5 must-visit places in Budapest

Budapest has been under the spotlight more and more lately. Over the past few years, many articles have featured the Hungarian capital city as one of Europe’s most budget-friendly destinations, with easy access from most European cities thanks to the increase of low-cost flights.

Budapest has also become a major party capital, drawing in many bachelors and bachelorettes on the lookout for an original party destination and party-goers wanting to join the fun in the city’s infamous ruin bars or in thermal pools turned night clubs during the weekend.

The cinema industry hasn’t turned a blind eye to the charms of the city either and the number of films shot in Budapest is increasing every year, adding to its worldwide appeal. Munich, Transporter 3, World War Z, Blade Runner 2049, you name it.

It wouldn’t be fair to judge Budapest by its cover only though as the city is also a cultural hotspot, boasting many architectural styles and influences from Gothic and Baroque churches to Art Nouveau buildings and Ottoman bath houses. Buda on one side and Pest on the other embody the tale of two cities that have developed separately before being unified into the city we now know.

With so many assets on display, there is no wonder that Budapest has made it into the short list of the world’s best city breaks. Here is our top picks to discover the essential sights of the city.

1. Parliament :

The massive Hungarian Parliament, in the Pest side of the city and on the banks of the Danube, has become such an iconic face of Budapest that it is hard to imagine the city without it. Yet, the Parliament was only built in the late 19th century and opened its doors in 1902.

Designed in neo-Gothic style, the building sure doesn’t go unnoticed and it is the third-largest building in the world, only topped by the Pentagon and Ceausescu’s Palace in Bucharest. The building is a delight for the eyes, be it seen from the other side of the Danube or at night, when its façade gets draped in lights.

Guided tours take place every day in a variety of languages to further explore the history of the building, which is closely linked to the history of Hungary as a whole. Even a non-history lover will find the tour interesting though, if only for the refinement of the Parliament’s interior design. These tours can get crowded fairly soon though so it is best to check the official site of the Parliament ahead of schedule.

2. Fisherman’s Bastion :

The Fisherman’s Bastion isn’t one to leave anyone indifferent. Built as a lookout tower overlooking the Danube and the Pest side of the city, this monument is actually quite hard to describe. From afar, it looks like a genuine fairy-tale castle but up close, its architecture looks all over the place, like a wannabe Disney castle, only much older.

That being said, the Bastion goes a long way and was built in the late 19th century on the foundations of a wall kept by the fishermen’s guild to protect the Buda castle, hence the name. The seven turrets overlooking the terrace were also designed to represent the 7 Hungarian tribes who founded the country. The Bastion’s eccentric appeal has turned it into a major tourist hostpot and contributed to overshadow the Matthias Church that stands right next to it.

It is a pity though as this church is loaded with history. It is believed to have been built in Romanesque style in the 11th century and has been used to crown the kings throughout the years. Its late 14th-century Gothic architecture and vibrant tiled roof makes it one of the most beautiful holy places in the city and one of the most unique churches in Europe.

3. Buda Castle :

The Buda Castle has been watching over the city for many years. As the formal residence of the Hungarian kings, it is one of the most historically significant places across the city. It sits on the tip of Castle Hill, beyond the beautiful Chain Bridge and its fierce lion statues, and can be either reached by funicular or by foot.

To be fair, the hill leading to the castle compounds can be climbed easily and it delivers beautiful panoramic views on the Pest side of the city, most notably on the Parliament building.

The castle now houses two museums, the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. I only visited the latter and the experience was interesting, although a bit lacklustre since the exhibition is in need of some serious modernization. The layout of the museum is obviously out-dated but the collections are still diversified enough to grab the attention of any history lover.

4. Thermal Baths:

Thermal baths are an essential fabric of the Budapest way of life and have been so for a very long while. The history of thermal baths in the city is actually intertwined with the history of the city itself.

The first baths can be traced back to the Roman settlement of the 1st century, as demonstrated by the Thermae Mairoes that can now be visited. Much later, the Ottomans invaded the city and in turn, built hammams and steam baths such as the ones of Rudas and Kiraly.

The early 20th century saw a revival of the hot springs tradition, leading to the erection of thermal baths that surpassed their ancestors in grandeur and style, as demonstrated by some of the city’s best known baths, such as the Gellert and the Szechenyi baths. Hot spring lovers will therefore thrive in Budapest but even casual visitors will enjoy joining in with the locals to soak in the old-fashioned yet classy atmosphere of the city’s many thermal baths.

5. House of Terror:

Budapest has come a long way from the traumatic events of the 20th century which led to Hungary’s occupation by Nazi Germany and Communist USSR. This page of history is explored at length within the House of Terror, which acts as both a memorial to the victims and a museum.

The House of Terror opened in 2002 and is divided into two parts. Partly original and partly reconstructed detainment cells can be visited in the basement. On the upper floors, the museum aims at depicting life under the rule of the most vicious regimes of the 20th century through a dynamic staging, recreating rooms, displaying many period items and making room for much audio and visual content.

Overall, the exhibition is very immersive although an audio-guide is absolutely required to really delve deeper into the complex history that’s being depicted. Past their well thought-out design, most rooms indeed lack much informative value. Some even tend to emphasize emotion over educational value, playing loud and oppressive music to add to the tense atmosphere in a way that might not feel necessary to understand the horrors the museum is shedding light on. Even so, the experience is well worth a visit to understand what Budapest endured in its recent history.

Comments 32

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24.07.2019 15:07

Nice photos and good recommendations. I've been in Budapest a few years ago, really liked it.

24.07.2019 15:47

Thanks a lot for your comment! Budapest is truly a beautiful city so we're sure you must have had a great time over there.

25.07.2019 19:38

Hi haydae,

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24.07.2019 20:43

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24.07.2019 22:16

Very interesting list :D You're making me want to visit Budapest just to do this list of yours :D Love the photos! They are all very wonderfully crisp in definition and the framing for each shot is really lovely <3

Your write up is super easy to read too, and yet informative! :D Really cool <3

Congratulations for Curie, as well :)

25.07.2019 00:36

Thanks a lot for your kind words and for your continuous support. :D We're glad this list and our photos made you want to discover this amazing city. That's the most rewarding feedback we could think of when writing such an article to be honest! :)

25.07.2019 19:36

Wow, excellent explanation in your article. Great your way of writing, the photos are amazing, regards!

25.07.2019 00:57

Thanks a lot for your sweet comment! We're glad you've enjoyed both our writing and our photos. :)

25.07.2019 19:37

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is it? We had learned this in history classes and I eagerly opened this to see the Pictures in fact. And it looks excellent though I wish there was more of it as we know this place must have many more iconic and unique Places and buildings.

If my memory is correct what I learned during school, there is also a river that defines the culture and identity of this place. Some of your pictures looks really interesting to make it as a place in the bucket Iist that I wish to travel, but I know it will only remain as dream, but you know in our country there is no tax for dreams, hehe... just kidding.

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25.07.2019 04:17

That's right, Budapest is the capital of Hungary. We hear a lot about so many places in class but it sure helps to see actual pictures of those places, otherwise they just remain abstract.
You're right too about the river Danube, which flows through the city and separates it in half, Buda and Pest, which used to be two different cities. The Danube actually flows through many other European cities, such as Vienna or Bratislava, but we felt its beauty and majesty were really enhanced in Budapest.

Thanks for your comment anyway and we're glad this post made you travel to this stunning place for a while. As you said, dreams are free! ^^ And we can always hope they eventually come true. :)

25.07.2019 19:44

Sometimes I too travel in my country, and as you said it really makes an awesome feeling when we see some places and eventually gets to know we were knowing this place as we studied long time back. I heard about the river but never know that Buda and Pest are two different locations.

Some great rivers are lifeline of City's and sometimes different countries which defines the culture since ancient times, I believe Danube is one such one.

Your Post was good with stunning photos. Have a nice day. Cheers

26.07.2019 02:28

That’s a great feeling indeed to discover in real life these places that have appealed to our imagination as kids. It’s part of the magic of travelling. :)

I didn’t know either that Buda and Pest used to be two different towns so that was a fun fact to discover.

It’s true that rivers are an important part in the identity of many cities. Here in France and where I live especially, the Seine river has been a key inspiration for Impressionist painters. Same for the Danube which was the central theme of Strauss’ musical masterpiece. So it’s always interesting to see how rivers have inspired many people so powerfully throughout the years.

Thanks again for your nice comment and have nice day as well!

27.07.2019 21:18

ehy dear @haydae, your post is great! you made the beauty of budapest very well by choosing its 5 primary beauties !! everyone should visit it and satisfy its special historical and cultural atmosphere. I personally love the church of san mattia and the thermal baths. your photos are so beautiful, that inviting and calm blue.
what period did you go to? looks like summer in the photos ... have you been there during the magical atmosphere of the christmas holidays?
congratulation for your curie rating :-))

25.07.2019 12:17

Hey dear @road2horizon, thanks a lot for your lovely comment. :) We're glad you've enjoyed our selection. There were obviously many other places that could have made the list but these 5 seemed to be the most significant in the city.
We loved how unique Saint Matthias looked too! As for the baths, we only had time for one but it was a great experience.
We went there in early June so, as you've noticed, the weather was gorgeous! There's no doubt Christmas must be an enchating time though, you're right, so we'll keep that in mind for our next visit. ;)

25.07.2019 19:51

I visited Budapest many times on my way back home to Slovakia and I must say that you indeed selected the right places to share! I have visited all of them besides the Parliament. My husband always says that it's like they just finished the construction as the building is always so clean, lol. I do agree with him. It kind of looks unnatural but it's very beautiful.

The house of terror is very impressive. At first I was afraid of what I was to see there but the exposition is very interesting and educational.

Thank you for sharing your tips! I hope that it will help someone who is deciding to visit this amazing city on Danube river!

Have a lovely day!

25.07.2019 13:53

Thanks a lot for your sweet comment and for endorsing our selection. :) Next time you go to Budapest, you should definitely pay a visit to the Parliament as it really is one of the most stunning buildings in the city. It's great to visit the inside by day and then take a walk around the building by night, when it gets even more beautiful. Your husband is right though, it's so pristine and polished that it kinda looks like it was built yesterday. ^^ Somehow it's not so wrong as the building is just over a hundred years old.

The House of Terror is quite an experience too. Of course it's not exactly a pleasant one but it's pretty educational as you've just said, so it's worth a visit to know more about the history of the city and the history of the country as a whole.

We're hoping this list will convince many more people to come discover the city indeed. :) As always, thanks for your support and have a lovely day as well!

25.07.2019 20:03

Do you have a blog too? Your posts are so organized that I'm sure you could reach a large audience with a blog...

27.07.2019 08:16

I used to have my own blog before we started posting as a couple here on Steemit but I just stopped updating it a while ago. Starting a new one is in the back of my mind though so let’s say that’s work in progress. ^^
Thanks for the encouraging words anyway. :)

27.07.2019 21:02

Hiya, @LivingUKTaiwan here, just swinging by to let you know that this post made into our Top 3 in Daily Travel Digest #579.

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25.07.2019 17:44

Love it! It's my favorite city in the world, so thanks for bringing me back! I spent almost a month in Budapest last year staying with my son who currently lives a stone's throw from all those places! I walked to them all, and put on lots of steps on my fitbit!

25.07.2019 18:23

Thanks a lot for your nice comment. We're glad you've discovered our post on Travel Digest and enjoyed it so much! :)
You're very lucky your son lives in Budapest, which means you can always come back to keep exploring this amazing city! We love walking from place to place too and we felt that Budapest was definitely best discovered by foot. Plus, it does help on fitbit. ^^

25.07.2019 20:14

Well, I had thought I'd be able to keep returning, but my son is moving yet again - this time to Cyprus. He says there are some very cheap flights from there to Budapest though, so when I next visit him, we can also take a trip back to Budapest too!

25.07.2019 20:34

It's a bit unfortunate but Cyprus looks really beautiful too so you can hopefully visit both of these gorgeous places in one go when you next visit him. :)

25.07.2019 20:42

Yes, Cyprus has a lot of very ancient history, so there will be lots to see there too. It was Christmas Market time when I visited Budapest last year, and I walked through the market almost every day. I loved it!

26.07.2019 11:32

There seems to be many great ancient sites in Cyprus indeed!
And Budapest during Christmas is definitely on our bucket list. :)

26.07.2019 21:01

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25.07.2019 19:48

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25.07.2019 20:41

Very nice tourist advisor. Very interesting idea of House Of Terror. Picturesque and memorable but obviously parliament and Fisherman’s Bastion looks definitely way much more impressive. Do you have some information about what is the entrance cost to those buildings and how much is possible to see inside ? Also is it possible to see all those 3 places in one day ?

26.07.2019 00:05

Thanks for your comment! The Parliament and the Fisherman's Bastion's are architectural feats so they obviously stand out the most but the House of Terror is a very interesting place to learn more about the city's recent history.
You can definitely visit all three places in one day. The House of Terror and the Parliament are on the same side of the city, in Pest, and they're 25 minute apart on foot. You can then cross the Chain Bridge over the Danube and walk up to the Fisherman's Bastion or ride the funicular.

A guided tour to the Parliament costs HUF3500 for EU citizens and HUF6700 for non EU citizens and it's best to book it in advance since it can be full pretty quickly. This tour allows you to visit only parts of the building but it's still really worth it.
The House of Terror costs HUF3000 + HUF1500 for an audio-guide and you can purchase your tickets on the spot.
Finally, the Fisherman's Bastion is mostly free but you'll have to pay an extra HUF1000 to access the upper turrets. There's an entrance fee to the inside of the Matthias Church too, which costs HUF1800.
Hope this helps! :)

26.07.2019 20:58

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27.07.2019 12:10