Budapest is one of those cities that aroused extreme emotions in us – at first there was fear and disappointment, and as we explored the city came hope, smiles and delight. We ended up wanting to go back already!
After our endless admiration of Vienna, we decided to see another European capital that is so often recommended. It was time for Budapest, only excerpts of which I remember from a trip when I traveled around Europe with my parents as a young child. So it was a rediscovery of the city for me, this time with a completely different group.
Table of contents
Budapest – First impression
We have to write it. Budapest did not charm us at first, and even disappointed us!
The bar was set pretty high from the beginning, but when we started walking around the city it just got worse and worse. The old underground where the homeless live, and the stench mixes with the cakes baked next door. Zero stroller or handicapped facilities, so many times we had to (okay, Paweł had to ;-)) carry the stroller up the stairs. On top of that, the streets look like the worst in Lodz, with dilapidated tenements, boarded-up windows…. Hello! This was not the view we expected from a European capital!
These were our difficult beginnings on day one. We decided to see as much of the city on foot as possible, and used the subway and public transportation only occasionally. Unfortunately (or unfortunately) the tour of the so-called. The heel-to-toe has the advantage of getting to know the city from a completely different side, not necessarily the one from the covers of guidebooks and postcards.
Fortunately, the adage that good beginnings are złcame true, and once we reached the strict historic center, Budapest appeared from a completely different side, and then it was only better.
What’s worth seeing in Budapest?
Below we have prepared for you a list of places that we managed to see during our trip of a few days and that we recommend to you as well.
Mount Gellérta is located in the Buda section and is 235 meters high. It may not seem like much, but it’s enough to enjoy a panoramic view of the Danube River and the eastern part of the city (Pest).
At the top of the hill is the Citadel and the Statue of Liberty (Hungarian: Szabadság-szobor) commemorating those who died fighting for Hungary’s freedom (a statue of a girl holding a palm leaf above her head). Many legends are associated with the mountain itself, including with Bishop Gellért, after whom the hill is named, who was said to have been put in a barrel and thrown down by pagans who didn’t like the way they were being converted or other numerous stories about witches’ Sabbaths taking place here.
We entered from the side of the hotel and the Gellert Baths (we highly recommend these baths to you as well, but we unfortunately did not have enough time to take a bath).
The way up is not difficult, but it can be hard, especially if you go with a stroller. In addition, at the time of our visit there were still remnants of snow or mud in places, making it even very slippery in places.
Walking from the side of the Gellert Hotel, after a short walk you can reach the Church of the Rock. Further on, about halfway, we took the obligatory rest at a very ingeniously arranged playground on the hillside. There are several slides, trampolines, tunnels – attractions for young and old (yes, the adults also had fun). We spent a lot of time here, and there was no end to the slides :)
When we finally reached the top we could admire the panorama of the city, especially the Pest section and the Freedom Bridge closest to it.
Budapest Royal Castle
On the same side of the river as Mt. Gellert, or Buda, is also the 13th century Royal Castle.
In the lower parts of the castle hill, you can enjoy the gardens with fountains(Várkert bazár Gardens) for free, which were unfortunately turned off at this time of year. In the higher parts, you can walk around the courtyards, the old fortification walls, the terraces and, of course, take a look inside the castle.
There are three ways to get to the top:
- Using the escalator,
- traditional stairs
- or the historic toll railroad (the railroad is located in the northern part).
The latter, Budavari Sikló, was put into service in 1870, and today you can watch and ride an exact reconstruction of the carriages.
The castle buildings now house: Hungarian National Gallery, Museum of Budapest History, Museum of Contemporary History, and the Széchény’s National Library of Budapest.
Castle Hill (Hungarian: Vár-hegy) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Here there is also a nice panorama across the river. The parliament itself is getting better and better :)
Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion
Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Tower are some of the prettiest places in Budapest. At least we liked them so much that we couldn’t take our eyes off them, whether when we were right next to them or watching these buildings from across the river.
The church, with its soaring 78-meter-high tower and colorful, shimmering tiles, immediately catches the eye. Historically, this church played an important role in the history of the country, as it was here that the rulers of Hungary were crowned.
The Neo-Romanesque Fisherman’s Tower (Hungarian: Halászbástya) was built at the turn of the 20th century. It is an excellent vantage point on the Parliament building on the other side of the Danube.
We also recommend you to walk through the streets of Buda, where it is quiet, peaceful, without crowds.
The famous chain bridge (Hungarian: Széchenyi lánchíd ) has connected the two parts of Budapest: Buda and Pest since the 19th century (it was the first permanent bridge between them). At the entrance on both sides of the bridge are stone lions. Chains are suspended by two large stone pillars that hold up the entire structure.
The bridge is one of the most recognizable symbols of Budapest, and it looks most beautiful after dark.
Budapest Parliament Building
The Budapest Parliament Building (Hungarian: Országház) is another and perhaps the most recognizable site in the Hungarian capital. It is one of the largest parliament buildings in the world, and its size can be seen during short presentations displayed inside the building, comparing the dimensions of the edifice to its counterparts in Berlin and Washington.
The parliamentary seat intimidates and is a must-see both during the day and in the evening, from the other bank of the Danube, from the Fisherman’s Bastion, from inside, outside…. You can’t gaze at this spectacular neo-Gothic building. To us, it most resembles the Palace of Westminster in London, with only Big Ben missing ;)
In the central part of the building is an impressive 100-meter high dome, which dominates the height in this part of the city. On its two sides, two wings extend symmetrically, one of which is open to the public, but only in guided groups and at specific times. Apparently there are also groups in Polish, but on the day we were there, just none were organized. Fortunately, in English it was possible to understand everything. The whole thing lasted about 40 minutes and for us, however, it was too short, we would have loved to see more.
We wrote about the parliament building itself and the tour here: Budapest Parliament Building.
Next to the parliament building, standing on the banks of the Danube, you can see from afar a group of people surrounding and photographing the little punks. As they get closer, these dots take shape – they are shoes, or more precisely, iron casts of authentic shoes whose owners were shot on the riverbank.
This original and eye-catching idea is to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust in Hungary in the 1940s, when Jews were killed here and their bodies thrown into the river.
St. Stefan Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica (Hungarian: Szent István Bazilika) is the largest church in Hungary, with a capacity of over 8,000 people! It is dedicated to the first king of Hungary, Stephen I, and among the relics inside the basilica is his right hand.
Construction took more than 50 years and was accompanied by numerous misfortunes like the collapse of the dome, the 1848/49 uprising and the death of the main architects [source].
A tour of the Basilica is free, but you have to pay to enter the dome, which offers a view of the entire city.
It is the third largest Synagogue in the world and the first largest active Synagogue in Europe. It was built in the mid-19th century, combining Byzantine and Moorish styles. It is impressive in size: 75 meters long and nearly 30 wide, and can accommodate 3,000 people inside [source].
We have been under the Great Synagogue (Hungarian: Nagy Zsinagóga) twice and unfortunately did not manage to look inside. We absolutely wanted to go inside, but it is best to tour it with a guide who would explain the significance of the various elements, discuss the interiors and show what to look for. Unfortunately, we missed either a group or an open synagogue.
We felt a terrible malaise and the need to learn more about religion and culture, and this unfortunately we would not have been able to do during the tour on our own. Our failed attempts are the first reason why we absolutely must return to Budapest.
If, like us, you prefer a guided tour of the synagogue, we recommend finding out when the synagogue is open to the public and what time the guided tours are scheduled ;)
It is also worth mentioning that right next to the synagogue are the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial Hall.
Budapest Thermal Baths – Széchenyi gyógyfürdő
You can also relax in Budapest, and not just in historic interiors. There are plenty of complexes with thermal water pools, and the most popular is Széchenyi Fürdő, located in the Városliget Municipal Park. Here you can bathe year-round in indoor and outdoor pools (there are 21 in all), where the water reaches temperatures as high as 60 degrees. Some pools are enriched with aromas, and saunas, jaccuzzi and massages are also available for guests.
Note, thermal waters are not recommended for small children and inside, we could count on the hands of one hand how many toddlers there were. We were told that with a child we can enter, but should not stay more than 15 minutes in the hot waters. Try explaining this to a toddler ;)
It is an interesting place that could use a refresh and better organization. At first, it’s difficult to figure out where what is where, how to get from the locker rooms to the pools, or even what the properties of the water in each pool are.
We recommend you take a cabin, where you can quietly change, and leave all your belongings (a baby carriage will also fit). Although it’s clean, not everything quite works smoothly, such as the showers and toilets.
Vajdahunyad Castle is located in close proximity to Széchenyi Thermal Baths, also within Városliget Park. Initially we did not have it in our plans, but during a walk in the park we ended up at the castle gate anyway.
Dark and mysterious – these two words are our first associations with this place. The mix of styles, with vines winding along the dingy walls, and the overcast weather we encountered provided the perfect setting for a horror movie :-)
It was only when we saw photos taken in better weather upon our return that we discovered a completely different face of this castle.
The different styles are used here intentionally – the site was originally intended to be a temporary exhibition showcasing different architectural styles by mapping different Hungarian buildings. The arrangement was so appealing that they decided to put up more permanent structures here, which are still standing today [source].
Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere)
The square is one of the most important places in Budapest. The Millennium Monument commemorating 1,000 years of the Hungarian State is located here. In the square, in the central part, there is a 36-meter tall column with a statue depicting the archangel Gabriel. At its base are statues of horsemen, headed by Prince Arpad.
Heroes’ Square is flanked on one side by a semicircular colonnade with statues of Hungary’s leaders.
On two sides of the square are buildings related to culture and the arts. The first is the Museum of Fine Arts and the second is the Palace of Arts. The former is famous for works by Leonardo da Vinci or Raphael, and the latter is a place for temporary exhibitions.
In the vicinity of Heroes’ Square, on the one hand, there is a vast city park (the aforementioned Városliget), and on the other there are tight buildings, neat tenement houses, and modern office buildings where you will find some more greenery, which is so lacking in the very center.
Vásárcsarnok Market Hall
It is a huge hall (Hungarian: Központi Vásárcsarnok) located right next to the Freedom Bridge. Visitors can look forward to 3 floors of stores, stands, restaurants and food stalls here.
On level -1 there is an Aldi market, where you can do your day-to-day shopping. A treat awaits tourists looking for treats on Level 0. Here you can buy both fruits, vegetables, preserves, local products and alcohol. Red peppers dominate, adorning almost every stall.
There are plenty of souvenir and toy stalls on Level 1, as well as restaurants and take-out food.
In close proximity to the hall, one of the most popular streets in Budapest, Vaci ucta, full of restaurants and souvenir stores, begins.
The Vásárcsarnok hall is a place that relies on tourism, and if you want to see less commercialized halls, you can easily find them in other districts of Budapest. You can find one, for example, at the back of the Rákóczi tér metro station, where it was definitely quieter, less crowded, but also the selection of products was much smaller.
Museum of Terror in Budapest
This is the second reason why we are already thinking when to get away to Budapest again :)
Unfortunately, we kissed the door handle of the Terror Museum (Hungarian: Terror Háza), as did about a dozen other people who rode the subway with us.
It is one of those places that reveals a history we sometimes don’t want to know and from which we close our eyes. Brutal, bloody, full of violence, stigma and death. Thanks to technology and multimedia tools, Hungarians have managed to create a place where people want to learn about history.
Anyway, it’s not surprising, since it was the museum on which the creators of the Warsaw Uprising Museum were to model themselves. You can read about this place, for example, at Podróżnicki, and we hope to add our contribution too after our next visit to Budapest.
Jewish quarter: ruin pubs and gozsdu udvar
The Jewish quarter (the so-called 7th district) needs to be seen. It is a place where social life flourishes, especially at night, precisely in pub-ruins and gozsdu udvar.
Us at first this part of the city did not draw us in, and even discouraged us. Old, rundown buildings, closed stores, empty streets. It’s frightening to enter any courtyard or bar, and by no means because of the company there, but because of the buildings, which seem as if they are about to złlike a house of cards in a moment.
It wasn’t what we expected, but when we started exploring the establishments and courtyards here, it turned out that this almost extinct neighborhood hides some interesting secrets.
What are gozsdu udvar? These are small courtyards developed into pubs, restaurants, cafes – connected, often covered and with masses of rupees. It is these very random (or perhaps quite intentional) design elements that create the atmosphere of such places. The impression of chaos, transfer in time, confusion and confusion. The ones we’ve been to are mostly pubs and cafes, but in the warmer seasons you can find small stalls, stores, something like a flea market.
And what are ruin pubs? Pubs in old, unrenovated tenements. The more outlandish the better. One of the most popular is Szimpla Kert.
The Jewish Quarter is also a place where we can enjoy street art, there are cultural institutions and spaces for the creative.
Europe’s oldest subway line
Ever wondered where the oldest subway on the old continent is? Paris? London? Yes, if you consider all of Europe then the oldest line is in London, but if you are only interested in the continental part, the oldest subway line is actually in Budapest and has been in operation since 1896 (the London Underground has been in operation since January 10, 1863 [source]).
The yellow subway line (No. 1) is still in normal use, although first-time underground visitors may be in for a bit of a shock for several reasons. First, the line is only a few meters underground. You go right down to the subway station, which is extremely…. short!
In fact, so are the trains, which look more like a mining railroad than a modern means of transport like the subway :) The carriages are yellow, just like this oldest line, by the way.
A ride on such a train is almost like stepping back in time!
The other subway lines already look more modern, of course ;)
Buda or Pest?
Comparing the two parts of the city, we were more comfortable with the atmosphere and ambience of Buda. There is a beautiful old town, renovated, well-maintained, clean. Car traffic is kept to a minimum, there were no crowds of people, and we could easily get around with a stroller (although it must be admitted that we had many stairs to climb here as well).
Buda is quieter than Pest, slower and quieter. There are no stalls and souvenir stores at every turn that only tempt you to spend more forints. There is less choice of restaurants and cafes, and sometimes it can be a problem to find a free table.
Although there are more sights in the Pest part of the city, we can’t imagine limiting the tour to this part of the city only. Buda offers hills with beautiful views, the Royal Castle, the Church of St. There is also the St. Matthias Cathedral, the Fisherman’s Tower, Gellert Hill and the thermal pools.
See also our video from Budapest:
Map of attractions in Budapest
On the map below you will find all the points of interest described above that we think are worth seeing while in Budapest:
Our opinion about Budapest
Despite a less than ideal start, we returned to Poland with a great deal of dissatisfaction. We spent a very active weekend here, covered many kilometers on foot every day and explored the city from all sides, and we still feel that we did not see everything.
We are comforted by the fact that Budapest is so close that we will certainly return here more than once.
We also recommend a gallery of photos from Budapest:
Zobacz galerię zdjęć z Budapesztu >>>
What would you add to our list?
Frequently Asked Questions about Budapest (FAQ):
Below are some of your answers to the most common questions we are asked about Budapest? Do you have any others? Write to us or leave a comment!
Is it expensive in Budapest?
No, it’s not expensive in Budapest if you compare the city to other European capitals. Of course, “expensive” means something different for everyone, but for the average Pole, a stay in Budapest will not ruin the wallet, because prices there are very similar to ours, although rather lower than in Warsaw or Krakow.
What’s cool about Budapest?
What’s cool about Budapest? :) The fact that it is close, that you can get there quickly and fairly cheaply and even get there by car, that it has a beautiful old town, views from both the right and left side of the Danube, that it has warm springs in which you can bathe…. And so one could list and list :)
What river flows through Budapest?
One of the largest rivers in Europe, the Danube, flows through Budapest. The Danube River divides Budapest into two beautiful parts Buda and Pest. In addition, the Danube also flows through, among other things. through Vienna, Bratislava, and flows from Germany (where it has a source) through Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Ukraine.
What is the weather like in Budapest?
In general, the weather in Budapest is very similar to that in Poland, slightly toward a warmer climate. In summer, the average maximum temperature reaches 27 degrees Celsius, and in winter it reaches -3 degrees Celsius. Also in summer there is the best chance of cloudless skies, and the greatest chance of rain is from May to August (7-8 rainy days per month). In winter, snowfall is not very heavy (3-4 snow days per month).
When is the best time to visit Budapest?
As for the weather, Budapest is best to visit from late May to mid-September, because that’s when the temperatures are highest (from 17 to 22 degrees Celsius average temperature, maximum from 22 to 27 degrees Celsius), which is very similar to Poland (even a little warmer). The cloud cover is also the lowest then, but in turn there is the highest chance of precipitation (about 20-30%).
How much does dinner cost in Budapest?
Lunch in Budapest cost depending on where you go. Dinner in an average restaurant costs about 40-70 zł, which is very similar or even slightly cheaper than in similar places in Poland. McDonald’s prices are comparable :)
How many days do you need to spend in Budapest?
There is no good answer to the question of how many days you need to spend in Budapest :) Both in one day it is already possible to see something. 3-4 days will be optimal. Also, if you plan to stay in Budapest itself for 7 days you won’t be bored either. We, however, recommend spending a minimum of 3-4 days here to get to know this city well.
How to get around Budapest?
The best way to get around Budapest is on foot. Larger distances can be covered by streetcar or the oldest metro line in Europe :) Of course, you can also get around by cab, but we strongly recommend you to explore Budapest on foot.
What to do in Budapest when it rains?
If it’s raining in Budapest, it’s safe to take advantage of one of Budapest’s many thermal baths. Even if we want to use the outdoor pools, such a bath in warm water makes no rain terrible :) We mainly recommend the Széchenyi Fürdő Thermal Baths. While it’s raining, you can also visit the parliament building, the Vásárcsarnok market hall or at least take the oldest metro line :)
What to do in Budapest in the evening?
In the evening in Budapest, it is best to go to the Danube River to see the beautiful view of the illuminated Budapest Parliament building from Buda. In our opinion, this is a must have stay in Budapest!
What can you eat in Budapest?
If you like to taste the local cuisine, it is worth trying while in Budapest such delicacies as Hungarian goulash (a must!), fish soup (here not everyone will be tempted ;)), butchers and langosz. For sweet, you absolutely must try kurtosz, which is a kind of our caster.
Is Budapest unsafe?
Yes, in our opinion Budapest is a safe city, especially if we are talking about tourist places. Of course, as in any tourist city, you have to watch out for swindlers, pickpockets, such a travel standard. However, the city itself is safe, with no need to be overly afraid of moving around after dark or major criminal offenses.