Budapest is most beautiful at dawn when the sun slowly rises from the plains. He draws around Pest with soft pastel light and scans the buildings of Buda like a powerful reflector. The windows on Castle Hill cast golden sparks. And Budapest also offers a dazzling sight at night. The Chain Bridge wears a string of lights, and public buildings, the Parliament, the Opera House, the Royal Palace, and the Castle Quarter are dressed in decorative lighting. It is easy for Budapest to play with the light like a noble lady with her jewelry because everything suits her. In the morning, in the evening, and during the day, when the city is alive and pulsating, visitors from other countries feel that something interesting is happening around every corner.
Several capital cities were built on the banks of rivers, and it is not unique that the waterway passes right through the historic center. But it is a rarity for the river to be as wide and as dignified as the Danube in Budapest. The unique feature is that the left and right banks are a perfect contrast to each other. Buda was built on mountains, and two of them, Várhegy and Gellért-hegy, almost “dangle their feet” into the water. Compared to them, Pest is as flat as the oven-baked flame bread of the city dwellers of centuries past. It is no exaggeration to say that Budapest is one of the most beautiful and beautifully located capitals in Europe. Among the values to be protected in Hungary, the Danube bank in Buda, from the Gellért Hotel to the Margit Bridge, and the Parliament to the Petőfi Bridge in Pest, were the first to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In 896, the conquering Hungarian tribes first inhabited the plains, then moved to the more defensible mountains. Buda has been a royal seat since the 13th century, with an ever-renewable and increasingly prestigious palace and the flourishing burgher city built around it. At that time, Pest was a city of merchants and craftsmen. 1872 is a particularly important date in the life of the city, the three separate settlements, Pest, Buda, and Óbuda were then united. Since then, the Hungarian capital has been officially called Budapest. The 19th century and the turn of the millennium are the golden age of Budapest when it develops into a world city.
Budapest, with a population of around 1.7 million, has been recorded countless times in the imaginary chronicles of the birds. The continent’s first underground was built here. There is no other European city that gave as many famous movie stars to Hollywood at the beginning of the 20th century as Budapest. The city was home to world-famous inventors – for example, the father of the electric locomotive, Kálmán Kandó, or one of the inventors of the match, János Irinyi – and artists. The two famous Hungarian composers, Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály lived in Budapest. And the Nobel Prize-winning Hungarian writer Imre Kertész was born here.
And it is hard to find a city where visitors can use as many different means of transport – trolley, tram, metro, bark railway, bus, cogwheel, cable car, small boat, cart, local interest railway, bicycle, or the Margaret Island bike carriage – as in Budapest. Let’s choose from them and set off on the world heritage trails. Then let’s travel a little further, increase the number of unique, special attractions, and visit the settlements and beautiful landscapes rich in historical memories around the capital.
Budapest’s number one tourist attraction
Unlike many capitals of Europe, the royal castle in Buda stands on a hilltop, as travelers who grew up in fairy tales expect. Budavári Palace can be seen from almost every part of the city, in its full beauty.
Not one castle was built on this site, but three. The first was in the 13th century, after the Tatar invasion, to defy enemy attacks with its stone walls. Few memories and descriptions of it have survived, but some sections of it have been found during archaeological excavations. The castle was first expanded in the Gothic style in the 14th century, and then during the reign of one of the most famous Hungarian kings, Mátyás, it became a Renaissance palace famous far and wide.
When the Turks captured Buda without a fight in 1541, the medieval buildings remained intact. However, subsequent sieges, fires, earthquakes, and powerful gunpowder explosions did a lot of damage to them. The city walls often had to be repaired, new bastions were built, and part of the castle’s fortification system, which is still visible today, dates from the Turkish era.
After the three-month siege that ended nearly 150 years of Turkish rule, the third era of castle construction came. The ruins were cleared, the cellars were filled, and in 1714 the construction of today’s baroque palace system began, which was further expanded in the 19th century. The royal palace burned down during the Second World War, and its valuable furniture and paintings were destroyed. After its renovation, the building became a cultural center. The Hungarian National Gallery is located here, and in its rooms, the art of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque era and the works of the most famous Hungarian painters are presented in a permanent exhibition. The palace complex is also home to the Budapest History Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Hungary’s main library, the Széchényi Library. The palace can also be reached by the special vehicle of the Castle District, the cable car that climbs up the mountain from the Danube bank.
A unique Buda attraction behind the gates
When the people of Budapest talk about the Castle, they think not only of the palace, but also of the medieval city built on Castle Hill, in whose charming squares, winding narrow streets, and promenades with great views. Some of the old houses are decorated with Gothic windows and door frames. It is worth looking into the courtyards and the long doorways, where you will find a unique sight in Buda, the medieval booths. Probably, the entourage of guests arriving at the house could wait on the stone benches of these recesses decorated with Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance stone arches.
Church of Royal Weddings
One of the most beautiful Gothic churches in the country stands next to the Holy Trinity statue erected in memory of the 1709 plague. The Church of Our Lady – or, as most people know it, Matthias Church – was founded by King IV. It was built during the reign of Béla. The later rulers all shaped something on it, added a tower, and a gate, and expanded the building, which at one time was also a coronation church. It got its most frequently used name from the famous Hungarian king Mátyás, who held two of his weddings here. It acquired its present form during the restoration at the end of the 1800s. Thanks to its excellent acoustics, organ and other classical music concerts are also organized in the church.
The richest collection of Hungarian wines
Another landmark of Szentáromság tér is the House of Hungarian Wines, where visitors can get acquainted with 450 wines from Hungary’s twenty-two historic wine regions in the hundreds of meters long cellar. Those who enter receive a small cup, and with this, they can go on a wine adventure and taste 70-80 types of wine on the spot.
The only bastion where soldiers never served
If we walk up to the Castle on the Danube side in the evening, the snow-white towers of the Fisherman’s Bastion, shining in the light, rise above us like so many sugar jars. The visitor imagines fairies between the walls, not city-defending warriors, even though the name of the bastion refers to them. However, the Fisherman’s Bastion never served defense purposes. In 1905, it was intended as a viewing terrace and a building that enriches the cityscape. It was built next to the medieval fish market, following the line of the former city walls surrounding Castle Hill. And what does it have to do with fishermen? In the past, it was the task of the fishing guild to ensure the protection of the section of the castle that stretches here.
An underground city of labyrinths
Residents of the northern and western slopes of Castle Hill can easily find a cave in their garden. It is even possible that there is a spring in the cave. The central and northern part of Várhegy is as full of holes as an Emmental cheese. In the past, the underground caves were formed by the erupting hot springs, which were then deepened by the people of the Middle Ages, and thus a real underground city was formed, with a system of corridors several kilometers long. During wars, it not only served as a hiding place but was also suitable for the undetected redeployment of forces.
In the Castle District, a part of the corridor system consisting of natural and artificial corridors, the Budavári Labyrinth, is open to visitors.
Special program – cave tour in the capital
Budapest can be described with many adjectives, and one of them is cave city. It is a unique phenomenon in the world that a special cave opens up in the immediate vicinity of multi-story residential buildings. Of these, everyone can visit the heavily protected Pálvölgyi cave, the third longest cave in Hungary, rich in stalactites. Groups are guided along the 500-meter hiking trail every hour. The 300-meter-long, now renovated section of the Szemlő mountain cave can also be visited. It is also a rarity in Europe that the entrance was designed in such a way that the disabled could also enter the cave.
The first permanent bridge between Buda and Pest
The Chain Bridge is the symbol of Budapest, the first permanent bridge in Hungary and the second on the entire stretch of the Danube.
At first, passengers were transported across the river, which bisects the important trade route, by boat, but already at the beginning of the 15th century, a bridge of ships stood on the water. In winter, it was possible to cross the frozen Danube on foot or by cart, but when there was ice, the connection between the two banks was completely cut off. István Gróf Széchenyi – who legendarily did a lot for the development of the country and the city – waited for a whole week in the freezing cold December of 1820 before he found a boatman who was brave enough to transport him from Pest to Buda between the moving ice sheets. He then announced that he would give his one year’s income to build a permanent bridge.
There was already a plan, it was created at the end of the 1700s, and the multi-pillar Károly Bridge in Prague served as a model. Later, however, a different technical solution was chosen. Count Széchenyi saw engineer William Clark’s chain bridge in England and asked him to design the first Hungarian bridge. The execution was entrusted to the English engineer’s namesake, the Scottish civil engineer Adam Clark. The Chain Bridge was handed over on November 20, 1849.
Those coming from the bridge had to bypass Castle Hill for a few years in order to continue their journey west. In 1853, they drilled through the mountain in seven and a half months, and then the 350-meter-long, ten-meter-wide, and high Tunnel was built. There are countless nice anecdotes about him, for example, that when it rains, they push your Chain Bridge in here so it doesn’t get wet. And oddly enough, the length of the Tunnel is exactly the same as that of the Chain Bridge opposite its entrance.
Automatic bridge-building hammer from the 19th century
According to superstition, when our ship passes under a bridge, we must make a quick wish and it will come true. In Budapest, we can have nine wishes. Along with the two railway bridges, 9 bridges span the Danube, the youngest of which is the recently built Lágymány bridge. In 1945, the retreating German troops blew up bridges in Budapest. Most of it could be rebuilt, but for example, the original Elizabeth Bridge – named after the popular Queen Elizabeth – was so badly damaged that a new one had to be built in its place. The beautiful cable-stayed bridge, whose construction was followed with excited attention by half the city, was completed in 1965. The Szabadság bridge, repaired after the World War, is the same as it was built in honor of 1896 millennium – the thousand-year anniversary of the conquest. Emperor and King Franz Joseph himself hammered the last nail into it, with a serious technical feat. The monarch didn’t pick up any tools, he pressed a button in the decorative tent set up in Pest, thereby starting a 45-ton hammer at the bridgehead in Buda. This is how the last rivet made of silver was put in place. Then he disappeared. It must have taken some bravery to get it out. Now a glass plate protects the successor, which is no longer silver.
Budapest’s most beautiful park is an island
The seven-pillar Margaret Bridge, Budapest’s second permanent bridge, was built in 1876 based on French designs. At its middle pillar, it branches off to Margitsziget. This is the most beautiful park in the capital. After the Tatar invasion, several monastic orders moved to the protected area of Nyulak island, which was built in IV. It was named after King Béla’s daughter Margit, which is still used today. In 1252, the saintly princess came to the then-built monastery with Dominican nuns and lived there until her death.
Margitsziget was a royal hunting ground, and from the 19th century, it became the capital’s 100-hectare recreation park. They hide huge wooden sports fields, a swimming pool, the capital’s largest open-air beach, an open-air stage, and spa hotels. There is no car traffic on the island – which can also be reached by small boat – but family bicycles and the popular bike carriages can be rented. The island is connected to Pest and Óbuda by the Árpád Bridge in the north.
The Roman city
The Romans built the center of the province of Pannonia in the area of today’s Óbuda. The border of the empire was the line of the Danube. The predecessor of Budapest two thousand years ago was the military camp city of the Roman era, and next to it, the city of craftsmen and merchants serving the soldiers, Aquincum. The ruins of the former military amphitheater can be seen in Óbuda. Two kilometers from here, you can see the streets of the center of the ancient city and the remains of its houses.
A metropolis was born quickly
From the middle of the 19th century, Budapest was burning with construction fever. Unlike other capitals of Europe, which were shaped into a metropolis by long historical periods, Budapest suddenly became a world city in 40-50 years, and it was then that the cityscape that can still be seen for the most part was formed. All this was due not only to the economic development that started at the beginning of the century but also to such a sad event as the flood of 1838, which destroyed thousands of buildings in Pest. A modern, new city was built in their place. Boulevards and boulevards were created, and only a few bold thinkers thought of making the Nagykörút navigable again, where a tributary of the Danube once flowed.
In the 1840s, the great invention of the time, the first gas lamp, appeared on the wall of the National Museum. After barely a decade, the first gas factory in Pest, which was built in the meantime, powered nearly 10,000 gas burners and street lamps. A few years later, the first waterworks started operating. At the turn of the century, Budapest, boasting its new Opera House, bridges, and Parliament, caught up with its eternal rival, Vienna.
The Parliament’s unique air conditioning
The city planners and builders of the second half of the 19th century liked splendor and rich decoration. Proof of this is one of Europe’s most beautiful parliaments on the Danube bank in Pest. The eclectic building is a unique art collection of its time with its Gothic towers, stone spires, 88 sculptures decorating its exterior, baroque staircase, frescoes, mosaic windows, tapestries, and paintings.
At the end of the 1800s, the cooling system of the Parliament was unique. There were two fountains in the square in front of the building, where the inlets of the tunnels ensuring air exchange were hidden, and thus water-cooled air entered the meeting rooms. The cooling tunnels were later walled up, but some of the old air ducts can still be used today. If a large amount of ice is brought here in a heat wave, it can cool the air.
With two on the world heritage route
In front of the Parliament, on Kossuth square, you can also get on tram number 2, which is also excellent for sightseeing. From its windows, we can see parts of Buda and Pest protected as world heritage. The tram goes on the Danube bank in Pest to the Chain Bridge, Roosevelt Square. The beautiful neo-Renaissance building of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, built in the sixties of the 19th century, stands here.
In its neighborhood, we find one of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings, the Gresham Palace. The capital’s largest apartment building, measuring 12,000 square meters, was built in 1907 by the English insurance company Gresham. After the First World War, a coffee house was opened on the ground floor. In the twenties and thirties of the last century, progressive-minded intellectuals and artists from the capital met here. The most elegant luxury hotel in the city operates in the recently renovated palace.
The continent’s first underground
When it opened for traffic in 1896, it was the continent’s first underground – and second only to London. It took its passengers from the City Center to the City Park in just ten minutes. The six-meter-wide tunnel is divided in two by riveted iron columns, the time-honored stations, the wooden ticket booths and the walls covered with ceramic bricks still evoke the atmosphere of the turn of the century. However, the old cars that served for more than eighty years can only be seen in the museum. When the subway was built in Budapest, the underground – which runs just a few meters below street level – was nicknamed the “small underground” by the whole city.
The most beautiful work of urban planning
It follows the line of the most spectacular avenue in underground Budapest. Andrássy út is a late 19th-century masterpiece of planned urban construction. This is one of the main roads of the Pest theater world. Not only because the imposing, terraced Opera House, adorned with statues and columns can be seen here, but also because the popular Operetta Theater and several prose theaters operate in the nearby cross street. Liszt Ferenc tér, next to Oktogon, has become a popular entertainment spot for the citizens of the capital in the last few years. One after another, coffee houses, club-like restaurants offering the flavors of national cuisine, music pubs, and jazz clubs opened. In the summer, the tables move out into the square, and half the town has fun and relaxes here.
The Grand Prize Archangel
Andrássy út runs opposite the main figure of one of the best-known Hungarian sculpture groups, the Millennium Monument, onto Hősök Square. The construction of the monument began in 1896. In its center, on the 36-meter-high Corinthian column, stands a 5-meter statue of the Archangel Gabriel, holding the Hungarian Holy Crown in his right hand and the apostolic double cross in his left – just as, according to legend, he appeared in the dream of the Hungarian king who founded the state. The statue received a Grand Prix prize at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. On its base, there is an equestrian statue of the leaders of the seven conquering Hungarian tribes. Between the rows of circular columns that close the monument, there are bronze figures of outstanding rulers of Hungarian history.
The largest fine art collection
Hősök is closed on both sides by beautiful, classic buildings. The Műcsarnok is the country’s largest fine art exhibition space, in its rooms representatives of contemporary domestic and international fine and industrial arts are presented. And in its special room, which holds eighty people, we can see a three-dimensional film showing the natural, architectural and historical values of Hungary. On the other side of the square, the Museum of Fine Arts houses the most important Hungarian fine arts collection. But those who are interested in ancient art or European painting will also find something interesting among the walls.
It is the capital city richest in medicinal waters in the world
Budapest received the title of spa city in 1934, with the justification that it is the capital with the most spa and thermal water wells in the world. The yield of 21-78 °C thermal water from 118 natural springs and drilled wells is unique in the world, with a yield of 70 million liters per day.
Walking along the banks of the Danube in Buda, we come across a series of famous spas. Those who want to do sports will find something to their liking, as well as those who prefer to sweat in the steam or hope for relaxation from a dip in the thermal water. The medicinal waters here are effective in the treatment of musculoskeletal, circulatory, and female diseases. In the vicinity of the baths, you can also find wells and drinking halls with spring water rich in various minerals. The best-known drinking hall is also the entrance to the Lukács Spa. It was opened in 1937, and its healing waters are consumed, among other things, to eliminate stomach ailments. The building of spa was built in 1894, the news of its medical successes quickly spread, and it became one of the landmarks of the country throughout Europe.
Buda is famous for its surviving baths from the Turkish era, which are still in operation today, such as the Király bath built at the end of the 1500s, or the Rác bath. The Rudas bath – with its octagonal pool and domed hall with columns – is the most decorated and the oldest Turkish bath.
Budapest’s most beautiful Art Nouveau spa
In the Middle Ages, a hospital and a bathhouse were built in Turkish times at the foot of Gellért Hill. Turkish world traveler Evlia Cselebi wrote about the medicinal water: you have to stay in it until the body turns red, then quickly go out and keep yourself warm. Today’s Gellért Bath and Szálló was built in 1918, then the wave bath was completed, and a few years later the whirlpool bath. This is the most beautiful spa in Budapest, where the original art nouveau furniture, colorful mosaics, marble columns, glass windows and statues have been preserved.
The best vantage point for Buda and Pest
According to the legend, in 1046, pagan Hungarians rebelling against Christianity pushed the proselyting Bishop Gellért off the steeply rising rock wall on the banks of the Danube. The mountain bears his name today. His statue stands on the side of Gellért Hill overlooking the Danube, above a waterfall.
After defeating the Hungarian War of Independence in 1848-49, the Austrian emperor had a citadel built on top of the hill to regulate the rebellious city. From its terraces, from a height of 140 meters, we can get to know Budapest below us. From below, you can clearly see almost everywhere the female bronze figure holding a palm branch, the Statue of Liberty, which was erected after the Second World War, in 1947, as a monument to the liberation of the country.
Concert hall of world music greats
From the Chain Bridge, one of the city’s most beautiful walking paths, the Duna-korzó, leads to the Vigadó building, one of the finest works of romantic architecture. Balls and concerts were and are still being held in the building, which was opened in 1865. Music greats such as Ferenc Liszt, Johannes Brahms, conducted by Gustav Mahler, Dvořák, R. Strauss, Stravinsky, Ravel have performed here.
The capital’s largest covered market
The two characteristic buildings of the Danube bank in Pest are the former Customs House built in the 1870s, the present-day University of Economics, and behind it the capital’s largest covered market. When it was built in the late 1800s, barges loaded with goods floated through underground canals directly under the market square.
The Great Hall appeared in the world news several times because many high-ranking foreign guests and famous artists bought garlic or red pepper here accompanied by the cameras of news programs. Everything from fresh vegetables to meat to spices is available in the capital’s most beautiful, largest, and richest hall.
The longest pedestrian street in the city
From the Great Hall, you can walk along Váci Street, the most popular street in the city center, which is only for pedestrians. Already in the 18th century, it was a popular walking route for the well-to-do, so more and more expensive shops settled here, and that hasn’t changed a thing. Almost every cosmetic, clothing and shoe world brand can be found in the 19th and 20th centuries. on the ground floor of houses built in the 19th century. The street leads to Vörösmarty Square, where Gerbeaud, one of Pest’s most historic coffee houses, is located.
It is a relative of the Eiffel Tower
As in Paris, so in Budapest, two old railway stations with iron structures are considered attractions: the Eastern one and the Western one, completed in 1877. The latter is one of the most beautiful buildings on the Grand Boulevard, which is related to Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Of the applicants for the construction of Nyugati, the Eiffel office won the contract, and most of the iron structure of the building was cast in Paris.
The largest church and the heaviest bell
Walking along Kiskörút from Nyugati, we reach Budapest’s largest church, which can accommodate 8,500 people, the Szent István Basilica. Due to the proximity of the river, under the dignified building with its main facade overlooking the Danube, a foundation – a three-story basement – had to be built almost as large as the church itself. The basilica with a Greek cross layout was consecrated in 1905. The country’s largest, the nine-ton bell rings in the tower on the right. In the chapel behind the sanctuary, the most important relic of Hungarian Christianity is kept, the mummified right hand of the founding king of the state and church, Saint István.
Europe’s largest synagogue
A few steps from Kiskörút is Europe’s largest working synagogue in Dohány utca. The first Jewish merchants settled in Buda in the mid-1200s. In the 18th century, a part of the Jews built residential houses and handicraft and industrial plants in Óbuda. A few years later, more and more people moved to Pest, and in the middle of the 19th century, on the edge of Pest’s Jewish quarter, the largest synagogue of the era was built. The hall space of the romantic-Moorish-style building, which can accommodate three thousand people, is supported by cast-iron columns and arches that were still considered new at the time of construction.
Classical music concerts are held regularly in the synagogue. Nearby, you can see the world-famous Jewish Museum, which presents the history, objects of worship and everyday tools of Hungarian Jewry, and the Holocaust Memorial Hall. There are kosher shops and restaurants around the synagogue.
The country’s first and largest public collection
One of the most beautiful buildings on the boulevard is the classicist Hungarian National Museum, completed in 1846. With its rich exhibition material, it presents the history of Hungary from the founding of the state. The Roman, medieval and modern quarries can also be seen here. The building is a symbol of national independence and was an important site of the revolution that broke out on March 15, 1848. Today, the famous day is a national holiday, and the museum is one of the scenes of commemoration every year.
The largest park in the capital
According to the chronicles, Városliget was the world’s first public park open to everyone. In 1808, by imperial decree, Hungary’s “national garden” began to be created by planting seven thousand trees.
Today, the Park has playgrounds, sports fields, walking, and cycling paths. You can swim or take a spa bath in the Széchenyi Spa, built in the early 1900s – which was the first spa in Pest.
View special locomotive models in the Transport Museum.
Going to a rock concert in the Petőfi Hall. Next to the building, one of the city’s most interesting flea markets operates on weekends, where you can buy a lot of valuable or just interesting things, from books to antique painted plates to old toys.
And you can go boating on the Városligeti lake, or go ice skating in the winter on the largest artificial ice rink in Central Europe.
The mockup brought to life
Vajdahunyad Castle stands on the shores of Lake Városligeti, which was originally made of wood for the millennium with the aim of presenting one element of the characteristic historical buildings in the country. The giant “model” was such a success that it was later built out of stone as well. The Agricultural Museum is located here, where one of the richest collections of trophies in the world can be seen.
It is one of the oldest zoos in Europe
In the one-square-kilometer City Park, it is a pleasant program to see the Zoo, built in 1866 and renovated in the last decade. Some of its buildings and decorations are beautiful works of Hungarian Art Nouveau. Five hundred kinds of animals and four thousand different plants live in the garden. The petting area is especially attractive for children – where they can go among the goats, small cows, and sheep, and feed and pet them.
The award-winning carousel
Stunt performers already set up shop in the Light in the middle of the 19th century, and traveling foreign circus performers all performed here. The permanent building of Capital Circus was built in 1891.
Next to it, there is the Vidám Park, a meeting place between past and present technology, where you can try several fast, spinning, racing structures and Ferris wheels that test your courage. The past is evoked by the 100-year-old carousel, which was awarded the Europa Nostra award, and the wooden-framed, one-kilometer-long monument roller coaster built in 1922 that tumbles through nine waves. An exhibition presenting the history of Vidám Park can be seen in its launch house.
The largest church in Hungary
The cities along the Danube show their special face to those traveling by boat. Esztergom (A4), the basilica of the small town of 30,000, and the walls of its former castle stand majestically on the right bank of the Danube. The 19th-century basilica is not only unique in terms of its dimensions – it is the largest church in the country – but also its altarpiece is special. The painting depicting the Assumption of the Madonna is the largest altarpiece painted on a single canvas in the world.
Inside the prestigious church, you can see the only intact monument of the Hungarian Renaissance, the Bakócz Chapel, built of red marble at the very beginning of the 1500s. The Cathedral Treasury is the richest collection of Hungarian ecclesiastical treasures. Esztergom is the seat of the Archbishop of Esztergom, the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church. The valuable art material of the Christian Museum can be seen in the Primás palace.
The first fortification was built on castle hill in 972. The Hungarian king, Szent István, the founder of the state and church, was born here. That is why Esztergom is called the cradle of Hungary. Today, the 12th-century castle chapel and one of the symbols of Esztergom, the rose window, remind us of the former palace buildings.
The largest medieval residential tower in Central Europe
Hungary’s famously beautiful landscape, the double S line of the Danube Bend, was formed after the Ice Age, as the river carved an ever deeper bed for itself in the valley bounded by the mountains. It was built in the most picturesque part of Visegrád (B4).
The landmark of the settlement is the 13th-century citadel on the top of the hill, and the 14th-century royal palace at the foot of the hill. It lived its heyday during the reign of King Matthias, a renaissance ruler also famous for his good taste: it was expanded with a terrace, an ornamental courtyard, a red marble ornamental fountain, and a bath. Visitors from distant lands referred to it as paradise on earth. Later, the building began to deteriorate, it was destroyed by a fire, and its remains were completely covered by the alluvium coming down from the mountainside. Thanks to the archaeological excavations and restoration works that have been going on for decades, the Renaissance courtyard of the palace has been reconstructed according to the old plans. The citadel also shows visitors what the fortress once was, a part of which has been rebuilt with additions to the original walls. This is the most beautiful vantage point of the Danube Bend.
The important unit of the fortification system, the 13th-century residential tower, whose size has no equal on the line of the Danube, has been preserved in its complete originality. The hexagonal, five-story, 31-meter Solomon Tower houses the original fountains and statues of the former Renaissance palace.
The most visited small town
Whoever has seen it once will never forget Szentendré (C5), the most beautiful small town on the Danube in Hungary, home to painters and sculptors. The city is a unique ensemble of monuments with its narrow alleys, cobbled streets clinging to the hill, and its 18th-century cityscape. It owes its Mediterranean atmosphere to the Serbs, Dalmatians, and Greeks who settled here in the 14th century. The city is also famous for its seven churches, including the Eastern Greek Episcopal Cathedral, its rich museums, contemporary art exhibitions, galleries, and fine restaurants.
Hungary’s largest open-air, ethnographic open-air museum with old farmhouses, craft workshops, and a church can be seen within its borders.
Queen Elizabeth’s favorite castle
Every year, more than three hundred thousand visitors visit one of the most beautiful castles in Hungary, the former royal residence in Gödöllő (D5), less than an hour’s drive from the capital. Its builder, Antal Grassalkovich, had the most brilliant career of the 18th century, from being a lawyer to becoming one of the most influential lords, the head of the Hungarian treasury. He acquired a huge family fortune and had several palaces built. The elegant Gödöllő castle, one of the most beautiful creations of the Baroque era, served as a model for many other castle builders throughout the country. Empress Mária Theresia was a guest here several times, but the castle became the favorite Hungarian residence of the Austro-Hungarian rulers during the reign of Franz Joseph. The emperor’s wife, the beloved Queen Elizabeth, nicknamed Sisi by her followers, especially loved Gödöllő. Today, the main building of the castle welcomes visitors in its old glory. In its twenty-six period-reconstructed rooms, you can see, among other things, the suites of the ruling couple, the ceremonial hall, and the study of Emperor Francis Joseph. Classical music concerts and cultural festivals are often held in the castle and its courtyard. The Baroque Theater, which has been faithfully reconstructed and is operating again after 200 years, is also a rarity in Europe.
The richest collection of plants in the country
Vácrátót (C5) is a popular excursion destination for those interested in nature and flora, where countless representatives of the Earth’s flora, a total of 13,000 different plant species, can be seen in the 29-hectare botanical garden – in the properly provided environment and microclimate.
It is one of the most iconic buildings of romanticism
The 19th-century, twin-towered Catholic church signals from afar that the visitor is heading toward Fót (C5). The most beautiful work of Hungarian romantic architecture, with its painted coffered ceiling and the Carrara marble sculptures of its sub-church, is also a noteworthy sight. Just like the settlement’s other landmark, the Károlyi Castle, cultural programs are organized in its park and hall, and concerts are held in the church.
Europa Nostra award-winning village
Ócsa (C7), close to the capital, received the prestigious award in 1996 in recognition of its heritage protection activities. The village’s 13th-century Reformed church is one of the country’s most significant monuments from the Romanian era. Thanks to its excellent acoustics, the choir and organ concerts held here provide an unforgettable musical experience.
The settlement is famous for its nearly one hundred wine cellars with a special shape, the rare flora and fauna of the strictly protected marshlands of the area, and the ethnographic exhibition set up in the landscaped house among the thatched farmhouses of the Old Village.
Formula 1 attraction
Motorsport began in Hungary in the 1900s, when the first automobile club was founded in the capital, and in 1912 the first international automobile race was held. Today, the world’s best drivers compete year after year at Mogyoród (C5) near Budapest, at the Hungaroring, the only Formula 1 track in Central Europe. The Hungarian Formula 1 race attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. In the 2,100 square meter Hungarokart Center, anyone can try their hand at karting all year round.
The country’s only triumphal arch
The city of Vác (C4) on the left bank of the Danube, the episcopal seat founded by King István, boasts a thousand-year history with a classicist cathedral and bishop’s palace. Here you can see one of the most beautiful baroque squares in Hungary, Március 15. tér, all the houses of which are under monument protection.
The Memento Mori exhibition in the crypt of the Dominican church is unique in all of Europe. Under special climatic conditions, the corpses were naturally mummified in the coffins, and the coffins, costumes, and funeral accessories from the 18th century survived surprisingly intact.
In Vácott, you can walk across the country’s only Baroque bridge decorated with statues, and here stands the only triumphal arch in Hungary. It was built for the visit of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresia.
The country’s only Lamp Museum
Heading west from the capital, we reach the 13th-century ruined church of Zsámbék (A6). The building was destroyed by an earthquake in the 18th century, but with its remaining towers and wall remains, it offers a special sight, as well as real scenery for the concerts and theater performances held here in the summer. Another interesting feature of the village is the Lamp Museum’s unique collection.