Budapest is an extraordinary city. There are only a few European cities that are so clearly divided into two parts. The Danube river splits the Hungarian capital literally in two with on the one side Buda and on the other side Pest. Originally, these were also two different towns that were merged into one big Budapest only a little over 140 years ago. And these two districts could not be more different. Hills versus plain, romance versus classical and pastel versus off-white. In this article I will take you on a stroll from Buda to Pest and take you along five highlights in this Hungarian city.
The castle district of Buda
We start in Buda. In my opinion this is the most charming part of Budapest. Hilly streets, bumpy brick pavement and pastel colored houses: this is my kind of scene. I loved strolling along the streets moving upward the 60 meter high Buda castle hill. On top of this hill there is the Buda Castle, a thirteenth century palace that is built after the Mongolians devastated most parts of the Hungarian land. This must never happen again, was the though of the king Bela IV and he built this pompous castle. Around the Buda Castle a new district rose: the castle district. Today this is a the perfect area for wandering. Winding streets, dozens of cute little restaurants and – because of the high position – a perfect view over the Danube. The heart of the Castle district is the Square of Holy Trinity with the Matthias church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. Two impressive structures that at first sight have nothing to do with each other, but they actually do. This Fisherman’s bastion is built as a rampart for the Matthias church and had to give the church its glory. Well, it certainly does!
Crossing the Danube: the Chain bridge
Via the Chain Bridge – or one of the other eight bridges – you walk from Buda to Pest (or the other way around). The bridge is one of the connections between Buda and Pest. The Chain Bridge is a picture-perfect sight, during the day and night. Tour guides love to tell the story that the two lions at the ends of the bridge miss one thing: their tongues. According to the legend the sculptor forgot about this one little detail and never forgave himself and jumped off the Chain Bridge to kill himself. But this is not true, because the lions do have their tongues. You just cannot see them from below.
The eye catcher of Pest: the Parliament
We crossed the Chain bridge and we are in Pest (pronounced with a thick ‘s’ like Pesht). Did you know that Budapest was almost named Pestbuda? Yes, that sounds a bit weird, don’t you think? In my opinion Pest can be seen as dignified, classy and very plain. There are no hills here, but instead long wide promenade. From the Chain bridge you walk over the Danube promenade to the eye catcher of Budapest: the Hungarian Parliament Building. This palace is one of the most expensive buildings of all Hungary and contains more than 3500 tons of crystal and 40 kilograms of gold. It is also the highest building of Budapest, similar to Saint Stephan basilique. Both have a height of 96 meter, done with a reason so that the state and the church cannot look down upon each other.
Go local at the Market Hall
Want to see more what the locals do? Go via Vaci Utca to the Central Market Hall. This is the biggest indoor market in Budapest where a lot of locals people come for their daily groceries. Vegetables, fruits, cheese, fish and clothing: they sell a lot here! What I especially liked about this places was the explosion of colors. Beautiful for making photos!
A Romanian vibe: the Vajdahunyad castle
Whether it is a sunny morning or a colorful fall afternoon: the park is always a good idea. In Budapest you can go to the Városliget city park. The best way to get there is by metro line 1 from the city centre or you walk there along the Andrassy Utca. The city park has a very extraordinary sight that looks like you ended up in Romania: Vajdahunyad castle. This castle is actually a copy of the castle of Hunedoara in Romanian Transylvania. This castle is built to celebrate the millennium of Budapest. The complex had to show the different architecture styles in a 1000 year time, and that is why it is a strange combination of a church, a castle and a classical palace. The Városliget city park is also an interesting place to have a stroll and is also the home of the famous Szechenyi bath houses.
More highlights in Budapest
These were definitely not the only highlights of Budapest. There is a lot more to see, for example:
- The bath houses: sadly I haven’t had a chance to visit them, so I have to keep this in mind for next time
- Heroes’ square: the grand entrance of the Varosliget park. In the back of the square there is a millennium monument, that reminds me a bit of the Independence monument in the center of Kiev.
- The former Jewish quarter: if you like trendy, alternative and raw, you definitely need to visit the former Jewish quarter (district 7). Here you will find street art, a special café culture and delicious street food.
Have you visited Budapest? Tell me what you thought about it!