Exceptional buildings in Budapest
There is no doubt that Budapest has amazing, exceptional buildings, wonderful sights to see, including two UNESCO World Heritage sites (Andrassy Avenue and the Danube with the Buda Castle and the Parliament), the pampering-healing baths in Budapest, the wide range of museums in Budapest, the various churches in Budapest, like the big Catholic Basilica, or the grandiose Jewish Synagogue, and of course the markets in Budapest – full of flavours and colours.
Besides baths, museums, churches and markets, however, there are some well-known and popular tourists attractions in Budapest that are somehow special architecturally or historically. But which are these truly exceptional buildings – often off the beaten tourist track?
Just to mention but a few of the buildings among the top tourist attractions:
Buda Castle – Royal Palace on the Castle Hill (the hilly Buda side of Budapest) – although surrounded by thick medieval walls, the Buda Castle area is open and free to enter 24/7. The buildings themselves on the other hand host various national museums and art galleries (entrance fees are affordable), but one of the best feature is that there are several Budapest festivals in the Castle area all year round (Arts & Crafts, Palinka, Wine etc.), and you can take beautiful photos of excellent statues scattered around the castle court yard.
Fisherman’s Bastion: often likened to the castle logo of Walt Disney due to its neo-gothic turrets, towers, ramparts washed in white (built between 1895 and 1902, could have inspired the king of cartoon films). There is nothing military about the decorative mock bastion, rather it is an amazing look out tower and terrace: the best panoramic view you in Budapest – for free (at least some of the turret basements are free to enter, others are reserved for a restaurant with apparently the most gorgeous view…)
Parliament: the Hungarian Parliament by the river Danube, facing the hills on the Buda side, amazing luxury in its interior, majestic neo-gothic exterior, unparalleled river view
Opera House, Budapest – a true gem, a 19th century opera house, luscious in style, great in acoustics, super cheap tickets for the balcony (and affordable tickets for the stalls)
Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest – the castle is in the City Park in Budapest, close to Szechenyi Baths and the Museum of Fine Arts on the Heroes square. Vajdahunyad Castle is an architectural showcase amalgamating several famous buildings all over Hungary into one big interesting castle. The Museum of Agriculture resides in the Vajdahunyad Castle. It is free to enter the courtyard of the castle but there is a cheap entrance fee for the museum.
Vaci utca is a pedestrian only shopping zone, with 19th century houses flanking the sreet full of leading brand shops, second hand antiquities, restaurants, galleries, and more. Vaci street is running parallel with the river Danube, from the picturesque Vorosmarty ter to the much favoured Central Market Hall.
Art Nouveau Buildings & Sights in Budapest
- Gellert Spa Baths – a breathtaking interior with world famous Art Nouveau design (think of Gaudi and Tiffany mixed up in an underwater aquatic style), plus an equally unprecedented thermal spa bath with wellness facilities, indoor and outdoor pools (bath tickets are definitely not cheap)
- Gresham Palace – it would sum up much that the Gresham Palace is the home of the number 1 luxury hotel in Budapest, ‘Four Seasons Hotel Budapest Gresham Palace‘ Gresham Palace is an outstanding example of Art Nouveau style in Hungary (think of Tiffany lamps in architecture and interior design)
- Museum of Applied Arts – a truly unique building and fine example of Hungarian Art Nouveau. Although the Museum of Applied Arts is slightly off the city centre and the major Budapest attractions, it is in fact very easily available with the M3 blue metro line (about 15 min from the heart of the city, Deak square)
- Hungarian State Treasury (Magyar Allamkincstar – originally the building of Posta-takarekpenztar designed by the great architect of Art Nouveau in Hungary, Odon Lechner). If your Budapest walks should take you nearby, don’t miss to marvel at the beauty of the building.
- Bedo House (Bedő Ház) – amazing Art Nouveau apartment block built in 1903, Hungarian Secessionist interiors, Art Nouveau Café, worth a visit for its unique decoration.
Further Amazing Buildings & Structures in Budapest
Nyugati Train Station – literally the ‘West Railway Station’ (Nyugati Palyaudvar) – built in 1877 by the Paris-based Eiffel Company. The steel and glass structure is very impressive, more like a modern airy palace than a train station. Right next to Nyugati Train station there are very nice restaurants, and one of the biggest shopping malls (West End City). The building (Nyugati) on the south side is home to one of the world’s most elegant McDonald’s with a surprisingly acceptable cafe within the usual take away.
Hospital in the Rock (Sziklakorhaz) – The Rock Hospital uses part of the Castle Hill cave network. It was originally built to be a bunker and was used extensively during the siege of Budapest WWII. The Rock Hospital contains original hospital equipment, 70 wax figures, and is a real Cold War–era nuclear bunker. An extreme historical experience for historians, adults, children and video gamers alike.
Gul Baba’s Tomb. The Tomb of Gul Baba is an Islamic monument from the 16th century when Buda Castle and the whole city in fact was occupied by the Ottoman Turks (the same Turkish people who built the now famous Turkish Baths in Budapest)
Cave Church (Sziklatemplom)
The Cave Church in Budapest is literally built into the cave system of the Gellert Hill, right next to the fascinating Gellert Baths and the Danubius Hotel Gellert. It is still an active church with several cave weddings. There are some nice handcarved woodwork items on display. The entrance fee is very cheap as is the accompanying audio guide.
Janos Hill Lookout Tower Janos Hill (Janoshegy) is a smaller hill quite close to the city of Budapest. It has a beautiful lookout tower, called Elisabeth Lookout Tower (after the Austrian Sissy, much loved by Hungarians). If you like nature, or are looking for family events, it is not to be missed: allow half a day for this exhibition, which is great fun for people (adults and children) in average condition (not suitable for people with mobility problems). You will slightly pant to get to the top of the tower on the hill, but there is an excellent view of Budapest city. The extra fun is the various options to get to Janos Hill (metro, then tram, then cog wheel, plus you can take a nostalgic train ride on the Children’s Railway up on the hill). Prepare with a picnic box.
Kerepesi cemetery It may sound a bit strange to visit a cemetery as a tourist sight, but there are many spiritual places that are well worth a visit in big cities, like Paris’ Pere Lachaise, Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass (or Romsey Mill Cemetery in Cambridge, UK for that matter), Venice’s San Michele, or Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague. Now think of Kerepesi cemetery more like an outdoor statue museum in a beautiful park.
There are several bridges connecting the two sides of Budapest (Buda and Pest), probably the two most famous of them are the iconic Chain Bridge (right at the foot of the Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side and by the Gresham Palace on the Pest side). The other beautiful bridge is the recently restored Liberty Bridge spanning between the Central Market Hall and the Gellert Baths (and Danubius Hotel Gellert).
Modern Buildings in Budapest
While most of the world famous Budapest attractions are from the 19th century, there are many amazing modern buildings, fine examples of contemporary architecture in Budapest. To mention but a few, take a look at the following buildings: Lanchid Hotel by the Chain Bridge,