When thinking about the most beautiful capitals of the world, Budapest would not have immediately come to my mind. Places like Paris, London and Rome would’ve surpassed the Hungarian capital up until I visited it this year. Whether you are heading to Budapest yourself soon or just looking for some travel inspiration, here are my favourite sights, restaurants and activities.
THE HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT BUILDING AND THE SHOES
The Hungarian Parliament Building was inspired by the British House of Parliament and serves as both a vibrant government centre and a proud city landmark on the banks of the Danube river. You could easily spend hours enjoying the stunning surroundings of the building, however for those intrigued about the history of the building, there is a tour which allows visitors to explore the main staircase, the old upper house hall and the lounge; as well as the crown jewels. Just behind the building is the shoe monument, which honours the Jewish victims that were shot into the Danube by the Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest from 1944-1945, a very simple but very moving memorial that is worth a visit.
Buda Castle was once the home of the Hungarian royals, but now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum. To get to the top of the hill, you can take the 19th-century funicular up from Adam Clark Square, which provides views overlooking the Hungarian Parliament building, Széchenyi Chain Bridge and Danube river. Once you’ve arrived up the top, there is a wide range of sights to see such as the changing of the guards (turning about the rifles, saluting, marching up and down the square, domino-like movements etc.), a medieval Alchemy Lab with a collection of unusual items, bowls, herbs, books of the history of medicine dating back to the 1600’s and a beautiful terrace restaurant.
FISHERMAN’S BASTION AND MATTHIAS CHURCH
Fisherman’s Bastion is a neo-Gothic style terrace, on Castle Hill, surrounding Matthias Church. In order to fully appreciate this place, I recommend taking a tour of the Bell Tower, it is 197 steps up a very narrow winding staircase, but the view at the top is breathtaking. Afterwards, you’re bound to be tired, luckily there is a small cafe called Piknik Pavilion, tucked away from the bustling crowds under the shade of the trees. One homemade lemonade, cheese flatbread and violin cover of Despacito later, you’ll be up and ready to continue your day of sightseeing.
ST STEPHENS BASCILLICA
For a small donation of 200 HUF, you can enter St Stephen’s Basicillica, to see the beautiful ceiling dome, stained glass windows and historical statues. The building is equal in height to the Hungarian Parliament Building at 96 metres, and so I highly recommend paying to go to the top to get the highest 360 view of the city. There is also a bell tower on either side of the building, which you can hear if you’re passing by at 8pm and in summer months they play concerts every Sunday in the square which is inundated with quaint cafes, shops and restaurants.
HEROES SQUARE AND VAJDAHUNYAD CASTLE
Heroes Square is one of the major squares in Budapest, noted for its iconic statue complex featuring the Seven chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Just behind the square is Vajdahunyad Castle, which was built as part of a Millennial Exhibition to celebrate 1,000 years since the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin. Separating the two is a boating lake/skating rink, so no matter what season you choose to visit Budapest, there is a fun activity that will provide you with scenic views of both sights.