When I first arrived in Budapest I was a little overwhelmed by the size and scope of Hungary’s capital. I’d also heard a lot of good things, so my expectations were high. However, it didn’t take long for the charms of the city to win me over and in the end, I had a hard time leaving.
Here are my favorite five things I saw when walking around Budapest.
1. Vajdahunyad Castle
Standing in the courtyard of this castle I was blown away by the 360° splendor of the buildings and gardens. Built in 1896 to commemorate 1,000 years of Hungary, the castle is made up of replicas of different landmark buildings from the Kingdom of Hungary. As these buildings span different eras and architectural periods (Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Romanesque) the combined effect is a visual feast. The castle houses The Museum of Hungarian Agriculture and neighbors Hero Square. The popular Széchenyi Thermal Bath is also nearby.
2. The Metropolitan Erving Szabo Library
This is a hidden treasure that you won’t find in guidebooks or on the tourist trail. I was lucky to discover it from a friend’s recommendation! The library was once a 19th century mansion, and the old world feel throughout the 4th floor is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It’s 3€ (1000 HUF) to go to the 4th floor but incredibly worth it. When you arrive on the 4th floor the first few rooms look like a regular modern library- you have to hunt a bit for the treasure.
3. St. Stephens Basilica: Szent István-bazilika
Completed in 1905, this huge neoclassical Roman Catholic Basilica is one of my favorite places in Budapest. Be sure to pay the 3€ (1000 HUF) fee to go up the bell tower for stunning views of the city. Oh and don’t miss Gerlato Rosa next door for stunning rose shaped ice cream!
4. Buda Castle: Budavári Palota
While the first castle on this site was built in 1265, the current green domed Baroque palace was constructed in the mid 18th century. The palace, courtyards and gardens are the perfect place to spend an afternoon taking in the views and absorbing the history. The palace also houses The Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum.
5. Fisherman’s Bastion:
Built at the turn of the 19th century, this relatively new fortification never served as a defense but is built where an older castle once stood. Today, the all white fairytale terrace overlooking the Danube and Pest transports you to another world and is incredibly popular with tourists. Go early (before 8.30am) to have the place to yourself.
After a long day of walking, there’s no better way to relax at one of the many baths or ruin bars.
My favorite public bath was Rudas Baths and the ever touristy but unfailingly cool Szimpla Kert was my favorite bar.