(Photo by: Dimitry B.)
The Hungarian Parliament Building makes the trip to Budapest worthwhile all by itself.
Budapest for Beginners
If you are a history buff, you must travel to Budapest. If you aren’t a history buff, you must travel to Budapest! Hungary’s capital and largest city is a bustling mecca steeped in tradition yet wonderfully modern. Alongside the old sits some of Europe’s greatest new. Budapest dates back to 1 A.D., when the Celts settled it. It has seen the likes of the Romans, the Mongols, and the Ottomans, and has been a center of the Renaissance humanist culture and Roman, Gothic, Medieval, Turkish, and Modern architecture. If you’re visiting Budapest for the first time, you definitely need a game plan because there is so much to see. Here is my “Budapest for Beginners” guide of some of the city’s most breathtaking sites!
- Hungarian Parliament Building – The Hungarian Parliament building is an astounding piece of neo-Gothic architecture built between 1885 and 1904. Forty million bricks, 500,000 precious stones, and 88 pounds of gold were used in the building’s construction. It also houses the Hungarian Crown Jewels. I guess you can literally say the building is the “gem” of the city!
- Saint Stephen’s Basilica – If you’re looking for a rather interesting relic, visit Saint Stephen’s Basilica. Actually, visit it anyway! Saint Stephen’s Basilica is a beautiful example of neo-Classical architecture built in honor of Saint Stephen I of Hungary – the country’s first king. Six bells chime in the basilica’s two bell towers and the rather interesting relic on display is Saint Stephen’s “Holy Right Hand” – yes, his hand!
- Castle Hill – The Castle Hill district is home to many must-sees, so much so that I’m going to break them down for you below. History buffs will love this area of Budapest, because it is steeped in centuries of tradition. Non-history buffs will be blown away by the beauty and serenity of the area. Heck! You just have to go! Plan to spend a day or two to wander through:
- Buda Castle, which showcases a historic changing of the presidential guard and houses the Budapest History Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery, and the National Széchényi Library within its palatial walls.
- Matthias Church was originally a Romanesque-style church built in 1015. The now restored Gothic piece of architecture is a true representation of Medieval Hungary. Inside the church is an Ecclesiastical Art museum.
- Fisherman’s Bastion terrace is built in both the neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque styles. Its seven towers, which represent the Magyar tribes of Carpathian, offer panoramic views of the Danube and surrounding areas.
- Mary Magdalene Tower is all that remains of a 13th century Franciscan church. The tower represents a time when the Turks ruled Hungary and holds the distinction of being the only church to remain Christian in the land at that time.
- Vienna Gate sits at Castle Hill’s northern end and served as entry to a merchant market in the Middle Ages. The gate marks the intersection of Castle Hill’s four streets, and you can climb up to the top of the gate and enjoy the view!
- Heroes Square – If you’ve been following my blog – and I hope that you have been – you know I’m going to talk at least once about a plaza or square. Budapest’s Heroes Square is a historic site home to the Millenary Monument, celebrating Hungary’s one thousand year anniversary, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Kunsthalle Budapest, a contemporary Art Museum.
- Gellért Bath – I’m beat from all of the touring we’ve been doing! Fortunately, Budapest is known as the “City of Spas” because this European metropolis has its own natural thermal springs, which the Romans turned famously into their Roman Baths! At the end of a busy touring day, head over to the Gellért Bath to enjoy a nourishing thermal dip complete with healthy natural minerals!
I’ve barely touched upon all the things you must do when you are visiting Budapest. The city literally has hundreds of museums, monuments, thriving arts and cultural scenes, and some of the best food and architecture in the world. If you’re a beginner heading to Budapest, make sure to study all about this historical city and plan ahead what you want to see… and then go back again to see the rest!