Boasting two World Heritage Sites, Budapest is the only capital in the world where nearly one hundred thermal springs and twelve spas can be found, and where Roman ruins, Turkish baths still in use, the heritage of the Gothic and Baroque styles and amazingly rich Art Nouveau architectural masterpieces attract tourists. Become acquainted with the capital’s top sights – the list is by no means complete!
Budai var Buda Castle is the most famous and one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Budapest. The World Heritage Site has many places of interest, museums, streets and squares with a special atmosphere, restaurants and shops. The Royal Palace, where many battles and wars took place, is one of the country’s symbols. Three churches, five museums, and many buildings, memorials, streets and squares of historical interest and a theatre can also be found here. Visitors can enjoy a marvellous view from the Fishermen’s Bastion and from the little path in front of the National Gallery on one of the most beautiful sections of the Danube.
The capital’s first bridge monument, with decorative lights at night and the Buda Castle in the background, is a fascinating spectacle and has already attracted many tourists to Budapest. The bridge was built upon the request of Count István Széchenyi between 1839 and 1849, with the contribution of the designer, William Tierney Clark and the engineer, Adam Clark. (The two Clarks were only namesakes.) The Danube bridge did not survive the ravages of the world war, so it had to be re-built in 1949, on its 100th anniversary. On the Buda side one can walk onto the top of the tunnel, where an excellent panorama over the Danube and the bridges embracing it can be enjoyed.
The largest building in the country, which is the permanent location of the national assembly, is situated on the bank of the Danube, and its entrance is faces Kossuth Square. The Neo-Gothic building complex was built between 1884 and 1904 according to the plans of Imre Steindl. The building has 691 rooms, it is 268 m long and the height of its dome is 96 m. Since 2000 visitors can see the Hungarian coronation symbols in the Parliament: St. Stephen’s crown, the sceptre, the orb and the Renaissance sword.
The capital’s most spectacular square can be found at the entrance to the City Park. Already from afar, visitors arriving from Andrássy Avenue can see the middle column of the Millennium Memorial, on the top of which archangel Gabriel is holding the Holy Crown and the apostolic double cross. The architectural pieces surrounding Heroes’ Square are amazing: on the right we can find the Hall of Art, and on the left there is the Museum of Fine Arts –
both buildings are compelling. The City Park, which is a favourite weekend destination for families, also starts from here and hosts other famous places of interest, such as the Zoo, the Circus of Budapest, the Amusement Park, the world-famous Széchenyi Baths and Vajdahunyad Castle.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
It is the largest church in Budapest, the dome of which can be seen from all points in the city. It was built between 1851 and 1905. The Classicist basilica houses Hungary’s most sacred relic: the Holy Right, which is the mummified right hand of St. Stephen, after whom the basilica was named. Among the famous masterpieces in the church we can find the statues by Alajos Stróbl and the painting by Gyula Benczúr of St. Stephen offering the country to the Virgin Mary. The dome of the building offers a wonderful, 360° view of the city.
In spite of its clearly separable units, Andrássy Avenue and its neighbourhood are the results of the unique architectural style of the end of the 19th century. The most beautiful buildings in the eclectic style can be seen here, for example the outstandingly beautiful Opera House and many old flats with wonderful and intimate inner courts, statues and fountains. One of the features of Andrássy Avenue can hardly be seen on the surface. Only the descending stairs with wrought iron banisters still warn us that Europe’s first shallow subway, the underground railway that is more than 125 years old, is underneath transferring its passengers on a track that is only slightly lengthened since the old times.
Matthias Church or the Main Coronation Church in the Buda Castle district, which stands on the Szentháromság (Holy Trinity) Square, is a monument with a long history. Religious tradition has it that the church was founded by St. Stephen in 1015. The royal cathedral, which was officially named as the Church of Our Lady Wicha, was built in several stages. Its present Neo-Gothic form is the result of a large-scale reconstruction in 1896, led by Frigyes Schulek.
The history of the thin island between the Margaret Bridge and the Árpád Bridge dates back to the 11th century. The capital’s most beautiful park can be found here and, while walking on the island, visitors can see many buildings with a special atmosphere: the Water Tower, which was declared as a protected building by UNESCO, a music fountain, an open-air stage, St. Michael’s Church and many ruins several centuries old (for example those of the nunnery, where Margaret, the daughter of King Béla IV, lived, and the ruins of two churches of monastic orders). On the island there is a beach, a swimming pool, two hotels, various restaurants and fast-food outlets.
Budapest is the city of spas. The Széchenyi Baths, which have a very prestigious position on the list of Budapest sights that are not to be missed, are not only the largest bath complex in Europe with their 15 pools, but also the most pleasant baths in the capital. The most famous characteristic features of the baths are the groups playing chess, submerged in the steaming water up to their necks, as well as the outdoor pools embraced by the beautiful building. Gellért bath is the most popular bath among tourists arriving in Budapest. The original equipment and furniture, in an Art Nouveau style, has been preserved in most of the baths: artistic mosaics, colourful stained-glass windows and statues decorate the buildings.
Fishermen’s Bastion is a relatively young building near Matthias Church. Based on the plans of Frigyes Schulek, the construction works began in 1895 on the walls of the mediaeval fish market, which was protected by the fishermen’s guild. This is where the name of the bastion comes from. The bastion’s seven towers symbolise the seven leaders of the Settlement, when the Magyars came to live in Hungary. St. Stephen’s statue can be seen in the middle of the bastion’s courtyard. The Neo-Romanesque building only has a decorative function, and it is visited by tourists because of the Pest panorama.