Budapest – the capital of Hungary, a small yet colourful country in the heart of Europe. It is often called “City of Spas” or “Queen of the Danube” as the Danube river flows through this city which is famous for thermal baths, splitting it into two halves. Budapest derived its name on 17 November 1873 when it became a single city occupying both banks of the river Danube with the unification of Buda and Óbuda (Old Buda) on the west bank, and Pest on the east bank.
This blog post will introduce some must-go historical tourist sites in Budapest, scattered around both Buda and Pest.
BUDA – the west hilly side
Image: the Fishermen’s Bastion
The Fishermen’s Bastion (Halászbástya), which is located in the first district, is often the first destination for tourists visiting Budapest. This place derived its name as it was protected by the guild of fishermen during Middle Ages. Although the buildings look medieval, they were actually built in the 20th century by Frigyes Schulek to complement Mátyás Church. The fairytale turrets here render an elevated vantage point, allowing the tourists to look out over Pest. There are seven turrets, which represent the seven Hungarian tribes who founded the present day country in 895.
Image: Gellért Hill and the Statue of Liberty
Gellért Hill (Gellért hegy) is visible from almost everywhere in Budapest. On its peak there is the Freedom Monument, which is also called the Statue of Liberty (Szabadság Szobor). It was built in the Communist era to commemorate the freedom from Nazi’s movement. Apart from the Statue of Liberty, there is also Citadel (Citadella) which is a fortress that was built by the Habsburgs after 1849. Gellért Hill is one of the city’s most impressive landmarks and the panoramic views of the city of Budapest here will never disappoint you.
The Chain Bridge
Image: Chain Bridge at night
The Chain Bridge (Lánchíd) in Budapest links Buda and Pest. It is considered a historical monument as it the first permanent connection between Buda and Pest and is a fitting monument to István Széchenyi – known as the ‘Greatest Hungarian’. The bridge was designed by William Tierney Clark and constructed by Adam Clark, who were British and Scottish respectively. During World War II the bridge was destroyed almost completely, leaving behind only its pillars. Later construction work took place and the bridge was finally used again in 1949.
PEST – the east flatter side
Image: The Hungarian Parliament building
Located at the 5th district on the left bank of the river Danube, the parliament building in Budapest is often a postcard favourite. It is the third largest parliament building in the world, built in the neo-Gothic style. There are 691 rooms, chambers and halls in this magnificent building with 268m in length. The dome is 96m above water level, in honour of the conquest of the later Kingdom of Hungary in 896 and the nation’s millennium in 1896. In order to visit the interior of the parliament building, tourists must join an organized sightseeing tour offered in various languages.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Image: St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in the city of Budapest. Interestingly, it’s dome has the same height of the Parliament, which is 96m tall. It was named after the founder of the Hungarian Christian state, Szent István (St. Stephen). Consecrated in 1905, this enormous church is visible from many points around the city. It was built in neo-Renaissance style and many relics of the Hungarians are kept here, such as the mummified hand (the Holy Right) of King St. Stephen. The church is open daily from 9am to 7pm except on Sundays which is from 7.45am to 7pm.
The Great Synagogue
Image: The Great Synagogue in Budapest
This synagogue, which is located in the 7th district of Budapest, is the largest synagogue in Europe. It was built in the Moorish Revival style, and its decoration was interestingly mainly based on Islamic models from North Africa and medieval Spain. The synagogue’s architect, Ludwig Förster, who was a Viennese, found that no distinctively Jewish architecture could be identified, and hence he chose “architectural forms that have been used by oriental ethnic groups that are related to the Israelite people, and in particular the Arabs. This large building can accommodate up to 3,000 worshippers. The Great Synagogue witnesses the struggle of Jewish community in this diverse city. The Jewish Museum can also be find here, and the Holocaust Documentation and Memorial Centre is an essential reminder of one of the darkest times in European history.
Image: The Heroes’ Square at night
The Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere) is located at the entrance to City Park in 14th District. It was built at the end of the nineteenth century to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary in 895. The central feature of Heroes’ Square is the Millennium Memorial, on top of which is a statue of the Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian Holy Crown and apostolic double cross. There are colonnades extending out to both left and right of the columns, between the pillars of them there are figures of the “greats” from the Hungarian history. The spectacular view in the Heroes Square also shows how proud the Hungarians are of their national history.