Introduction With Western and Northern Europe becoming unbearably expensive for many travelers over the past few decades, they have been looking eastward for more affordable replacement for the cities in which they used to hang out. Hidden behind the Iron Curtain since the Second World War, the many architectural treasures of Budapest became accessible for many wanderers in the past 25 years. While visits have gone up significantly since then, its charm compared to more crowded locales to the west remains largely intact. From elaborate castles to hipster drinking havens, Budapest will cast its spell on you when you arrive, making escape a difficult task when the time comes to carry on to the next destination down the line…
In a city full of historical attractions, it can be difficult to know where to begin your tour, but we recommend knocking Buda Castle off your list first, as this massive complex had been the centre of the Hungarian monarchy since its completion in the 13th century.
Though it foundered for a time during the days of the Ottomans as a horse stable and soldier’s barracks, Buda Castle served as a home for Hungarian royals up until 1918, when the Habsburg dynasty was deposed in a revolution that did away with the monarchy.
While the facade of this Medieval and Baroque style castle is impressive enough, those that love to walk amidst opulence will want to take a few hours to walk around inside its gilded, art-lined halls, through its statue-heavy courtyards, and into its atmospheric underground labyrinth. Those that do so will have an afternoon they won’t soon forget!
Government structures don’t usually attract more than a passing glance from most people, save for those interested in international political history.
However, the Hungarian Parliament Building is an exceptionally beautiful sight to behold, and its interior contains items of interest that warrant a visit from most travelers.
Just over one hundred years old, this Gothic Revival hall of government is not only the place where Hungarian leaders meet to chart the course of the country, but it is also where the crown of the former king of Hungary is kept.
Between this, and the 40 kilograms of gold that went into creating the gilded trim on the walls, you’ll be dazzled by what you see during your visit.
A more sombre and introspective point of interest can be found along Budapest’s waterfront. The Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial was built so that the massacre of Jews by fascist militia during the Second World War would be remembered for generations to come.
Installed in 2005, these remarkably life-size iron replicas of 1940’s era shoes represent the fact that Arrow Cross assailants ordered their victims to remove their shoes before they were shot, after which they fell into the Danube.
While it isn’t the happiest place to visit, memorials like this bring home the horrors of war and the dangers of the conditions that precipitate its outbreak.
Other Attractions If you are a fan of soaking in hot water until the tips of your fingers begin to resemble prunes, then a visit to one of Budapest world famous public baths is a must during your time here. If you have only time to drop by one, make the best use of your time by patronizing the Széchenyi thermal bath. Containing a number of minerals (sulphate, magnesium, calcium, etc) with purported curative properties, this facility is a popular place for those with joint pain to seek out a bit of healing magic. Others take the opportunity to get in a game of chess with those that are up to the challenge while they soak, and still others use the abundant water massage jets to unknot the tension in their weary bodies. Be sure to come after dark during winter for an atmospheric experience you won’t soon forget! Seeking a killer panoramic photo that takes in a great deal of Budapest’s most scenic structures? Snapping pics from the Fisherman’s Bastion will yield the best results, as its elevated position across from the Hungarian Parliament and the historic buildings that surround it will produce innumerable shots of exceptional quality. The Fisherman’s Bastion itself is a photogenic structure, as it was once a fortification from which the fisherman’s guild helped defend medieval era Budapest from external threats. After all this exploration, you might be craving a drink somewhere special. Budapest delivers in this department as well, as its ruin pubs have long been popular with nightlife enthusiasts. About ten years ago, a creative entrepreneur took one of many abandoned buildings in the city and transformed it to a pub with second hand furnishings and local art works. The hipsters followed, and then the tourists started to show up after them. Budapest’s gritty side has a charm all its own, so be sure to have a pint in one of these creative drinking dens before moving on in your travels.