Did anyone go to see the movie “The Red Sparrow” earlier this year? I have to say, I only went to see the movie because parts of it were filmed in Budapest when I was there last year. One of my favorite cities has tons to do. Most of the attractions are free or low cost. The two cities of Buda and Pest is a dream for photographers, architects, musicians, and more. Here are my recs:
1) Walk through Fisherman’s Bastion. Step back in time by gazing at architecture not seen anywhere else in Europe. The turrets and the white stone will make your jaw drop. And, the views over the Danube to the Parliament and Pest are awe-inspiring. Whether you’re taking a selfie or an avid photographer, you won’t be disappointed (unless it’s foggy like during my last visit). Walk around the Fisherman’s Bastion at no cost. (No need to pay extra to go up an extra level.) Tip: Great views of the Fisherman’s Bastion are available down the stairs at the bottom of the hill. Looking up, you truly get a very of how commanding the area is. Learn more about this beautiful area’s history here.
2) The Hungarian Parliament – I didn’t visit this on my first visit to Budapest and always regretted it. The ticket prices are pricey by Budapest standards, but I will tell you it is worth it. (6000 HUF for non-EU travelers which was about $18 when I visited). There are a variety of tours in other languages. Our guide was pleasant and knowledgeable. Make sure you reserve your tickets in advance as the tours fill up. The Grand Stairway took my breath away. It may sound dull, but hearing about how the carpets were made and seeing the Assembly Room was fascinating. My favorite bit of information was about the cigars and their little holders outside of the Assembly Room. Learn more about visiting as well as the building’s history.
Tip: Before or after visiting, grab a seat on a nearby park bench and enjoy the beautiful views looking over the Danube to Buda. Buda Castle is a magnificent structure on top of the hill.
3) St. Stephen’s Basilica – Your visit here won’t take too much time. It’s located close to the Parliament with many restaurants nearby. It’s an easy and worthwhile detour. Visiting Europe you might say, oh another church. St. Stephen’s inspired me on my first visit, and years later, it still inspires. It isn’t overly ornate, but a walk through shows many unique pieces of art. The interior is somewhat dark, but it’s brightened up by the stained glass frescos. There are also a lot of gold elements throughout.
4) The House of Terror – This sounds depressing, doesn’t? It’s more of a moving tale of Hungary’s history and trying times during World War II and during the Soviet Occupation. This was another site that I regretted missing on my first visit to Budapest. I’m glad I didn’t miss it a second time. This was the only site I went to in Budapest that had a long wait to get in. The exhibits were well-laid out. Audioguides are available, though I just read the papers in each room. The museum gives travelers a real look into the nation’s history during these trying times and the struggle. As a history major that studied Russian and European history, I found value in this, and learned a lot that wasn’t covered in my history courses. Plan to spend a few hours here. I’d recommend arriving when they open and then heading to a little café along Andrassy Ut after. The House of Terror is in a great location on Andrassy Ut (you can walk by all the beautiful old houses, many embassies now and also see the Opera House.).
5) Matthias Church – This is another beauty, but in the Castle District adjacent to Fisherman’s Bastion. They have a Museum with it as well. It’s colorful, huge and has a unique history. Learn more. Again, take 30 minutes or an hour and walk through. There is a bus stop right near the church that gives you easy access back over to Pest.
6) Heroes Square – Ride the Metro out there, admire the large statues of Hungary’s past kings and leaders and take a walk through the adjacent park. In the park, you’ll find Szechenyi Thermal Baths (an ornate building), an outdoor ice rink (if you’re there in the winter), the zoo, Jaki Chapel, and my personal favorite, Vajdahunyard Castle. This is a building designed to look like a Transylvanian Castle. It was completed in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition that celebrated a 1,000 years of Hungarian History. The building is awesome, and reminded me of being back in Transylvania. (If you can’t visit Romania, this is certainly worth a look.) The building is an uninteresting museum now, but you can certainly enjoy its exterior.
Now guidebooks and visitors to Budapest will insist you visit a bath – like Gellert Baths or Szechenyi Thermal Baths. This wasn’t of interest to me so I passed, but by all means, give it a try if you desire. I hear it is a great experience.
Have you been to Budapest? What are your favorite sites?
PS – try the chestnut dessert called gesztenyepure.