Budapest is considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. Its mix of architectural styles, broad boulevards and the Danube river dissecting the city make it unquestionably one of the prettiest European capitals. Once you see the buildings along the river and the iconic Chain Bridge illuminated at night you’ll understand why Budapest is often referred to as the Paris of the East.
Budapest, once two cities (actually, there were three but we won’t get into that right now), Buda and Pest, is divided by the Danube River. Buda is the oldest part of the city on the west side of the river and Pest is on the east. It is also important to note that Buda is the hilly side of the city, therefore it’s the best place for views over the river.
Connecting it all is the dramatic Szechenyi Bridge or Chain Bridge. This was the first permanent bridge to connect both sides of the city. It has become an emblem of peace and trade connecting east and west.
Many people do not know that the bridge was blown up by the Nazis during WWII and nothing was left but the two towers. After reconstruction was completed it reopened in 1949.
Budapest is full of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Even the banks of the Danube have a UNESCO designation for their historical and cultural significance. Other UNESCO sites are Buda Castle Hill and Andrassy Avenue.
Key Sites On Buda Castle Hill
Buda Castle was built in 1265 but was added to over the centuries. Formerly the home of Hungarian kings, today it houses the National Library. It is an excellent lookout point over the Danube River.
The Fisherman’s Bastion commemorates the 1000th year of the Hungarian state. It took twenty years to complete and is a mix of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Romanesque styles. This is another fantastic place to take photos of the Pest side of the city. You’ll also get a great view of the Parliament Building which is likely just as recognizable as the Chain Bridge.
Experience the Danube
You’ll find many cafes and shops on the Hill as well. Plan to spend about a half day visiting Buda Castle Hill.
To get there you can walk across the Chain Bridge and follow a footpath, or you can walk across the bridge and take the funicular to the top of the hill. You can also hire a taxi to take you but it’s a fun walk if you’re able to do it.
Key Sites On The Pest Side Of The Danube
There is more gorgeous architecture, food, and culture to absorb on the Pest side of the river. Walk or hire a tour to take you along Andrassy Avenue, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.
No trip to Budapest would be complete without a visit to one of the thermal bath houses. The most well known and the oldest is the Szechenyi Baths located near Heroes Square. Other bath house options include the Ruda Baths and the Géllert Thermal Baths. No matter which you choose you’ll experience an authentic side of life in Budapest. Plan about a half day to experience the baths.
The Market Hall was built in 1897 and is a great place to spend a couple of hours. A feast for all the senses you can simply walk through the market, stop for some delish Hungarian food, or take a cooking class.
Shoes On The Danube
Within walking distance of the Chain Bridge, this moving sculpture is a tribute to the thousands of Jewish citizens killed by the Arrow Cross, part of the fascist Hungarian militia, during WWII.
Budapest is undoubtedly a city you’ll want to spend time exploring.
What would you most like to experience in Budapest?