Budapest, Hungary’s capital, will take your breath away with its magnetic energy, sophisticated elegance and artsy vibe. This world class city erased its Communist Era image by being one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a top UNESCO World Heritage site for:
- Banks of the Danube – including the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
- Buda Castle Quarter – including Gellért Hill, the Citadel, and the Castle Garden Bazaar
- Andrássy Avenue – including the Opera House, Millennium Underground Railway, and Hero’s Square
Budapest, commonly known for it’s two sides- Buda and Pest, is made up of twenty-three districts. The lower districts form the downtown central locations and the higher districts form the suburban areas. Both sides are connected by eight bridges: Arpad Bridge, Chain Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge, Lagymanyosi Bridge, Liberty Bridge, Margaret Bridge, Megyeri Bridge, and Petofi Bridge with the Széchenyi Chain Bridge being the oldest.
To maximize your time and to get quickly acquainted with Budapest, purchase a two day “hop on, hop off” city bus tour that includes a river cruise and a walking tour. Once you are familiar with the city, you can easily navigate through the city by one of the many transportation options (buses, metros, trams, taxis) to see the city sights in the various districts. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, take your camera and pack extra batteries because you won’t want to miss any grand photo opportunities!
Here is the three days in Budapest itinerary to taste and see the sights.
Shoes on the Danube is a memorial created by Sculptor Gyula Pauer and film director Can Togay to honor Hungarian Jews who were asked to take off their shoes by the Danube River before being shot by members of the fascist Arrow Cross Party in World War II. This is one of those memorials that will stay in your mind for a life time with the images of cast iron boots and shoes decorated with ribbons, candles and flowers. The remembrance of lives lost will bring a tear to your eye. The memorial is located along the bank of the Danube River just off the Parliament Building.
Gresham Palace– After visiting the Shoes on the Danube Memorial, continue to walk along the Danube River bank to see one of Budapest’s most treasured architectural art-nouveau buildings, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace on Széchenyi Square. The palace was built in 1906 and named after Sir Thomas Gresham. During World War II, the building was seized and used for military barracks and later used as apartments during the communist era. In 1999, the Four Season along with the Budapest Heritage Board started restoration plans for the property. The palace reopened as the Four Seasons Gresham Palace in 2004. Take a peek inside to admire the beautiful lobby with the glass vaulted ceiling. For a taste of the high life, make a reservation for high-tea or a spa appointment to truly appreciate the Four Seasons five-star treatment in one of Budapest’s most epochal treasures.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge– Directly in front of the Four Seasons Gresham Palace faces the Széchenyi Chain Bridge with its picturesque views of Buda Castle. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge opened in 1849 as the first bridge to span over the Danube to connect Buda and Pest. It is one of architect William Tierney Clark’s two bridges that survived the damages of World War II. The Chain Bridge is an impressive sight during the day and especially at night when the bridge is illuminated with hundreds of tiny light bulbs. For a romantic view, visit the Chain Bridge during the early evening to watch the sunset along the Danube promenade.
St. Stephen’s Basilica– After visiting Széchenyi Square, stroll down Zrínyi u. on the side of Gresham Palace and enjoy the shops, cafes, and grand entrance of St. Stephen’s Basilica. St. Stephen’s Basilica is Budapest’s largest church and took over fifty years to complete the neo-renaissance styled efface. Tours are available Monday through Friday 10am-3pm for an estimate of HUF 2,000. For a quirky experience, pay the additional fee to see St. Stephen’s mummified right hand. For a cultural experience, attend a concert or church service at St. Stephen’s to marvel at the massive pipe organ in action. Plan to spend an hour or more to absorb the ornate details and don’t forget to see the beautiful panoramic views of Budapest from the dome’s observation deck. This is a must see, it’s beautiful inside and out!
Andrássy Avenue is Budapest’s famous tree-lined boulevard that stretches from City Center to Hero Square. Stroll along the magnificent mile (and a half) avenue and shop at the high-end boutiques or pop in at a quaint cafe for a coffee. This UNESCO World Heritage site includes the Millennium Underground Railway (M1), the world’s second oldest underground railway in the world, and the State Opera House, Hungary’s largest opera house.
State Opera House is the best place to experience an affordable cultural taste of Budapest arts. During your stay, purchase tickets for a concert, opera, or ballet and enjoy the opulent architecture. If you don’t have time for a performance, you can take a guided tour from 3 to 4 pm. Visit the State Opera House website www.opera.hu for details, a virtual tour or to check listings of available shows.
Start your day by catching the “hop on, hop off” bus at a stop near your hotel and head to the Buda Castle Quarter to begin your day of sightseeing. Along the bus route, you will see the Budapest UNESCO World Heritage iconic sights: the Citadel, Gellért Hill, Hero’s Square, Fisherman’s Bastion and the Castle Garden Bazaar. To fully maximize your time, customize your day based on your interests and plan to spend your entire day wandering around the various sights on Buda Hill.
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Fisherman’s Bastion is a 19th century, neo-Gothic fortress with seven lookout towers. From the platform, take some photographs of the breathtaking panoramic views of the Danube River and Pest landscape. Located in the inner square in front of Matthias Church, a commanding statue of St. Stephen King on a horse takes will capture your attention as well as the tower of Matthias Church.
Matthias Church is Budapest’s second largest historical church that originated in 1015 under king St. Stephen’s reign. Over the centuries, the church changed ownership and style due to sieges, wars, expansion, and rebuilding efforts. In the late eighteen century, archeit Frigyes Schulek restored Matthias Church in Neo-Gothic style and it has remained in that style from that point forward. During World War II, the church was occupied by the Germans and Soviets as a camp. Today, sections of the church are still under restoration, but this marvel is worth seeing. The church is open for touring: Monday thru Friday 9-5pm, HUF 1,000.
Faust Wine Cellar– End your sightseeing tour with a wine tasting at Faust Wine Cellar. The vaulted cellar is a part of the underground labyrinth within the Hilton Hotel.
If wine tasting is not your thing but you still want to see the underground labyrinth, purchase tickets to the underground labyrinth at entrance Úri utca 9 for HUF 2,000. The caves are a bit quirky and you might encounter innocent scares from teenagers hiding in dark corners of the labyrinth trying to spook tourists. All in all, this tourist attraction is for the kid at heart.
Royal Palace, the Citadel, Gellért Hill– Catch the “hop on, hop off” bus and continue to see the other sights on the bus tour route. Before sunset, make your way to the dock for the free river cruise listed on your bus tour package. Since this is a popular time of day to board a river cruise, arrive early to secure a good spot to see Budapest in its full glory.
For day three, slow down your pace and relax at one of Budapest’s green spaces or explore the “off-the-beaten” paths of Budapest.
Margaret Island is known for its large green spaces, gardens, and walking paths. Take a stroll or go for a run or ride a bike! It is a great place to escape the city and relax in fresh air.
Falk Miksa Street is home to Budapest’s famous antique row. Several antique shops and galleries adorn this quite, tree-lined street. Peruse through the shops and find a unique treasure to take home.
Hero’s Square, located at the end of Andrássy Avenue, is the entrance to Budapest’s largest public park, City Park. City Park offers beautiful green space, amusements and sights. The Hall of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Millennium Monument, Castle Vajdahunyad and Szécheniy Thermal Bath are sights in the area.
Szécheniy Thermal Bath is the largest thermal bath in Budapest. The exterior of building for Szécheniy Thermal Bath is beautiful but the interior needs a little attention. Unless you like being elbow to elbow with several strangers in water, I suggest booking an appointment at a private spa with less crowds to enjoy the experience of the medicinal waters.
Central Market Hall is a three story, indoor market located at the Pest end of Liberty Bridge. Inside this spacious late 19th century building, vendors sell fresh produce, meats, spices, and souvenirs. Sample sausages and pastries on your own or sign up for a guided food tour. Go for the food and the architecture and stay for a beer!
Railways of Budapest– Budapest has fascinating railway systems. Discover the mysteries behind Budapest’s historic railways to find your one of a kind experience. The Budapest Times article, “Adventures in the underworld,” outlines the history and explains how to explore the various rails. Make sure to experience the super long, handrail-gripping escalator ride down to the underground at Moszkva ter station.
Where to stay:
Kálmán Imre utca 19.
Budapest, 1054 , Hungary
Phone:+ 36 1 374 6003
Stay in District V (Belváros – Lipótváros) which is centrally located near the Hungarian Parliament and Danube Promenade. There are number of sights within walking district of District V such as the Chain Bridge, the Opera House, Andrassy Avenue, St. Stephen’s Basilica and Margaret Island. With two nearby metro stations, the Millennium Underground (M1 yellow line) at Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út and M2 (red metro line) at Kossuth ter opposite the Parliament, the Belváros – Lipótváros area connect seamlessly to other districts.
Have fun on your trip and let me know what you think!
Be blessed and love on,
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