Budapest sights

 
 
 

The Usual Suspects -- Sights Everyone Sees:


  1. BulletParliament

  2. BulletBasilica

  3. BulletMatthias Church

  4. BulletGreat Synagogue

  5. BulletCentral Market

  6. BulletCastle

  7. BulletCitadella

  8. BulletChurches

  9. BulletHeroes Square

  10. BulletMargaret Island

  11. BulletEcseri Flea Market

  12. BulletHouse of Terror

  13. BulletStatue Park


The Sleepers -- Sights Just a Bit Off the Beaten Tourbus:


  1. Bullet Two Surprises: Lovely old buildings restored with starkly modern interiors that you’d never expect from the street...


The Public Library, Szabó Ervin ter, off Kalvin ter, between Üllöi út and Baross utca:


    
    


Central European University, Nador utca 9:


   


  1. Bullet Three Grand Old Buildings:


The Gresham Palace, marvelously restored as the Four Seasons Hotel, Roosevelt ter 5-6, at the Chain Bridge.


   


The Café New York, garishly restored to look like the antechamber of an Italianate whorehouse, Érzsébet krt 9-11, a block north of Rákóczi ut:




And the Parizsi Udvar, not restored at all, at Ferenciek tere:


 


  1. Bullet Two Cemeteries,


The Kerepsi cemetery




and, behind it, the Kozma utca Jewish cemetery, both including marvelously ornate Art Nouveau mausoleums interspersed among acres of more and less well-maintained graves.





  1. Bullet Three Holocaust memorials:


By the Danube, South of Parliament:




Behind the Great Synagogue:




In District X, at Páva utca 39




  1. Bullet The Danube


...take the #2 tram to ride along the Pest side, or the boat to Szentendre or the Danube Bend for a lovely day trip, or the hydrofoil to Vienna for a trip through rural Hungary and a view of the river’s locks from the inside.  It’s not, in my eyes, a romantic river, so much as a contemporary working river with a leisurely pace.




  1. Bullet Three Under-Visited Museums...


The Museum of Decorative Arts at Ferenc krt (below center)


   
  


The Museum at the City Park (Varosliget; above right) A kind of wonderful, kind of weird castle cobbled together from architecture of several periods for the millenial Exposition in the City Park; home to a great open-air concert series in the summers.  An interesting place to visit as you make the Varosliget walk...from Heroes Square to the Museum of Fine Arts, to the Szechenyi Baths, to the Zoo, to this museum.


And The Petöfi Literature Museum on Károlyi M. utca (above left)


  1. Bullet Three concert halls:


  
  


The oldest -- the original Liszt Music Academy, north of Oktogon on Andrassy ut (center), still sports a lovely concert hall and a gorgeous buiding.  The ‘New’ symphony venue, south of Oktogon, off Andrassy on Liszt Ferenc ter (right), has an astonishingly beautiful chamber symphony hall, with great acoustics and the ambience and character of pure musicality.  It was a crime to shift most of its concerts to the newly-built MUPA (left), short for Palace of the Arts in Hungarian.  Except that the acoustics there are, if anything, better,  and everything about the building has worked out well.  It has two large performance spaces, a great arts bookshop in the lobby, a decent restaurant, and an excellent contemporary art museum, all overlooking the Danube and the monstrously ugly National Theatre; there's an outdoor maze that kids love, and an esplanade.  All told, a remarkable success in modern urban planning, trying to pull the city southwards along the Danube into the heart of the IXth District. Each hall is architecturally and musically worth a trip.


  1. Bullet Where Teenagers Held off Tanks: A Historic Movie House




The Corvin is one of the largest multiplexes in Budapest, often showing films in English, with a restored interior and facade.  More importantly, perhaps, it was the site of a last ditch battle in the 1956 Revolution, when a group of teenagers held out there against the Russians for days after the Russians had announced the rebellion had been put down.  See this memoir of the event.


  1. Bullet Two Train  Stations: Keleti (left) and Nyugati (right)


   


  1. BulletOne Urban Zoo ... in the city park, beyond Heroes Square, acroos from Gundel’s Restaurant and near the Szechenyi Baths.  Classical music concerts amidst the animals, in the summer at dusk, one day a week.



(image courtesy European Commission)


  1. Bullet Where Teenagers Hold Up Tanktops...The WAMP designer market held monthly in varying locations; check their website.


   


  1. Bullet Three Low-Profile 17th Century Churches: These are not the most famous churches in the city, or the very oldest, or the best restored (in fact, they’re basically not restored, but in some sense that’s their precise appeal).  They’re very old, quite beautiful, in continuous use, and largely unfrequented by tour buses.  The one on the left is the least trafficked one, the Szervite Church in Szervita ter, near Vörösmarty ter.  The middle one, St. Michael’s on Vaci utca a couple of blocks north of the Central Markethall is in the midst of the tourist sprawl but largely passed by except when handfuls of tourists attend concerts there all summer long, for very little money you get astonishing acoustics.  Here’s a link to a YouTube video of a concert rehearsal in St. Michael’s.


   
   


And this link takes you to a page that lists most of the historically significant churches in Budapest.


  1. Bullet Four Baths: Szechenyi, Rudas, Gellert, Margaret Island (clockwise from tope left). 




Many people come to Budapest especially for the thermal baths; it’s the largest major spa center in a European capital city (Reykjavik might dispute that claim).  But people who don’t come with the bths in mind tend not to go at all.  That’s a big mistake.  If you do nothing else in Budapest, spend half a day atone of these four, each with an entirely different personality.  See the Baths & Spas page for more details, and the downloads there.


  1. Bullet Two Synagogues




The Great Synagogue is the largest in Europe and the second (or first) largest in the world, and a major sightseeing venue, but there are other, smaller, less fully restored synagogues that in some senses convey a clearer sense of Jewish life in the city before World War II.  In particular, the ones on Rumbach Sebestyen utca and on Kazinczy utca bear a look, though there may not necessarily be access on any given day.  See this page on Jewish Budapest.


  1. Bullet A Gated Garden and Playground--Károlyi KertTucked away in the midst of the city center, a vestpocket park, meticulously landscaped, filled with children and young couples.



   



  1. Bullet Three Market HallsThere’s the Central Markethall, and the grand architecture crowded with the busloads of tourists.  And then there are the neighborhood markets that are still part of daily community life in Budapest.  The one on Rakoczi ter has considerable character and is probably the best example of the genre; the one near the American Embassy  and the Parliament, on Hold utca at #13 almost goes incognito unless you know to look out for it. 




The one on Lehel ter is particularly engaging because the building is new and demonstrates the continuing vitality of markets in the city’s life, and because it has a large and heavily populated farmers’ market section in the center at its lowest level (that’s the farmers’ market area above).


  1. Bullet Three Classic CafésThe Café Central (or Central Kavehaz), the Café New York, and Gerbeaud.  The culture, not the food.  See the page devoted to Cafés.


  1. Bullet One Experiment in Urban Planning: Wekerle.  A turn-of-the-century workers’ community built with gracious walks and gardens and a sense of family and communal life, Wekerle remains a sheltered enclave in Kispest.  Click here for a brief article from the Budapest Sun.


  
 



Two Special Guidebooks (click here for the guidebook page):

  1. BulletAndrás Török: Budapest: A Critical Guide

  2. BulletDuncan Smith: Only in Budapest


One Special Tour:

  1. BulletBeyond Budapest tour of the 8th District



 

You can follow the guidebooks and walk the well-worn path past the familiar sights.  Or you can select at random from a smorgasbord of surprises and sleepers.