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Budapest: Where Danube divides and history unfolds


I’ve always loved cities with rivers running through them. Moreover, many European cities are adorned with exciting rivers running through their centers, embellished with bridges standing like necklaces on the city’s throat. As you might guess, I’ll take you to a city in the heart of Europe, Budapest, divided by the Danube River, with its beautiful bridges and enchanting views that captivate you at every step, day and night. Budapest, the capital of Hungary, was a city that I thought truly deserved all the praise even before going there, and indeed, when I went and saw it, it more than lived up to its accolades.

I always think each city has its color. For instance, to many, Paris might be the crimson of romance, but to me, it evokes pink balloons. The color of Ljubljana is undoubtedly green. Rome is orange and for me, Budapest is brown. Although brown may evoke naturalness, in Budapest, the color brown, which is the hue of many historical and human-made structures, permeates the entire city. When night falls, these illuminated structures relinquish their brown dominance to gold.

The city, of which the Danube River occupies a considerable area, is divided into three regions. While many guides separate the city into Buda and Pest, the city consists of Buda, Pest, and Obuda, formed by the merger of the cities in 1872. Each region of the city has a different texture. While Buda allows you to feel more of the historical fabric, Pest will emerge as the beating heart of the city. Obuda, on the other hand, is the least known part of Budapest, waiting to be discovered as the oldest settlement from the Roman era.

Chain Bridge

I’m not sure if you would start exploring the city from here, but the Chain Bridge, the first stone bridge of the city connecting the Buda and Pest regions, is one of the most beautiful bridges in the city. The bridge was built in the 1800s but suffered significant damage during World War II and is open to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It was rebuilt in 1949 according to its original design and is also known as the “Lion Bridge” due to the lions on it.

There’s an interesting legend about the lions on the bridge. The architect who built the bridge was so confident, that if a flaw were found in his work, he would throw himself off the bridge. Unfortunately, while many adults couldn’t find a flaw in the bridge, a small child noticed that the tongues of the lions on the bridge were missing. Consequently, the architect threw himself off the bridge and committed suicide. Those who deny the truth of the legend say that when you come eye to eye with the lions, you can see their tongues.

Buda Castle

This historic castle, listed by UNESCO, is located atop the Buda region of the city. Its history dates back to the 13th century when Hungarian King Bela IV commissioned it. Bela includes Holy Trinity (Trinity) Square, Matthias Church (Matyas Templom), and Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya). The heart of the area where the castle is located, Trinity Square, takes its name from the Trinity Column (Szentharomsag Ter) located in the center of the square.

This column was built in the 18th century in memory of the end of the plague epidemic and with the belief that it would prevent future epidemics. Opposite the square, you will see the Buda City Hall, built in the early 18th century.

Fisherman’s Bastion

One of the best places to admire Budapest is the Fisherman’s Bastion, which was built in 1902. Named after the fishermen who provided great support during wars in the medieval era, this bastion overlooks the Fishermen’s Bastion. The seven towers on the bastion, which transformed it into a fairy-tale land, were built to represent the seven Hungarian tribes and leaders who led the country’s founding. This place offers one of the most beautiful views of the Danube River and Budapest.

Matthias Church

Located right next to the Fisherman’s Bastion, this church stands out with its carpet-like appearance on top. It was used as a mosque for about 150 years when the city was under Ottoman rule. Later, it was converted back into a church, and the building has striking architecture.

Gellert Hill

One of the places where you can overlook Budapest, Gellert Hill, is home to the Liberty Statue erected in 1947 in memory of the Soviet forces who liberated the city from Nazi occupation. In addition to the statue, you can see many important buildings in the city and enjoy panoramic views of Budapest from Gellert Hill.

Parliament Building

Being the third-largest parliament building in the world, even if it didn’t make it to the list of the world’s largest structures, it would still mesmerize me. Rising by the river, this imposing building was completed in 1902. The building, which is splendid during the day, enchants people with its lighting at night. One of Budapest’s iconic structures, the Parliament Building, can be visited with organized tours if there is no official program. While walking toward the Parliament Building on the Pest side, you can also see the shoe figures left in memory of the Jews killed between 1944 and 1945 along the riverbank.

Great Market Hall

The Budapest Great Market Hall is a wonderful alternative for those who never return without visiting city markets. You can find fresh fruits, vegetables, local products, Hungarian street flavors and souvenirs inside.

St. Stephen’s Basilica

Completed in the 1800s, the Basilica offers a majestic view, with its dome reaching a height of 96 meters (314.96 feet), with the same height as the Parliament Building, the Basilica balances between religion and state. Housing the largest bell in the country, the Basilica is one of the city’s important structures.

Vörösmarty Square

With the statue of Hungarian poet Mihaly Vorossmarty in the center, the square is also known as Red Square. Hosting a delightful Christmas Market during Christmastime, the square also houses a famous pastry shop. If you’re at Vorosmarty Square, you must visit the Gerbeaud Cafe, where you can taste delicious sweets, which is quite popular.

Vaci Street

Vaci Street is known as Budapest’s most famous shopping street. Starting from Vorossmarty Square and extending to the market, the street also hosts stores of many well-known brands. Even if you don’t shop, I recommend taking an evening stroll on this street, which has old buildings, hotels, souvenir shops, restaurants, and cafes.

The famous Fisherman's Bastion at sunrise with a statue of King Stephen I and the Parliament of Hungary, Budapest, Hungary. (Shutterstock Photo)
The famous Fisherman’s Bastion at sunrise with a statue of King Stephen I and the Parliament of Hungary, Budapest, Hungary. (Shutterstock Photo)
Andrassy Avenue

Andrassy Avenue, one of the coolest streets in the city, stretches from St. Stephen’s Basilica to Heroes’ Square. What earned Andrassy Avenue a place on the UNESCO List are its historical texture and magnificent architectural structures. Along the boulevard, which also houses the Opera House, you can visit the House of Terror Museum, the Academy of Music, and many other important buildings. By the way, you can experience the best acoustics in Europe at the Opera House by arranging a program in advance.

Heroes Square

Located at one end of Andrassy Avenue, Heroes’ Square impresses with a monument erected in honor of the thousandth anniversary of the Hungarians’ settlement here. The square also features statues of leaders and heroes influential in Hungarian history.

City Park (Varosliget)

City parks are essential, especially for families with children. This city park near Heroes’ Square offers a wonderful opportunity for both adults and children to immerse themselves in nature. The nearby zoo is also worth seeing.

Szechenyi Baths

Surely, there’s hardly anyone who hasn’t heard of Budapest’s famous thermal baths. Opened in 1927, these baths, with both indoor and outdoor sections and natural spring water, offer a very different experience to tourists visiting the city. Perhaps we can say that the culture of baths in Budapest, which remained under Ottoman rule for a long time, is a remnant of that domination.

Dohany Street Synagogue

You might be thinking, “There are so many places to see in Budapest.” Yes, you’re thinking correctly. Budapest continued to surprise us at every turn. The number of days we set aside for it really wasn’t enough. Therefore, before planning your trip, I want you to know that you can’t visit this city with just a day or two or a rushed tour. The Dohany Street Synagogue, built in the 1850s and the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world, should also be on your list of places to see in Budapest.

Little Princess Statue

This statue, which has become quite touristy along the riverbank, is located near the Chain Bridge. This bronze statue, created by Laszlo Marton, depicts his 5-year-old daughter imitating a princess by wearing a crown and garners quite a bit of attention.

Courtesy: Dailysabah