Modern Budapest was born in 1873 when the towns of Buda, Obuda and Pest were officially joined. Two and a half million people live in the city totaling roughly one-fifth of Hungary’s population. Budapest is the political, commercial and cultural capital of Hungary. Lying in north-central Hungary on the banks of the river Danube, Budapest attracts almost twenty four million visitors annually. Hilly Buda on the west bank of the Danube contains reminders of the Turkish occupation whilst flat Pest on the east bank is home to the Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Justice and various museums. Six bridges including the beautiful Stone Chain bridge link the two. Known as ‘the Pearl of the Danube’ there is something for everyone here, breathtaking panoramas, healing spring waters as well as beautiful Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance buildings.
The Szechenyi Lanchid (Charles Bridge) being the central point of Budapest, is Budapest’s oldest and most famous bridge. From here go west towards Buda or east towards Pest. Most of Buda’s attractions are on Varhegy (Castle Hill), take the nineteenth century funicular Siklo. A UNESCO world heritage site awaits you, with the beautiful Szentharomsag ter (Trinity Square), and the nearby Budavari Palota (Buda Castle Palace) which contains several museums including the Hungarian National Gallery. Other sights include Matyas Templom (Matthias Church) and the charming Halaszbastya (Fisherman’s Bastion) which offers some breathtaking views, in particular of the Orszaghaz (Houses of Parliament). Inspired by London’s Houses of Parliament the similarities are striking, the edifice stretches for over 250m (820ft) along the river Danube.
The much more commercial Pest extends out from the Belvaros (inner city). One of its main sights is Hosoek ter (Heroes’ Square), which can be reached by following Budapest’s grandest avenue, Andrassy ut. At its center stands the 120-foot bronze Millennium Emlekmu (Millennium Monument) and just behind, Varosliget (City Park) Budapest’s largest park. Inside the park you will find amongst other things the city’s zoo and an outdoor swimming pool, which belongs to the Sxechenyi mineral baths. There are several of these throughout the city, an experience not to be missed! Also in Pest is Europe’s largest Synagogue Nagy Zsinagoga known as Central Synagogue. Take public transport to Deak ter. Lastly, for some exclusive boutiques and plenty of souvenir shops go to Vaci utca (Vaci Street).
Public transport in Budapest is cheap, efficient and simple to use. The network combines the underground, trams, buses, trolley buses and trains. Tickets, which can be bought at metro stations and newspaper stands, are valid for one trip and must be validated prior to travel. Three-day tourist passes and weekly tickets are also available. The Budapest Card combining travel, entry to museums and discounts on many other attractions is well worth buying. If you do have to use taxis avoid those without a yellow number plate but in any case, Budapest is best explored by foot, just make sure you arm yourself with a good quality map.
Lake Balaton is an extremely popular tourist attraction with its shallow waters offering the opportunity to enjoy many watersports including sailing, windsurfing and fishing. Many beautiful towns and villages can be explored in this region the main one being Siofok, situated 72 miles from Budapest and easily reached by train. Meanwhile the main resort in the north is Balatonfuered, famous for its healing spring waters it also has some good beaches and can be reached from Keleti Station.
Recommended places and events to visit in Budapest