Straddling the mighty river Danube, Budapest is a city of two halves, the castle and the parliament buildings facing each other across the water. Buda and Pest were in fact separate at one time, and both retain their own unique vibe. Storybook architecture and historic sites characterise the mellow streets of Buda on the west side of the river, whereas Pest on the east bank is a vibrant hub of colour, culture and culinary artistry. Hungary’s buzzing capital is consequently packed full of opportunities for relaxation and adventure in equal measure.
The Castle District of Buda is steeped in history, and crowned by the Royal Palace. Best explored on foot, the narrow, winding streets are largely pedestrianized. The Royal Palace is an impressive sprawl of ornamental architecture, statues and fountains. This district is also the place to find some of Budapests finest cultural experiences including the Budapest History Museum, Hungarian National Gallery and several impressive churches.
To the south of the Castle District, Buda expands into Gellert Hill and Taban. The subject of many Hungarian folk tales and fables, Gellert Hill is one of the most beautiful areas in Budapest with lush green gardens and cascading fountains. The view from the summit reveals the whole of Budapest and beyond on a clear day; the perfect site for a bit of city escape with lots of great picnic spots. Taban lies at the base of the hill- a tranquil park with several historic buildings and sixteenth century thermal bath houses.
Many well preserved bath houses are scattered throughout the city, built over natural springs, and are the remnants of Roman and Turkish influence. A maze of indoor and outdoor baths await, ranging from the boiling hot to the icy cold. Enjoy the steaming outdoor pools when the air temperature is below zero for a uniquely invigorating experience.
Parliament is beautiful when viewed in the evening from the heights of the Castle District, the adorning lights reflecting on the night waters of the Danube. The buildings are equally impressive by day, with a stroll around Kossuth Square a great way to take in the heart of Pest. The Parliament building itself is a neo Gothic giant, with hidden architectural gems within and without.
The coffee and cake culture of Pest’s streets give Paris a run for its money. Vaci Street is buzzing with activity, the best place to find fashion boutiques and classic cafes amidst statues and fountains. As the north end is pedestrianized, this is a great place to kick back and watch the world go by whilst sampling Budapest’s heavenly cakes. Explore the old courtyards around the street, as each has its own unique character.
Visitors with a bit more time should make sure to visit those attractions sitting just on the outskirts, like the magical Varosliget City Park which is home to the city’s Art Nouveau zoo and is neighbour to a collection of sights including museums, baths and Vajdahunyad Castle. The wooded hills beyond Buda are also a tranquil retreat- an ideal contrast to the city.
Last Edit by sophie mcgovern on 25/10/2011 EDIT NOW >>