The capital of Hungary, Budapest, is not just nicknamed “Paris of the East”. The city is one of the most culturally important capitals of Eastern Europe and home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although people have lived here since the Stone Age, this beautiful city officially came into existence only in 1872 with the unification of 3 previously independent cities — old Buda, new Buda and Pest. The city immediately became the administrative, commercial and industrial center of Hungary. Situated on both sides of the Danube, Budapest is known for its stunning architecture and thermal springs, which have been used for therapeutic purposes since prehistoric times. Today, Budapest attracts more than 20 million visitors annually from all over the globe. Tourists are attracted here by the numerous historical sights of Budapest, museums and art galleries, as well as its sports facilities, including the Hungaroring Formula 1 track.
Castle Hill rises high above the Danube. Numerous medieval monuments and important museums of Budapest await you here. Undoubtedly the most spectacular of these impressive structures is the 18th century Buda Castle, or Buda Castle. The massive palace with 200 rooms is effectively illuminated at night. Another important point of the castle hill is the Fisherman’s Bastion of the late 19th century. It was built on the site where in the Middle Ages there were protective fortresses of local fishermen. The bastion is located behind the beautiful Matthias Church with neo-Romanesque towers, colonnades and embrasures. All this has been completely restored according to the original project. Castle Hill is also home to many excellent statues.
Another outstanding attraction of Budapest is the panoramic Gellert Hill, 235 meters high, the steep slope of which descends to the Danube. It is here, due to a geological fault, that the most healing springs of the city are located, including the Baths of Gellert and Rudas, which have received visitors since the 13th century. The hill was named after Saint Gellert, a Benedictine monk who died in 1046. On the northeastern slope of the hill there is a monument in his honor. A tribute to Hungary’s most famous saint perched above a tall man-made waterfall, offering magnificent views of the city. The Austrian Citadel was built on top of Mount Gellert in 1851. It is also an interesting place to explore. Another landmark is the monument to the liberators, erected in 1947 in honor of the Soviet soldiers who died in World War II. Finally, if you still have some energy left, then take a walk through the Jubilee Park. It was created in honor of the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the October Revolution and will captivate you with many charming paths, beautiful flower beds and sculptures.
Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts is not only the most important art gallery and popular attraction in Budapest. It also houses one of the largest collections of old masters in Europe. There are many Italian, Spanish and Dutch paintings by masters of the XIX century. All this is very carefully laid out in the halls, where long rooms are allocated for large paintings, offices for small ones, along with the impressive architectural surroundings of the Renaissance hall. The museum was built in 1870 after Hungary inherited a fine collection of paintings, drawings and prints. It is divided into 6 excellent departments: Egyptian Art, Ancient Art, Old Sculpture Gallery, Old Painters Gallery, Contemporary Collection and Graphic Collection. The adjacent Palace of Art is the city’s leading contemporary art museum and hosts many temporary exhibitions. Museum hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Entrance for adults costs 18 forints, for children — 6 forints.
Hungarian National Museum
Founded in 1802, the Hungarian National Museum moved into its current classical building in 1847. In addition to the massive portico and monument to the famous Hungarian poet Janos Aran, the numerous busts of famous personalities in the park gardens stand out. The main exhibitions of the national museum include the royal regalia with the magnificent crown of St. Stephen, adorned with precious stones and pearls. There is also an interesting exhibition dedicated to the history of Hungary from the Stone Age to Roman times and the early Middle Ages. Also noteworthy are the many exhibits dedicated to the struggle for the country’s independence. The museum offers to study historical Hungarian and Turkish weapons, and music lovers will be interested in Beethoven’s Grand Piano, which later belonged to Franz Liszt. Such monuments make Budapest one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
The epicenter for walking along the beautiful pedestrian streets of Budapest is the area around the architectural complex of the Parliament of Hungary, as well as the neighboring Museum of Ethnography and the Ministry of Agriculture. The third largest Parliament building in the world is located in the neo-Gothic building of 1886, erected in honor of the 1000th anniversary of the country. Hungary at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Hungarian Parliament consists of 691 rooms, as well as an impressive 19 km of corridors and stairs. A 45-minute tour of this Budapest landmark is available at any time when the government is not in session. The tour covers the highlights of the building, including the main lobby, various lobbies, and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
The Danube River flows through Budapest from north to south and reaches a width of 640 meters within the city limits. There are many places from where you can enjoy the view of this magnificent majestic river. But one of the best ways is to walk along the banks of the Danube, which will give you the opportunity to enjoy the stunning architecture of the city. On the northeast side of the building of the Hungarian Parliament, you will find a frightening monument. These are 60 pairs of steel boots, installed on the banks of the Danube in memory of the Jews shot by the Nazis. It is interesting to explore the Danube during a boat trip, which regularly starts from any of the marinas.
Heroes Square in Budapest
Heroes’ Square is the work of the eminent architect Albert Schickedanz, who also created the Museum of Fine Arts. The main attractions of Budapest on the square include the Millennium Monument — a 36-meter column crowned with the figure of the Archangel Gabriel. The column was built at the end of the 19th century with a group of bronze horsemen around the pedestal. They represent the warlike Hungarian Prince Arpad and six of his loyal warriors. On both sides of the column are semicircular colonnades with statues of Hungarian rulers. In front of the Millennium Monument there is a Memorial to the Unknown Soldier.
Varosliget Park with its pretty lake is a popular place for entertainment for the people of Budapest as well as tourists. Covering an area of 302 acres, the park was founded in the 19th century and designed by a famous French landscape gardener. Numerous cultural recreational facilities have developed here over the decades, including two large art museums, the municipal Zoological and Botanical Gardens, and an excellent transport museum with one of the oldest collections of model railways in Europe. Also of interest is the Tivoli Park for children with rides and slot machines, the large Széchenyi thermal bath, the Vajdahunyad Fairytale Castle and the 100,000-seat folk stadium, in addition to numerous smaller sports facilities.
The central attraction of Budapest is Andrássy Avenue, which stretches for two and a half kilometers — the busiest street in Budapest for pedestrians and vehicles. Created in 1876, a wonderful boulevard leads from Erzsébet Square to the Millennium Monument in Varosliget. Magnificent palaces, the important cultural building of the State Opera and the Conservatory, the Ferenc Hopp Museum and other landmarks are beautifully lined up along this avenue in honor of the great Hungarian composer. The statues of numerous Hungarian freedom fighters are also noteworthy. Andrássy Avenue is a popular shopping destination in Budapest with numerous high-end gourmet shops, excellent cafes, restaurants and theatres. You can learn more about this street in the selection of what to visit in Budapest while traveling.
Barely 2.5 km long and 503 meters wide, Margaret Island is a popular holiday destination for locals. The thermal baths fed by the thermal springs, the meticulously manicured gardens and paths, and the ruins of Budapest’s many historical sites attract many visitors. The main place for any visit is the Palatinus Baths — a huge spa complex on an area of 17 acres. It includes a wave pool, as well as various healing children’s baths. The complex can simultaneously accommodate up to 20,000 bathers. Other points of interest on the island include the pretty Rose Garden, the monument to the Union, the ruins of the Dominican nunnery where Princess Margaret once lived, and the 1911 50-meter water tower with an observation deck. There is also a large summer theater here.
Inner Ring of Budapest
The inner ring of Budapest surrounds the old city center of Pest, following the former city walls. In addition to the Hungarian National Museum, you’ll find the 18th-century university church here, one of the finest Baroque churches in the city. Other attractions in Budapest include the Petofi Literary Museum, with its collection of works by leading Hungarian poets and writers. The inner circle also includes the Pest synagogue and the Jewish Museum, created in 1859 according to the plans of the Viennese architect Ludwig Vershter. The romanticized Moorish-Byzantine style of this three-winged temple is very pleasing to the eye, as is its beautiful interior. Other important landmarks include the Reformed Church, with a single classical style wing built between 1816 and 1850. Also visit the Bible Museum with the first printed version of the Greek New Testament and the 19th century central market with a variety of products of all kinds.
Outer ring of Budapest
The 4‑kilometer outer ring of Budapest starts at the Eastern end of the Margaret Bridge and runs in a semicircle to the inner ring, ending at the Petoshi Bridge. Opened to traffic in 1896, the outer ring is home to many of Budapest’s impressive sights dating back to the end of the last century. Highlights include the 1870s West Station built by Eiffel’s Parisian firm. Here is located the largest shopping center in Central Europe called WestEnd with more than 400 stores.
The most beautiful baroque church in Budapest is somewhat hidden from the eyes of the mass tourist. It is located in the south of Pest, away from the main shopping streets. The central façade of the University Church overlooks a narrow lane. Built between 1725 and 42, the main façade includes a triangular tumpanum depicting Saint Paul and Anthony. The only nave of the church with pilasters and side chapels is dressed in artificial marble. Highlights include frescoes on the vaulted ceilings, a choir box, and the famous Pauline Convent near the church.
The Margaret Bridge consists of two sections, the first of which connects the Buda Ring to the southern tip of Margaret Island, and the second connects it to the outer ring. Built in 1876, the bridge is the second oldest bridge across the Danube. Although it was destroyed during the Second World War, the bridge was approved in 1948. Not far from this Budapest landmark you will find the excellent Lukács Baths, a spa complex from the 12th century. Another famous spa complex is the Royal Baths, which is part of the Hungarian National Institute of Rheumatology and Physiotherapy. This is definitely one of the most beautiful bridges in the world with a unique history.
The Aquincum Archaeological Park completes our overview of the sights of Budapest. This unique place is the ruins of the ancient Roman city of the same name. The ruins of ancient amphitheatres, as well as a number of other buildings, have been perfectly preserved to this day. On the territory of the Aquincum complex there is a museum with interesting expositions. Among them are a number of ancient Roman exhibits found during archaeological excavations.