I come from Slovenia, so Budapest is one of the closest capitals and it is ideal for a weekend getaway. We actually did that, so here I would describe 2 day itinerary in which I cover most of the important sights. Budapest was one the most important cities in Austria-Hungary Empire and it has some very impressive architecture that was built during the most thriving times of the empire.
We were accommodated in Buda district, so first morning we went straight to Buda’s Castle District. It is actually on the hill so you can get there either by taking bus, funicular, metro or tram. But, if you have already read any of my posts, I would of course recommend walking. I just think that by walking you can always discover some hidden parts and have a more pristine experience. As I already wrote, Castle district is located on a hill, 170m above Danube river. It has some very impressive medieval museums and monuments, which are the reason Castle District is listed under Unesco’s World Heritage.
I will list sights in order we visited them, so if you come from any other side just mix them the way it suits you. First we went to Mary Magdalene Tower, a very high spire, visible for kilometres around. The church it belongs to has quite an exciting history, as it was transformed into a mosque during Turkish occupation. Walk along to one of the most charming sights, St Matthias church, which is named after Matthias Corvinius. Church is famous for its uniquely colourful roof, remarkable stained-glass windows and frescoes. Inside you will also find Collection of Ecclesiastical Art, which among other things include also a replica of St Stephen’s crown.
Beside church is Fisherman’s bastion that offers the best views of Parliament building. It was named that, because of the fact that fishermen were once defending this part of the city wall. Very beautiful photos can be taken from here. But you will probably have to wait a bit, because there is usually quite a waiting line for taking pictures.
From Matthias church via Corvinius gate, the one with black raven on the top, is the shortest way to Royal Palace (also known as Buda Castle). Palace was rebuilt no less than 6 times in the history. Nowadays it houses 2 important museums – National Gallery and Budapest’s history museum. In the courtyard stands beautiful Matthias fountain representing young Matthias Corvinus. After you are done with the museums and exploring Royal Palace, head to Chain Bridge, which is the oldest and most beautiful among all bridges in Budapest. It was actually the first connection between Buda and Pest. From Chain Bridge to Batthyany ter is a very beautiful walk with amazing views of Parliament Building across the Danube river. Somewhere along this walk you will come to Calvinist church, very interesting church made of bricks.
Batthyany ter is a square very busy with traffic, from there you can catch bus or metro in many different directions. But be prepared that everything is in Hungarian and bus stations are a bit oddly positioned. Catch a bus to Liberty monument. On the way you will drive pass the Elizabeth Bridge, stunningly white with the highest arch among all bridges and Liberty Bridge, with each post of the bridge topped with mythical bird turul. Liberty monument is statue of a woman with a palm frond in her arms. It was built in memory of soviet soldiers fallen fighting and liberating Budapest. But the monument was actually designed a bit earlier for other purposes.
The second day I recommend going across Danube river to Pest district. First and most imposing sight to visit there is definitely the Parliament Building. It is the largest building in whole country and was built as counterweight to Royal Palace across the river. It was also a symbolic competition of democracy versus royalty.
There are some indications that architect was inspired by London’s Houses of Parliament. It is very rich in ornaments but as was built using cheaper building materials, renovations are almost always ongoing. Crown of St Stephen and his sword are on display in Domed Hall. Here are also some numbers about the building: there are 690 rooms and 108 clocks in there J. Along the bank lies Shoes on the Danube memorial, monument in memory of Hungarian Jews that were murdered and thrown in the river. Visit also Szabadsag ter (Liberty square), where Soviet war memorial stands and also, ironically, US Embassy.
Another important sight nearby is St Stephen’s basilica, which is the most important Catholic church in Hungary. The impressive dome was rebuilt from ground up after it collapsed in 1868. From the top you can experience some magnificent views. In Holy Right Chapel behind the main altar mummified hand of St Stephen is kept. After visiting the basilica take a walk to Hungarian state opera house to admire some beautiful neo Renaissance architecture.
Last stop of the day is probably the most impressive one – The Great Synagogue (or so called the Dohany Street Synagogue). This is the largest Jewish house of worship that stands outside of New York. It was built using yellow and red bricks, which adds some very special charm to the building. The interiror is very magnificent, having a lot of chandeliers and other rich ornaments. Outside the synagogue, over the mass graves of murdered Jews during WWII, stands Holocaust memorial.
If you have an additional day, spend it at one of the famous baths. Probably the most famous among them are Gellert Baths, known for their art novueau mosaics, statues and the most beautiful indoor pools in Budapest.
I find Hungarian among most complicated languages so….
Until the next time!