Budapest is one of my favorite cities in Europe to photograph. The variety of architectural styles from Roman to Turkish in unmistakable and unique. I’ve spent nearly two months spanning every other day, photographing the cityscape between the two districts of Buda and Pest.
Here are my favorite places to take amazing photographs in Budapest.
Hint: At any time you can refer to the BUDAPEST PHOTOGRAPHER’S MAP to find the locations.
1 – Gellert Hill
There’s a huge fortress on top of Gellert Hill and it’s one of my favorite places to shoot sunsets in Budapest. You get a sweeping panoramic view of Buda and Pest. The Sun just happens to set below Buda Castle and if there happen to be clouds, you end with some pretty amazing and dramatic skies. It’s also a great place to catch the blue hour for dramatic nighttime shots. One side the view of Liberty Bridge and the other has a view of the Szechenyi Chain Bridge – you’re never short on interesting subjects to shoot.
The hike up is fairly mild and minimal and it’s one of the few places that offer decent vantage points in the country (Hungary is very flat). There’s a convenient stop on the metro on Gellert hill. Once you get off the subway you can see the massive Gellert Hotel (also cool to shoot) and directly to the right is Gellert Hill. You can either wind your way up from this side with some unmarked trail or approach it via the Danube on Elizabeth Bridge over some a few flights up the stairs.
Ideally, you want to use a good wide-angle telephoto lens like the Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Zoom Lens or the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens. A sturdy travel tripod like a Davis & Sanford Carbon Fibre Compact Tripod is also ideal.
2 – Fisherman’s Bastion
The one cool thing about this place is the amazing architecture. Plucked straight out of a fairytale book, the Fisherman’s Bastion should provide excellent photos. There’s a good view of the Budapest skyline and you can even see the Parliament building on one side of the walls. The high arched windows and gothic style walls make great complimentary foreground to the already beautiful Pest backdrop.
You’ll find yourself wandering in the terraces and perhaps lost in thoughts as you marvel at the incredible Matthias church. Walking along its vaulted walls and ramparts and you can see the Danube and the Parliament building down below.
3 – The Buda Castle
This castle has some interesting history. It was built to fend off Mongol attacks in the thirteenth century. The foundations of the current castle were laid out in the fourteenth century all in Romanesque style and completed in 1356. Later on, it was replaced and expanded with a Gothic style making one of the grandest palaces in Europe.
You can’t go out of Buda Castle without taking cool pictures. It’s one of Budapest’s leading postcard landmarks. You can shoot this from up close or from afar across the Danube. The view of the castle walls is epic as well.
4 – Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Budapest has many cool spots to photograph but the Chain Bridge is the most photogenic. At the time of its inception, the Chain Bridge was considered to be one of the nth wonders of the world.
Crossing the bridge is just a short walk and no matter which direction you face, you’re sure to get an awesome view of whatever it is you want to photograph. Ideally, you would want to visit in the evening when the bridge lights up and the reflection on the Danube turns the river blue. You’ll need a sturdy tripod and a Cable Release for the long exposure.
5 – Szimpla Kert
Ruin bars is one of the coolest things to check out in Budapest – It’s unique only this city. Out of all the Ruin Bars, Szimpla Kert is the most well-known. It’s a very grungy dive bar but in a deliberate way. Punk rock props and paraphernalia litter the stairs and hallways. The Graffiti filled walls make it ideal to go crazy with your camera for some creative shots.
There are many craftsman shops offering interesting knickknacks and a hookah bar where you would chill be able to at in case you’re not testing the beers at the different bars on the second and first floor.
A tripod isn’t ideal in this place as it can get very crowded. A good flash like the Altura Flash might come in handy as well as a good high ISO camera for those dark interior hallways.
6 – The Parliament Building
The Budapest Parliament was built in part to commemorate the freedom of Hungary from Austria. As a testament to their freedom, the Hungarians built the landmark in a competition for the architectural design. The building is massive and worth a visit and taking pictures inside. But this place is great to photograph across the Buda side of the Danube.
You can catch it in great light in the Fisherman’s Bastion and Buda Castle. But the best place to shoot it is directly across. It’s better to shoot it early in the morning where the river is calmer and with less traffic from tour boats.
7 – The Liberty Bridge
The Liberty Bridge is one of the oldest bridge in Budapest. Built between 1849 and 1896 in steampunk style with the green color and overly ornate decorations. It lights up the Danube at night and the blazing illumination makes it an amazing object to photograph. Shooting this bridge during the Blue hour on top of Gellert Hill is ideal, but walking up and down its streets on a late afternoon can produce some creative ideas as well.
This structure, as well, was built from a design completion in 1893. It connects Buda and Pest in Art Nouveau style and should give you plenty of creative ideas for a cool photograph.
8 – Heroes’ Square
The Heroes’ Square is my favorite spot to shoot during the Blue Hour on the Pest side. Located at end of the famed Andrassy Avenue, this historic complex of statues deserves a few visits and snaps with your camera. Representing celebrated leaders and Hungary’s historic Seven Chieftains, the elegant memorial is a hotspot for tourists. But don’t let this dissuade you, it’s still worth it for the postcard shots and if you’re willing to wait, the crowd dies down when the sun comes down.
Ideally, you want to shoot this place with a tripod during the blue hour or sunset. You can shoot the Vajdahunyad or the Szécsényi Baths nearby while you’re waiting for a sunset or dusk. If you like the slow-moving clouds effect, use a variable ND filter like the B&W ND.
9 – Vajdahunyad Castle
Just behind the Heroes’ Square are a strange castle and a man-made lake where you can bike pedal on plastic ducks. The place, for the lack of a better way to describe its aesthetics, is plasticky. Built during the millennial celebration to commemorate a thousand years since the Magyars first settled in Hungary. The castle, originally built out of cardboard wood, became such a hit that it was upgraded to real stone later.
This is spot provides a decent distraction for your camera when you’re waiting around for good light at the Heroes’ Square. Maybe it doesn’t provide the most postcard-perfect representation of Budapest but it’s certainly entertaining to try to make it on a photograph.
10 – St. Stephen’s Basilica
The interior of this Cathedral is tough to shoot without a tripod and unfortunately, not allowed inside either. This is the biggest church in Budapest, with amazing murals and gold inlays inside. It’s surprisingly more photogenic inside than it is outside. There’s technically no fee to go inside but there’s this sort of unspoken donation requirement that you feel like you have to pay at the booth as you enter the door, it’s cheap though at $.50 an entry.
I’ve gotten away with a tripod inside by intermingling with tourists. Just be very discreet about it and pretend you didn’t see the signs if you get caught.
11 – The Shoes on the Danube Banks
This spot is kind of eerie and sad at the same time. Located near the Parliament Building and the Academy of Sciences on the banks of the Danube, the shoes are easy to find amongst the gathering of crowds. It’s often crowded and can provide challenges for photography when it’s swarmed with tourist.
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The memorial contains sixty pairs of metal shoes scattered along the Danube River. Each pair of shoes mimicked the original WW2 pairs from the original owners. They represent the shows of Budapest Jews, massacred by Nazis between 1944 and 1945. The victims had to take their shoes off, being the most valuable belonging at the time, right before they form a line to get shot.
A shallow depth of field is ideal here. I’ve tried shooting it with narrower DOF and my photos didn’t look right. You might have better luck.
12 – Széchenyi Thermal Baths
To get decent pictures of this place you will need to pay the entrance. I’m not personally privy to paying the fee and there’s really only a few spots to get a decent snap of the place for free, on the left wing.
Budapest is home to many thermal baths and the Széchenyi Bath is one of the most popular. Perhaps you’ll have better luck for dramatic shots in the winter as crowds of people often dominate the scene. The location is close to the Heroes’ Square so you can use this spot as filler while you’re waiting for the ideal light.
13 – The Great Market Hall
The Great Market Hall is a very touristy spot. It’s the biggest market in Budapest and one of the oldest. This place is good to pass time during the harsh daylight hours outside. The Liberty Bridge is close by so you can photograph this place while waiting for good light.
There you have it. There are probably other places you can shoot and probably take good photos not mentioned here. But these spots, in my opinion, are the best spots to take amazing photographs of Budapest.
Here is a convenient map of where I’ve photographed these places: BUDAPEST PHOTOGRAPHER’S MAP.