Things To Do In Budapest
Budapest offers many pleasant passageways into its colorful history. A visit to any attraction is like taking a journey into the past, where you can still feel the pomp and glory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. See all of Budapest with a quick visit to the Halaszbastya (Fisherman’s Bastion). Admire the work of Strauss' "The Woman without a Shadow. " Go to the Museum of Applied Arts, a place not well known by most, but for those who love decor it’s a must-see. Of course, not to be missed is the Millennium Park with the theaters. It can be reached by tram 2, which passes along the banks of the Danube in front of the Vigadó.
When To Go:
The perfect times to visit Budapest are from March through May, and September through November. These are the periods during which the climate is ideal and the city isn't stuffed with travelers. The weather is fairly dependable, with temperatures infrequently leaving comfortable levels. July and August temperatures register a normal high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while normal lows in January are in the 20s. Travelers surge through the city in summer, regardless of that being the most hot and humid time.
These are the things to do when in the city of Budapest:
Danube is the famous riverbank in Hungary that is definitely the main and most interesting sight of Budapest. It is beautiful day and night, and everyone enjoys its pleasant freshness. It is a pleasure to walk along the waterfront and observe all the residents and tourists sitting in the terrace cafes. In daytime you can take beautiful pictures and in the evening, go back again for the illumination, after seeing the main sights of the city. On the Danube there are floating restaurants where you can enjoy live music in the evening. Spend a nice dinner listening to jazz melodies, watching the city lights twinkle up and down the riverbank.
The Danube River cuts this great city in half -- Buda on one side and Pest on the other. From the promenade you can take great pictures of both. Better yet, take a wonderful daytime trip on the Danube in sunny weather, and admire the contrast between green hilly Buda (right bank, western) and the flatter terrain of Pest on the left bank. You will see the Royal Palace, Matthias Church, Fishermen's Bastion, Gellert monument, chapel in the cave, Citadel and the Freedom Monument -- originally dedicated to the liberation of Budapest by the Soviet Army.
Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya)
The Fisherman’s Bastion is a spectacular viewing terrace with fairytale-castle towers, located on a mountain that offers spectacular scenic views over Budapest. The 7 turrets represent the 7 original Hungarian tribes that founded the country, and since the Fisherman's Guild protected the city in the Middle Ages, the lookout has been named for them. From this point you have a great view of the Parliament and all of Pest. Inside, the place is an ideal venue for private parties and id also popular for weddings. It can provide an extremely picturesque ceremony.
There is always a crowd of tourists, but it is possible to take great photos of the city and the beautiful Danube. Entrance is free, but the highest tower (that has some restaurants) requires paid entrance. Once you have finished viewing the main city, you can walk a couple of hundred yards in the opposite direction from the site and take a look at the other, quieter side of town. You can grab lunch: the variety of restaurants will offer a "tourist menu” of three courses for $11-15; then buy souvenirs at the shops located in the old fort. The fortress is accessible from the city center by bus number 16.
Palace of Arts (Muveszetek Palotaja)
The Palace of Arts is an obligatory and significant tourist spot in Budapest, located in the historic part of Buda and a great example of art and architecture. The huge museum overlooks the Danube and is located in a residential area that is easily accessible by tram. It is a good place to visit for the interesting attractions that take place inside; there are many concerts and exhibitions -- and a magnificent library on the ground floor with books and collectibles regarding many aspects of the arts, from the figurative arts to music.
The palace has collected a lot of valuable works and often hosts exhibitions of notable artists. There are paintings by Raffaello and Leonardo, and the sculptures of the palace itself. Within its premises, there is a small cafe and a cloakroom. There are also permanent pavilions and special exhibitions (for which you pay extra). It has a treasure trove of art and history starting from the Greek and Roman era, from archaeological finds to the paintings of the Enlightenment. It depicts a long historical journey that will enrich the knowledge and gladden the mind of the visitor.
The Parliament is an imposing building located a few yards from the Danube in Pest. This makes the building visible from every angle, including from Buda and the tourist boats that traverse the river. The tour of Parliament must be booked for months in advance through the Internet, even though it is limited: only a few rooms are available for public viewing. In the Hungarian parliament, entrance is only allowed with a language guide. The tours take place throughout the day for small groups (ten people, grouped by language) and each visit lasts an hour.
The tour takes a well-defined path that consists of the stairs, the crown, the hall of the parliament and the lobby area. The building looks wonderful with its mammoth architecture and is visible from many parts of the city. At night, when the attraction is lighted it is undoubtedly the most stunning and mesmerizing beauty that the city has to offer.
Chain Bridge (Szechenyi Lanchid)
To cross the Chain Bridge is one of the top activities in Budapest because it is not only a point of reference for orientation, but also its location is strategic for admiring the Danube and taking some great shots and panoramic photos of the city. Overall, it is one of the top sights of the city that tourists never fail to check out. It is a lovely structure that of course unites Buda with Pest.
The famous bridge exemplifies the mix of the ancient and aristocratic with the latest commercial and modernized life of the city. Its green color fits in with the hill behind and is used by the media continuously as one of the symbols of Budapest. It is nice to walk across and especially impressive at night when the lights are on.
Budapest Operetta Theatre
The Budapest Operetta Theatre is a must-see for its elegance; its appearance is magnificent, in the same vein as all the other historic buildings in Budapest. The theatre definitely deserves a visit and if possible, it is really worth attending a performance here because of the talented artists and professional stage performers. When you buy your ticket at the entrance, you become "entrusted" to a guide who speaks all kinds of languages -- and who will take you inside the building and explain the history and characteristics of the theater. It’s very exciting to enter the balcony of Princess Sissi. This theater is centrally located and easy to reach; although smaller than the La Scala Theater in Milan, it is equally beautiful and sumptuous with an impressive staircase and intricately-done frescoed ceilings. The hall is full of golden chairs and the atmosphere is truly elegant.
Completed in the early 1900’s, the Gresham Palace stands in the square right outside the Roosevelt Chain Bridge. It was built at the beginning of the twentieth century for the Gresham Life Insurance Company. The London-based company wanted to have, in Budapest, their own headquarters abroad in a mansion-style called "Secession," -- the Hungarian variant of Art Nouveau. Currently, after being used as apartments and ruined in the communist era, the palace is home to a luxury hotel and still maintains its impressive facade.
From the outside you can imagine the grandeur of the previous era, and inside you can see it is one of the most interesting buildings in Budapest. Because of its imposing presence in the city it is still impossible to miss for tourists, who appreciate the facade, the style and old-world charm of the building. You can go to visit without any problems. Notice the railings and mosaics that were artistically done by local craftsmen. Sometimes there are temporary exhibitions of very famous artists. Since 2004, this old building is home to a prestigious hotel, but you can still admire the perfect interior in all its glory.
St. Stephen's Basilica (Szent Istvan Bazilika)
For those who approach from the Buda side, just cross the Chain Bridge and Roosevelt Square and you will be surprised by the marvelous scenic effect on arrival at the Basilica of St. Stephen. The most important church of the city, it was restored in the 80s from the ravages of World War II. The dome is visible even from afar. At the entrance door there is a required donation for the total restoration and upkeep of the church. The fabulous interior was decorated by leading Hungarian artists and thanks to excellent acoustics this has become a favorite site for frequent organ concerts, choral music and even contemporary music performances.
Be sure to visit the shrine that holds the incorruptible right hand of St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary (975-1038). The dome is accessible via an elevator (with a fee); from the top you can have a panoramic view of the entire Budapest city and its surrounding tourist attractions. The Basilica is truly wonderful in its external architecture and you will want to scrutinize every angle in all its details. It faces a beautiful square where you can meet street artists.
Castle Hill (Varhegy)
Castle Hill is a spectacular and well-maintained village that rises above the hill of Buda. It can be reached by a funicular railway that costs $5 each way, or is included in the Budapest bus pass if you have one. You can also go on foot. Walking around the front you can enjoy a truly beautiful view of the Danube, the Parliament, the Basilica of St. Stephen and the whole city. The ascent by cable car begins at a scenic site where there is a golden effigy of the mythical bird Turul (a divine messenger in Hungarian state-origin lore.) At this location you can also enter the castle gardens to enjoy a beautiful view of the Danube.
Castle Hill is the most-visited attraction in Budapest, as it includes the Royal Place and Fishermen's Bastion. The area and its gardens have been revised and restored many times, most recently after incurring heavy damage during World War II. Today it offers a panoramic view of the Danube and is home to two national museums.
Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Allami Operahaz)
The Hungarian State Opera House is one of the most interesting spots in Budapest that everyone is advised to see. It is located at the beginning of the street that goes from the square of the Ferris Wheel to the Heroes' Square. The opera house shows an impressive interior and charms every visitor with its gold furnishings, a well-maintained and marvelous interior, nice boxes and seats, elegant lobby, and impressive acoustics.
Before going, call up the information service of the opera house to inquire about the schedule of guided tours in all languages. The tour of Budapest is definitely worth a night at the opera as well, as it has a reasonable cost and the performances are world-class.