Until the 13th Century, Esztergom was the capital of Hungary. The city of Budapest was formed in 1873, where the three cities of Buda, Pest and Óbuda were joined and named the country’s capital. With a great deal of the city having been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Budapest is considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
The city is filled with old historical relics, but mixes this with a laid-back contemporary style. There’s so much for visitors to see and do – if you’re unsure of where to start, we’re here to help; here is our list of top sites you have to see when in Budapest!
Hungarian Parliament Building
The Neo-Gothic palace that is the Hungarian Parliament Building is worth visiting, not just for its architectural delight, but also its political significance. Situated on the Pest side of the Danube and built in 1902, the Hungarian Parliament Building is the third largest parliament in the world. Covering an area of 18, 000 square metres, it has 691 rooms, 20 kilometres of stairs and 40 kilograms of 23-carat gold decorating the interior.
Our tip? Being so big, it’s worth going across the river to take in the beauty of Parliament Building in all its glory!
One of Budapest’s most visited attractions is Heroes Square. This large square at the end of Andrássy Avenue was built in 1896 and marks the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest.
Atop the tall 36m pillar is the Archangel Gabriel, holding the Hungarian Crown. The columns surrounding the Millennial Column depict a variety of leaders, chieftains and important figures who created modern Hungary.
Great Market Hall
To combine shopping and sightseeing, a visit to the Great Market Hall on the Pest end of Szabadság Bridge is a must. With three floors of food and souvenirs, the markets are a favourite for both locals and visitors alike.
Housed in a new-Baroque palace in Budapest’s City Park is Széchenyi Baths – Budapest’s largest thermal bath and one of Europe’s natural hot springs bath. The waters are rich in sulphates, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate and fluoride, which are believed to help ease joint pain and improve blood circulation.
In addition to the outdoor and indoor geothermal pools, visitors to Széchenyi Baths can also use the saunas, steam rooms, aqua fitness centre, whirlpools and jets.
The Széchenyi Baths are open year-round.
One of Budapest’s best-known landmarks, The Chain Bridge was the first bridge to connect Buda and Pest and is only the second permanent crossing on the whole length of the Danube.
There is a footpath along the bridge which allows pedestrians to walk across the bridge, all while enjoying the magnificent views of the Danube below.
Built in the 13th century, the now UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Buda Castle was built when Hungary was invaded by the Mongol. The castle was destroyed but later reconstructed in the 14th century. Since then, the castle has gone under a number of architectural changes, giving it a combination of medieval, Baroque, Baroque Revival and modernist styles.
The Castle is also home to the Hungarian National Gallery, an art museum that showcases local artists.
Walk along the Danube
For maximum sightseeing opportunities and fresh air, a walk along the Danube is the perfect way to spend a day. Starting at the Hungarian Parliament Building, follow the banks of the Danube towards Chain bridge. Once you’ve crossed the river, make your way towards Buda Castle and Gellert Hill for city views from the Citadel.
From here you can relax in the Gellert Thermal Baths, enjoy a packed picnic with a great city view or cross Elizabeth Bridge and head back towards the city.
Interested in exploring Hungary’s Capital? Check out our river cruise itineraries with included stops in Budapest!