If you have ever considered visiting Hungary, Hacktivity Conference might be a good opportunity for you to see Budapest, meet the Hungarian IT security community & experience Hungarian hospitality and cuisine as well.
The capital of Hungary is situated along the Danube, in the heart of the Carpathian basin. Hilly Buda, which comprises one-third of the city’s area is located along the right bank of the Danube surrounded by low mountains. Across the river sprawls flat Pest. The geology of Budapest has played a determining role in the city’s life over the course of history. Hot springs breaking through limestone mountains supplying water of 35-76 degrees centigrade gave rise to a flourishing culture of spas in the Roman Age and made Budapest one of the most popular spa cities of Europe.
Below you have a sneak peek of what Budapest can offer.
Breathtaking views of the city and the Danube can be appreciated from several points in the Buda Hills. The most amazing is that from Gellért Hill, but the views from Buda Castle are also pretty spectacular.
The beauty of the fascinating neo-gothic Hungarian Parliament on the bank of the Danube River can be appreciated from either close or the other side of the river. When you visit Budapest, it is also worth dedicating some time to visit the interior. The Assembly Hall is simply marvelous, it’s quite often said in Hungary that we wish our politicians deserved this beautiful working place. By the way, the Hungarian crown jewels can also be found in the Parliament building.
There’s no building that represents better the turbulent history of Hungary than the neo-baroque palace on top of the Castle Hill. Occupied and destroyed several times, now it’s the heart of the Budapest World Heritage Site.
NATIONAL THEATER OF PALACE & ARTS
The new National Theater of Hungary and the Palace of Arts were built at the beginning of this new millennium, and they show a more modern side of Budapest. Both these modern buildings and the memorial park in the surroundings deserve some exploration, and walking here is one of my favorite things to do in Budapest.
Amongst the major attractions of the city we find the thermal baths, and the city is addressed with the title “City of Spas” amongst the visitors. There are as much as 15 public thermal baths in the city, most of them in beautiful buildings like the Hotel Gellért or the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. What I find the most amazing thing to do in Budapest is to try the exterior part of these spas in winter, when the thermal baths are surrounded by a vapor cloud because of the freezing temperatures.
One of the most pleasant things to do in Budapest, if you want get away from crowded places, is a walk in the City Park, the largest green area in central town. Apart from the tranquility of this wooded area, you can find many not so frequented tourist sights here, such as the Vajdahunyad Castle with a small pond around or the statue of Anonymus, the first Hungarian medieval chronicler.
The neo-gothic Matthias Church that served as a wedding church in the glorious era of King Matthias is well worth a visit both from the outside and on the inside. The peculiar colored roofs and interior decorated with artistic glass walls and beautiful frescoes all contribute to the charming character of the building.
The neoclassical Hungarian National Museum, which is the main museum of Hungarian history, is mostly remembered for its role in the Hungarian revolution of 1848-49. On 15th March 1848 the 12 points were read on the steps of the museum, which was the first act of the revolution against the Habsburg Empire. The museum has become a symbol of our national identity, so if you close your eyes, you might imagine yourself in the middle of a revolutionary march.
BRIDGES OVER THE DANUBE RIVER
Budapest is also famous for the beautiful bridges over the Danube, which connect hilly Buda with flat Pest, the two significantly different parts of the city, which were actually two cities till 1873. The most impressive one probably is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, but the others are also worth your time. Crossing the bridges lets you see the city and the Danube from a different perspective, so it’s really one of the great things to do in Budapest.
The neo-gothic style Fisherman’s Bastion is the most beautiful lookout terrace in the Castle Hill area. It consists of seven towers, representing the Hungarian 7 clan leaders who brought the Hungarian people to their actual homeland. The views of both Pest and the Danube are amazing from here.
ST. STEPHEN’S BASILICA
The neoclassical St. Stephen’s Basilica, the principal church of Hungary, is an impressive building from the outside, which can be contemplated from the square in front of it. The interior decoration with mosaics is also precious, but the main attraction on the inside is the mummified right hand of St. Stephen, the first Hungarian Catholic king. The hand has been kept in the church and it’s taken out for a procession on 20th August every year to commemorate the foundation of the country.
Citadella is an U-shaped fortress located on the strategic Géllert Hill, also on the Buda side. The fortress was initially built as a place of surveillance by the Habsburg Monarchy after the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, to keep the rebellious city under control. Although the fort had 60 cannons, it was never a working fortification, but rather a threat for those who might think of.
JEWISH QUARTER & SYNAGOGUE
The Dohány Street Synagogue is situated in the heart of the Jewish Quarter in Budapest. This impressive synagogue is known to be the largest one in Europe. The neighborhood around is one of the most vibrant ones in the city with dozens of bars (some of them in building ruins), which provide a really cool atmosphere, especially in summer, when the terraces are filled with people. Who hasn’t heard about the Szimpla, one of the favorite bars of European travelers.
The Hungarian State Opera House, one of the gems of the neo-renaissance architecture of the Austria-Hungary era is a beautiful building and it’s worth taking a guided tour to visit the concert hall, even if you can’t get to attend an actual performance. When you visit Budapest, if you feel attraction to this genre, don’t miss out on attending an opera here, since the acoustics of the building is considered one of the best ones in the world and the program is really top class.
There are certain historic monuments or activities that you can skip when you visit Budapest, but spending some time on Margaret Island should be really on the top of your list of things to do in Budapest. It is easily accessible by tram, there are some interesting medieval ruins on the island, facilities to do sport, bars to have a drink in one of the terraces, but the best thing to do is to find a spot on one of the green areas and enjoy a picnic there.
ANDRÁSSY AVENUE & HEROES’ SQUARE
Andrássy Avenue is another one of Budapest’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which features beautiful mansions on both sides (many of them foreign embassies nowadays) along with fancy restaurants, cafés and luxury shops. The avenue leads you to the magnificent Heroes’ Square, where you can find the Millennium Memorial built for the 1000 year anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin. The monument features statues of the most important personalities of Hungarian history, many kings amongst them. For art lovers, the Museum of Fine Arts situated on one side of the square also deserves some time, the Spanish collection with paintings of Goya and Velazquez is especially attractive.
BOAT TRIP ON THE DANUBE
The Danube literally cuts Budapest in half, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the possibility of seeing the most fascinating sights from the river itself? Hence, one of the things to do in Budapest that I can really recommend you is hopping on a boat, and enjoying Budapest from the Danube. Since quite recently there has been boats integrated into the public transport network, which represent the most budget option.
If you want an immersion into local culture, when you visit Budapest, a great way is to visit one of the many markets of the city. The Central Market Hall with its beautiful building is probably the most frequented one amongst tourists, and although there is a quite extensive part that sells Hungarian souvenirs, most of the market still serves as a local market.
RIDE ON TRAM #2
When you visit Budapest for the first time, if you want to enjoy perfect views of the Buda Hills and the Danube, there’s no better option than taking this tram, which was chosen to be one of the 10 most amazing tram routes of the world, and it is available using a normal public transport ticket. An amazing deal!