When I was pregnant with Rosalin, Steve surprised me with a weekend trip to Budapest for my birthday. Hungary’s capital had long been on our city break list and I couldn’t wait to finally see it.
The weather during our stay was a little grey and rainy, but we still got to stroll around this unique city and enjoy some of its most iconic sights.
So, what are the top places to visit during a city break to Budapest?
The Hungarian Parliament
The capital of Hungary, stretched along the Danube river banks, has a tumultuous history, with one of the milestones being the unification of Buda and Pest – on the west and east bank of the Danube – in 1873. The Parliament on the Pest banks of the Danube is Hungary’s largest building, and confidently faces the massive Royal Palace on the other side of the river. For me it’s one of the most beautiful government buildings in the world.
Castle Hill, or Buda Hill, towers over the Danube and is divided into two parts: the Royal Palace and the Old Town with the famous Fisherman’s Bastion. The Royal Palace was first established by Béla IV in the mid-13th century. Today it houses museums and a library. The Fishermen’s Bastion just behind Matthias Church in the Old Town is not only pretty to look at but also provides one of the best views over the city.
The Shoes by the Danube Bank Memorial
The Shoes by the Danube Bank memorial honours the people who were executed on the river bank by fascist militia during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes before being shot at the river edge so their bodies dropped into the water. This simple but incredibly moving memorial was erected in 2005.
St Stephen’s Basilica
The Basilica of St Stephen is one of Hungary’s most important Catholic churches and contains the relic of St Stephen’s right hand. The Dome of the Basilica is flanked by two large bell towers and offers magnificent views over the city from 96m height.
Great Synagogue and Jewish quarter
The Great Synagogue, also known as Dohány Street Synagogue, is able to accommodate 3,000 worshippers and is the largest Jewish house of worship in the world, outside New York. The holocaust memorial in the garden of the Synagogue stands over the mass graves of those murdered by the Nazis, some of whose families’ names are engraved in the leafs of the ‘metal tree of life’.
Not far from the Synagogue, the Carl Lutz memorial near the former Ghetto is dedicated to the Swiss diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from deportation. Around the corner you can find a 30m piece of the original Ghetto wall, behind which Jews were forced to live during Nazi occupation.
Hero’s Square and City Park
The Hero’s Square (Hősök tere) is Budapest’s most monumental square and marks the entrance to the city park. The square centres on the Millenary monument, a 36m high pillar, and is the largest square in the Budapest. Vajdahunyad Castle is only one of the attractions in the city park, there’s also a boating lake, a thermal spa, the Museum of Fine Art, the Kunsthalle, the Transport Museum, a zoo and a couple of restaurants.
The Memento Park Open air museum is a sight like no other: a graveyard for more than 40 sculptures, plaques and statues of the heroes of socialism and communism that were moved out of the city following the end of the socialist regime. Memento Park is located just outside the city centre and easily reached by Bus.
Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube river, between Buda and Pets, is a wonderfully relaxing space for a stroll of picnic. This island park is full of attractions, including swimming pools, thermal baths and a musical fountain.
The Gellert Baths and Spa
Located at the foot of Buda hill, this historic art deco thermal bath complex counts to the most famous spas in the world. First opened in 1918, the Gellert Spa and Bath complex is now made up of 12 thermal baths and pools, three of which outside.