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Hi there! This post is the second part of the series Best Things to Do in Budapest. The first part is about Buda side, if you didn’t see the first one, click above and read it because there are a lot of must-see places on the Buda side of the city.
The pest side of the city is where you feel the underground vibe the city carries. Most of the attractions are on this side and basically all of the hipster things too.
Great Market Hall
This market has a splendid architecture, really tasty Hungarian food, souvenirs stalls and much more! It actually has a little of everything! Stroll along the hall to find some seasonal herbs and exotic spices. A lot of locals do their everyday shopping here, so you can feel a little more of the Hungarian culture.
It can be very crowded (we were there on Monday afternoon), but I already heard from friends, who went on Friday afternoon, that it was quite empty. So I think you just have to be lucky. The souvenirs weren’t expensive, like in the Váci Street, but I didn’t want to check the price of the food upstairs because, like I said, it was crowded up in there. Sorry, guys! But one thing I can say: it smelled good as OMG!
In front of the market starts (or ends?) the Váci Street. This old and fancy shopping street has 1km of very touristic shops. Also very famous for its expensive stores and restaurants. You can have a pleasant stroll here on this street until the Vörösmarty tér station.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Head to the St. Stephen’s Basilica. This impressive 96m high neoclassical construction is the third largest church in the country and it’s named after the first king of Hungary. It’s very big and gorgeous, I loved it!
You don’t pay to go inside – there’s a donation box though -, but if you want to climb to the top of the dome (open between April and October) you pay HUF 300 (around USD 1,15) for it. Fun fact: This is one of the 10 most photographed tourist attractions in the world!
Close to the basilica, we ate the typical Hungarian Goulash soup! I can say goulash is actually something between a soup and a stew. A delicious and simple soup of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers and beef. That was so tasty! I just love this kind of food!
Actually, I just love food! Haha! We had this typical dish at Mean Joe at Nádor utca 19. It wasn’t expensive at all, budget travelers! Yaaay! 2 goulash soups with bread, 3 half liter beers for HUF 6215 (around USD 24).
This imposing Gothic/ Renaissance Revival-styled building lies on the bank of the Danube River and it’s impossible not to see it. It’s not only the tallest building in Budapest but also the largest in Hungary. The construction took 109 years to be completed, so yeah trust me, it’s huge!
Fun story: I took many photos of it in all possible angles. That’s so true that my boyfriend told me his father did something very similar with a zeppelin in Germany: They were on a boat and his father saw a zeppelin far, far away, so he started taking pictures of it.
It was so far away that you couldn’t really see it in the photos, but he would take the shots anyway. This went on for quite a while, so after 50 photos or so the Zeppelin was close enough to make a decent picture! This was exactly what I did! Hahaha!
You can make a guided tour of the parliament building and see the interior of this impressive building! Or you can even enjoy the view from a boat tour during the day or a boat tour in the evening. In both cases, you’ll have an amazing view of Budapest!
I suggest buying the City Card if you’re planning to visit some museums. This card offers access to the public transport and discounts in the entrance price of many places. Or even free access to them.
How to get to the Parliament?
The Kossuth Lajos ter line 2 red is right next to it.
The Statue of Imre Nagy
Next to the Kossuth Square, Imre Nagy statue is staring at the parliament building. He was 2 times prime minister of Hungary and the second time was during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which I mentioned in the “History” section in the Part 1 post.
These events lead to his death as his non-Soviet government was pulled down with the Revolution’s failure. He became a symbol of freedom, even though his name wasn’t allowed to be mentioned during the Communism in Hungary.
People often compare Vienna and Budapest because of its architectural similarities. They say Vienna is prettier, but I’d say Vienna is cleaner. Budapest was oppressed by communism – while Vienna wasn’t – and many buildings still carry the scars of that time.
Like in the buildings across the parliament, their bullet holes are marked with iron balls. Remains of the Revolution of 1956.
Shoes on the Danube Bank
This is definitely a must-see among all things to do in Budapest, the Shoes on the Danube Bank! I always find the WW2 memorials very moving, but this one… it was really heartbreaking! It was built to honor all the people, including Jews, that were shot dead into the Danube River in Second World War.
They were ordered to take off their shoes, then they were shot at the edge of the water, so it could carry them away, leaving only their shoes behind. It’s located very close to the parliament building by the river.
Ps.: If you want to take pictures of these memorials, please, don’t take selfies or crazy/ funny photos of them! This is not supposed to be cool, it is supposed to be respected. I saw many people taking selfies like it was the Eiffel Tower…
The Great Synagogue of Budapest (Dohány Street)
This is the biggest synagogue in Europe and the second in the world (it fits 3000 people). It’s located in the Jewish Quarter and it’s named after the street. The Jewish Museum is also there.
There are many guided tours available in different languages, usually with a local who has a lot to share about his/her religion and family stories and why the synagogue is so important in Hungary and in the world. You can also see the Tree of Life in the garden, a monument for the Holocaust victims that has a name of someone who died on each leaf. It’s a very impressive tour for sure.
Near the tree there is an inscription of the Bible: “Whose pain can be greater than mine?”, and a brick from the ghetto with the word “Remember” on it.
You can visit the synagogue and the museum in a 90 minutes walking tour in the Jewish District, all inclusive in this price of the first link below. The second one is a walking tour of the ghetto and Synagogue, but entrance fee to the synagogue is not included in this price.
Well, like I said, this is based in the Jewish Quarter, where all the Jews of Budapest were forced to relocate until the Nazis would decide to send them to a concentration camp. As you can imagine, a lot of buildings were abandoned when the war was over and their ruins were all that was left behind.
Little by little in the beginning of 2000 pubs were opened in those ruins and courtyards. Now, almost 20 years later, the region is full of them: the famous ruin pubs of Budapest! I can’t stress this enough, please, visit one of them! You’ll thank me later for it!
House of Terror
Budapest is a gorgeous city, but it has a dark past…A few blocks away from where the ghetto was, lies the House of Terror. The name of this museum is fair to the things that happened here. The building was used by the Arrow Cross, the Hungarian fascist organization, to hold political prisoners and host executions.
Today the sad and disturbing museum exhibits many reconstructed cells/ rooms, a lot of information about the Hungarian Nazis and the communism in the country. I’d recommend renting the headsets, there is a lot of interesting information here.
Open daily (except Monday) from 10h to 18h.
The full ticket price costs HUF 2000 (around USD 7,70), there are a few exceptions though, you can read more on the House of Terror website.
The biggest and most symbolic square of Budapest. It celebrates the 1000 years old of the Magyars’ history, the tribes that founded the city. It’s this pillar with the Archangel Gabriel on top and the seven tribes’ leaders and the Prince Árpád around it. When the square was built, Hungary was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so the statues behind the pillar present Kings, important historical figures of Hungary and also members of the Habsburg Dynasty.
Head to the city park, which is just behind the square, to see the gorgeous Vajdahunyad Castle. It’s based on a Transylvanian gothic castle and it houses the Museum of Agriculture.
In this park, you will find one of the best things Budapest has to offer: a thermal bath! Budapest is very famous for its thermal baths, a result of the Turkish occupation, and after so much walking in the city, this is a really relaxing program! There are many thermal baths in the city, this one in the park is the biggest and the most traditional one, Szechenyi Thermal Bath. I wrote a special post about all you need to know about the thermal baths in Budapest.
Day-trips from Budapest
If you have some time left and want to spend a day in another European capital you have two very interesting options.
With a charming and vintage city center, Bratislava (photo on the left) is 2h40 away by train from Budapest. The return ticket costs around €17 (USD 20,40). If you’re wondering what things there are to do in Bratislava, please, read about my experience in this city in the link below and if you have any doubts, drop your question in the comments!
Imposing and the fanciest of these three cities (also the most expensive one), Vienna (photo on the right) is also 2h40 away from Budapest. The return ticket to the Habsburg’s city costs around €32, USD 38,40. We’ve been in Vienna for 3 days and in the post below I explain the best things to do in Vienna. Again, if you have doubts about what you should prioritize in a day-trip, drop your questions in the comments!
When to go to Budapest?
I’d say that between March – June and later between September – November. The climate in Budapest is humid continental, which means that summers are really hot, and winters, very cold, but the temperature isn’t really the problem. Tourists! Budapest is full, really full of tourists in the summer.
*The prices mentioned here might have changed when you read this.
So, you! Explorer of this beautiful world! Have you ever been to Budapest? Or are you planning to use this itinerary there? Either way, drop a comment below and let me know about your experience in this city! Also, share your tips with other travelers!
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