My favourite places in Budapest

When I visit cities I always try to walk as much as possible, as I like exploring different areas and streets you would otherwise miss. Budapest is very easy to walk around, but if you are not much of a walker, you can always choose the public transportation, which is very efficient and takes you to all the main sites. I did walk a lot, 18 km per day  on average, but I also used the metro at times, the funicular to go up to the Castle District, and tram number 2 just to enjoy the spectacular scenic ride. There are lots of interesting museums in Budapest, but in case you are not much into museums, Budapest has still a lot to offer in terms of architecture, history and nature. The below are my favourite places and museums, which I think should not be missed.

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Danube Promenade

Walking along the Danube river is one of my favourite things to do in Budapest. The promenade goes from the Chain Bridge to Elisabeth Bridge in Pest, which is particularly beautiful at sunset, when the sky turns yellow and pink, and at night, when the city is all lit up. While walking along the Danube, you will be able to see some of the main attractions, including Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Hungarian Parliament Building, and many beautiful statues scattered along the way.

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Statue of “The Little Princess” with Buda Castle in the background

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Statue of Roskovics Ignác – Painter

Buda Castle

Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. Although the complex was first completed in 1265, the massive Baroque palace was built in the 18th century. Buda Castle is the home of the National Gallery and the National History Museum, and it offers a spectacular view of Pest, so you will be able to take nice shots of the Hungarian Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Chain Bridge. The area surrounding the castle is beautiful, I recommend you go down the steps you find around the main entrance to the castle to explore the castle grounds. Don’t expect to see furniture in the castle, as unfortunately there is not much of it as the rooms have mainly been turned into a museum. You can visit the streets and courts all day and night, and the view is fantastic both in the daylight and at night when the parliament is all lit up, but the museums close between 4:00 and 6:00 pm. To reach the castle, I walked up the stairs next to the funicular that goes up Gellért Hill. The walk takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on how tired you get and how many times you stop to take pictures (I must have taken ages as I ended up with a few hundred pictures!!!). I have also used the funicular, which is a nice and quick ride (and sweat-free) that takes you right next to the main gate. You can also get Bus n°16 from Deak Ferenc Square in Pest, or Bus n°16 or 116 from Szell Kalman Square in Buda. Keep in mind that visiting the Castle District will take you the whole day if you decide to see all the main sites and explore the residential area, which I highly suggest you do!

Address: Szent György tér 2

For up-to-date opening hours click here

 

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Buda Castle seen from Pest

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Buda Castle
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Castle District
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Museum of Music History – Castle District

Matthias Church

Matthias Church (Mátyás-Templom) is one of the finest churches in Budapest. Surrounded by the gorgeous Fisherman’s Bastion, and about 10 minutes’ walk from Buda Castle, this Roman Catholic Church has an impressive interior with colours that give it an almost exotic atmosphere. The first church was founded by St. Stephen, King of Hungary in 1015, which was destroyed and reconstructed in the 13th century.

Address: Szentháromság tér 2

For up-to-date opening hours click here

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Matthias Church
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Interiors

Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion is my favourite site in the Castle District. I always go back and usually alternate between visiting in the morning and at night, as the view of Pest from up there is breathtaking both during the day and when the city is all lit up. It is always very busy, so, if you can, I recommend you either go early in the morning, or at night, when it’s less crowded. Visiting just before the sun goes down is also a great experience, as the yellowish-pink sunset will make the city look even more beautiful. Built between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Fisherman’s Bastion is a combination of neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque architecture and consists of turrets, projections, parapets, and climbing stairways.

Address: Szentháromság tér

For up-to-date opening hours click here

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Fisherman’s Bastion

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Hospital in The Rock

Hospital in the rock is a secret nuclear bunker which was completed in 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis. The hospital was created in the caverns under Buda Castle in the 1930s, in preparation for the Second World War. It can only be visited with a guided tour, which will take you just over an hour. On my visit, the guide was very informative and friendly, which made the whole experience very interesting and touching. There are old instruments, medical equipment, gas masks, and air-raid sirens go off depending on what the guide is telling you about. If it’s something that might interest you, I highly recommend you book a tour.

Address: Lovas út 4/C

How to get there: The bunker is 4 minutes’ walk from Matthias Church, located at the foot of the castle wall, so, if you are already in the area, it will be easy for you to visit the bunker too. The closest bus stop can be found at Szentháromság Square. Busses 16 (Szell Kalman Square – Deák Square), 16A and 116 (Szell Kalman Square – Dísz Square) all stop near the bunker. The closest metro station is Széll Kálmán tér (M2) then you have to walk 10 minutes to get to the bunker.

For tickets and up-to-date opening hours click here

 

The Citadel

The Citadel is a 19th century fortress which was erected by the Habsburg emperors after overcoming the Hungarian army in the revolution of 1848-49. Located on top of Gellért  Hill, it offers an amazing view of Pest, with the Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the bridges, and hosts the Budapest War Museum. The citadel can be reached by going up the steps right under the statue of St. Gellért  (Saint Gerard) on Gellért Hill, which you can get to by crossing the Erzsébet híd (Elisabeth Bridge) if you are coming from Pest. The walk takes about 15-20 minutes, and it’s my favourite way of getting to the citadel, as the view going up is amazing, and you can stop at different places to take pictures of the whole of Pest. There are benches you can rest on if it gets too much for you. If you’d rather take public transportation, you can take bus number 27 from Moricz Zsigmond Square on the Buda side, which will take you right up to the citadel.

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Gellért Hill

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The steps going up to the Citadel

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Liberty Bridge seen from Gellért Hill

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The Liberty Statue on Gellért Hill
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Elisabeth Bridge seen from the Citadel

Cave Church

The Cave Church (Sziklatemplom) is a cute little church inside a natural cave system formed by thermal springs. The church was founded in 1926, and is located on a small hill opposite the Danubius Hotel Gellért, famous for the Gellért Baths. The setting of the church is truly unique, definitely different from your typical church. In front of the cave there is a little square with a statue of St. Stephen, and you will also be able to take nice shots of the Liberty Bridge from there.

Address: XI Szent Gellért rakpart 1/a

How to get there: I went to the Cave Church after going up to the Citadel, as it’s easy to find the church on your way down, and that way you can also see the Danubius Hotel Gellért and have a look at the Baths if you want to. If you are coming from Pest, and you want to walk, the easiest way is to cross Liberty Bridge; you will then just have to cross the street and will find the hotel and the church next to each other. There is a large cross above the entrance, so you will not miss it. If you’d rather take the tram, the 18, 19, 47 and 49 all stop nearby (Szent Gellért tér). You can visit the church from 9:30 to 7:30, Monday to Saturday.

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The Cave Church
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Statue of St. Stephen by the Cave Church

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Danubius Hotel Gellért

Liberty Bridge

Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd) is located at the southern end of Vaci Utca, the main pedestrian street, and was first built at the end of the 19th century. After going up to the citadel and visiting the Cave Church, we walked back to Pest by crossing the bridge , which was closed to car traffic, so there were many people enjoying the hot weather having picnics, playing music, reading books or just relaxing on the bridge. Liberty Bridge had been closed to traffic for three months in 2016 due to construction works, and it soon became a favourite summer spot. Residents petitioned for the bridge to be pedestrian only again this summer, and they succeeded, so the bridge has been closed to traffic at weekends from mid June until the 13th of August 2017.

 

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Liberty Bridge

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Great Market Hall

The Great Market Hall is a beautiful three-storey neo-gothic hall which was built in 1897, and is located near Fővám tér, at the end of Vaci Utca. The market hall is a great place to visit both for the architecture and if you feel like doing some shopping. There are plenty of fresh goods and Hungarian delicacies, as well as international products on International Gastro Days, held on Fridays and Saturdays. If you want to avoid the crowd, I suggest you visit the hall either between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm or between 2:00 and 4:00 pm on weekdays. Saturday is the busiest day, but it might still be ok if you go early in the afternoon. I went on a Saturday morning, and it was quite busy. I reached the market hall after walking along all of Vaci Utca, starting my stroll from Vörösmarty Square. The pedestrian street is really cute, and filled with beautiful buildings, nice restaurants, cafés and shops, so it’s a pleasure to walk to the other end of the city centre. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other, and I recommend you do it at least once.

Address: Vámház krt. 1-3

How to get there: The closest metro station is Kálvin tér (M3), which is 10 minutes’ walk from the hall, and trams number 2, 47 and 49 all stop nearby (Fővám tér).

For up-to-date opening hours click here

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The Great Market Hall

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Vaci Utca

Hungarian Parliament Building

A marvellous example of Neo-Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, the Parliament building is a must see when you are in Budapest. I adore crossing the Chain Bridge and seeing the beautiful building from Buda, walking along the Danube and seeing it up close, walking in the area behind it to see it from another angle, and I particularly love it when the sun goes down. Last time I went to Budapest we did a boat trip that conveniently started at sunset, and lasted until we were able to see the Parliament all lit up. Trust me, it is an amazing sight! There is something magical about it, as the area around it feels so peaceful and relaxing that I never get tired of walking back there every time I am in Budapest. There are several benches along the river, so it’s easy to just sit on one and take in the amazing view. I have also done a tour of the Parliament, and it was very informative and totally worth it, as the interiors are simply gorgeous. They have guided tours in several different languages, so don’t worry if you don’t speak Hungarian or English. I highly recommend you book online in advance, as I thought I could just buy the ticket there and the only time slot available was not convenient for me, so I had to book it for the next day; also, it will help you avoid the usually long queues! The tour takes around 45 minutes to an hour, and a standard ticket is about 6-7 Euros for EU citizens and 17-19 Euros for non EU citizens. On my visit, I particularly loved the beautiful main staircase and the Old Upper House Hall of the bicameral Hungarian Parliament. When you are in the Parliament area, I recommend you walk to the back of the building all the way across Kossuth square, where you will find the statue of Imre Nagy, who was Prime Minister of Hungary on two occasions, and who became a symbol of freedom after he was tried and executed in 1958. The statue looks particularly beautiful at sunset and at night, when all the lights are on. If you still feel like walking, I would advise you to walk up to Szabadság tér (Liberty Square), as it’s really nice and it will take you less than 5 minutes to get there. The square is surrounded by beautiful buildings, there is a fairly big green space, some nice statues and a monument to the victims of the German occupation. When you are ready to leave, I suggest you go back to the Parliament building, go down the steps by the main façade overlooking the Danube, cross the street, and go down along the river, where you will be able to see the “Shoes on the Danube”, a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Walk back towards the Chain Bridge, leaving the Parliament building behind, and you will find another nice picture spot:  the “Thinking Man”, a statue of a sitting Attila József, a Hungarian poet of the 20th century.

Address: Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3

Closest metro station and tram stop: Kossuth Lajos tér (M2) or tram 2 to Kossuth tér.

To book a tour of the Parliament click here

 

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The Parliament seen from Margaret Bridge
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Parliament interiors: the main hall and staircase
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Museum of Ethnography
The Museum of Ethnography in Kossuth Lajos Square

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Imre Nagy statue

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Monument to the victims of the German occupation

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“Thinking Man” statue

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“Shoes on The Danube” Memorial

Vörösmarty Square

A popular square right in the city centre, Vörösmarty Square (Vörösmarty Tér) is filled with restaurants and cafes (including the beautiful Café Gerbeaud and the Hard Rock Café). At the northern end of Vaci Utca, the square is my favourite spot to start my stroll from when I want to walk along the whole of Vaci Utca, the Danube or simply have a nice coffee break at Café Gerbeaud. There is a statue of Hungarian poet and dramatist Mihály Vörösmarty in the middle of the square, which is also where a really nice Christmas market is held every year. I was lucky enough to be in Budapest in December two years ago, and I highly enjoyed the market, thanks to its atmosphere, the super nice stalls selling traditional Hungarian items and delicious food, and the live music which was on every night. From Vörösmarty Square you can also walk to Erzsébet Square (which will take you 5 minutes), a cute green space also host to the Budapest Eye, from which apparently the view is really nice. I will probably go on the ferry wheel at some point, as I haven’t had the chance yet! At the moment the Budapest Eye is open every day from 10:00 to midnight.

Closest metro: Vörösmarty Tér

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Statue of Mihály Vörösmarty

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Christmas market in Vörösmarty Square
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Erzsébet Square

St. Stephen Basilica

The largest church in Budapest and a beautiful example of neo-classical architecture, the Basilica is dedicated to St. Stephen, Hungary’s first king. His mummified right hand is kept in a glass case in the chapel to the left of the main altar. The interior is really beautiful, and you can also go up to the dome’s observation deck (you can walk up the stairs or use the lift) for panoramic views of the city. I actually haven’t been up the dome yet, so that’s on the list of things I want to do when I go back. The Basilica is in St. Stephen’s Square (Szt. István tér), which is a nice square filled with cafes, where they also have a Christmas market every year from the end of November to the beginning of January. Apart from cute traditional Hungarian items and yummy traditional food, they usually have an ice rink and laser lights projected on St. Stephen’s Basilica. I like to walk to the Basilica from Vörösmarty Square, which takes me about 10 minutes, but you can also take the metro if you don’t feel like walking. Admission to the Basilica is free, but you will have to pay to go up to the observation deck.

Address: Szent István tér 1

Closest metro: Arany János utca (M3) is 5 minutes’ away

For up-to-date opening hours click here

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St. Stephen’s Basilica
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Beautiful interiors
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House of Terror Museum (Terror Haza)

The building was used by the Arrow Cross Party and AVH (the communist secret police), and became a museum in 2002, also in memory of the victims of the fascist and communist regimes in 20th century Hungary, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building. The permanent exhibition describes the relationship between Hungary and the Nazi Germany and Soviet Union during the years it was occupied and suppressed by those powers. The exhibitions are very informative and interesting, and there is also a T-54 tank on display. I found the videos particularly interesting, with touching interviews of survivors, but also all of the objects and how each room has been chronologically organised. If you are interested in history like I am, I recommend you visit the museum, as it won’t disappoint you.

Address: Andrassy Utca 60

Closest metro stop: Vörösmarty utca (M1)

For up-to-date opening hours click here

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T-54 tank at the House of Terror museum

Heroes’ Square and City Park

One of the largest squares in Budapest, Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere) is located at the end of Andrássy út, next to City Park (Városliget), and hosts the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Arts. In the middle of the square, created at the end of the 19th century to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary in 1895, stands the Millennium Monument. When I stayed at the Corinthia Hotel, I used to walk to Heroes’ Square, as it only took me 20-25 minutes, and I loved looking at the cute houses and buildings along the way. However, if I was in a rush for whatever reason, I used to get there by metro, which is also very convenient as the stop is right opposite the square. I love Heroes’ Square, but for me it’s mainly the place I check out before I reach one of my favourite places in Budapest: City Park! A super cute park which looks like it’s out of some fairytales right from when you go through the main gate. The park hosts the gorgeous Vajdahunyad Castle, which features Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles. The castle is surrounded by an artificial lake that turns into an ice skating rink in the winter, and it’s home to the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture (which I have not visited yet as I usually prefer to see the original furniture when I visit palaces and castles, rather that rooms hosting exhibitions, but I do want to visit it at some point, as I am curious about the interiors too), the biggest agriculture museum in Europe. In the park you can also see the cute Ják Chapel, and the mysterious statue of Anonymous (my favourite in Budapest!!!), the nameless medieval chronicler to King Béla. This is definitely my favourite side of the park, but if you get out from the main gate and cross the street, you will get to the other side of City Park, where you can find the Budapest Zoo, the Municipal Circus, the Museum of Transport and the famous Szechenyi Baths, one of the largest spa complexes in Europe. This area of the city has plenty to offer, and I recommend you spend at least half of the day there, as it’s totally worth it!

Closest metro stop: Hősök tere

For up-to-date opening hours click onto the below links:

Museum of Hungarian Agriculture – click here

Szechenyi Baths – click here

Museum of Transport – click here

Budapest Zoo – click here

 

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Heroes’ Square

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Museum of Fine Arts on Heroes’ Square

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Palace of Art on Heroes’ Square

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Main entrance to City Park

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Vajdahunyad Castle

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Vajdahunyad Castle

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Ják Chapel

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Statue of Darányi Ignác, Hungarian politician who served as Minister of Agriculture

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Museum of Hungarian Agriculture

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Anonymous

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Szechenyi Baths

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Szechenyi Baths
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The Great Synagogue and the Jewish Quarter

The Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world, and definitely a must see when you are in Budapest. Built in the mid 19th century, the synagogue features Romantic and Moorish architectural styles. My visit to the synagogue also included the Jewish Museum, Heroes’ Temple, the Jewish Cemetery and the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, which hosts the Holocaust Memorial, a weeping willow tree with the names of some of the victims of the Holocaust inscribed on its leaves. The whole experience was very interesting as well as touching, the museum very informative, and the synagogue is just beautiful. I recommend you go before the synagogue opens, or later in the day, as I had to queue for at least 45 minutes to buy a ticket. Entrance will cost you 4000 HUF (about 13 Euros). Since I had a lot of time on my hands, I also took a walk around the Jewish quarter. I actually went after work, so it was already dark, but I felt absolutely safe walking around the not so busy area. I strolled along Rumbach utca, which also has a small synagogue, but I only took pictures from the outside. Then I continued on Király utca and Dob utca, up until Kazinczy utca, which is home to the Kazinczy Street Synagogue. I then walked back to Király utca and along Kis Diófa utca until I reached Klauzál tér, the largest square in the Jewish quarter. Since it was getting quite late, I decided to walk back to my hotel. Walking around the Jewish quarter took me just over 90 minutes, as I stopped to take pictures of monuments and synagogues, and also enjoyed a yummy hot chocolate at Azték Choxolat! located at  Károly krt. 22 (about 5 minutes walk from the Astoria metro station). Small and cosy, the café has a large variety of hot chocolate flavours (about 60!), and delicious pastries, so you might want to make a stop there between a synagogue and another!

Address: Dohány u. 2

Getting there: The closest metro stop is Astoria (M2), which is 3 minutes’ walk from the synagogue, but you could also walk from the first end of Vaci ut., (going towards the Great Market Hall, you leave Elisabeth Bridge to your right, and turn onto Kossuth Lajos ut.), that will take you around 10 minutes.

For up to date opening hours click onto the below links:

The Great Synagogue – click here

Azték Choxolat! – click here 

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Main façade of the Great Synagogue

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Beautiful interiors
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Holocaust Memorial

Margaret Island

If you have extra time in Budapest, and want to be away from the more hectic downtown, I recommend you visit this cute little island, which is 2.5 km long, and spend at least half of the day in this peaceful environment. On the island you will find medieval ruins, a Japanese garden, two musical fountains, a small zoo, a rose garden, an open-air theatre, a historic water tower, swimming pools, a small church, playgrounds, ruins of a Dominican convent, and you will be able to hire bicycles, small electric cars, roller blades, do a segway tour, and also take a bus if you get tired after having walked to the other end of the island. We hired an electric car, which we really enjoyed. The only problem with those cars is that you choose how long you want it for and they give you a token which will make the car stop when the time is up, so, if you stop to take pictures (which we took turns to do as we did not want to leave the car unattended) and take more time, you run the risk of not making it back. We were lucky as we took all the pictures we wanted (but we had to be quick, so I suggest you book it for longer than one hour, also because the car is really slow) and made it just in time before our car stopped! It was a fun way to explore the island though, so I highly recommend it. Last June there were works in progress, so we could not hire any fun means of transportation, however, we still enjoyed exploring the island on foot. Allow at least 3-4 hours if you want to relax, and if you don’t want to have a picnic there, you can always grab a bite at one of the restaurants and food kiosks.

Getting there: You can take trams 4 and 6 and get off at Margit híd Budai hídfő, or bus 26 from Nyugati tér (M2); the bus travels through the island.

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Our ride on the island!!!
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Ruins of a Dominican Convent and Church XIII – XVI centuries

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St. Margaret of Hungary lived in the convent (1242-1271)
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Memento Park

Memento Park is an open-air museum located on the outskirts of Budapest, where you will find statues, busts and plaques from Hungary’s Communist period. There are more than 40 statues, including Lenin, Marx and Engels, and an exhibition centre, where they also show you footage of secret agents gathering information on insurgents. I enjoyed the park, so I would recommend it if you are interested in Communist related stuff and if you have extra time in Budapest, but keep in mind that it is a bit out of the city centre. I took the metro and a bus to get there, and spent at least 90 minutes looking at all the statues and taking pictures, so half of the day was gone. However, I would say it was still worth the trip.

Address: Balatoni Utca – Szabadkai street corner

Getting there: I took the metro to Kelenföld Pályaudvar, then bus 150 to the Memento Park stop (25-30 minutes ride), but for alternative ways to get there, please click here

For up-to-date opening hours click here

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Nyugati Train Station

This beautiful train station was designed by the Eiffel Company and opened towards the end of the 19th century. Both the facade and the inside of the building are really nice, and it’s the perfect spot if you love architecture and photography, especially on a sunny day, as the glass sheets create amazing lights and shadows across the station. On my visit, I also went to the McDonald next to the station as I had read that it was the most beautiful McDonald in the world, and although I am not a fan of the fast food chain (I must admit the sundaes are not bad though!!!), I have to say the interior was really amazing, so I recommend you take a look if you decide to visit the station!

Closest metro station: Nyugati pályaudvar (M3)

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Paul Street

Last but not least, if you are a fan of the novel The Paul Street Boys, by Ferenc Molnár, you can visit the actual Paul Street (Pál ut), although the statues of the Paul Street Boys are on Práter ut., which is supposed to be the area where the story took place.

Address: Práter ut. 11, closest metro station: Corvin – Negyed (M3)

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Part of the Paul Street monument 

Things I haven’t done yet

Although I have spent quite some time in Budapest, there are still things I haven’t had the chance to do yet, or that I have unconsciously left undone so I could go back with the “excuse” I had not seen everything! I would bet it’s the latter…Although I have walked along Andrássy út. several times, and admired the Hungarian State Opera House every time I passed by, I have never actually visited it. The neo-Renaissance building is so beautiful, and judging by the pictures on the web, it is gorgeous on the inside too. I wouldn’t mind taking a guided tour or attend a performance!  Talking about beauty and wellbeing, I still haven’t decided whether I want to have a relaxing spa day at Gellert Baths or at Szechenyi Baths. They both look really nice, but maybe Gellért Baths would be my first choice as they are smaller (so I guess there would be less people) and look quite posh as well.

Addresses:

Opera House: Andrássy út. 22

Gellért Baths: Kelenhegyi út 4

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The Hungarian State Opera House
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If you go to Budapest, I hope you will love it as much as I do, and that my blog posts will help you during your stay. Feel free to leave a comment and to ask me whatever you want, I will be happy to help! Stay tuned and enjoy exploring the world!!!

Maria xxx

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