Colossal yet cool. Monumental yet oh-so-youthful. The Hungarian capital is considered one of the best travel destinations in Europe, especially in recent years, thanks to its many museums, monuments and cultural events. Here are just 10 of the things you must see while visiting this pearl along the Danube.
1. Hungarian Parliament
This neo-Gothic building on the banks of the Danube River, built in the late 19th century, is an icon for the country. It is one of the most beautiful parliament buildings in the entire world, designed to celebrate the Millennium anniversary of the Hungarian nation (896 CE), the recent conquest of the Habsburg Empire and the reunification of three parts of the city which were previsouly independent: Pest, Buda and Obuda.
2. The Thermal Baths
It was the Romans who first appreciated the warm and numerous thermal springs around the city. If you want to experience Budapest’s thermal baths there are a few we can recommend. Rudas Baths (Döbrentei tér 9) dates back to the Turkish era, as shown in the architecture, Gellert is inside the hotel with the same name, and Széchenyi (Széchenyi fürdő stop on the yellow metro), one of the largest bath complexes in the world that is built in a beautiful Belle Epoque style. Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit when you book those flights to Budapest, the baths are just heavenly in winter!
3. Heroes’ Square and Andrassy Ut
The Szechenyi Spa is located near one of the most beautiful squares in the city: Hősök Tere (Heroes’ Square). The square is located at the end of Andrassy Ut and features the statues of the seven chieftains who founded Hungary as well as other important Hungarian figures from history. On either side are two of the nation’s most important museums: the Museum of Fine Art and the Kunsthalle with modern art. After visiting the square and the museums, take a stroll down Andrassy Ut, which reminds us of one of Paris’ grande and wide boulevards.
4. The House of Terror
Twentieth century Hungary was marked by several tragedies, starting with the authoritarian regime of pro-Facist Horthy, Hitler’s ally, who brought the country to catastrophic defeat in the Second World War and later by nearly 50 years of Communist dictatorship within the Soviet Bloc. For those interested in learning more about the poignant history of Hungary, there is no better museum than the Terror Haza (Andrássy út No. 60), a prison first used by the Nazis and later by the political police of the Hungarian Communist regime.
5. Margaret Island
This island in the middle of the Danube, is one of the best places to relax on a hot summer’s day. The island has beautiful parks, pools and spas like Palatinus, gardens and some sports fields. Another suggestion? Rent a bike and discover this 2.5km island for an entire afternoon. Don’t miss the great fountain when you first enter the island from Margaret Bridge.
6. The Jewish District
This neighbourhood is not only famous for its beautiful synagogue, but also for being one of the most fashionable places to enjoy Budapest’s nightlife. You’ll find some of the best ruin bars in town here, famous around the world, made from old buildings that have been left for ruin and turned into the city’s hippest and trendiest bars, where Budapest’s underground art scene thrives. Not to miss: Szimpla Kert (Kazinczy utca No. 14) and Fogasház (Akácfa utca No. 51).
7. Fisherman’s Bastion
This is one of the most visited places in the entire city, and for good reason. The views from up here, on the Buda side of the river, are just spectacular. The bastion, a neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque creation, overlooks the Danube and Pest, almost right across from the stunning Parliament buildings. This place is completely free to visit and if you’re on a budget, you should check out our other article about how to experience Budapest for free.
Love Budapest? What other places around the city would you recommend for first-timers?