Capitals, such as Budapest, are definitely a must-see while visiting foreign countries. These are the places where the most important decisions were taken, where kings and queens lived, and where culture, education and religion developed. If you plan your route smartly, you will be able to see Budapest during the weekend, and also have time to try regional cuisine and enjoy beautiful views from the top of the city. Let’s explore the heart of Hungary!
Admire Buda’s charms from a majestic bridge
Budapest, as the name suggests, consisted previously of two districts, Buda and Pest, which were divided by the river. After the Chain Bridge was built, the districts merged to become one city. And here our adventure starts! I recommend bus number 16, which takes you around Buda and goes to Pest, stopping at many interesting places. The bus starts from the city center, and it can also take you from the main station. Walking on the majestic bridge, which is guarded by two lion statues, you get a nice perspective to admire all of Buda’s charms, such as 17th and 18th century buildings on the hill. The first building, almost directly in front of the bridge, is the Royal Palace in the Castle District. Its main sections are the Palace, Szent Gyorgy Square and the historical residential quarter. It’s also one of the most recognizable sights in Budapest. One of the attractions there is the stylish-looking old Hill Funicular railway, which can take you directly up to the Castle, and costs around 3 EUR (approximately 3.40 USD).
The Fisherman’s Bastion is a gothic dream
The next stop is Fisherman’s Bastion, inhabited in medieval times by fishermen, who were responsible for the defense of the castle walls. Another sight is the Matthias Church, with its colorful tiles and detailed construction. It was named after King Matthias, who ordered the addition of an astonishing tower to the Church of Virgin Mary. Covered passageways, stairs rising up to the gothic buildings and lovely towers create a wonderful, magical atmosphere.
Looking through the windows of the Fisherman’s Bastion, you can admire another part of the city - Pest. Walking inside lovely passages, we leave the church behind and head towards Margit Bridge, passing by many restaurants and the most impressive building in Budapest - Parliament House, which is situated on the river bank. We cross Margaret Island and head towards Parliament House and Shoes on the Danube Bank. If you need to slow down and relax for a while, Margaret Island, with its colorful gardens, murmuring fountain and a charming little church, is the perfect place. Parliament House, also called Orszaghaz, stands proudly next to the Danube shore. Surrounded by serrate facade embellished with 88 statues of Hungarian emperors and surmounted by almost one hundred domes, the Parliament House is a gathering place for both houses and also a historical monument for the times of fascism and communism. It opens its gates twice a day for visitors, so don’t miss it!
Just five minutes from this impressive building lies another monument, the Shoes on the Danube. Sixty iron shoes on the Danube bank are a moving memorial of those shot by the Arrow Cross militia. They are pointed towards the river, in different sizes and styles, signifying that nobody was spared from the massacre during World War II: Jewish children, women and men. The memorial was made by a Jewish artist, Gyula Pauer.
Visit Budapest’s biggest church
Leaving the Shoes by the Danube behind, we head towards the biggest church in Budapest - St. Stephen’s Basilica. Dedicated to Hungarian King Stephen I, it is home to many relics, for example, King’s Stephen’s arm. You can climb the dome using its 297 steps or use a lift. If there is no mass, you can enter this beautiful building. Less than a 15 minutes’ walk from this church, we reach The Hungarian State Opera House, which you can only enter with a guide who is waiting inside to take a group every 20 minutes. The ticket price is 2900 HUF (approximately 10.50 USD). Walking straight down Andrassy Avenue we finally reach Heroes’ Square with the Art Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts surrounding it. There is a memorial at the square for those who lost their lives during World War I and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. But the most important is a 118 feet (36m) high column with the statue of Archangel Gabriel at the top, the symbol of the Roman Catholic religion. It was built to honor 1000 years of Hungary during the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900. Behind the square lies City Park, which has a big fountain, benches, places for picnic and a charming castle next to the river where you can hire a boat.
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It’s impossible not to love Budapest
While your legs may ache a little from the walking, I’m sure you will have a smile on your face. Fortunately, Budapest is not a big city, and walking across doesn’t take a lot of time. Full of impressive buildings, green parks, creative memorials, cosy bars, smell of lángos (deep fried bread) on the streets, and a lot of museums, you won’t have a dull moment here. And for those who love the nightlife, there is Gypsy music in the evening, with open-air restaurants and clubs. You will find it hard not to fall in love with Budapest, especially with its many inviting and relaxing Turkish baths.
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