When I think of beautiful capitals, Budapest instantly comes to mind. With art nouveau architecture, beautiful parks, and a famous river make it one of the most remarkable places to visit. Split by the mighty Danube River and connected by the 19th Century Chain Bridge, the Buda and Pest district make up the complete whole of Budapest.
The distinctions between the two are apparent when you hop over from one side of the river to the other. Pest is where the action and nightlife is. You will see ruin bars, shops, and stacks of international restaurants as you walk through gritty alleyways and corridors.
Buda is the more upscale of the two districts with its baroque era buildings and quite pedestrian streets. This part of Budapest is unmistakably the one that graces the postcards and magazine covers. It is likely where the elite in society get lost and fade away from the worries of the other side.
When I first set foot on Buda my thoughts ran along the lines of: “Damn. This place is fucking cool!” It highlights the wealth of the once prosperous Austro-Hungarian Empire. Buda Castle, Fishermen’s Bastion, and Széchenyi chain bridge display this fact and is worth the price of admission. There is an epic panoramic view on Gelert hill that you have to check out if you are ever in Budapest.
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The castle district within Buda is undoubtedly the busiest with tourists and with good reason. Medieval and Baroque era architecture dominate the landscapes and skylines. Walking uphill towards the Fishermen’s Bastion exhibits the amazing views provided in Buda. Cascading gothic walls provide a stark foreground as you look on to the other side of the Danube.
The Buda Castle is where you can get awesome photos of the Chain Bridge and the Parliament building. You might have to dodge and weave your way through a swarm of tourists but the views are worth it. The Castle (with its impressive Baroque-style trimmings) is the seat of Hungarian kings in Budapest and you can see the wealth of the once mighty Austro-Hungarian empire on display
You can take the Castle Hill Funicular or simply walk up the various stairs leading up to the Castle’s ramparts. If you want a view of the Castle itself. You must make a short trek on over to the Gelert Hill or take the subway at Batthyany ter for one stop towards the Gelert hill exit.
Between the Fishermen’s Bastion, Buda Castle, and Gelert hill you should have all you can handle of the Budapest skyline in a day. The views are spectacular during dusk and during the blue hour when the city lights serve as a backdrop to a blue-tinted sky. The city lights itself illuminate the Danube river, transforming its brown and murky waters into the famed “Blue” that it is often portrayed as.
I must have spent 2-3 days out of every week in the two months I lived in Budapest exploring Buda. I would hop from one landmark to the other walking along the banks of the Danube. The long walks did not bother me. From District VII all the way to the other side of the Danube via the Liberty Bridge or the Chain Bridge. If you are into photography, Buda’s architecture laid out along the backdrop of the Danube will give you plenty to work with. A camera like the Sony A7ii with its high ISO performance does really well here for nightscapes.
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From the Pest side near the Chaine Bridge looking across the Danube, there are three landmarks that are distinguishable from one another. Castle Hill is the first you would see. It is where the Buda Castle is located. You can scramble to the Castle at your own pace or take the Funicular up. The first inhabitants found this place while escaping the Mongolian horde in the 13th century.
The next major attraction is the Fisherman’s Bastion. Sandwiched between the Buda Castle and Gellert Hill, the unique towers can be seen reaching above the skies. Its neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style is unmistakable. In the compound is Saint Matthias church is a cool architectural marvel set against the backdrop of Budapest.
Gellert Hill is named after Saint Gerard who was thrown to his death on the hill. In my opinion, the best views of the Budapest skyline is found here. The Buda Castle, Chain Bridge, Liberty Bridge, and the entire city of Budapest is entirely visible from this hill.
Low Key and Fancy
Buda is the very “low key” district as far as the ambiance goes. There is definitely not much going on except for its scenery and fancy buildings. There a mishmash of European (mostly Italian) restaurants right along the streets running parallel to the Danube. But if you’re looking for something different, Hanoi Vietnam (Budapest, Fő u. 71, 1027 Hungary) offers decent pho and other Vietnamese dishes. There is also a few quaint coffee shops if you decide to just chill and relax.
There isn’t a lot of cheap accommodations in Buda but you can find one just across the river in Pest. For under 10 dollars you can stay in a hostel like Flow Hostel, just located a few blocks from the Liberty Bridge. There’s also the Wombats Hostel if you’re into a slightly larger hostel.
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When you visit Budapest you will undoubtedly end up visiting several, if not, all the Landmarks in Buda. As you walk along its cobblestoned streets the acclaimed beauty of Budapest reveals itself in front of your eyes and you will realize just what the fuss is all about.