Budapest information, sights, monuments

There are some who fall in love with the place after the first glimpse, there are others who become devotees of the city only after a long acquaintance, but of one thing all are agreed: this is one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world.

The broad Danube runs through the middle of this metropolis of two million, dividing hilly Buda from the Pest plain; the Danube panorama has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. To know why, you just have to see the Castle District and embankment at night, beautifully illuminated.

budapest parliament

Budapest in brief:

  • it was inhabited 50,000 years ago, but took on today's name just 125 years ago: until 1873, Óbuda, Buda and Pest were considered separate settlements;
  • an interconnected cave system stretches under the capital's hills, and from the many springs thermal and medicinal waters gush forth: 80 thermal springs supply 12 spa baths with a daily 70 million litres of thermal water;
  • from among the sights of the city there are 2000-yearold Roman amphitheatres, 400-year-old Turkish baths, and turn-of-the-century characteristically Hungarian Art Nouveau (`Secession') buildings. The unified layout - which reminds many of Paris and Vienna - is in large part due to the elegant apartment blocks constructed at the beginning of this century;
  • Europe's largest Parliament, the more than 100-yearold, 691-room neo-Gothic palace, stretches 268 metres along the Pest embankment of the River Danube;
  • public transport also includes some interesting features: the Continent's first underground railway has linked the Downtown with City Park for 100 years; the Children's Railway running into the Buda Hills is operated with the assistance of children aged between 7-14;
  • lovers of culture will find their only difficulty choosing what to see: 237 historical monuments, 223 museums and galleries, 40 theatres, 54 cinemas, seven concert halls, some 200 places of entertainment with a wide variety of programmes, the city sightseeing buses and ships of travel agencies, all offer a rich choice 365 days a year to meet every requirement.

 

A brief listing of the most important sights around the city

BUDA CASTLE HILL AND SURROUNDINGS

First built in the 13th century, and then reconstructed in Baroque style 500 years later, the ROYAL PALACE (Szent György tér) was the Hungarian royal residence for 700 years; today it houses Budapest's most visited museums and galleries: the HUNGARIAN NATIONAL GALLERY (wings B, C, D), providing a cross-section of the history of Hungarian art: Medieval and Renaissance sculptures, Gothic wooden statues, panel paintings, triptychs, Renaissance and Baroque art, 19-20th century paintings, sculptures and medals; 
the BUDAPEST HISTORY MUSEUM (wing E), covering the history of Budapest from the earliest times to the present day; the NATIONAL SZÉCHENYI LIBRARY (wing F), the nation's largest library, and the LUDWIG MUSEUM (wing A), with significant contemporary art works.
building of the castleOther important sights in the Castle District: the Hungarian Historical Waxworks (SÁNDOR PALACE), including the most famous figures and events from Hungarian history; a visual chronicle of the Royal House of Árpád in the medieval MÁRIA-MAGDOLNA TOWER (Kapisztrán tér). The more than 700-year-old (although the exterior is but a century old) MATTHIAS CHURCH (Szentháromság tér) was the coronation and royal wedding church. The turn-of-the-century neo-Gothic reconstruction was the work of the most famous artists of the age. The Ecclesiastical Collection (lapidarium, relics, coronation objects, knights' hall, treasury) is housed in the crypt; there are concerts in the church from spring to autumn.

The FISHERMEN'S BASTION (Szentháromság tér) built at the turn of the century in neo-Romanesque style on top of the medieval walls offers a superb view over the city. In the background lies the ST. NICHOLAS DOMINICAN MONASTERY, the medieval ruins of which the Hilton Hotel - in a brilliant piece of architectural design - has incorporated into its structure; every summer concerts are held here. The Castle District's two entrances, Bécsi kapu and Dísz Squares, are linked by Táncsics Mihály, Fortuna, Országház and Úri Streets and Tóth Árpád Walk, the houses of which - built on medieval foundations - are each historical monuments in their own right; their unique artistic values are embodied in the Gothic sedilia set in the entrance passageways. A 1,800-metre section of the CASTLE CAVE system (Országház u. 16. ) has been reopened to the public.

The MUSEUM OF WAR HISTORY (Tóth Árpád sétány 40.) has interesting displays. The MEDIEVAL JEWISH PRAYER HOUSE (Táncsics Mihály u. 26.) hosts an exhibition charting the life of Jews in Buda in the Middle Ages. The MUSEUM OF MUSIC HISTORY has found a home in the Baroque Erdődy-Hatvany Palace (Táncsics Mihály u. 7.): inside visitors can see rare musical instruments and compositions by the great Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (1881-1945).

GELLÉRT HILL
furdo12Situated in the centre of town, rising over the Danube and rich in medicinal waters, this nature conservation area (235 m. above sea level) has three baths set around it: the country's most elegant thermal bath, the Gellért Baths Budapest (Kelenhegyi út 2-4.), offers thermal, sitting, champagne bubble and wave baths, a swimming pool, strand, and two Turkish-era baths, both with thermal, steam and sitting baths; the RUDAS (Döbrentei tér 9.) and the RÁC BATHS (Hadnagy u. 8-10.). On top of the hill the 19th century Citadella fortress has a Viewpoint Terrace from where you can obtain the widest panorama of the city.


ÓBUDA AQUINCUM is Budapest's 2000-year-old Roman ancestor, with remains of the civil town and military garrison still present in the northern part of town: two amphitheatres, mosaic-decorated villas, military baths and water conduits. The AQUINCUM MUSEUM (Szentendrei út 139.) displays many valuable items uncovered during archeological excavations, including carved stonework, wall paintings and an early organ. 
ÓBUDA FŐ (MAIN) SQUARE boasts several pleasant restaurants and interesting museums: IMRE VARGA MUSEUM (Laktanya u. 7.) and the VASARELY MUSEUM (Szentlélek tér 6.).

BUDA SIGHTS
The Buda side constitutes the green belt of the capital with popular excursion sites: JÁNOS HILL, NORMAFA, SZÉCHENYI HILL, SMALL and GRAND HÁRSHEGY, REMETE HILL, HÁRMASHATÁR HILL, all are parts of the BUDA LANDSCAPE PROTECTION RESERVE. We would recommend the following ways of getting into the hills: Cog-wheel Railway (two stops from Moszkva tér metro station on tram 56) for Széchenyi Hill, and the Children's Railway for Hűvösvölgy. The railway goes up to the highest point in Budapest, JÁNOS HILL (526 m.), from where 
you can take the CHAIR LIFE down to ZUGLIGET, and bus 158 back to Moszkva tér. Of the TURKISH PERIOD MONUMENTS it is well worth highlighting the Muslim place of pilgrimage GÜL BABA'S TOMB on Rózsadomb (Mecset u. 4.) and the thermal, sitting and steam baths of KIRÁLY BATHS (Fő u. 82-84.) with its shiny Turkish cupolas.

MARGARET ISLAND
This oasis of green two kilometres long stretches between Margaret Bridge and Árpád Bridge, making it Budapest's most valuable and largest park. Peace, relaxation and a wide variety of entertainment opportunities are afforded by the centuries-old TREES, the ROSE GARDEN, JAPANESE GARDEN with thermal lake, waterfall, GAME PARK, SWIMMING POOL, PALATINUS baths, OPEN-AIR STAGE and CINEMA. 
The ruins of the DOMINICAN and FRANCISCAN CHURCH and MONASTERY date back 700 years; the country's oldest bell still rings in the tower of the PREMONSTRATENSIAN CHAPEL. The island can be reached by bus 26, while to discover all its delights you can take a minibus or hire bicycles and fourwheeler cycles at the BRINGO CASTLE (northern end of the island).

 

PEST DOWNTOWN

bppanor night1The elegant shopping quarter in the centre of Budapest, including VÁCI STREET, PETŐFI SÁNDOR STREET and VÖRÖSMARTY SQUARE. On the northern perimeter is PARLIAMENT (Kossuth tér), the country's most attractive turn-of-the-century building and seat of the National Assembly. It can be visited with a group, as can the OPERA HOUSE built between 1875-84 in Eclectic style by Hungary's most famous architect Miklós Ybl. 
Inside are frescoes and portraits by major Hungarian masters. Not far away is the ST. STEPHEN'S BASILICA, started by József Hild in the second half of the 19th century and finished by Miklós Ybl. The cathedral raised to the rank of a basilica minor contains sculptures, pictures and stained glass windows of Hungarian saints, medieval fathers of the church, apostles and evangelists, all the creations of famous artists. Preserved in the chapel is the Holy Right Hand of Hungary's first king, St. Stephen. A whole scale of architectural styles is evident in the INNER CITY PARISH CHURCH (Március 15. tér).

The DOHÁNY STREET SYNAGOGUE is Europe's biggest synagogue; the JEWISH MUSEUM is in the courtyard. Exhibitions and concerts are regularly arranged in the VIGADÓ built in Romantic style in the last century and located in the heart of the city. Several superb Hungarian Art Nouveau (known as Secession) buildings are dotted around the Inner City: MUSEUM OF APPLIED 
ARTS (Üllői út 33-37.), the POSTAL SAVINGS BANK (Hold u. 4.) and the buildings in SZERVITA SQUARE. Another Art Nouveau ensemble on the perimeter of the city and well worth a visit is the WEKERLE ESTATE (XVIII district) with its symmetrical layout and houses each with a small garden.

CITY PARK
The city's most important park on the Pest side, where the most famous buildings were erected by the citizens of the capital at the time of the 1000th anniversary celebrations in 1896 marking the foundation of the state. The MILLENARY MONUMENT (Heroes' Square) is decorated with sculptures of the most distinguished figures in Hungarian history; in front stands the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS (Dózsa György út 41.) houses the nation's leading collection: the Old Masters' Gallery has works by world-famous artists: 
Bellini, Giorgione, Raffaello, Tiziano, Correggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, Brueghel, Rubens, Rembrandt, EI Greco, Velasquez, Murillo, Goya; in the 19th century collection there are works by Delacroix, Gauguin, Monet, Renoir arid Corot as well as contemporary works; Egyptian collection; Baroque sculptures.

Opposite, the PALACE OF ARTS (Dózsa György út 37.) boasts the country's biggest exhibition hall, and in which the most important temporary exhibitions are staged. The VAJDAHUNYAD CASTLE is a remarkable ensemble of copies of the nation's most beautiful Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. The Castle is sited on Széchenyi Island. The most striking single element is the copy of the castle 
tower of Vajdahunyad (today in Romania). Inside, visitors will find the MUSEUM OF AGRICULTURE which holds a very rich collection. The BOATING LAKE (the only one in the capital) offers a romantic retreat and place to go rowing in summer, while in winter it transforms itself into a skating rink. 
The SZÉCHENYI BATHS (Állatkerti körút 11.) is one of Europe's biggest bathing complexes: thermal, steam and sitting baths, plus swimming pool and strand. 
The TRANSPORT MUSEUM (Városligeti körút 11.) has one of the oldest transport memorabilia collections in Europe. A tourist sight in itself, the MUNICIPAL ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDENS are more than 100 years old. Just next door are two very popular places of entertainment: the Grand Circus and the Funfair.

 

Picture Gallery