As the sun rose behind the hills, a trail of lights started to brighten up every street and alley framing the grandiosity of Budapest. Buda is the hilly area on the west bank of the Danube River while Pest is on the other side of the riverbank, the lowlands of the city.
Apart from the majestic Hungarian architecture, many tourists travel to Budapest to discover the remarkable history of this city. Budapest has emerged from the Habsburg ruling and survived both the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the break-in of Soviet communist after World War II.
I feel the best way to explore the city is to take a walk from one end to another by crossing the three main bridges: Elisabeth Bridge, Green Bridge and Chain Bridge. Along the way, you will explore various landmarks, the icons of Budapest.
If you are not an active walker, hop into the tram along the Danube river to fully explore Budapest.
Elisabeth Bridge from Gellért Hill
I started my journey from Buda, climbing up Gellért Hill to get the aerial view of the whole city. From here, you can see all the popular tourist attractions such as Fisherman’s Bastion, Royal Palace, the Parliament Building as well as the three main bridges.
Most people will climb the hill in the evening to enjoy the cold autumn breeze and catch the sunset at the peak. At night, the glittering city lights make a beautiful view from the hill, giving me a peace of mind from the hustle bustle of city life.
Green Bridge at night
The Royal Palace
People love to visit the Royal Palace, and I can understand why. As I walked towards the castle, I was impressed by the majestic architecture with a mix of Gothic, Medieval and Baroque elements. The palace was not complete during the Middle Ages and yet was damaged during the Ottoman Empire and World War II. After the communist regime left it abandoned, the palace went through multiple restorations efforts into what you can see today.
I also enjoyed my time in the national galleries and museums, learning more about the history and development of Hungary.
Fairytale Fisherman’s Bastion
Once my brain was overloaded with information, I left the palace for Fisherman’s Bastion. The massive neo-gothic buildings looked like they came out from any fairytale children books, like an old fantasy trail along the turrets, stairs and parapets.
The name Fishermen’s Bastion came from the fact that fishermen guarded this site during the Middle Age. What I loved about Fisherman’s Bastion was the panoramic view of the Pest across the Danube River. It was so enchanting and soothing to the soul.
Not far from the Fisherman’s Bastion is the majestic Matthias Church, one of the oldest churches in Budapest. Located right smack at the heart of Buda’s Castle complex, Matthias Church has held plenty of coronation events. When the Ottoman conquered the area, the church was turned into a mosque, but now, it serves as a chamber for classical concerts.
This is one of the most unique churches in Europe with vibrant neo-gothic architecture interior and exteriorly.
St Matthias Church
In the same complex of Buda’s Castle, there is a widely known secret of a must-visit traditional Hungarian bakery: the Ruszwurm Confectionary right in front of Matthias Church. This 200-year-old family-run cafe is a perfect place for your tea-break to soak in the view and watch passers-by while digging in to some cakes and strudel.
Strudel and ice-cream
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Situated across the Buda’s Castle district is where the first bridge built in Budapest — the Széchenyi Bridge or commonly knowns as Chain Bridge. The lion statues carved on each side of the bridge represent the bridge guardians. They are the start to your magical sunset in Hungary especially the bridge lights up its orange dims during the night walk.
Chain Bridge with Guarding Lions
While the Buda district is filled with tons of historical landmarks and nature, Pest offers another side of the city — vibrant nightlife with myriads of food options and entertainment. Nevertheless, Pest still holds a rich history that people often dismiss for its amazing food.
Remembering the Horrors of the Past
During the Arrow Cross terror, Danube River witnessed one of the tragic incidents that killed many lives. The shoes alongside the Danube riverbank are dedicated to 3,500 people that were shot death into the river by the Arrow Cross Militiamen from 1944 to 1945.
Holocaust Memorial Shoes
Pest also houses the old administrative building, not too far from the Danube Holocaust Memorial. It is still actively used for National Assembly till today. If there is no assembly in session, tourists are allowed to explore the building.
To get the best view of the Parliament building, take a shot from a cruise on the Danube or from across the river.
The Parliament Building
St Stephen Basilica
St Stephen Basilica, which rises 96m above ground, is one of the tallest buildings in Budapest. Standing equally tall with Parliament Building, it signifies the belief that both spiritual and civil administration hold the same importance. No other structure could rise above the Basilica or the Parliament.
St Stephen Basilica
The Largest Synagogue in Europe
Another site that I found interesting was The Dohany Street Synagogue, situated in the Jewish Quarter of the city. The largest synagogue in Europe (and the second largest in the world) is located in an asymmetrical site so that the Ark can face the East. It can hold up to 5000 people and is still used for major events until today.
The synagogue is located next to the Hungarian Jewish Museum where you can get some insight about the Jewish living in the Eastern Europe region. There are plenty of religious antiques as well as a Holocaust room. I was so excited to discover tons of information about Jewish culture in the region.
Dohany Street Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter
Suggested Places to Stay in Budapest
The Aquincum Hotel Budapest is located along the Danube in the Buda area. The strategic location makes it easy for me to explore the surrounding area on foot.
Tips for Muslim Travellers in Budapest
On halal food
• Worry not, there is a Turkish settlement in Hungary. Grab some Shawarma or Doner for good protein source.
• Plenty of good bakeries available. They are cheap, halal, and absolutely must-try while in Europe.
Paprikas csirke aka paprika chicken
• Some places for prayers include the Hungarian Islamic Community, the Masjid Taubah and the Budapest Masjid.