Budapest, Hungary is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is home to Buda Castle, the Matthias Church, several thermal baths and spas, the Great Synagogue, Heroes Square, Basilica of St. Stephens, the House of Terror Museum and many other amazing attractions. Visiting Budapest should be on everyone’s bucket list.
A Traveler’s Guide to the Most Beautiful Attractions When Visiting Budapest
Have you ever thought about visiting Budapest — Hungary’s capital city? If so, the following is a guide of the city’s must-see sights. It’s meant to assist you in making the very most of your time in Budapest.
The Castle District
This picturesque area is located in the heart of medieval Budapest. Looking down over the Danube and across to the Pest side of the city sits the unmistakable Buda Castle Hill.
The Royal Palace (Buda Castle)
Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the original Hungarian kings of Budapest. Over the past seven centuries, The Royal Palace, or Buda Castle, has been built, destroyed, then rebuilt many times over. Originally, the palace was built in the mid-13th century and was added onto by subsequent kings. In 1686, it was destroyed when the Holy Roman Empire retook the city from the occupying Ottoman Empire. Today, contained within the Royal Palace lies the Hungarian National Gallery, the National Szechenyi Library and the Castle Museum.
The Matthias Church
Matthias Church is unlike most of the typical churches dating back to the Middle Ages. For hundreds of years, the church has been used as a coronation church by Hungarian kings. For 150 years, during the time of Ottoman rule, it was used as a mosque. Today, it’s a beautiful Roman Catholic church that plays host to holy masses, weddings, concerts and thousands of tourists.
Thermal Baths and Spas
Hungary is home to some of the richest thermal-water reserves in the world. Budapest sits upon a patchwork of nearly 125 thermal springs, and ‘taking in the waters’ has been part and parcel of everyday life here for centuries.
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Gellért Spa and Bath
Gellért Spa and Bath is by far one of the most stunning bathhouses in Budapest. It’s home to some of the most beautiful indoor swimming pools in the city. Originally established during the 15th century, Gellért is characterized by its Art Nouveau grandeur aesthetic. During the Ottoman occupation of the Holy Roman Empire, Gellért was one of the most prominent and fashionable baths a Turk could be seen. Gallért boasts vast cavernous spaces and an ever-present supply of geothermal-heated water.
Rudas is another famous Turkish bathhouse in Budapest. Rudas offers a state-of-the-art complex which delivers a charming ambiance where patrons can escape from the city’s bustling atmosphere. During the week, Rudas has specific days assigned to men and women, while on weekends Rudas is open to both genders. Rudas’ panoramic rooftop jacuzzi provides sweeping views of Pest’s skyline. For interested parties, Rudas also has a drinking hall open to anyone who wishes to taste the natural spring water.
Király Thermal Baths features a uniquely Turkish aesthetic with an eclectic fusion of both modern and traditional elements. It offers its patrons four different pools filled with hot spring water infused with a mixture of calcium, fluoride and magnesium ions. Bath goers can choose to relax in Jacuzzis, steam rooms or saunas. Gym facilities, holistic medical treatments, and massages are also available.
The Jewish Quarter and Ruin Bars
A walking tour through the Jewish Quarter is an absolute must while visiting Budapest. Today, the Jewish Quarter more or less follows the same boundaries of the Jewish Ghetto which many Hungarian Jews were forced to relocate to by a decree of the Hungarian Government during the final stages of World War II.
The Great Synagogue
Budapest’s Great Synagogue is the largest Jewish house of worship on the European continent. It’s the largest in the world outside New York City’s Central Synagogue. Built in 1859, the synagogue has both Romantic and Moorish architectural elements. On the north side of the synagogue, you can find the Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial, which presides over the graves of those who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis during World War II.
Szimpla Kert is by far Budapest’s most famous ruin bar (romkocsmák). Since it opened in 2002, it has been a symbol of alternative life in Budapest. The huge complex includes nooks filled with bric-a-brac, graffiti and random pieces of art. Have a shot in an old Trabant car, watch a film in the open-air back courtyard, or down craft beers out of an Erlenmeyer flask in Mad Scientist – a bar within the bar up upstairs.
If you feel like movin’ and groovin’ to some 80s disco songs, then head over to Fogas/Instant. This humongous, tree-filled complex contains eight bars with four dance floors. It offers live music and nightly DJs, plus art, film clubs, and workshops. There is plenty of indoor space, and if 80s disco or contemporary house music isn’t doing it for you, then you can always make your way up to the second floor where club Lärm will provide you with a hardcore techno-fix.
When visiting Budapest, a stop at the Parliament building should undoubtedly be at the top of your list. The building is an amalgamation of architectural styles – neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque, neo-Baroque – and together it works masterfully well. The Hungarian Parliament Building, also known as the Parliament of Budapest, was designed by architect Imre Steindl. Its construction was completed in 1902 and boasts 691 majestically decorated rooms. If you decide to take the guided tour of the North Wing, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing the Golden Staircase, the Domed Hall (where the Crown of St. Stephen, the nation’s most important national icon, is on display), Loge Hall and Congress Hall (where the House of Lords of the one-time bicameral assembly sat until 1944). Tours spoken in the English-language generally begin at 10 a.m., 12 a.m., and persists hourly until about 4 p.m.
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Any vacation in Budapest would be incomplete without a visit to Heroes’ Square, which represents the largest and most symbolic square in Budapest. It was designed in 1896 to mark the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest of the Carpathian Basin. Contained within the square is the stunning Millenary Monument, an 18-foot pillar topped by a golden Archangel Gabriel. Legend has it that he offered Stephen the crown of Hungary in a dream. At the column’s base are the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars who helped to found what later became the Hungarian state during the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries. The colonnades behind the pillar feature various illustrious leaders of Hungary, like Szent István.
Basilica of St. Stephens
St. Stephen’s Basilica represents Budapest’s foremost neoclassical Roman Catholic cathedral. It is named in honor of Stephen, the first King of Hungary. Construction of this breathtakingly beautiful basilica was completed in 1905. It is a bit dark and gloomy inside of the cathedral, but a trip to the top of the dome provides some unbelievable views. Standing 315 feet, and on par with the Hungarian Parliament Building, it represents one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest.
Hungarian State Opera
The neo-Renaissance Hungarian State Opera House was designed by Miklós Ybl in 1884 and is among the most aesthetically pleasing structures in Budapest. Its facade is decorated with statues of muses and opera greats such as Puccini, Mozart, Liszt, and Verdi, while its interior dazzles with marble columns, gilded vaulted ceilings, and chandeliers. Its acoustics are known to be near-perfect. If you cannot attend a performance, join one of the three daily tours. Tickets to see an opera are some of the cheapest you will find in Europe and North America and are available from the souvenir shop inside the lobby.
House of Terror Museum
The former headquarters of the dreaded secret police has been transformed into a memorial to the victims of different authoritarian regimes. The House of Terror Museum puts on display for all to see the crimes and atrocities committed by Hungary’s fascist and Stalinist regimes in a permanent exhibition called Double Occupation. The years after WWII leading up to the 1956 Uprising by far occupy most of the exhibition space. The building has a ghastly history. Before, during and after WWII, activists of every political persuasion were taken here for interrogation and torture. The walls were constructed with a double layer of thickness in order to muffle the screams of the tortured.