What to see and photograph in Budapest
Budapest is the capital city of Hungary which is part of the EU and Schengen communities. The following are notable points of interest in Budapest.
- Buda Castle and Hungarian National Gallery (UNESCO heritage site)
- Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) and Matthias Church
- Hungarian Parliament Building
- Chain Bridge
- St. Stephen’s Basilica
- Hungarian State Opera House
- Széchenyi Thermal Bath, City Park, Vajdahunyad Castle and Heroes Square (UNESCO heritage site)
- Dohany Street Synagogue
- Castle Hill Funicular
- Imre Nagy, the man on the bridge statue
Buda Castle and the whole castle area of Budapest are designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. Buda castle was built in the 13th century for the Hungarian royalty. In the 19th century the castle was improved and expanded which was when the palace was added. As the castle and palace are visible from all over city of Budapest it’s probably best photographed from the other side of the river. It’s connected to the city by the funicular and Chain Bridge. You get a wonderful view of the city, the Chain Bridge, the Hungarian Parliament Building, the river Danube and St Stephan’s Basilica from the castle.
Castle Hill Funicular
It’s a steep walk up Castle Hill and for this reason a Funicular is available. The funicular takes you to the entrance of Buda Castle. I visited late afternoon on a cold day which meant it was empty but I’d imagine it gets busy during the summer. You can either take a one way ticket up and walk down or get a return ticket. The trip up Castle Hill probably takes less than 2 minutes.
Hungarian National Gallery
Located inside Buda Castle is the Hungarian National Gallery. The art in this museum is mainly by Hungarian artists. If you are an art lover and have a lot of time to visit the castle, I would recommend it. There are 2 art museums located close to Heroes Square in central Budapest. These are the Palace of Art and the Museum of Fine Art. The Palace of Art is considered to be the premier art museum in Budapest.
Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) and Matthias Church
Located a 10 minute walk from Buda Castle are the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. Both these sites are UNESCO heritage sites. The Gothic Fisherman’s Bastion was built at the start of the 20th century. There are 7 towers on the Bastion and these offer views over the city and banks of the Danube which are also a UNESCO heritage site. The Fisherman’s Bastion itself is an Instagrammable building.
Hungarian Parliament Building
For me, the Hungarian Parliament building is one of the most impressive structures in Europe. This Gothic style building was completed at the start of the 20th century. It’s possible to visit the interior as the parliament only use a small portion of the building. I found the best way to photograph it was from directly in front of it from the opposite side of the Danube. On a calm day with no wind you can get a perfect reflection shot. The Hungarian Parliament building is one of the UNESCO sites on the banks of the Danube.
Chain Bridge is one of the most popular points of interest in Budapest. It connects the Buda (Buda Castle) side of the river Danube with the Pest side (St. Stephen’s Basilica, above). This was the first permanent bridge in Hungary that crossed the Danube. It was designed by Englishman William Tierney Clark who also designed the Marlow bridge. This is a smaller but similar bridge which crosses the river Thames in Marlow, England. The bridge photograph’s well from Buda castle with St. Stephen’s Basilica in the background. Another good viewpoint is from the other side of the Danube with the castle in the background.
Another notable bridge in Budapest is the footbridge called Liberty Bridge which like the Chain bridge crosses the Danube.
City Park is located in the east of Budapest away from the Danube. It’s accessible by the metro. City Park is a must see in Budapest because it’s the home of Széchenyi Thermal Baths, Heroes Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest Zoo and Art museums.
Szechenyi Thermal Baths
The Szechenyi thermal baths also known as the Szechenyi medicinal baths are the largest in Europe. They are named after a popular Hungarian politician called István Széchenyi. These are the Hungarian version of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, just a whole lot cheaper! The complex was opened in 1913 and the water is supplied from 2 nearby natural thermal springs. The buildings around the baths are very Instagrammable.
Heroes Square (Hősök Tere)
Heroes Square (Hosok Tere) is a large square and UNESCO world heritage site. It’s located close to the must visit site of the Szechenyi medicinal baths in City Park. The square reminded me of the Children’s Heroes Monument in Chapultepec, Mexico City. Art lovers will love the square because located close by are the Museum of Fine Art and the Palace of Art.
Vajdahunyad Castle was built at the end of the 10th century. It is a unique building because it has the influence of Roman, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance. The castle is lakeside meaning you can take a good reflection photograph of it.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica was completed in 1905 and at 95 meters it’s the third largest church in Hungary. The largest church in Hungary is located in a small town on the Danube called Esztergom. The church is named St. Stephan’s after a former king of Hungary. The church is quite difficult to photograph from the area around it (above). To get the best photograph of it I recommend taking it from the Buda Castle at sunset. Entrance to the interior is free but you must pay a small fee to visit the Panorama Tower for a view of the city.
Hungarian State Opera House
A short walk from St. Stephan’s is the State Opera House. Like that of Bratislava it’s one of the most beautiful buildings of the city. If you are interested in seeing opera on your visit check out the schedule.
The Citidella (Citadel in English) is located on the top of Gellert Hill offering wonderful views of the banks of the Danube and the Buda Castle. Also located close to the Citidella are the Liberty Statue, Gellert Hill Caves and thermal baths. The Citadella is a fortress which was completed in 1854. It was constructed in 4 years by Hungarian forced laborers. The fortress was used in the second world war and some of the original weaponry still remains. Nowadays of course it’s a popular tourist attraction.
Dohany Street Synagogue
The Dohany Street Synagogue (above) is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. The largest synagogue in the world is located in Jerusalem. The synagogue complex houses the Jewish museum, Heroes Temple, Jewish Cemetery and the Courtyard Memorial. The memorial remembers the Jews who were murdered by the Nazis during world war 2. It’s believed more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews were killed during the holocaust.
It’s quite difficult to photograph the exterior of the synagogue due to shadows and lots of people constantly outside it. If I went back I would try photograph it late at night when people are sleeping and there’s no sun. Alternatively when it’s a cloudy day.
Imre Nagy Sculpture
Martyrs Square is located behind the Hungarian Parliament building There you will find a man on the bridge, Imre Nagy (left, I’m on the right!). Imry Nagy was the prime minister of Hungary during the Soviet era. He was trying to free Hungary from the communist regime which the Soviet regime considered treason. As a message to other communist countries at that time he was tried for treason and sentenced to death. For the work he did for the freedom of Hungary he is considered a hero.
I didn’t know when I took the picture but he is actually looking at the Hungarian Parliament building therefore I was blocking his view!
Budapest to Bucharest by train
From Budapest to Bucharest there are 2 overland options which both take about 15-16 hours. You can go by Alsa bus which will cost around €60 ($70). The other option is by train which will cost around €95 ($110). Although the bus is cheaper and takes the same length of time I chose the train. I chose the train because it had an overnight option. The bus option is only available through the day. Because the train is overnight you are paying for your travel as well as your nights accommodation. Another reason to take the train is to pass through the Budapest train station which featured in the movie, Mission Impossible 4.