Heroes’ Square – Fisherman’s Bastion – Matthias Church – Buda Castle – Gellért Hill – St. Stephen’s Basilica – Vörösmarty square
Seven 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 actually 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 blankets, had picnics, 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. You can find creative things everywhere.
- Budapest is a city with a rich culture. It’s not only the theatres, libraries, museums etc; the culture means much to the people. If you are in a flat, you find many books, and even the poorer 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. The buildings are not renaissance, but neo-renaissance; not baroque, but neo-baroque. Not only one or two separate buildings are beautiful, but the whole image of the city makes you feel like if you were walking in the history.
- 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 trust her.
Now a little about those 8 spots
Heroes’ Square 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 19th century to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary in 895.
this is Városliget with an ice rink in front
At the center of the square stands the Millennium Monument, designed in 1894 by Albert Schickedanz and completed 35 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. It also contains 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.
Opposite the Museum of Fine Arts is situated the Palace of Art, another Greek-like temple that nicely complements the design of the Museum of Art. This palace is an exhibition hall, mainly used to host temporary exhibitions. The building is another creation of Albert Schickedanz: it has a magnificent facade with colossal gilded columns and the tympanum is decorated with colourful mosaic that shows St. Stephen as a patron of the arts.
The Fisherman’s Bastion is located right behind the Matthias Church in the another part of the city: the Castle District. It is one of the city’s biggest tourist draws and functions as some sort of ornate viewing platform. It 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.
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, 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.
Very little remains of the original church, only the foundations, columns and some walls date back to the thirteenth century. The interior of the Matthias Church is magnificently decorated with colorful patterns and motifs that were found on original stone fragments. One of the highlights inside is the main altar, decorated with a neo-gothic Triptych. 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, is home to a number of cultural institutions, including two museums: the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
an entire complex
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.
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 20th 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.
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 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, 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, 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.
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. It 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, 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.
you can see soldiers marching here from time to time
You can leave the castle via the Ferdinánd Gate near the tower.
view from a certain viewpoint in the courtyard
The about 140 meters high Gellért Hill is named for bishop Gellért Sagredo, known for his mission to spread Christianity throughout Hungary. 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. 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. 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”.
View from the hill. I forgot to take a photo of the monument. Sometimes I feel like I suffer from dementia.
Fifty years in the making, the Basilica of St. Stephen is Budapest’s largest church. It’s 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. 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 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.
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.
Worth of mentioning is a permanently busy attraction, the Gerbeaud House, a wonderful old-fashioned pastry shop owned by a Swiss family whose yummy delights have thrilled patrons for years. 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.
Nearby stands the Lion Fountain, a popular meeting point. Children love to climb on the lion statues and tourists often rest on the fountain’s steps.
On another side of the square, you’ll find the Vigadó or concert hall. The hall has played host to many of the world’s most famous musical artists for more than a century.
There’s certainly much more to see and do in Budapest, but if you’ve got only a couple of hours….these are all the essentials. And because it’s winter…don’t forget to bring ice skates (because in the City Park at Városliget is a huge ice rink), swimsuit (because of the hot water in Széchenyi Thermal Bath) and looots of money for the Christmas fair!
plus, look what we’ve found!!
Have a great day!