Proclaimed as one of Europe’s most beautiful and majestic cities, Budapest has become a major travel destination that attracts over 20 million visitors a year. It boasts a wide range of things to see and do including museums and churches, coffee houses, Turkish baths and Roman ruins, historical sites, nature parks, as well as shopping and entertainment.
Here are just a few of the city’s best highlights.
The Hungarian Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most iconic landmarks in Budapest. It is currently the largest building in Hungary and the second largest Parliament in Europe. The neo-Gothic structure was built in 1885 to 1902 by the designs of architect Imre Steindl for the millennium celebrations of 1896. The vast interior comprises of huge halls, over 12 miles of corridors, a 96-meter high central dome, and 691 rooms including more than 200 offices. Besides the impressive architecture, visitors can see the Holy Crown of Hungary also known as Magyar Szent Korona in the centre hall. The relic medieval crown is one of the most important symbols of Hungarian statehood dating back over 1000 years. The Parliament building is open all year round and can be visited on guided tours booked in advance.
St Stephen’s Basilica
St Stephen’s Basilica is the largest ecclesiastical building in Budapest. It was named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary (c 975–1038), whose mummified arm, the Holy Right, is housed in the reliquary. The vast interior features intricate carvings, frescoes and chapels, gilded stuccos and bronze mouldings as well as famous Hungarian works of art. Visitors can take an elevator or climb the stairs up to the tower, from where a spectacular panorama of the city can be enjoyed.
There is no better way to relax than in one of Budapest’s magnificent thermal baths. One of the most splendid is the Széchenyi Thermal Bath in Pest that consists of a vast complex of indoor and outdoor pools. The Neo-Baroque building was established in 1913 to the design of Gyozo Czigler. Just as glorious is the Gellért Thermal Bath and Hotel located on the base of Gellért Hill on the bank of the Danube. The spa is decorated with original Art Nouveau furnishings with opulent tiles, statues and marble pillars. As well, both spas are renowned for their healing properties.
Matthias Church and The Fishermen’s Bastion
Located within the Buda Castle district, is the neo-Gothic Matthias Church. It was originally built in Romanesque style in 1015, and has since undergone several renovations and additions, most notably in the second half of the 14th century and in the late 19th century. The interior of the church contains a number of sacred relics and medieval stone carvings, along with replicas of the Hungarian royal crown and coronation jewels including the Loreto Chapel, the Royal Oratory, and the tomb of Bela III. The church also regularly hosts concerts throughout the year. Opposite is Fishermen’s Bastion which was built by Schulek in 1902, is the stretch of Buda’s defensive wall originally used as market place by the guild of fisherman for selling fish. Tourists still flock there for the unforgettable views of the city and the River Danube.
Designed by leading architect Samu Pecz in 1896, the Central Market Hall (Nagycsarnok) is Budapest’s largest and most popular indoor market situated on the Pest side of Liberty Bridge. During World War II the building suffered extensive damage and was only recently restored in the 1990’s along with the completion of its Zsolnay tiled roof. Today, the three-storey structure contains more than 180 stalls that offer a wide range of foods and local specialties. The stalls on the ground floor sell fruits and vegetables, meats, and breads. Downstairs there is a supermarket, as well as vendors of fresh fish and pickled vegetables. Upstairs is filled with folk-art vendors, souvenir shops, and fast-food kiosks.
Coffeehouses & Cake Shops
Coffeehouses and cake shops are an institution in Budapest that has existed since the beginning of the 16th century when coffee was introduced into the region by the Turks. One of the most famous is Café Gerbeaud, which was founded by Henrik Kugler in 1858 and expanded by its later owner, Emil Gerbeaud. The stunning crystal chandeliers, stucco décor, and noble-wood furnishings, all emphasize the splendid glamour of this place. Gerbeaud’s specialties include famous cakes, such as Esterházy and Dobos cakes, as well as all kind of cream cakes, extravagant bakery goods and exquisite ice-creams. Just as worthy is Ruszwurm, located in the castle district of Budapest. This charming café was built in 1827 by Ferenc Schwabl. Its original furnishings are still intact today including antique cabinets and Oakwood tables and chairs. At one time Ruszwurm supplied the aristocracy in the castle and the surrounding area. The Austrian Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) is supposed to have been a customer.
State Opera House
One of the finest historical monuments in the capital, the Opera House, stands on Andrássy Avenue. Designed by Miklós Ybl, a major figure of 19th century Hungarian architecture, the construction lasted from 1875 to 1884 and was funded by the city of Budapest and by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary. Its stately design is nothing short of enchanting with fairy tale staircases, regal boxes, an imperial stage and rich staterooms. Performances of opera, ballet, and classical and contemporary music are held nearly every day of the week.
Buda Castle is the historical castle complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, Hungary, that was first completed in 1265. Built after the Mongol invasion, it was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the years, and has been renewed from time to time symbolizingthe country itself. The exterior comprises of intricate statutes including the grandiose Matthias Fountain, Monument of Prince Eugene of Savoy, the Horse Wrangler, and the Turulbird. The interior houses the Hungary’s National Library, the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery’s exquisite collection of paintings. The nearby, beautifully renovated Sándor Palace is the residence and workplace of the Head of the State. Buda Castle was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Hero’s Square was built for the 1896 millennium celebrations. It is dominated by the Archangel Gabriel who is surrounded by seven statues representing the chiefs of the seven Magyar tribes who settled in this area. The large open space is dedicated to the Hungarian war memorial and attracts tourists, skateboarders and inline skaters by the dozens.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Perhaps, the most iconic symbol of Budapest, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge spans over the River Danube between Buda and Pest. It is especially impressive at night when it is lid up and can be seen at a great distance. The bridge was opened on 21 November 1849, and at 380m it was one of the largest suspension bridges at the time. It was named after István Széchenyi, a major supporter of its construction.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Suzanne Urpecz, creator and editor of The Hungarian Girl. Click on my About page for more info.