Budapest in 9 hours or why do I love this city so much

Heroes’ Square – ZOO – Fisherman’s Bastion – Matthias Church – Buda Castle – Gellért Hill – St. Stephen’s Basilica – Vörösmarty square

8 spots me and my best friend managed to see in 9 hours in my most favourite city in the world, Budapest. Exactly in that order.

People often ask me why do I consider Budapest the most beautiful city…well, there’s something about it, you know…

  • Budapest is not only one city, but 3 cities (Buda, Pest, Óbuda) with different history and vibe. This gives you a feeling that you can always find a place for your individual style of living.
  • Budapest is a creative city. I say an example. When the Liberty Bridge was closed for cars, what were people doing? They went to the bridge with blanket, made picnic, ate there, climbed up to the pillar, they just enjoyed that there were no cars on the bridge. This is just an example, but this is soo typical for Budapest. Everywhere you can find creative things. The Ruin Pubs is an example too, but there are something interesting in almost every corner.
  • Budapest is a city with a rich culture. It’s not only the theatres, libraries, museums etc; the culture is important to the people. If you are in a flat, you find many books, and even the poor people like reading. The Hungarian literature is a hidden treasure. There are wonderful authors, poets, novelists. And they wrote about the streets, the city, and I can feel it if I’m walking on the streets.
  • I like the architecture of Budapest. I know, it is not as original as in some other (older) cities. They are not renaissance, but neo-renaissance; not baroque, but neo-baroque buildings etc. (built up in the 19th century), but they are everywhere. Not only one or two separate buildings are beautiful, but the feeling that you are walking in the history. (And there are many buildings that are absolutely beautiful in every point of view.)
  • And if the reasons mentioned were not enough, I think the location of the city is unbeatable. The biggest river of Europe in the middle; and two different banks. And the Island in the middle. (The Margaret Island is something unique too: if I think about how could look the Garden of Eden like; I see this Island in front of my eyes.)

Yes, I’m surely biased. I was in some other beautiful cities, and I can say, Budapest is surely one of the best places you can visit. Even a friend of mine who travels around the whole world said Budapest is the coolest city she has ever seen, and I believe her 🙂


Now a little about those 8 spots

Heroes’ Square (or Hősök tere in Hungarian) is one of the most-visited attractions in Budapest. Many tourists arrive here by metro, an attraction in itself: the M1 metro line that stops at Heroes’ Square is one of the world’s oldest (opened in 1896) and has even been declared a World Heritage Site. Both Heroes’ Square and Városliget, the adjoining city park, were created at the end of the nineteenth century to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary in 895. Since many of the attractions weren’t ready in time, the festivities were held one year late, in 1896. The square only received its current name in 1932, three years after the completion of the Millennium Monument. Since its creation Heroes’ Square has been the site of numerous special events, including many Socialist holiday celebrations staged during the country’s Communist era. In 1989 it was the site of the ceremonial reburial of Imre Nagy, leader of the uprising against the Soviet occupation in 1956. At the center of the square stands the Millennium Monument, designed in 1894 by Albert Schickedanz and completed thirty-five years later. Other statues were designed by György Zala. The column is topped with a statue of the archangel Gabriel. Behind the column is a semicircular colonnade with statues of famous men who made their mark on Hungarian history. On the north side is the square bordered by the Museum of Fine Arts, a museum with an exquisite collection of European art, housed in a monumental classical building. The museum’s gallery contains works from old masters including Raphael, Titian, El Greco, Goya, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Dürer and Rubens. The Museum of Fine Arts also has a collection of sculptures as well as artifacts from the Middle Ages, the Antiquity and Egypt. The building itself, an imposing neoclassical structure, is pretty impressive. It was also designed by Albert Schickedanz with the help of Fülöp Herzog, his associate. Opposite the Museum of Fine Arts stands the Palace of Art, another Greek-like temple that nicely complements the design of the Museum of Art. The palace is an exhibition hall, mainly used to host temporary exhibitions. The building is another creation of Albert Schickedanz, also in cooperation with Fülöp Herzog. The Műcsarnok (its Hungarian name) has a magnificent facade with colossal gilded columns. The tympanum is decorated with a colorful mosaic that shows St. Stephen as a patron of the arts.



A place where regardless of age, everyone finds something entertaining…in Budapest Zoo (Fővárosi Állat- és Növénykert) you can see around 1050 animal species from the African savannah to the arctic area, and around 2 000 plant species. Small sandy dessert area, tiny forest, seaside, lakes, rock cave provide real homes for the inhabitants of the zoo, who really look well taken care of. Extensive green patches, leafy groves, remarkable plants and flowers make the place a refreshing asylum within a bustling city. The Zoo & Botanical Garden is a must-see attraction for tourists coming to the city.


The Fisherman’s Bastion is located right behind the Matthias Church in the Castle District. It is one of the city’s biggest tourist draws and functions as some sort of ornate viewing platform. The Fisherman’s Bastion was built at the site of an old rampart that, during the Middle Ages, was defended by the guild of fishermen, who lived nearby in Vízívaros (watertown), at the foot of the hill. Thus the name of the bastion. An old fish market also sat at this location during medieval times. Designed by architect Frigyes Schulek and built between 1899 and 1905, the white-stoned bastion is a combination of neo-gothic and neo-romanesque architecture and consists of turrets, projections, parapets, and climbing stairways. The bastion is made up of seven towers – each one symbolizing one of the seven Magyar tribes that, in 896, settled in the area now known as Hungary. The structure looks straight out of some fairy-tale and conjures up thoughts of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. A monumental double stairway, decorated with reliefs of coats-of-arms and various motifs, connects the bastion with streets below. Most visitors consider the view from Fisherman’s Bastion to be one of the best in the city, only equalled by those from Gellért Hill and the Buda Castle. From atop the structure, you have a splendid view of the Danube river and over Pest. You can see as far as Margaret Island and you can clearly see landmark buildings such as St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Parliament, the Academy of Sciences, Gresham Palace, and, in the distance, the Inner City Parish Church. You’ll also catch a glimpse of the Margaret Bridge and the famous Chain Bridge.
Between the Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion stands a statue of the first christian king of Hungary, St. Stephen. He is shown mounted on a horse, atop an ornate pedestal decorated with reliefs.
Officially known as The Church of Our Lady (Nagyboldogasszony templom), Budapest’s St. Matthias Church, like many of the city’s ecclesiastical structures, has a long and complicated history. Matthias Church was built in 1255 along Trinity Square, in the heart of the Castle District, and was Buda’s first parish church. However, the original church structure changed many times as it was constantly being renovated and refashioned in the popular architectural style of each era. The church takes its more common name from King Matthias, who ruled from 1458-90, well-known as a patron of the arts and enlightenment and revered for reconstructing the Hungarian state after years upon years of feudal anarchy. In 1541, when the Turks captured Buda, the church became a mosque. The ruling regime shipped precious ecclesiastical treasures off to Bratislava and, appallingly, whitewashed over the ornate frescoes that graced the walls of the church. Beautiful interior furnishings were stripped out and discarded. The church was ravaged during the liberation of Budapest from the Turks in 1686. The story goes that during the bombardment of Budapest by a European alliance, a wall of the church collapsed, revealing a sculpture of the Madonna to the praying Turks. Demoralized, they capitulated the following day. The new occupants, the Jesuits, made attempts to restore the church in the popular Baroque style of the era. Most consider the attempts a failure. In the late nineteenth century, architect Frigyes Schulek is credited with largely restoring St. Matthias Church to its original splendor. Schulek, who also built the nearby Fisherman’s Bastion, adhered to the original thirteenth-century plans for the church and also uncovered a number of original Gothic elements lost for centuries. He added magnificent diamond patterned roof tiles and gargoyles, which visitors can still admire today. The reconstruction was completed in 1896. Very little remains of the original church, only the foundations, columns and some walls date back to the thirteenth century. The smallest tower is known as the Béla Tower and is named after the founder of the church, king Béla IV, under whose reign the church was built. Its roof is decorated with colorful Maiolica tiles. The main portal is decorated with bas-reliefs created by Lajos Lantai. Above the portal is a large neo-gothic rose window, an exact replica of the original window. The tallest tower is the Matthias-tower, originally built in the fifteenth century and named after the ruler of that era, King Matthias Corvinus. His coat of arms, emblazoned with a raven (corvus in Latin), is shown inside the church. Visitors enter the church via the Mary Portal, which is decorated with an exquisite Gothic relief, painstakingly reconstructed by Frigyes from original pieces. The interior of the Matthias Church is magnificently decorated with colorful patterns and motifs that were found on original stone fragments. The frescoes on the wall were created by the two most important historical painters of the era, Bertalan Székely and Károly Lotz. They were also responsible for the magnificent stained glass windows. One of the highlights inside is the main altar, decorated with a neo-gothic Triptych. The Loreto Chapel, beneath the South Tower, holds the statue of the Baroque Madonna, a replica of the original in the Italian village of Loreto. The most magnificent monument in the church is the double sarcophagus of king Béla III and his wife Anne de Châtillon in the Trinity Chapel. The twelfth-century king was originally buried in Székesfehérvár; in 1848 archaeologists found his remains in the city’s ruined cathedral and transported it to the Matthias Church in 1860. The church also has some relics and treasures, including the Matthias Chalice and a replica of the Hungarian Royal Crown (the original is on display in the Parliament Building).




Buda Castle, often referred to as the Royal Palace (Budavári palota), is home to a number of cultural institutions, including two museums: the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.

A first castle was built in the thirteenth century after Mongol tribes had invaded Hungary. King Béla IV built a keep surrounded by thick walls in 1243. No trace of this castle remains and historians aren’t even sure of its precise locations. The foundations of today’s castle, which would later be besieged no less than thirty-one times, were laid in the fourteenth century when King Lajos the Great built a castle in Romanesque style, which was completed in 1356. Some forty years later, during the reign of Sigismund of Luxembourg, this early castle was replaced by a Gothic-style palace. It was one of the grandest palaces in Europe with an impressive large Knights’ Hall. Fifty years later the great Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus thought the palace built by Sigismund was too sober and small so he ordered the construction of a new palace in Renaissance style. A palace garden was also created during Matthias’ reign, which marked a high point in Budapest’s history. Artists and craftsmen from across the continent were lured by the city’s prosperity. Nothing remains of the early splendor of the Buda Castle. When Budapest was recaptured after the Turkish ruled the city between 1541 and 1686, the complex was completely in ruins. Then, Hungary’s new rulers, the Habsburgs, built a new, smaller palace between 1714 and 1723. It was designed in a Baroque style by Fortunato de Prati and construction was supervised by Johann Hölbling. The palace was extended by Empress Maria Theresa, but the great fire of 1810 and in 1849 the (failed) attack of the castle during the Hungarian revolt against the Habsburgs destroyed much of the new palace. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, there was a new need for a palace in Budapest to express Hungary’s larger independence. The Habsburg palace was rebuilt and expanded by Miklós Ybl, one of Hungary’s greatest architects. He was aided by Alajos Hauszmann, who was responsible for much of the interior and the impressive Baroque dome. The reconstruction of the palace was mostly symbolic, since no monarch had lived here since 1541. The palatial complex was still inhabited though and until 1944 it was the residence of Miklós Horthy, regent of Hungary. Shortly after he was deposed by the Germans, the castle was ruined once again during a drawn-out battle between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army. Reconstruction of the castle started in 1950 following a design by architect István Janáki, based on Ybl’s plans. The original Baroque dome was replaced with a classicist version. During the reconstruction the ruins of the fifteenth-century palace were discovered and integrated into the new complex. The main structure of the Buda Castle, known as the Royal Palace, is rather austere compared to its predecessors; the interior in particular is completely devoid of ornamentation and none the magnificent royal apartments have been reconstructed. But despite its lack of authenticity, the Buda Castle is still an imposing complex, and its more than three hundred meters long facade facing the Danube is particularly impressive. The palace consists of a number of wings (named after the letters A to F) arranged around the Lion Courtyard. The courtyard is bordered by the National Library and two museums, the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. There’s plenty more to see around the palace, such as several statues and fountains. Most visitors enter Buda Castle from St. George Square to the north, where the Sikló funicular connects Castle Hill with the Chain Bridge and Pest. An ornamental gate from the early twentieth century separates the square from the former royal domain and palace. Right near the gate is a bronze statue of a large bird perched atop a tall pedestal. It is the mythical Turul bird of death, a symbol of the Kingdom of Hungary. Pass through the gate and walk down the so-called Habsburg steps towards a small terrace decorated with the beautiful romantic fountain of the Fishing Children. The fountain was created in 1912 by Károly Senyey and shows children grasping a huge fish. Walk further south and you arrive at another, larger terrace with two flower beds and an impressive statue of prince Eugene of Savoy. From here you have a beautiful view over Pest. The statue, created by József Róna and inaugurated in 1900, honors the man who was responsible for defeating the Ottoman Army and liberating Budapest from the Turks. The pedestal is richly decorated with statues of Turkish prisoners and bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the crucial Battle of Zenta (1697). The statue stands in front of the main entrance of the Hungarian National Gallery. This museum occupies four wings (A to D) of the palace where it displays a comprehensive collection of Hungarian artwork from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Highlights include its collection of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century altarpieces, exhibited in the former throne room. The museum also has a fine collection of Romanticist paintings including works from Mihály Munkácsy, a Hungarian artist known for his large canvases. At the other side of the complex, just west of the main dome, is another terrace with four flower beds and a central statue known as the Lószelidítő or Horse Wrangler. It shows a horse tamer holding a restive horse. Most visitors have little eye for the statue but instead are drawn to the fountain that flanks one of the wings of the Buda Castle. This is the Matthias Fountain (Mátyás kút), probably Budapest’s most famous fountain. It was designed in 1904 by Alajos Stróbl and depicts a scene from the legend of King Matthias and the beautiful peasant girl Ilonka. Steps away from the Matthias Fountain, the Lions’ Gate gives entrance to the Lions’ Courtyard (Oroszlános udvarba), the central courtyard of the Buda Castle. The monumental gate is named after the four lion statues that guard the entrance. They were created in 1901 by the Hungarian sculptor János Fadrusz. The gate is decorated with niches, festoons and allegorical sculptures of the Winged Victory. The patterned pavement of Lions’ Courtyard shows the location of the medieval palace that once stood here, including the fourteenth-century Stephen’s Tower (István-torony). Foundations of the tower can be seen in the nearby historical museum. To the west of the courtyard, opposite the National Gallery, is the porticoed entrance to the National Széchényi Library. The library occupies the F wing of the Royal Palace, a late nineteenth century expansion created by Miklós Ybl and Alajos Hauszmann. The library was founded in 1802 by count Ferenc Széchényi, who donated his private book collection containing more than fifteen thousand books and manuscripts. Today the library holds a copy of every book published in Hungary. The most southern wing of the palace is home to the Budapest History Museum (Budapesti Történeti Múzeum), which covers the history of Budapest from prehistory to modern times. The museum gives you the chance to see some remains and reconstructions of the medieval palace including a Gothic chapel and the Knights’ Hall. You can also see some of the marble sculptures that decorated the palace. If you walk down the steps outside the Budapest History Museum, you can see a courtyard of the former medieval castle. Some of the walls and foundations of the ramparts are original while other parts are twentieth-century reconstructions. Walk further through the so-called wheezy gate (Lihegő-kapu) and you reach the south wall with the slender Mace Tower (Buzogánytorony), originally built in the fourteenth century. You can leave the castle via the Ferdinánd Gate (Ferdinánd-kapu) near the tower.


The about 140 meters high Gellért Hill is named for bishop Gellért Sagredo, known for his mission to spread Christianity throughout Hungary. After the death of Saint Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary, legend has it that the rebelling insurgent pagan Magyars sealed Gellért up in a barrel and hurled him down the side of the hill. Atop Gellért Hill sits the Citadel, a structure built by the Austrian Habsburgs between 1850 and 1854 in order to better control the city after the suppression of the Hungarian War of Independence. This fortress, which sits at the top of the hill, was originally about 200 meters long with walls about six meters high and up to three meters thick. When the Habsburgs left Budapest as a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, ownership of the fortress reverted to the city. They tore down part of the walls as a symbol of victory against the Austrians. However, the Citadel was to be used again to house Hungarian soldiers. The Citadel also played a role in World War II. Historians point out that it was from the Citadel that a German SS regiment held the city at bay. Today, the old barracks have been converted to a tourist hotel and the structure mostly serves as a place from which guests can enjoy views of the city and the pretty Danube River below. Erected atop the hill in 1947, the Liberty Monument originally paid homage to the Soviet soldiers who liberated the city from the Nazis during World War II. The monument was designed by the Hungarian sculptor Kisfaludi Strobl. A palm-bearing statue of a female on a tall pedestal stands about 14 meters in the air. On her right hand side is an allegorical representation of “Progress” and the statue to her left represents “Evil”. If you walk up the hill starting at the Gellért Hotel, you can see a cave church on your right. The church was founded in 1926. It was used by the Pauline order until 1951, when the church was closed by the Communists. It reopened again in 1989. Near the entrance to the church stands a statue of St. Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary. At the other side of the hill, near the Elisabeth Bridge is a large bronze statue of bishop Gellért, the martyr after whom the hill was named. The monument was built in 1904 at the site where Gellért was presumably killed in the eleventh century. You can climb the Gellért Hill starting at the Elisabeth Bridge near the Gellért Monument, or you can take the (steeper) route starting at the Gellért Hotel. You can also take a bus or get there by taxi, but where’s the fun in that?


Fifty years in the making, the Basilica of St. Stephen is Budapest’s largest church. It is dedicated to St. Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary. His right hand, the country’s most important relic, is enshrined in one of the church’s chapels. Construction of the basilica began in 1851. The first architect to work on the design was Jozsef Hild, whose ideas for the structure reflected the Classical style. In 1867, when Hild passed away during the construction, architect Miklós Ybl took over, adding his own touch to the basilica, which leaned more towards neo-renaissance. A dome collapse in 1868 – a result of the use of inferior material and a construction fault in the tambour – slowed the construction process significantly as did the death of the second architect, Miklós Ybl, in 1891. The layout of the interior of the basilica and the completion of the building was ultimately overseen by yet a third architect, Jozsef Krausz. The church was finally consecrated in 1905 and on December 8 of the following year, Emperor Franz Joseph laid the final stone. Even though the church wasn’t initially designated a basilica, locals immediately started to refer to the church as “the basilica” due to the building’s sheer size. The name can now be officially used since pope Pius XI bestowed the church with the title of “basilica minor” in 1931. And in 1993 the church was given the title of cathedral when the archdiocese of Esztergom became the archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest. The Basilica of St. Stephen has a Greek-cross floor plan. Its center is crowned with a majestic dome, which reaches a height of 96 meters, exactly the height of the Parliament Building. The height refers to 896, the year of the settlement of the Magyar tribes in the Carpathian Basin, which led to the foundation of today’s Hungary.

You can travel by elevator or walk up 302 steps to the terrace around the dome from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Budapest. The relief figures that decorate the tympanum were created by Léo Fessler. The same sculptor was responsible for the statues that crown the colonnade of the church’s apse. He also created the large statues of the four apostles that rest in the niches of the drum supporting the central dome. The massive wooden door below the tympanum is decorated with medallions showing the busts of the twelve apostles. In the right tower, you find the largest church bell in the country, weighing 9144 kg. The incredibly ornate interior features about fifty different types of marble, elaborately decorated chapels, and many sculptures, including a bust of the basilica’s patron saint, who was the first Christian king of Hungary. A purpose built chapel, the Chapel of the Holy Right, holds Hungary’s most important relic, the preserved right hand of St. Stephen. The mummified hand is kept in a shrine and paraded around the streets each year on August 20, the anniversary of St. Stephen’s death.

Vörösmarty Square is one of the busiest places in the downtown section of Budapest. This area is a hubbub of activity, boasting luxury stores, antique shops, a famous pastry shop and several other retailing establishments. It is also the start of the city’s most famous shopping street, Váci Utca and in the winter home to the Christmas market in Budapest.In the nineteenth century the square was known under many different names, including Theater Square and Gisele Square but since 1926 it has been known as Vörösmarty Square, in honor of Mihály Vörösmarty. Early nineteenth century Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty was an author of plays and poetry, considered by his contemporaries to be a romanticist. However, he is best known for his patriotic lyrics and it is for that reason that his statue stands in this square in the middle of Budapest. His most notable works were his national epics, noted for their beautiful language, including Zalan’s Flight (1825), Erlan (1825), and Two Neighboring Castles (1831). The monument of Vörösmarty, erected in 1908, was made by Ede Telcs, a Hungarian sculptor. It shows the poet sitting on a pedestal of twenty-three limestone blocks in the center of the square. He is surrounded by figures representing various classes of society, including a farmer and peasant girl, people in traditional Magyar dress, a student, and a worker with his wife and young son. Another always-busy attraction on the square is the Gerbeaud House, a wonderful old-fashioned pastry shop owned by a Swiss family whose yummy delights have thrilled patrons for years. The cafe’s traditions go all the way back to 1858, when it was founded by Henrik Kugler. In 1884 Kugler joined hands with the Swiss confectioner Emile Gerbeaud. Gerbeaud became famous for his cakes and pastry, which are still made according to his original recipes. The interior is ornately decorated with marble tables and beautiful wall coverings and is large enough to hold about three hundred customers at a time. Be sure to stop here for coffee and pastries! Right in front of the Gerbeaud House is the first metro stop of the M1 metro line, the oldest metro line on the European continent. The line was built in 1894-1896. It starts here at Vörösmarty tér and today ends at Mexikói ut. Along the way it makes stops at some of Budapest’s most famous attractions, including the Opera House, Heroes’ Square and the Széchenyi Baths at Városliget. The underground metro stations have a delightful quaint charm. Nearby stands the Lion Fountain (Oroszlános kút), a popular meeting point. Children love to climb on the lion statues and tourists often rest on the fountain’s steps. The fountain was built in 1985 at the site of a well. It was created by László Wild and sculptor Ágnes Péter, who was responsible for the lion statues. The four stone lions surround an ornate iron lamppost, which dates from an earlier period. On another side of the square, you’ll find the Vigadó or concert hall, built in 1859-64, based on the designs of Frigyes Feszl  and thought to be an excellent example of Hungarian Romantic architecture. The hall has played host to many of the world’s most famous musical artists for more than a century. To the east Vörösmarty Square is bordered by a strikingly modern building, the Vörösmarty1 Office Center. It was designed by architect György Fazakas in cooperation with the French architect Jean-Paul Viguier. The glass-clad structure, which contrasts starkly with its environment, boasts a fourteen meter high atrium. Vörösmarty1 replaced the Communist-era ORI building, a structure in Socialist Realism style that was demolished in 2006.

In Budapest is much more to do and see, but only these 8 spots we managed to visit in 9 hours we had. What really sucked to be honest but maybe (hopefully) we’ll come back someday, book a hotel for a few days and explore it properly.

Enjoy the rest of your day 🙂

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