If you haven’t yet visited the capital of Hungary, then prepare to be pleasantly surprised when you do it because Budapest will definitely exceed your expectations, as it did in my case. It is an incredibly beautiful city with an impressive architecture with hills that offer you a complete and gorgeous panorama of the entire settlement, with monuments, buildings, and streets that seem to tell a story just by the way they look.
The Hungarian capital, deployed on the two banks of the Danube, hosts about 2 million people, many of them coming from other parts of Europe or even the world. It is a very interesting cultural mix that has had and has a strong and positive impact on the social and cultural life of the city. So mixed that you will hear words from Romanian, Russian, German, Turkish and even Chinese. And no, I’m not talking about tourists, but about locals, people who liked the city so much that they chose to call it “home”, be it permanently or temporarily.
And if we talk about tourists, they are represented by a huge number, as well. Budapest hosts 20 million visitors annually. Most of them are conquered by the beautiful views of the bridges connecting the two parts of the city. But that’s only since 1849 onwards. Until then, there was no physical connection between Buda and Pest; this problem was solved with the construction of the first bridge over the Danube in Hungary, the famous Chain Bridge. Later, in 1873, Buda and Pesta were officially united under the name of Budapest. Pesta is the newer, administrative, commercial and entertainment part of the city, while in Buda there are mostly dwellings, but also restaurants and important historic buildings.
Budapest is a pretty big city, which means that you need a few days to fully enjoy it. But if you have only one day at your disposal, as I had, choosing the right places to visit in such a short time will be quite a challenge. The good part is that most of the places of interest are accessible by foot, but if you want to move faster from one point to another, you can use the subway. Budapest has the second oldest subway line in the world. Let’s recap: Do you want to visit Budapest and have a limited time? Get inspired from my one-day itinerary 🙂
What you can do in Budapest in one day:
Admire the panorama of the city from the Citadella
Located on Gellert Hill, the Citadella is the place where you will definitely want to get a taste of the history of the country, but also for the incredible views of Budapest. From here, you will have visual access to the Danube and the famous bridges that cross it, but also to the most significant buildings in the city: Buda Castle, Matthias Church, and the Parliament Building are just a few of them.
Also, here you will learn that Americans are not the only ones to enjoy a Statue of Liberty. The Hungarians have their own statue of this kind, and its appearance has no resemblance to that of New York. While Lady Liberty of Manhattan holds a flame in one hand and on the other one a plate on which is written July 4th, the one situated on the fortress of Budapest holds a palm tree leaf with her both hands. The Statue of Liberty in Budapest was completed in 1947 and symbolizes the release of Hungary by the Soviet Union during the Second World War.
Inside the park, there are many other statues with different meanings in the history of the country, as well as many traditional dishes or souvenirs to be put on the refrigerator or in the collection of your travel objects. You will most likely spend a maximum of 2 hours here, and I recommend that you do this in the first part of the day.
Discover the Matthias Church
The 700-year-old church will instantly get your attention, thanks to its architecture in the unmistakable Gothic style, but also to the colorful mosaic on its roof, in orange, blue, red, green, yellow shades… yes, all the colors of the rainbow. It’s not only a religious and cultural edifice, it is also of great importance in the political and administrative life of the country because, here, the greatest kings of Hungary have been crowned over time.
Why Matthias? From Matei Corvin, one of the greatest kings of Hungary, the one who got married here twice. The church is located inside the Buda Fortress, in the Trinity Square, one of the most visited places in the city. You can find out more on the official website.
Feel like in a fairy tale at Fishermen’s Bastion
Once you’ve finished visiting the church, go to the finest observation point in the city, the Fishermen’s Bastion. You will have the feeling that you have entered a fairy tale because the bastion resembles a castle inhabited by princes and princesses. Architect Frigyes Schulek has combined neo-gothic and neo-roman styles, and the result is quite spectacular. Dressed in white and decorated with seven towers representing the seven Hungarian tribes that settled in the Pannonian Plain in the 9th century, the Fishermen’s Bastion is actually a miniature palace. Your Instagram feed will look great with the pictures taken here, that’s for sure!
Inside the fortress with promenade purpose, you will find many terraces overlooking the most impressive building in the city, the Parliament Building, about which we will talk a little later. Although most of the time it is crowded, the atmosphere here is extremely relaxed, tourists coming to admire the city side on the other bank of the Danube, Pesta. After a photo session, relax on the terrace while enjoying a cappuccino or ice cream.
To get here, you have more options. Whether you choose your own car, hop on a bus, or test one of the coolest means of transport in town, the funicular, situated at the end of the chain bridge. The entire Buda Castle complex is thought to be a small town sprinkled with restaurants and terraces, so you may want to spend some good hours in this place.
Cross the famous chain bridge
Although it is better known as the Chain Bridge, its official name is Széchenyi Chain Bridge and comes from Count Széchenyi Istvan, who had the brilliant idea of shortening the road between Buda and Pesta. His plans were fruitful, so the city can today enjoy a real symbol, present on all postcards of Budapest.
It is the first bridge over the Danube built in Hungary and was completed in 1849, immediately after the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. At the time of completion, the Chain Bridge was the longest suspended bridge in the world. Looking at it, you immediately feel like you know it from somewhere, and that’s because it looks very much like the more famous Brooklyn Bridge in New York. I feel the need to reformulate and say that Brooklyn Bridge actually resembles the bridge of Budapest, the latter being built almost 20 years before.
It is an absolutely superb bridge, built in a classical style, to which were added wrought iron elements and a pair of lion-like statues at each entrance to guard it and give it an imposing allure. It can be crossed both by car and on foot, with a pedestrian walkway in both directions. It is a great walk at any time of the day, but better during the evening, when the city is lighted by thousands of bulbs, and the view gets a special charm. In only 380 meters, you will be from Buda in Pest. Or vice versa.
Admire the most impressive building in Budapest, the Parliament building
Not many buildings will impress you as much as this one will. The Parliament building is so beautiful and spectacular that it will trigger a great deal of emotion and will make you want to know the architect who designed it. personally. Of course, chances won’t be on your side, because the construction was ready more than 100 years ago.
The ordinary tourist will admire it as any other impressive building by its size and design, but the architects will feel like they are in paradise. This building is an architectural masterpiece, inspired by the Westminster Palace, in a neo-gothic style with Baroque and Renaissance accents. As glamorous is the symmetrical exterior with its immense dome, sculptures, and turrets, as magnificent is the interior with its frescoes on the ceiling, stained glass, enormous rooms and glass mosaic paintings.
The Parliament building is a must when visiting the capital of Hungary, both in the daytime and in the evening. Many people say that it can be better admired on a cruise on the Danube, but if time is not on your side, you can also admire it well from the other side of the river.
Find out the sad story of shoes on the Danube
Before I got here, I found out about the controversial monument on one of the banks of the Danube in Budapest, and I really wanted to visit it. The story of the shoes is so impressive and sad that you will inevitably feel affected and negatively charged by visiting it. Right in this place, between 1944 and 1945, during the Holocaust, groups of Jews were aligned, ordered to take their shoes off, and shot. 60 shoes made of iron, rusted as a result of the passage of time, stand as a testimony for those times, captured for eternity in the stone dike.
The place is so emotionally loaded that many people bring flowers and candles as a sign of regret.
Explore the streets
The forever suggestion when it comes to visiting any city is strolling the streets no matter how you choose to do it. Budapest is a chic, beautiful city, full of places worth seeing. Give at least one hour of your day spent in the Hungarian capital to walk a few streets near the center. You will surely be impressed by the architecture, the people, the vibe of the city in general and you will want to come back soon to get to know more of what this wonderful city has to offer.
Of course, there are many other activities to be done in Budapest and places to see, but I had one day at my disposal, and these were my priorities for a first visit to the city. I will definitely come back here soon, and then I will add much more to the list. Budapest, you rock!