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Tourism in Budapest


At its heart the city of Budapest "Pearl of the Danube" The Danube divides the city in two: Buda on one bank and the Pest plain on the other. Uniquely the Danube panorama is a UNESCO world heritage site and you need to see the city at night to experience its full glory and fully understand why.

Budapest can boast two World Heritage sites: the Danube panorama with Buda Castle and the superb buildings on the Pest embankment, as well as Andrássy Avenue with its magnificent villas and monumental Heroes' Square. In addition there are 837 listed historical monuments, 223 museums and galleries, 40 theatres, seven concert halls, two opera houses and several thousand restaurants, cafés and clubs, cinemas etc. But this is not all: within the bounds of the city there are several natural features of particular interest such as the extensive cave systems in the Buda Hills and the Sas Hill Nature Protection Zone just outside the downtown area. Nature has also endowed Budapest with 80 mineral and medicinal water springs feeding medicinal baths, 10 of them protected historical monuments.

Main sights in Budapest

The Royal Palace and Castle District
The name Buda Castle covers more than a castle or the Royal Palace in the capital city; it extends to the historical quarter full of sites. The Castle District on Castle Hill is one of the most romantic sections in Budapest. It forms a compact medieval town with atmospheric streets, picturesque houses, gas lamps and beautiful monuments.

Fishermen's Bastion
It was completed in 1905 on the site of a former fish market - hence the name. It has never served a defensive purpose, although it is an excellent lookout place. The cityscape opening up from there, including the Fishermen's Bastion, has been part of UNESCO's World Heritage since 1988. The crypt of the ancient St. Michael Cemetery Chapel (the first written record dates from 1443) was opened to the public in 1997.

Matthias Church
The church bears the name of its greatest patron, King Matthias, who married twice in this shrine. It is almost as old as the Royal Palace and has been the venue of several coronation ceremonies. Every king and époque left its mark on the building until the Turks occupied Buda in 1541 and converted the church into a mosque, whitewashing - and thus preserving - its medieval frescos. Matthias Church took on its current form at the turn of the century when several smaller buildings attached to it earlier were pulled down and the church was reconstructed in characteristic neo-Gothic style. In addition to the usual biblical scenes, its frescos relate the most important events in Hungary's history. The magnificent acoustics make it a popular concert venue.

Cave system
Another point of interest on Castle Hill is that almost every house in the quarter has cellars several storeys deep running down into the hill. These cellars were connected into a several-kilometre-long corridor system in the Middle Ages and served a useful purpose in times of war. Local defenders used the casemate system to speedily relocate troops to more threatened points of the district, suggesting far greater numbers to the enemy than they actually were and thus the area could be defended with limited troops. One section of the cellar system was turned into what is known as the Labyrinth of the Buda Castle with remarkable historical walk-through tableaux.

Chain Bridge
The first permanent bridge over the Danube. Budapest owes its construction to Count István Széchenyi who was forced to wait a week before he could cross the river by boat to bury his father. This is when he decided to build a permanent crossing for the city. Architect William Clark and namesake Adam Clark supervised construction works; the bridge was finally completed in 1849. It has since - rightly so - become a symbol of Budapest city, a magnificent sight when illuminated at night. In 1999 a monumental ceremony and the installation of new floodlights marked the 150th anniversary of the bridge.

Margaret Island
Budapest's finest green spot is Margaret Island (Margitsziget) located in the middle of the river Danube between Margaret Bridge and Árpád Bridge. The 100-hectare parkland is kept peaceful and quiet by being sealed off to most vehicular traffic. The park is beautiful and very varied: century-old chestnut avenues, English, Japanese and French gardens alternate with ruins of a nunnery, an old water tower and a wide range of sports facilities.

Built at the turn of the century, the building of the National Assembly quickly became a dominant sight and symbol of Budapest and the Danube panorama. A typically Eclectic edifice covered in small crockets and stone tracery ornamentation, it is one of the most decorative structures in the capital. It also ranks as one of the biggest national assemblies in the world.

St. Stephen's Basilica
Construction of the largest church of the capital (seating 8,500 persons) was beset by vicissitudes. No sooner had the groundwork begun when the War of Independence broke out in 1848, then construction was resumed in 1851, followed by the successive deaths of the two architects, and even the dome collapsed during the works. The church with a Greek cross plan was finally consecrated in 1905.

Vörösmarty Square. Váci Street
If anywhere, the city centre starts here on Vörösmarty Square. Váci Street, the pedestrian main street of downtown Budapest, sets out from here and the square holds the two most popular cafés of the capital: old Gerbeaud and trendy Art Café.

Hungarian National Museum
The museum is one of the finest examples of Hungarian neo-Classicism. Hungarian history is presented from the foundation of the state up until 1990. The Hungarian Holy Crown and the Crown Jewels used to be displayed here, but on 1 January 2000 they were moved to Parliament. The museum played a key role in the 1848-49 War of Independence and as such it became one of its symbols; for this reason the National Museum is to this day one of the focal points of celebrations marking the March 15 national holiday.

Opera House
Budapest is proud of possessing one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. The opening performance of the Opera House was held in the neo-Renaissance building, the jewel of the avenue, in 1884 after nine years of construction.

Millennium Monument - Heroes' Square
Budapest's grandest square stands at the top of Andrássy Avenue, with City Park right behind. Marking the end of stylish Andrássy Avenue, this monumental edifice is a majestic memorial to the thousand-year history of Hungarians in Europe. Each part of the monument represents an important moment in Hungarian history. The solemnity and pomp of the ensemble is further heightened by the two old museums on either side: the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art.

Vajdahunyad Castle
Probably the most fascinating edifice in City Park. The mock castle was originally built of timber and hardboard for the World Exhibition organized in 1896 to mark the thousandth anniversary of the arrival of the Magyars in the Carpathian Basin.

City Park and the Zoo
The Zoo, which is also a historical monument, recalls the atmosphere of the years around the beginning of the 20th century. One of the oldest zoos in the world, it is home to 500 species of animal and 4000 types of plant.

To go further

Budapest info
Exhaustive tourist information on Budapest and offers of hotel, airline and other tourist services.

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