Budapest – Vibrant and Dynamic Buda and Pest
One of the most striking metropolitan cities of Europe is the Hungarian capital, Budapest. In the 19th century, the hilly western Buda and wide eastern pest, separated by the Danube, unified into the rapidly developing city. Budapest’s youthful thriving culture, history and natural beauty will capture every traveller’s interest.
The city’s thermal baths, grand churches, cobblestone squares, neo-Gothic architecture and especially the 13th-century castle will get your attention in this city. Starting on the west side, the castle hill is a must-see. Visit the Buda Castle or the Royal Palace and get picturesque views of the Danube, bridges and Pest. The palace complex and grounds are beautiful and also allow for a visit to the Hungarian National Gallery. You can see the Lion Courtyard, the Matthias Well, a bronze statue of King Matthias, and the statue of the Turul Bird. Make time for a night time visit for a different view, as the entire complex lights up. Different festivals are held at the Buda Castle throughout the year which you can enjoy.
Walking and wandering through the cobblestone streets, you can get to the the white-stoned Fisherman’s Bastion. This neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque structure consists of ornate turrets, projections, parapets and climbing the stairways will get you excellent views of the city. The fairytale like structure is made up of seven towers – each one symbolizing one of the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the area.
In the busy Trinity Square at the heart of Buda, stands the fascinating Matthias Church. The original structure has changed many times as it was constantly being renovated in the popular architectural style of each era. Matthias was the city’s first parish church but transformed into a mosque during the 1541 Turkish occupation for nearly 150 years. Inside, the church is fabulously decorated, with the original thirteenth-century structure used as the base for a late nineteenth-century colourful redesign of patterns and motifs.
While still on the Buda side, visit Gellért Hill, which again gives you amazing views of the city at about 140 meters high. This is named after bishop Gellért, who was thrown to death from the hill in the fight against Christianity. You can see a statue of him facing Elizabeth Bridge. At the top of the hill is the Citadel, a fortress that has been a military checkpoint, prison, anti-aircraft missile launch pad, and is now a tourist attraction. At the top of the hill you will also find Liberation Monument which is a tall statue of a woman bearing a palm leaf.
To get from Buda to Pest, cross the magnificent and beautiful Chain Bridge. When built in 1849, the bridge was considered to be one of the wonders of the world. It is now the most beautiful bridge that crosses the Danube with two stone lions guarding the bridge on either side. Take an evening stroll across the bridge when it is all lit up along with the rest of the city.
When you get to Pest, visit the Parliament building, located on the riverside. This great Gothic structure is one of Budapest’s most famous and biggest landmarks as well as the country’s symbol of independence. The building’s facade is magnificent, decorated with 88 statues of Hungarian rulers, pointed arch arcades and numerous gargoyles, spires and Gothic ornaments. Take in the architecture , impressive interior features and the beautiful statues and paintings.
You can continue walking along the beautiful river promenade or through the side streets, past the parliament to get to Margaret bridge and take a nice stroll or casual bike ride to go around Margaret Island. You can also enjoy a great fountain, pet zoo, Japanese gardens, outdoor pools and much more. It is a great way to spend half a day or even a few hours.
A World Heritage Site, Heroe’s Square can be your next stop. You will see Millennium Monument standing at the center of the square with statues of historical figures and at it’s focal point you see the Millennium Column. Its construction was begun in 1896 which was Hungary’s 1,000th anniversary. Behind the column are matching colonnades with 14 statues of royalty and other important figures in Hungarian history. Next to the square you will find the Museum of Fine Arts which can be worth a visit.
To relax you will want to enjoy one of the medicinal, thermal baths which Budapest is famous for. A turkish influence in Budapest, these baths are heated by natural thermal springs. One of the famous is the neo-Baroque Széchenyi baths, largest in Europe, with an impressive building that captures your attention. Here you will find fifteen indoor and three outdoor pools with ten saunas and steam chambers inside the complex. Gellért Baths has grand Art Nouveau architecture and art deco details. Rudas Baths has a traditional domed ceiling with the octagonal pool. Once the sun goes down, some of these baths host night parties. For more lively action you can also visit one of the “ruin pubs”. These bars are built in crumbling buildings and courtyards scattered with vintage equipment and old rustic furniture. Szimpla is the most famous one, with great characteristics and atmosphere.
Although much of the city was destroyed during World War II and in the 1956 Revolution, Budapest offers a breathtaking historical and cultural life. Make sure to include this charming city to of your European must see destinations as it appeals to many if not all visitors.