I was lucky to visit Budapest, Hungary lots of times yet somehow I never really covered it properly on the blog. Fortunately, Sharon from the blog Exploring Our World helped me and wrote this great article on why you should travel to Budapest. I’m sure it will inspire you to plan a Budapest trip soon!
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a city that captured my heart from the moment I arrived. As it lies farther east than other popular Europe destinations, I had planned to go but ended up changing my mind on previous trips.
But I’m so happy that I finally made it. Here are some of the reasons I think you should visit Budapest too, including some of the best things to do in Budapest!
Table of contents
Admire the Danube River
Budapest was once two separate cities, Buda and Pest, with the Danube River flowing between them. They united to become Budapest.
The beauty of the Danube graces both sides of its banks. Take in views above the river from Buda’s Castle Hill and enjoy walks right along the water in Pest.
The bridges across the Danube that were all destroyed in World War II have since been rebuilt. The most well-known is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. Named for the Hungarian Count who prompted the construction, this is a suspension bridge initially built in 1849.
When you travel to Budapest, you can stroll across this bridge to get a feel for the heart of the city.
See a blend of cultures and styles
Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in Central Europe with impressive architecture.
One of the most famous Budapest attractions is the House of Parliament. Sitting on the river’s shore, it was built from 1885 to 1904. This Neo-Gothic and Baroque building is topped with a high red dome and contains almost 700 rooms.
As you explore Budapest, you will come across a blend of Eastern and Western styles. Budapest has been invaded through the years by Celts, Romans, Turks, Habsburgs, and German Nazis. After World War II, it fell under communist rule by the Soviet Union. Budapest finally broke free in 1989 with the collapse of the Iron Curtain.
Parts of the city are frozen in the past, displaying layers of history. This includes a literal “iron curtain” on the main boulevard, Andrassy Street, to symbolize that era. Around every corner is some interesting building or artwork, some of them are great Budapest tourist attractions.
Explore Castle Hill
Venture up the steep hill above the river on the Buda side to visit the vast area known as Castle Hill. You have a choice of walking up the hill, climbing steps, or riding a funicular up to castle level.
This district of Budapest dates back more than 700 years. King Bela IV staked his claim here so that he could ward off the attacks of the Mongols on his people. The Baroque Royal Palace here today, built in its present form in 1769, stands guard at the entrance to the grounds. You’ll also find meandering medieval streets, quaint shops, and cafes.
Dominating Castle Hill is the imposing neo-Gothic Matthias Church, with an impressive mosaic tiled roof. Next to the church is my favorite of all Budapest sights, Fisherman’s Bastion – one of the best places to visit in Budapest. This is a surviving part of the medieval wall once maintained by the Fisherman’s Guild. With its columns and little nooks and stairways, you will feel you’ve been transported into a fairy tale.
For an unusual experience, tour the Hospital in the Rock, which is literally a hospital built into the rock under the hill. Functioning during World War II and the Cold War, this bunker hospital was run by the Red Cross and treated wounded from all sides of the conflicts. The tour takes you through the tunnels, and you learn about the soldiers who passed through here.
As you leave Castle Hill, you will pass Sandor Palace, the residence of the president of the Republic. The guards here rival those of Buckingham Palace, complete with a changing of the guards’ ceremony. And as you descend the hill, be sure to take time to admire the view down to the Danube.
Pay respects at the Shoes on the Danube
Continue your Budapest sightseeing on the Pest side of the river where you’ll find the moving memorial to Jewish people of Budapest killed here during World War II. What you see is 60 pairs of rusted shoes in the styles of the 1940s, cast out of iron.
The shoes are different sizes and styles because no Jews were spared, no matter their age, profession, or status. The baby shoes are particularly poignant. You can leave flowers or other tokens of respect if you wish.
Ride Tram No. 2
The cheery yellow Tram No. 2 plies its way back and forth along the Danube in Pest. You can hop on the tram, blend with the locals, and simply ride along the river bank.
Go as far as you like, though you will get off at the end of the line and get back on a tram going the other way to carry on.
The tram winds behind the massive Parliament building and otherwise follows the river. It’s fun, cheap, and lets you rest your feet while seeing Budapest highlights.
Relax in the baths
Budapest is renowned for its natural mineral water springs. Hungary has more than 1,000 natural springs, and several of those are in Budapest.
Everyone you talk to about Budapest will insist that you go to the baths. It’s part of a Budapest experience and a perfect way to relax after you are done with all the things to see in Budapest.
The Szechenyi Baths in Pest are the most extensive and popular. One of the largest medicinal baths in Europe, the Szechenyi Baths include 21 pools in and around a Neo-Classical sunny yellow building with an ornate dome. Two thermal wells supply the warm water.
Buy an entrance ticket, and you can then move from pool to pool. Test out the different temps of the water and enjoy the decor in the various rooms. Some of the pools are cooled, and others are saunas.
The largest outdoor pool was my favorite because in the middle is a spiral pool with water pressure that pushes you around. Everyone going in circles here laughed with delight.
Cruise the Danube at night
If you want a breathtaking view of both sides of the river, book a cruise on the Danube after dark. You will never forget seeing Parliament lit up with a thousand points of light in the water below.
These are some of the highlights of Budapest. There’s much more to explore, such as the ruin bars, the Jewish Quarter, the Market Hall, the Museum of Terror, and Heroes Square. So much rich history fills this city. Whatever your interests are, you will find something to enjoy in Budapest. And now it’s time to plan your trips to Budapest.
About the author: Sharon writes about her travel adventures at Exploring Our World. Her goal is to inspire you to plan your own adventures – whether that means spending a day at your local park or jetting across an ocean. She believes that exploring new places enriches our lives. And this wide, wide world holds so much to see! For travel ideas and inspiration, follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
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