Hungary’s fascinating and culturally immersive capital is separated into its component ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’ sides by the Danube River and is a mainstay of practically all river cruises which explore this iconic waterway. Buda’s home to the majority of the city’s historical attractions, while Pest is its more lively, cosmopolitan counterpart. Budapest is one of Europe’s largest cities, so you’ll struggle to see it all but it’s so packed full of elegant attractions that you won’t fail to take in an iconic landmark or three, whichever direction you set off in. Of course, there’s a wide choice of excursions available which are expertly tailored to take in all of the absolute must-sees.
As you approach the city by river, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was built specifically with the delight of cruisers in mind as you catch site of its iconic Parliament Building. Sitting on the banks of the Danube, this neo-gothic masterpiece was inspired by London’s Houses of Parliament and as well as functioning in a modern-day political capacity it’s also one of the city’s key landmarks. A guided tour will tell you all about its history and give you the chance to see more of its incredible architecture.
The Castle Hill area in Buda is another of the city’s most popular areas with visitors, being located in the heart of the city’s medieval district. Cobbled streets, baroque architecture and scenic squares all contribute to the atmosphere and it’s where you’ll find a high concentration of cultural delights. Fisherman’s Bastion is a particular must-see, a 19th century folly which boasts fairy-tale turrets and towers, as well as some exceptional views.
Matthias Church is the key attraction to be found on the area’s main square and is a beautiful piece of architecture and the venue for numerous coronations of Hungarian kings-past. The area of course got its name for a reason and Buda Castle itself is why many people visit it. Suffering intensive damage during the Second World War, its interiors were rebuilt but remain labyrinthine, with previously unseen medieval areas exposed and plenty to see.
The Hungarian State Opera House is another incredible landmark, dating back to 1884 and built in the style of perhaps the world’s most famous venue of its kind, the Vienna Opera House. Whether you’ve time to take in a performance or not, the building is a breath-taking piece of neo-Renaissance architecture. It is possible to take a tour but many visitors agree that a performance is the best way to appreciate the reason that this building was built for. Also built in the neo-Renaissance style, St Stephen’s Basilica is another incredible building, which took 14 years to complete. Its 300-foot dome is undoubtedly its most striking feature, but there are plenty architectural wonders to witness, both inside and out.
If a Budapest bargain is what you’re after, be sure to head for the Great Market Hall, where you’ll find such national exports as Hungarian pottery and lace. If you’re in search of some local fare, try Goulash Soup, with a Gundel Pancake for dessert.