This Hungarian capital is characteristically intersected by the Danube river, forming the two sides – Buda and Pest.
It is linked by magnificent bridges that dazzles come nightfall, so don’t leave your shutters off when night comes, for it’s when the city comes alive in all shapes and colours.
If you’re looking for an itinerary in Budapest and things to eat in Budapest, you’re in the right place! I’ve classified the places you cannot miss when you make a trip to Budapest based on its proximity from each other.
There is also a whole range of food you can find in Budapest, from Michelin-star restaurants to local street food, hipster cafes and grungy pubs. This post will tell you all about it!
- Getting around Budapest, Hungary
- What to Do and See in Budapest – Pest
- What to Do and See in Budapest – Buda
- In between Buda and Pest…
- Get more travel tips & hacks for your favourite destinations!
Getting around Budapest, Hungary
For a fuss-free way to plot your route, use Google Maps. I share step-by-step instructions on how to do that here.
Much of Budapest is accessible by foot. I don’t remember taking public transport much at all.
What to Do and See in Budapest – Pest
Some of the most iconic architectures around Budapest. This neo-Gothic architecture is just over 100 years old. It looks perfect whether you capture it by day or by night!
2. Shoes on the Danube Promenade
It’s the most famous memorial in Budapest.
The idea was conceptualized by film director Can Togay, who wanted to honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. The Jews then were ordered to remove their shoes, and were shot dead by the river so that their bodies would fall into the river and be carried away.
Together with sculptor Gyula Pauer, they created replicas of 60 pairs shoes on the east bank of the Danube River, representing the shoes that were left behind on the bank back in the 1940s – by men, women and children.
3. St Stephen’s Basilica
A Roman Catholic basilica in Budapest, Hungary. It is named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary and is untenably the largest church in Budapest.
The grandiosity from the exterior is nothing compared to what’s inside. Mini concerts are held there periodically, so be sure to check their calendar. For the history and music buffs, this cannot be missed.
Formerly named New York Palace, this imposing 19th-century building just screams luxury. Never mind if you cannot afford to live here. Their New York Café is excuse enough to be in this building and dine under chandeliers!
6. Vörösmarty tér
A public square in the middle of the Budapest, spend an afternoon wandering through the shopping streets, the souvenir shops, and the classic cafes. Come Christmas, this is also the square where Christmas markets are set up.
7. Shop: Váci utca street
Pest’s famous shopping street dotted with restaurants and souvenir shops. The street starts out from Vörösmarty tér and stretches through to the Great Market Hall at Fővám Square.
8. Karolyi Garden
Small and unassuming, this oldest garden of Budapest provides a quick respite from the rest of the Budapest cityscape.
“One thing that hasn’t changed through the years is the Hungarian affection for taking the waters — marinating in thermal baths. A tradition going back to the Romans, continued by the Ottomans, and something that survived through two wars and communism. And they do it in style.”
– Anthony Bourdain
If you haven’t had a thermal bath before, this is an experience not to be missed. I had my first outdoor thermal bath experience here.
The water that is supplied is a hot-spring water with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, hydro-carbonate, also containing sodium and sulphate, with a significant content in fluoride and metaboric acid. Soaking in some of its 15 indoor baths and 3 grand outdoor pools is said to provide health benefits.
Since you’ve come all the way for a Szechenyi experience, stop by this castle in the City Park, the largest park in Budapest. Vajdahunyad Castle is a product of historical styles from different eras, from the Middle Ages to the 18th century – Romanesque, Gothic Renaissance and Baroque buildings.
11. Heroes’ Square
Also in front of the City Park is this unmistakeable square, with its memorial built in 1896 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin.
The two semi-circles showcase symbols of War and Peace, Work and Welfare, Knowledge and Glory, while the arresting 36-metre high corinthian column in the middle of the square has the statue of Archangel Gabriel on the top, the symbol of the Roman Catholic religion.
What to Do and See in Budapest – Buda
1. Fisherman’s Bastion
An outdoor terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style, it is situated on the Castle hill in Budapest, offering some of the most spectacular views overlooking Budapest.
2. Matthias Church
While you’re at Fisherman’s Bastion, you wouldn’t miss this Roman Catholic church.
3. Buda Castle
If the Hungarian Parliament Building is the icon for Pest, Buda Castle is Buda’s star. Towering 48 meters above the Danube river, it is perched resplendently atop the Castle Hill.
4. Liberty Statue
If you notice a statue standing on the crest of Gellért Hill down South, this is it. The 14-metre tall bronze statue stands atop a 26-metre pedestal and holds a palm leaf, commemorating those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary.
A fortress that was built but never served its purpose to defend, this is where the Liberty Statue is built upon.
6. Gellért Hill
While you are visiting the Citadella, continue ambling up to Gellért Hill. At 235 metres high, it is another viewpoint from across Pest where you can have arresting views of the Pest side of Budapest.
Belonging to the famous Hotel Gellért in Buda, 70 million litres of warm thermal water ranging from 21-78C soothe visitors daily from its 118 natural thermal springs.
In between Buda and Pest…
1. Chain Bridge
The first bridge of Budapest fortified by iron chains 380 meters long. At 14.8 meters wide, it connects commuters between Buda and Pest. Pavements are also built, so you can easily cross over by foot.
As I mentioned in the opening of this post, the bridge glitters by night, spotlighting its beauty against the Danube river.
2. Elisabeth Bridge
Easily recognizeable for its slender, white cables, this is the third newest bridge of Budapest. 290 metres long, it services some of the busiest traffic in Budapest.
3. Liberty Bridge
Also crossable by foot, it connects the Great Market Hall on Pest with the Gellert Hotel on Buda, at the southern end of the city centre. Its four tall spires give the bridge a rather commanding feel.
Take all of these bridges in with a boat ride down the river. There are many boat companies along the river, so take your time to ask for the best deal. Some offer you a day pass, which means you can board the boat for an unlimited number of times.
4. Bonus: Margaret Island
A 2.5-kilometre-long island with its very own parks, thermal bath and wildlife sanctuary. Almost all motorized traffic on this island is banned, making it an ideal recreation destination for the family.
Directions to Margaret Island: By foot - Walk along Margaret Bridge, which connects to the island directly. By boat - Some of the boat companies offer pitstops to Margaret Island at fixed timings of the day. Be sure to ask about the timings as the frequency can be as little as 4 a day. A convenient way to reach the island as it drops you right in front of the island. By tram - Tram 4 and 6 stops on Margaret Bridge. Get off at Margit híd Budai hídfő stop. By bus - Bus 26 departs from Nyugati tér and the Árpád-híd metro station and travels through the island.
Upon disembarking the boat, a musical fountain awaits. Music is played four times a day, at 10.30 am, 5, 6, 7 and 9pm.
For a detailed guide of Margaret Island, check out Budapest By Locals’ post here.
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