Budapest Attractions, Places to See and Eat in Budapest
Described as the Paris of Central Europe, Budapest actually has a lot more to offer than this analogy.
10 years ago, when we visited the city for the first time, it was a romantic Central European city, but this time it welcomed us with its rapidly transformed and beautified form. Budapest is ranked number 1 in the list of "World's Most Livable Cities" by CNN and Conde Nast Traveler, number 1 in the list of "European Cities of the Future" by Financial Times and number 5 in the list of "Europe's Best Cities for Investment". As you visit the city, you remember that it was under Ottoman rule for nearly 150 years and you feel the closeness that comes from sharing a common history. On top of that, they love Turks very much: =)
One city, two coasts is also the case here, as the Danube River divides the city into Buda and Pest. The Parisian atmosphere is created by the bridges (the most famous being the 375-meter-long Chain Bridge) and the Andrassy ut, which has been compared to the Champs Elysees.
Buda is located on the western side of the city, and because it was built on a hill, it has remained a residential area. The surprisingly lively and vibrant part of the city is the Pest side, where the nightlife flows...
The Castle District of Buda is where you can start touring the city and get a panoramic view of both sides. We spent our first day in this area and thanks to the good weather, we walked across the Chain Bridge to the Buda side. Here you can either take the funicular to get to the Castle District or you can take one of the private castle tours. The private tour is almost the same price as the funicular and you can walk around a very large area without walking between stops. Although it is called Buda Castle, this is the Old Town part of the city. There are many tiny cafes, shops and restaurants in this Unesco-protected area. Even Pierrot, which is considered one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Budapest by many guides, is located in this area. It is the restaurant of a chef who has gained fame by blending Hungarian and French cuisine and you should definitely make a reservation in advance if you want to go.
The castle was built in the 13th century, but the Baroque palace inside (Alexender Palace) was built between 1749 and 1769. Today the palace is home to different museums. The Hungarian National Gallery is one of the most special museums in Budapest, where the works of Hungarian artists from many different periods such as Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque are exhibited. You may also come across temporary exhibitions periodically. Until October 20, the Surrealist Movement from Dali to Magritte exhibition continues. ( https://en.mng.hu/ )
Budapest History Museum, National Szechenyi Library, Matthias Church, Fisherman's Bastion, Hospital in the Rock, Buda Tower and Museum of Military History are some of the other things you can see in the Castle District... Although it can be a bit tiring to make time for all of them, take a breather at one of the cozy cafes and recover with a goulash soup: If you stay for sunset, you can see the spectacular view from Fisherman's Bastion.
You have completed an important part of your touristic trip in Buda. If you ask "So what awaits us in Pest?", take a look at our Pest notes:
Great Market Hall
It's debatable how close Hungarian cuisine is to our own, but the Great Market Hall definitely struck us in the heart. Built in 1897 and roofed with colorful tiles, the market hall offers Hungarian wines, the famous paprika (Hungarian paprika), delicious cheeses, charcuterie, and most importantly, local restaurants and kiosks where you can taste the specialties of Hungarian cuisine. Speaking of local delicacies, we can recommend goulash, hortobagyi palacsinta (minced meat pancakes with paprika sauce), langos (cheese and garlic sauce).
If you think Great Market Hall is not enough for us, we recommend another address where you can reach great flavors with a pinpoint shot: Stand25 Bisztró in Hold utca Market Hall is a buffet opened by a Michelin-starred chef. Here you can taste local dishes with more refined touches on the menu that the chef changes daily.
St. Stephen's Basilica
It is the most magnificent church in Hungary and is too beautiful to miss no matter which side of the city you are on. It was built in honor of King Stefan, who led Hungary's struggle for independence. The church is truly dazzling with its detailed marble work and the works of art inside. There is also the mummified right hand of St. Stefan on display.
After visiting the Basilica, you can visit the elegant restaurants and wine bars around it. The streets are very pleasant and lively.
Hungarian Parliament Building
If you look across from the Buda side, you will see one of Budapest's most spectacular buildings, the Parliament Building, on the banks of the Danube. In 1873, when the cities of Buda, Pest and Óbuda merged to form Budapest, the need for a new parliament building was realized and construction began after 19 years. We recommend you to visit the parliament building by buying an online ticket in advance, as you are likely to encounter a crowded queue. If you continue walking along the river on the Pest side, you can see some sculptures and "Shoes on the Danube" (shoes on the river bank). These shoes are there in memory of the Jews who were killed by the river in 1944-45.
Dohany Street Synagogue
Dohany, the 2nd largest synagogue in the world and the largest synagogue in Europe, was built in 1854 as one of the symbols of Budapest. It is located in the Jewish Quarter (also called Elizabethtown) in Budapest, where the Jewish population is dense. The World War 2 tragedy caused the loss of a significant part of the Jewish population and this place has a special significance for Jews. Entrance to the synagogue is paid and if you join the guided tours, you can learn about the architectural features of the synagogue and the life of Jews before and after the war. The nearby Wallenberg Memorial Park and the Jewish Museum are also worth a visit.
House of Terror
In House of Terror, one can see the horrific destruction left by the communist and fascist regimes in Hungary and the traces of a period that claimed the lives of nearly 700,000 people. The building was used as a prison by the Secret Service and the Nazis.
Heroes' Square (Hösök Tere)
Budapest's longest and most elegant street, Andrássy ut, offers you the chance to see the House of Terror, the State Opera House, the Museum of Fine Arts and many other places on your list. Of course, you may also suffer a bit of a loss in the process, as stores such as Michael Kors, Moncler and Gucci are lined up in rows. At the end of Andrássy you will find Heroes' Square. There are statues of statesmen who played an important role in the founding of Hungary and a monument dedicated to them.
A bridge across the square leads you to the City Park Varosliget. We can say that Budapest is very lucky in terms of parks, besides Varosliget, they use a huge island in the middle of the Danube (Margaret Island / Margit-sziget) as a park. In Varosliget, of course, you can ride your bike among the ponds and have a picnic on the grass if the weather permits. It will be a very pleasant and relaxing break from your sightseeing. In fact, if you want to take relaxation to the next level, we have a great suggestion for you:
Széchenyi Thermal Baths.
Budapest's most famous and most popular spa among tourists... Széchenyi dates back to the Roman period and the baths were added with the influence of the Ottomans. Nevertheless, the concept is a bit different from the Turkish bath/spa concept because the entertainment dimension is also considered. Parties are organized in the indoor/outdoor pools from time to time and the atmosphere takes on a club atmosphere. If you don't want to party, you can take your massage and relax in the relaxation rooms: If you are interested in less touristic thermals other than Széchenyi, we recommend Rudas SPA in Gellért.
Food, Drink and Entertainment in Budapest
The most striking thing about Budapest is that it is a city that lives day and night. The population is under 2 million but there are several universities in the city and the number of international students is undeniably high. Therefore, it offers us much more restaurant / café and bar alternatives than European cities where not even a cat crosses the street on Sunday...
You have to admit that there is a Ruin Bar entertainment concept in Budapest. Even though it sounds very "underground" when you first hear about it, we say don't leave Budapest without having this experience. Their story is really interesting; they transformed the ruined buildings from World War II into bars without restoring any part of them. The oldest and most famous Ruin Bar is Szimpla Kert, mentioned in all Budapest guides. The style is definitely eclectic; old cassettes, fishing nets, batteries, and many other objects you can't think of are used in the decoration. Don't be intimidated by the crowds, make sure to explore the rooms upstairs.
Apart from Ruin Bars, especially in the area called Elizabethtown (Jewish Quarter), you can find many large and small bars, restaurants and cafes. Put Mazel Tov on your list immediately, they interpret Middle Eastern cuisine with different touches. Since it has a bar, you can also just go to listen to music and have a drink. If you are looking for something more sophisticated, Bistro Fine under Hotel Moments on Andrássy ut is a good alternative. You can also find Italian, Japanese and fine-dining style Hungarian restaurants on the streets leading to the aforementioned St. Stephen's Basilica square. These are also a bit pricey, but they deserve it with their wine menus and ambiance. If you are planning to take a river cruise while in Budapest, why not do it during dinner! Touristic yes, but the Danube at night is different my friend :)
Budapest is a city where you can try delicious desserts that are not far from the patisseries in Vienna and Paris... None of the desserts we had disappointed us. New York Café and Gerbaud in Vörösmarty Square are among the most well-known cafes in Budapest, if you want to breathe the old air of the city, you should definitely stop by. We discovered Sweet in Elizabethtown by chance but fell in love with it.
Don't be crazy like us and try every dessert in the window!
Cirkusz, where we had Eggs Florentine and Eggs Benedict every morning, is at the top of our recommendation list. You can see people waiting at the door every morning including Monday. Therefore, we recommend you to set the clock and go :)