The Margitsziget Water Tower
Budapest is known as the Paris of Central Europe and the Pearl of the Danube—and for a good reason. This city is stunning!
If you're not familiar with Budapest, it's the charming capital city of Hungary. With over 1.7 million inhabitants, this city has a seemingly endless amount of things to see and do. Love history? Budapest is chock-full of architecture, art, and remnants from past wars and empires. Of course, nearly every European city has a stake in the claim of having a "rich history," but I'm not kidding you, Budapest is magic.
When I first went to Budapest, I felt as if I'd been sent back through time. The architecture is a beautiful reminder of the past, and the people are so friendly and warm it's as if time has changed nothing. If you're looking to have a blast and are headed to Central Europe, you've got to put Budapest at the top of your list.
There is so much to do on Castle Hill; you may want to set aside an entire day to explore it. For a fun experience, you can take the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular (Budavári Sikló) to the top of the hill (we ended up just taking the 20-minute walk to the top.)
You can walk around the beautiful Buda Castle walls and Fishermen's Bastion to enjoy views of Castle Hill's architecture as well as some views of Budapest itself. Stop in at Cafe Ruszwurm for a quick bite and some coffee. You'll want to rest for a bit, anyway, before exploring more of what Castle Hill offers. You can also take a quick stop off at the Faust Wine Cellar or the Royal Wine House to pick up one of over 50 regional wines. (Hungary is known for some fantastic wine, wines from the Tokaji region is my favorite!)
Because of its spire, you can almost see Matthias Church from anywhere in Budapest. The church and its spire have beautiful components of Gothic architecture, complete with gargoyles, making it a must-see. Matthias is home to the Ecclesiastical Art museum which contains medieval stone carvings and sacred relics.
Want to do something unique? Check out the Buda Castle Labyrinth (Budavári Labirintus). This is an underground labyrinth underneath Castle Hill complete with guided tours. This particular locale is family friendly making it a great stop if you have children.
If you're in the area at the end of August, you might want to head up to Castle Hill to check out the Festival of Folk Arts.
Outside Budapest: Beautiful Sites Around Hungary
Hungary is well-known for being home to some of the world's most beautiful castles. If you have time to wander the countryside, I highly recommend checking out Hungarian Castles and Fortresses.
Budapest's Turkish Baths
Budapest is known for being a spa city. The Turkish baths are left over from when the city was a part of the Turkish empire. While Turkish influence is more apparent in other European cities, the Turkish influence is not immediately evident in Budapest. The baths, however, do show the influence of Turkish culture on the city.
Budapest's baths are built around natural hot springs, and each usually contains at least one thermal pool. I went to a bath in Budapest, but unfortunately, I did not go into a thermal pool. I wish I had as I hear nothing but amazing things about the thermal baths.
The Gellért Baths, located on the Buda side, are arguably the most beautiful example of art nouveau pools across Europe. My personal favorite is the Széchenyi Bath & Spa, located on the Pest side. Széchenyi is the largest spa in Europe with two outdoor thermal pools ( that are so warm, they're even open during the winter), an outdoor swimming pool, an indoor steam bath. Also, there is both an indoor and outdoor swimming tube, an indoor swimming pool, an indoor aqua-gym pool, and numerous indoor hot tubs and saunas.
If you're looking for an authentic experience, head out to the Király Baths. Keep in mind that the Király Baths are not co-ed and they rotate between male-only and female-only days.
Hungarian State Opera House
Hungarian State Opera House
The Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház) is worth a visit even if you're not interested in seeing a show. Both the architecture and the interior décor are stunning.
Richly decorated in neo-Renaissance style interwoven with Baroque-style architecture, this is perhaps one of the most ornate opera houses in the world. To top it off, it is considered the 3rd best opera house in all of Europe, when it comes to acoustics. It was beat out only by La Scala in Milan, Italy and Palais Garnier in Paris.
Hősök tere, which is Hungarian for "Heroes' Square," is just steps away from the opera house. The Millennium Memorial, located on the grounds is comprised of the leaders of the seven tribes that founded Hungary.
While Hősök tere has been named such since its completion in 1900, it gained political significance in 1989, when Imre Nagy was reburied there.
Imre Nagy, a national hero of Hungary had been executed for treason against the communist party in 1958. It was only fitting that this hero was buried at Heroes' Square.
Great Market Hall
Where to Shop
Shopping here is fabulous (it's what I loved most about the city.) On my trip to Budapest, we shopped at two malls. Mammut is a large shopping mall which was located just a few blocks from the bed and breakfast where we stayed, Mohácsi Panzió. We shopped here literally every day we were in Budapest. This mall has an amazing European clothing store called Mango, which I highly recommend checking out.
The City Center mall is considerably larger than Mammut. It's the largest mall in Budapest with over 400 stores. That said, if you're looking for a fun place to do some shopping, I highly recommend going to a market. There are a few open-air markets around Budapest where you can pick up some nice items at great prices. Central Market Hall, an indoor marketplace is a must-see.
Budapest is split in half by the River Danube, but did you know there are seven land masses (islands) in the Danube within the city of Budapest? The most famous island here is Margaret Island or Margitsziget.
Margaret Island is essentially a huge park that has everything including a 5350-meter jogging track, a Japanese garden, a zoo, areas for performances, and a stunning water tower.
We had a picnic on the island and played a little bit of soccer with locals. It was a blast and highly recommend spending some time on the island. Access to the island can be tricky as no cars are allowed on the island (aside from buses and emergency vehicles.) You can get on the island via a walk bridge.
Wear a comfy pair of shoes as you'll want to spend some time strolling around the island. If walking's not your thing, you can rent a bicycle or a strange, four-wheeled, four-seat bicycle. (It looks something like a golf cart.)
The Budapest Parliament
If you're looking for a place to get the best views of Budapest, head up to Gellért Hill. By taking the short, brisk walk up the hill, you'll reach the Citadella. Once here, you'll be able to walk around and take in the best view of Budapest. From here you can see both the Buda and Pest sides of the city including the hills of Buda and the parliament (which lies in Pest.) You will also be able to see Budapest's beautiful bridges and Margitsziget in the distance.
Because of the strategic location of the Citadella, some of the best photos of Budapest are taken from here. If you're an aspiring photographer and are in town, come up here to get an amazing shot for your portfolio.
Interested in History or Art?
Budapest is chock-full of museums. If history is your thing, you'll want to head to a museum here. The Budapest History Museum will give you a glimpse of life in the city from when the city was first settled, through the Gothic period, all the way to modern day. Alternatively, you can check out the Aquincum Museum which features items from Hungary's Roman Era which includes the ruins of Aquincum (what the area was called when it was first settled.)
Looking to learn more recent history? The Budapest Memento Park (also known as Statue Park) to learn about life behind the iron curtain. Perhaps the most popular museum in Budapest is the House of Terror which houses items from both the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary. The museum serves as a memorial to those tortured and killed when the country was under control of Nazi Germany as well as when it was a part of the Soviet Union.
If you'd like to check out some popular art museums, head out to the Museum of Fine Arts ( Szépművészeti Múzeum.) The Museum of Applied Arts (Iparművészeti Múzeum) contains furniture, textiles, woodwork, and ceramic pieces. I also recommend checking out the Hungarian National Gallery (Magyar Nemzeti Galéria) which is a fine arts museum.
Budapest is a fast-paced city in the midst of beautiful architecture, parks, and a rich history. There are many reasons you may consider spending time in Budapest. Whether you like to shop, go sightseeing, snap photos, or relax and take it all in, this city has it all. There's no wonder it's called the Paris of Central Europe!
© 2011 Melanie Palen
Liz Westwood from UK on October 29, 2018:
Budapest is on my list of places to go. Your interesting and well-illustrated article confirms its place there.
Jennifer Vasquez from Long Beach, CA on September 15, 2013:
Wow, you provided amazing facts about Budapest! This city has been on the top of my list of places to visit for a long time. I enjoyed the details you give for different locations. Very detailed and helpful.
Robert Clarke from UK on March 20, 2013:
Nice Hub Melbel. I always head straight to Szechenyi Baths whenever I'm in Buda. Such a great place to chill out for a few hours. I went to the all-male Turkish Baths once when I was 19. That was quite the experience!
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 11, 2012:
Very interesting information. A must read for someone picking a new travel destination. I never really thought about Budapeat as a vacation. I like the spas and the opera house the best!
rjsadowski on April 08, 2012:
What a wonderful hub. I was in Budapest only once, but I fell in love with it. If you are interested in languages, I translated two poems by Sandor Petofi from Hungarian into English. One is called Szeptember Vegen (The End of September).
Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on December 27, 2011:
Melbel - that was the most exciting time I've spent while waiting for bread to bake!! I want to go there so bad -! I haven't gotten to Europe at all yet - it will be my next trip out of the country. I am planning for 11/2012....I just know I'll love shopping there too! I have also seen specials on like the discovery channel maybe? Regarding the thermal baths - I love the ideas. Sounds like a neat place to take the kids too.
princesswithapen on December 19, 2011:
I missed travelling to Budapest on my last trip through Europe. These pictures and the hub are an inspiration to do another one, of course, keeping Budapest on my travel plan. If I do, the baths and the opera house will definitely be on the top of my must-visit places in Budapest. Nicely done!
truthisntstupid from Missouri on December 18, 2011:
Beautiful, melbel. I wish I could say that I took advantage of my travels in my 12 years of military service to take in more great and wonderful sights. But I didn't. How lucky you are.
Mazlan A from Malaysia on October 31, 2011:
One of my friend's son is studying medicine there, and he goes to visit the son almost every year..he really loves the city. maybe I should join him on one of the trips..thanks for sharing these great travel-infos
Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 20, 2011:
A great tribute to a wonderful city. It is great and beautiful.
Danette Watt from Illinois on October 13, 2011:
Nice hub, very informative and great pictures. I would love to go to Budapest, it sounds like a fascinating city. I would definitely check out the Turkish baths and probably one of the thermal spas too based on your comments of them in your hub.
vexez on October 09, 2011:
Great hub with nice images. Hope I have chance to visit that beautiful city.
Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on September 28, 2011:
@randomcreative If you're stateside and craving Mango, they are just now opening up stores here. If you're not one of the lucky ones with a Mango nearby, JCPenney does have a section with some of Mango's line. I think it's Penney's most expensive line, so be prepared to shell out $200 for a cute dress. Also, Penney's doesn't seem to carry the best of Mango... but Mango is awesome, even if you have to get the leftovers at Penney's. :P
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 28, 2011:
I'd never heard of Mango, but I looked it up and it does sound amazing. I love cities like this that have a wide mix of architecture, history, and other entertainment.
jenubouka on September 28, 2011:
I had a friend from Budapest, said it was the most beautiful place in the world by your incredible descriptions and pictures, I so agree.
jacqui2011 from Norfolk, UK on September 28, 2011:
Very well written and well researched hub. I have never been to Budapest before, but it really does look an amazing place to go. The architecture of the buildings in the photos is fantastic. I would be in heaven, shopping at The Great Market Hall. Thanks for sharing your experience. Voted up and interesting.
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on September 28, 2011:
What a wonderful, wonderful hub! So well-written and the photos are fantastic. I have never been to Budapest or Hunagary, and I hope to go at some point. I'd love to see and learn the history and culture. The Hungarian language is supposed to be the most difficult and complex European language there is. Voted up!
Susan Starts Now from California on September 28, 2011:
Very interesting article. I have never known very much about Budapest, so I learned a lot. Nice photos too. Thanks!
mottiandbander from Chd on September 28, 2011:
Nice photos. I also love to travel and knew about it first time. I would like to bath in Turkish Baths which force me to see that place a little bit and it will be more enjoying.
sord87 on September 28, 2011:
I might be considering Budapest as a vacation place.Based on your hub it looks so interesting and attractive place of addressed pearl since i love jewel and pearls very much I for sure will put this place in my waiting list.Thank you for suggesting!
Iggy Falcone from Zagreb, Croatia on September 28, 2011:
One of my favourite cities! I actually prefer Budapest to Paris (been in Budapest 6 times and 2 in Paris). Besides being beautiful(having the most amazing Parliament building in the world) and full of content, it's cheaper by far (and that does include quality service)! Another plus on my side is that it's only about 250 miles from my hometown! :)