Explore the fascinating past and dynamic present of Hungary’s capital.
Day 1: Historic Buda
First, get your bearings. The Danube follows a roughly north-south route through the middle of the city, separating Buda from Pest. On the Buda (west) side of the Chain Bridge, ascend via funicular to Castle Hill. In the monumental Royal Palace, visit the Budapest History Museum to put the rest of your visit in context. Stroll Buda’s lovely winding streets to Matthias Church, where you can admire the lavishly frescoed interior and the Hungarian crown jewels. Outside you’ll find Fisherman’s Bastion with its whimsical turrets and sensational views of the city. Still got energy? Head back south to Gellert Hill, a charming landscaped hillside full of impressive monuments.
Day 2: Heroic Pest
Start at Heroes’ Square, where notable Hungarians are celebrated on an impressive scale. If you’re up for art you’re just next door to the Museum of Fine Arts, otherwise head through City Park (detouring via the whimsical Vajdahunyad Castle) to the grand Széchenyi Baths, where you can soak in warm therapeutic waters all year round. From the park, head back to the center via the showcase boulevard Andrassy Ut. Visit the museum dedicated to local boy Franz Liszt on a route which also takes you past the lavish Opera House, before arriving at the enormous dome of the Basilica of St. Stephen. From there head to the extraordinary Neo-Gothic Parliament, which occupies an imposing position on the Danube.
Day 3: Statues and Synagogues
Contemplate the mysterious workings of history at Statue Park; this graveyard of Soviet Communism is a bit of a trek, but it’s well worth seeking out. Once back in town, pick up a snack at the Great Market Hall, visit the enormous Central Synagogue (Europe’s largest) then head to the river to take in the scenic Danube Promenade. This will take you back to the Chain Bridge; relax after your journey with a fine Hungarian wine in the magnificently restored Gresham Palace, now a Four Seasons Hotel.