Prague or Budapest? Both Eastern European cities are known to be rich in history, a 19th century literary haven, art, architecture, food, and parties along the river. I was short on time my first visit to Central Europe leading me to the more compact city of Prague. However, a few years later while living in Austria I hopped on a bus and took a long weekend in Budapest and it turned out to be one of my favorite cities in Europe.
Budapest has an user friendly public transportation system with the local trams and buses, but my preference is to walk. It is a gorgeous city and each day I would clock roughly 30 km with many of these historical sites worth two visits, once during the day and again at night.
Early summer offered perfect weather and a city teeming with local festivals and markets offering everything from live music and food trucks to popup yoga and climbing walls. Budapest has copious options to keep you intrigued and entertained day or night and in rainy, sunny or snowy weather. It is easy to fill your day with the sites while taking in the local scene.
On the Buda Side
Varkerulet UNESCO Heritage Site- includes Buda Castle, Matthias Church, Hungarian National Gallery, Castle Hill Funicular, Sandor Palace, Fisherman’s Bastion, Labyrinth of Buda Castle, Gellert Hill
Buda Palace/ Royal Place/ Royal Castle – Medieval Castle; Changing of the Guard on the Hour at the Castle between 8:30 – 5pm
Matthias Church- Roman-Catholic Church and swoon, the roof! I love these tiled roofs found in eastern Europe during this period you will also find similar ones in Prague and Vienna.
Fisherman Bastion- Views of the City *nighttime pick
Gellert Hill Cave/ St. Ivan’s Caves/ Cave Church – elaborate caves that have been converted into a Monastery.
Gellert Spa and Bath- est. 1918 art nouveau with 12 thermal pools including 3 outdoor pools including a wave pool *my pick for R&R bring bathing suit, flip flops, and towel
Castle Hill Funicular – 95m cable car to take you from Chain Bridge to the top of Castle Hill (50m elevation – easy to walk)
In and Along the Danube – right in the Middle
Grand Parliament Building- est. 1902 Neogothic style building along the Danube. Largest building in Hungary. Views across river to Varkerulet. Stunning in the evening when all lit up. *nighttime pick
Shoes on the Danube- est. 2005 memorial of the Jews that died during WWII, representative of the shoes left behind when they were executed along the bank
Imre Nagy Statue- Controversial and martyred 1956 revolutionary Prime Minister statue was relocated in June 2019 from facing Parliament to Jaszai Mari Square 1km away facing out to the Danube.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge- The first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary between Buda and Pest and was considered a modern marvel of engineering.
Margaret Bridge– A three-way bridge linking Buda, Pest, and Margaret Island. The latter was an afterthought and was incorporated 2 decades later.
Margaret Island- About 2.5km long in the middle of the Danube, great for running trails, green park time, and local festivals.
Obuda Island- Also in the Danube on the other side of Arpad Bridge and home to Sziget Festival each August.
Night walk along the Danube is a must!
On the Pest Side
City Park UNESCO Heritage Site- Includes Vajdahunyad Castle *nighttime pick, Budapest Zoo, the Timewheel, Hero’s Square and Szecheny Baths. Large green space with English style gardens. *Choice picnic spot
Andrassy Ave.- Leading up to City Park it is a street lined with Neo-renaissance mansions, townhouses, embassies, theater, shopping, and restaurants.
Heroes Square/ Hosok Tere/ Millennium Monument- est. 1926 won 1st place in 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. End of Andrassy Ave.
The Timewheel- est. 2004 next to City Park. It is a 60ton hourglass that runs “sand” through it to mark a YEAR! It is flipped 180 degrees each New Year’s Eve.
Szecheny Bath- Neo-baroque style, largest thermal pools in Budapest. This is where the late-night parties are (loads of bachelor and bachelorette parties)
Dohany Utca Synagogue- est. 1859 largest Synagogue in Europe seating up to 3,000 people and borders the old Jewish Quarter.
Ruins Bars- est. 2000’s condemned building in the Jewish Quarter was flipped into a bohemian bar with cheap drinks and eclectic art and furniture.
Jewish Quarter Street Art- It is easy to feel inspired in this city with architecture and art everywhere. This area is known for its many murals and street art with little eye surprises everywhere.
Sites in Pest
Pest Free Walking Tour: Meets at Lion Fountain Vorosmarty Square
St. Stephen’s Basilica- est. 1905 highest Church in Budapest at 96m tall and nothing can be built higher than the Dome.
Ervin Szabo Library- 19th Century Neo-Baroque styled library stunning interior architecture and photographic site
Central Market Hall- est. 1897 Three large floors selling fruit, vegetables, cheese, salami, fish, pickles, trinkets… Stock up on Hungarian Paprika here!
Beautiful Historical Cafes
New York Café- est. 1894 Originally a writers Mecca, it now has long queues, high prices, and beautifully plated food. It is a stunning Salon that captures old world opulence and worth a peak if you are not planning on eating there.
Central Café- est. 1887 and reopened in 2000. Pricey and reminiscent of the golden age of Hungarian gastronomy.
Quirky Museums and Collections
Sweets and Selfies Museum- Note I did not make it here, but I wanted to. A quirky, bright colored interactive museum with loads of props for fun pics.
Pinball Museum- Largest collection of pinball machines dating back to 1947. You are allowed to play almost all of the machines.
Vintage Shopping- There are amazing vintage shops here. With such a rich history you are bound to find something cool to bring home.
Hungarian, but German and English friendly.
How Much- mennyi
Thank You- kosonom
Only by the names not the content:
Movie: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Music: Budapest by George Ezra