What to see in Budapest: the stages of an Hungarian weekend

Those who say that cities have a soul to be discovered isn’t speaking about Budapest, which certainly boasts more than one. Bore by the union of three towns, and now divided into two totally different district, this capital city makes a list of what to see in Budapest long and complex.

Budapest was one of those cities of the communist area that for years has been turistically considered only by those stupid people who believed they could feel a king carrying Bic pens and naylon socks across the border. Unfortunately this kind of tourism didn’t considered the glorious past of this city and also its cultural wealth.

Budapest history *

The Hungarian capital was born from the union of 3 towns: two on the western bank of the Danube, Buda and Obuda, and one on the eastern, Pest, and joined by 9 bridges of which the oldest is the famous Chain Bridge (one of the most important stages what to see in Budapest).

Destroyed and rebuilt several times, it fell under Communist influence after World War II and managed to break away from this grip only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.

Since then, Budapest has embarked on a dizzying journey towards modernization that has led it to be one of the most beloved, fascinating and rich cities of the old Soviet bloc.

What to see in Budapest: among breathtaking views and buildings *

Tourists, and perhaps also travel writers, like to find similarity between famous and not famous cities… as if all had to meet the standards of beauty universally accepted.

This is how an infinite number of “small Venice” or “Paris” are born around Europe … and Budapest seems to have been labeled with this emblem: it’s considered the “Paris of the East”.

Now, apart from the famous river that runs through it (the Danube), and the Buda Hill, perhaps distantly comparable to Montmartre and its panoramas, i didn’t see much else justifying the similarity and i prefer to think that Budapest is so beautiful to be considered simply itself.

– Buda District *

What to see in Budapest

The city of Budapest is visually, and not only, divided into two parts, or maybe it’s better to speak about two disctricts.

Without a doubt your list of what to see in Budapest will be divided between what is in the Buda district and what is in the Pest district.

Buda is the historical side of the city, the place where the first city settlement took root starting (from the portentous castle) and where, i assure,  you will go quickly attracted by a sort of magnet of silent charm.

According to historical documents, in the past the city was absolute magnificent and could easily compete against the beauty of Prague or Vienna. This changed after the arrival of the Turks who took possession of it in 1541 and didn’t leave for 150 years.

A century and a half transformed churches into mosques while minarets and Turkish baths proliferated everywhere. This gave a very different appearance to Budapest.

As said, the city underwent several destructions and rebuilding, but today Buda remains the heart of the city with the Royal Palace, some unmissable views and even the San Mattia’s church.

– Pest District *

The second part of the steps on your list of what to see in Budapest will focus on this second district of the city.

Pest contains the modern side of the Hungarian capital.

Many people come here for shopping on the huge Andrassy Avenue (from which I escaped in a few minutes as soon as i found a working ATM), and that leads a lot of great city monuments.

Walking through Pest is totally different from walking through the streets of Buda.

The chaos of the tourist weekend can make your head spin; the pub, the outdoor tables, the shiny shops can strike and surprise.

Sometimes we are not prepared for this reality and we expect something different from a country that a few decades ago had no idea what consumerism was.

In Pest you can find the Parliament Building and the Great Synagogue, but also all the places where you can spend evenings … and nights.

– Budapest Castle *

What to see in Budapest

The city was born here, around this huge building (in Hungarian Buday Vàr) that dominates the city from the hill overlooking the river.

The castle housed the Hungarian kings, while today, after a troubled history that saw him besieged for at least 31 different times, it gives protection to a series of medieval monuments included in the list of UNESCO Heritage.

The view from the overlook, or also when you climb the hill by cable car is really incomparable… even if the queue to enter in the cabin always seems quite long and the frequency of the races is not irresistible.

– The Chain Bridge and the Danube River *

Like all the big cities born on a river, one of its most magical corners is the promenade that overlooks its watercourse, which is one of the most famous and renowned in Europe: the Danube.

The river divides the city in two and gives a very interesting point of view on the monuments, on the boats that cut through its waters and trains passing on its shore.

A series of bridges have joined the two sides of the river giving life to Budapest. The oldest, most elaborate and photographed is the Chain Bridge also known as the “Szechenyi Bridge”.

The original bridge of 1849 was unfortunately destroyed during the II World War, like many other city monuments, but was faithfully rebuilt immediately after the end of the conflict.

– Budapest Parliament *

What to see in Budapest

Another building symbol of the city, and also an important political symbol of the nation, is the Parliament of Budapest.

The construction of the imposing building overlooking the Danube followed the Austro-Hungarian agreement of 1867 which sanctioned the Hungarian semi-independence, and was completed in 1902.

Today it also guards the Holy Crown which traditionally is attributed to King St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary, and then used to crown the Hungarian kings since the 13th century.

– Heroes’ Square *

To the north of the historic center, near the park of Varosliget, There is the iconic and instagramed Heroes’ Square (in Hungarian Hosok Tere).

The square has been dedicated to the great figures of Hungarian history and is located at the end of Andrassy Avenue.

At its center, admired by the many statues of historical figures, there is the Millennium Monument created to celebrate the first millennium of the Hungarian nation.

– Varosliget Park *

Next to the monumental Heroes’ Square is the Varosliget City Park.

Many people forget the green in a weekend in the European capitals, but it’s in these citys green corners that you breathe the city life in the absolute relax of trees, monuments, mothers walking, runners on break from work and young students with a strong desire to marinate the lessons.

This is the place where you can bumb into people who leave here and chat for knowing how is the real life in Budapest.

– Margaret Island and Margaret Bridge *

After the Chain Bridge, the Margaret Bridge is the second permanent bridge in Budapest.

Unlike the first, his style is defined neo-baroque. Marble and wood are the masters and all of its appearance seems much more “silent”, modest, elegantly less striking.

The bridge connects the mainland with the small island that for so long was only a green patch in the impetuous heart of the Danube.

The inhabitants of Budapest love it for the peace and tranquility that distinguish it, but also for its park full of spas, recreation areas and bars.

Two and a half kilometers long and five hundreds meters wide, it is a city green lung and an excellent destination to get out of the chaos of Pest and mass tourism.

– Memento Park *

There are populations that have destroyed everything that could remember the old period of oppression. Others, instead, have used all the old and undesired monuments to form new attractions to memory … not to erase what has been.

It’s sure that the Memento Park has no charm and beauty, an maybe you can cancel it from your list of “what to se in Budapest”, but stores a myriad of famous or unknown statues that furnished the city in the communist period.

– Spas in Budapest *

We have to use the right terms: Budapest is not only rich in spas, it is a real spa town. So, if you are asking what to se in Budapest, Spas has one of the most important experience in this city.

Since ancient Rome its thermal springs have known fame and glory.

The Romans themselves built Aquincum of which today endure scattered remains in the area that became Obuda befor the birth of Budapest.

The Turks, instead, created the tradition of using the Baths and built numerous buildings that today are still used and appreciated.

In Budapest there are around 300 spas with waters at different temperatures, from 20 to 76 °.

Among the most beautiful bath in Budapest i suggest you to try the Rudas Baths, at the end of Elisabeth’s bridge, the Gellert Baths, at the beginning of the Szabadság Bridge on the right side of the river, and the historic Széchenyi Bath in the Varosliget park.


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