tér. You can spend a nice evening in the area around Gozsdu Udvar (Gozsdu Courtyard), Király utca and Zrínyi utca (just to mention a few) where a number of fashionable places to eat, drink and party have cropped up in recent years.
Churches may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but missing the Great Synagogue in Dohány utca would be quite a mistake, so your next stop should really be this amazing house of worship – the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. The historical streets of the surrounding Jewish Quarter are full of popular cafés, bars, breakfast places and ruin pubs, including Szimpla Bar, an absolute favorite among tourists and locals alike. Besides the never-ending parties, they also host a farmer’s market every Sunday morning.
Talking about farmer’s markets, Budapest has quite a few 19th century market halls. The largest and most prominent of them, called the Great Market Hall, is the one on Fővám tér. If you feel like tasting some local specialties or just want to buy some fresh product or nice souvenirs, this is the place to go.
Although the Chain Bridge is the oldest and most well-known bridge of Budapest, the intricate ironwork of Szabadság híd (Liberty Bridge) may be an even more astonishing sight. This bridge connects Fővám tér and Szent Gellért tér, the latter being home to the beautiful Gellért Hotel and Spa at the base of Gellért Hill, named after a Christian martyr whose statue stands on the hill. With a little hike, you can reach the top of Gellért Hill where the Hungarian Statue of Liberty welcomes you. Hint: Budapest has quite a few stunning viewing points but the very best of all is Gellért Hill by night. All monuments of Budapest are lighted up until 1AM from May to September and the rest of the year until midnight. You can walk up or grab a taxi – either way, it is strongly recommended to visit this spot.
If you have more time on your hands, for example, after taking the obligatory photos in Heroes’ Square, take a long and relaxing walk in the City Park, or recharge your batteries at the nearby Széchenyi Spa – we can guarantee that you won’t regret it, especially in winter. Another attraction of the City Park is the stunning architecture: discover Vajdahunyad Castle which was built in 1896 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the conquest of the area by the Hungarians. Similarly, if you are into the arts, take time to visit the now reopened and beautifully renovated Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts next to the square.