City Break in Budapest
The Danube is the second largest river in Europe and the inspiration for artists all over the world; considering by many as the river that unites Europe - its river basins is shared with 19 countries; it is also true that the banks of the Danube separates the Capital city of Hungary into Buda and Pest, two cities which became one but still maintain their own individuality and unique character; while Buda is a residential area, Pest is where all the activity is concentrated, mostly commercial and industrial.
The two cities that are now united, form one of the most important and beautiful cities in Europe; visited by over six million tourists every year, it is a place that will enchant you with its history, charming streets, monuments, friendly locals and the extraordinary bridges that connect both sides of the city.
The peculiarities that give its unique character to the city is one of the main attractions; not just because of the spas and saunas with its hot and freezing pools, but the fact is that even 20 years after the Soviet troops left Hungary, the place still feels like a city apart and very different to many of the Western European counterparts; visiting Budapest is a unique experience that you will never forget.
1) Hungarian Parliament
The Hungarian Parliament should be one of the first landmarks you should visit, as it is the most representative and defining building of the city. The second tallest building in Budapest with its Gothic architecture is a breathtaking place and can only be compared with the House of Parliament in London; if you want to admire the timeless beauty of the Hungarian Parliament I would recommend that you go early in the morning to book a ticket (this is free for holders of European Unions’ passports.)
There are over 690 rooms in the Parliament; therefore the only way to admire the top attractions of the building is by joining one of the guided tours, these are available in different languages when the Parliament is not in session. After climbing the red carpet of the main entrance, the first impression of parliament is overwhelming; you will realise straight away that there were not limitations on money. In the central landing you can see a sculpture of the architect that designed the building, Imre Steindl.
2) Szechenyi Baths and the Gellert Hotel and Baths
Budapest is famous for its indoor and outdoor pools at the thermal baths; the better known are the Gellert Hotel and Baths and the Szechenyi Baths. The unique and magical experience of bathing in an outdoor pool during winter time and then go indoors for a sauna session can only be enjoyed in the finest of all great bath houses in Budapest. Hungarian people consider thermal baths as healing waters; they have a lot of faith in the healing properties of their waters and it still remain as one of the best treatments for treating rheumatism and arthritis.
3) St Stephen’s Basilica
The Dome of St Stephen’s Basilica is visible from all over Budapest; the largest basilica of the country houses the mummified forearm of King Istvan, the Hungarian king that gave the name to the church. The view from the dome is magnificent but be aware that the lift/elevator does not reach the top, so you might have to climb the steps to admire the beauty of Budapest. The best photographs of St Stephen’s can be taken during the evening, where the grandiosity of the Basilica comes to light from the streets nearby.
4) Matthias Church
The coronation place of the Hungarian kings was Matthias Church; this church has a luscious interior that is topped by a spotless tiled roof. A visit to this sacred place is a must; you will be fascinated by the Bela Tower, as it still retains its original Gothic features. The Altar also has a Gothic style and features a replica of the holy Hungarian crown. During summer, the church held two classical concerts weekly.
5) Fisherman’s Bastion
After visiting Matthias Church you can enjoy the beauty of Fisherman’s Bastion; the building was built in 1905 mainly for decorative and tourism reasons and consists of seven outstanding towers. This magnificent castle looking building offers the most amazing view of the city; on a sunny day, you can easily appreciate the Hungarian Parliament, St Stephen’s Basilica, the Concert Hall and Margaret Island. The neo-Gothic style of the terrace is one of the most impressive structures built during the 20th century in Budapest.
6) Heroes’ Square
The Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Gallery are located at both sides of the largest and one of the most visited and picturesque squares in Budapest - Heroes’ Square. The Millennium Monument is located in the centre of the square; the statues represent the leaders of the seven Magyar tribes that founded Hungary in the 19th Century, as well as other important personalities of the Hungarian history.
7) The Hungarian National Museum
It is one of the most fascinating museums in Hungary; it houses one of the finest collections of art in Europe, as well as important documents and valuable photographs of the history of the country. The Neo-Classical architecture of the museum is impressive, even the museum steps are a great example of the grandiosity in design that characterised the 19th Century.
8) Gellert Hill
Gellert Hill lies on the Buda side of the Danube and it offers panoramic views of the city; it is one of the best places to go on a sunny day if you want to enjoy the beauty and unique features of the city. The most famous sights in this area are:
a) The Gellert Monument; dedicated to Bishop Gellert, the city’s patron saint.
b) The Liberation Monument, one of the most controversial monuments in Hungary.
c) Citadella, a breathtaking fortification, and where some superb views of the Danube and the city are offered.
9) Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge built to cross between Buda and Pest, and it is probably the most photographed landmarks in the city. The suspension bridge is 375 meters long and 16 meters wide; a great example of engineering designed by William Clark (English Engineer)
10) Váci Utca
If you are just going to Budapest for a city break, then one of the things you need to do is to take a walk around Váci Utca; this street is the heart and soul of the city, it stretches from the Great Market to Vorosmarty Square.
The new street owes its fame to its luxurious shopping places whilst in the old part there are a great variety of restaurants and places to drink, ranging from chain coffee shops to outstanding five star restaurants. Tourists tend to like both sides as they find everything they are looking for in Váci Utca
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