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Built in 1851 at the order of François-Joseph, it crowns the top of mount Gellért.

Name: Citadel
Category: Architecture, castles and historic districts
Location: 1118 Budapest, Citadella sétány

Description

Built in 1851 at the order of François-Joseph, it crowns the top of mount Gellért. The Hungarian revolt of 1848-1849 having "shook" the Austrians, who saw in this defensive works a means to control the city. A hotel and a restaurant occupy part of the battlements. You can enter the compoundand walk around the path. From this belvedere, the view spreads right over the city below, Pest on the opposite bank and between them both, Marguerite Isle.



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Located between Elizabeth Bridge and Liberty Bridge (Várbalang), Gellért Hill (235m) is one of the most characteristic features of the right bank of the Danube.

Name: Gellért Hill
Category: Nature and gardens
Location: 1118 Budapest, Kelenhegyi út

Description

Located between Elizabeth Bridge and Liberty Bridge (Várbalang), Gellért Hill (235m) is one of the most characteristic features of the right bank of the Danube. In the 19C, the hill's slopes were covered in vines, later wiped out by phylloxera. According to legend, Gellért Hill was popular with witches and wizards, who met here for their Sabbath nights. At the foot of the hill, the Gellért (Gellért fürdő) and Rudas (Rudas Gyógyfürdő) baths are fed by numerous thermal springs.



Not many cities have a hill rising from the city centre and protected as a national park. Gellért Hill has a fortress called the Citadel on top of it, which was built in 1851, and is now a tourist attraction with terraces offering the fullest panoramic view of the city.

St. Gellért statue
St. Gellért statue

 

The hot springs deep inside the hill supply three spas at the foot of the hill. The Gellért Thermal Baths, Hungary’s grandest spa (2-4 Kelenhegyi út), where facilities include thermal and swimming pools, bath tubs, whirlpool baths, wave pools and a water park.

Gellért Baths
Gellért Baths

 

The other two, Rudas Baths (9 Döbrentei tér) and Rác Baths (8-10 Hadnagy utca), date back to the era of Turkish rule in Hungary. Facilities at both include tubs and thermal pools and as well ‘Turkish’ or steam baths. A swimming pool can also be found at the Rudas Baths.

Other monuments from the Turkish period include the tomb of Gül Baba, a Muslim shrine on Rózsadomb (Hill of Roses, 4 Mecset utca), and the domed Király Thermal Baths (82-84 Fő utca), with facilities including thermal pools, tubs and steam baths.

Fertile hillside vineyards have made Budafok in the south of Budapest a city of wine and sparkling wine. Its highlights include a labyrinth of cellars and the Museum of the Törley Sparkling Wine Manufacturers (82-94 Kossuth Lajos. utca). The Szoborpark (Park of Sculptures) at the junction of Balatoni út-Szabadkai út displays an unparalleled collection of socialist-era public sculptures.

The Castle Museum in Nagytétény (9-11 Kastélypark utca, 22nd District of Budapest) has an interesting collection of furniture.

Offering a glimpse of sea life, the Tropicarium at the Campona shopping mall is worth including in a day’s programme.

Tropicarium
Tropicarium

 

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After a lot of pacing the streets in Day 1 and Day 2, here we start with a coffee at one of Budapest’s most luxurious coffee houses, followed by a spot of shopping, taking in everything from designer boutiques, folk art shops, and food markets. This tour also gives you the option of ending the day with a swim and a thermal bathe to soothe the joints after scaling the dizzy heights of Gellért Hill.

START: M1 to Vörösmarty tér or Tram 2 to Vigadó tér and walk for two minutes in the opposite direction of the river.

Café Gerbaud

Try morning coffee and cake at one of the plushest of the city’s illustrious coffee houses. Your biggest decision here will be to work out where to sit to take it all in.

This is not the place we would choose to start the day every day - the ornate interior can be a bit over the top - but we find it tasteful enough in small doses to be an ideal treat. Coffee culture is about not only reading papers and devouring Gerbaud’s renowned Esterházy and Dobos cakes, but legend has it that young men indicated their availability to well-heeled ladies of pleasure by tipping an excessive amount of sugar into their coffee.

In summer, if the wealth of chandeliers, marble tables, fine wood paneling, and stucco ceilings gets a bit much, take to the terrace and sit out on Vörösmarty tér.

Time: 45 minutes. Opening hours: 9am–9pm.

Location: Budapest, Vörösmarty tér 7. Metro: M1 to Vörösmarty tér.

Váci utca

Even those who are not shopaholics can easily take in this relatively short shopping street and surrounding area. Starting from Vörösmarty tér, which often has something going on and hosts a Christmas market, you’ll find most big international fashion brands from Zara and Mango to Jackpot and H&M.

However, most of them offer a somewhat modest selection in comparison to other international cities. Keep an eye out on the side streets for high-end designers.

Souvenir shops also abound, though with steep price tags, but if you are into embroidered tablecloths and folk art, then you have come to the right place.

The shopping street continues on the other side of Szabadsajtó út, where the vibe is less frenetic.

Time: 60 minutes.

Location: Walk through the pedestrian crossing that connects the two sides of Váci utca from Vörösmarty tér to Vámház körút. Metro: M1 to Vörösmarty tér (starting point).

Great Market Hall

You may feel like you’re walking through an Impressionist painting when the sunlight shines into this beautifully restored king of neighborhood markets. However, it’s far from a museum piece; many locals come here to shop for fresh food and it’s bustling with life and color. The array of meat on sale shows just how thrifty Hungarians are, as they consider every part of the animal fair game for the pot. The carp and catfish crammed in tanks on fish "death row" downstairs are an uncomfortable sight for some, but hey, at least they’re fresh.

There are plenty of foodstuffs like paprika, salami, and goose liver to take home in the Great Market Hall, and upstairs look out for folklore and handicrafts hidden among the mountains of tourist goods.

There are plenty of nibbles to be eaten upstairs.

Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour.

Location: Budapest, Vámház körút 1–3. Opening hours: Mon 6am–5pm, Tues–Fri 6am–6pm, Sat 6am–3pm. Metro: M3 to Kálvin tér. Tram: 2/47/49 to Fővám tér.

Walk across Liberty (Szabadság) Bridge

Buda and Pest are seamlessly connected by this bright green piece of intricate ironwork that joins the Pest’s Great Market Hall and its neighbor the Budapest University of Economics (formerly the Karl Marx University) with the Gellért Hotel and the dramatic Gellért Hill of Buda.

The Liberty Bridge was opened by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1896, who actually knocked the last rivet into it.

Time: 10 minutes.

Location: Starts where Pest’s Vámház körút meets the Danube. Tram: 47/49 to Kálvin tér.

Gellért Hill

The imposing Gellért hill, that towers over the Pest waterfront of the Danube has been used to good effect to suppress forces for change. Italian missionary Szent Gellért was reportedly rolled down the hill in 1046 to his death by revolting pagans. The Austrians then built a Citadel from which to lord it over the Magyars.

To find the Gellért Statue upstream towards the Erzsébet Bridge where you will see the steps leading up. Gellért, who participated in spreading the gospel in 11th century Hungary on King Stephen’s request, met his end being tumbled down the hill (that was subsequently named after him) in a barrel filled with nails.

Ultimately, Christianity won through with Gellért canonized in 1083. The Gellért Statue captures the saint preaching defiantly but precariously on the edge of the hill. It dates back to 1904 and is the work of Hungarian sculptor Gyula Jankovits (1865–1920).

Follow the path up and you reach the Citadel that the Austrians, smarting from the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, built, replete with cannons galore, atop the hill pointing at the Hungarians below. There wasn’t much use for it after they patched up their differences in 1867, although German occupying forces utilized it in World War II.

The three-level bunker inside the Citadel has waxworks and photos chronicling the Siege of Budapest. Close by and at the peak of the hill, Budapest’s very own statue of liberty, the Freedom Statue M, ironically went up in 1947 as a tribute to the Soviet forces that liberated the city from the Nazis. Featuring a woman proffering the palm branch of triumph and not overtly Soviet-looking, it survived the cull of Communist statues from the capital.

Time: 1–2 hours.

Cave Church

On the way down, just before reaching the Gellért- Hotel and Baths, check out this spooky church whose eerie passages dig deep into the hill.

Don’t be alarmed if a priest appears from nowhere in the Cave Church!

Time: 15 minutes.

Gellért Baths

After another hard day of pounding the streets, the Art Nouveau architecture of the Gellért thermal baths allows you to relax in style but also to see something special. Inside, the central pool is surrounded by Romanesque columns and lions spitting out water, and just for a moment you might expect Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra to dive in alongside you.

At the end of the pool, the male and female thermal facilities are to the right and left respectively. This is where things start to get really colorful and heated, and we are not just talking about the design or decoration, nor the saunas and steam rooms. You can keep your bathing costume on, though many locals like to let it all hang out and dispense with their modesty cloths, although the authorities are said to be cracking down on that sort of thing.

The plunge pool is so icy you feel the chill right through your bones, but the thaw of the warm pools is always close at hand. While the waters are supposed to sort out arthritis, blood circulation, and the spine, we say just enjoy them and come out feeling squeaky clean and purified. In summer, be sure to check out the outdoor pools and garden, which is a bit more suited to kids who can enjoy the artificial waves in the main outdoor pool.

For more information, please see this post about Best Thermal Baths in Budapest.

Time: 2 hours. Opening hours: 6am–7pm.

Location: Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4. Tram: 47/49/18/19 to Szent Gellért tér.

 

Cruising the Danube

Cruising the Danube
Cruising the Danube

 

There’s nothing like a boat ride on a fine sunny day. From Budapest, head up the river leading to the charming towns of Vác, Szentendre, and Visegrád along the Danube Bend.

Etyek

Etyek
Etyek

 

Etyek is one of the friendliest destinations near Budapest. Its wine region is a fine venue for pleasant meanderings in lands suitably called Devilpit-cellar (Ördögárok-pince), Newhill (Újhegy) and Oldhill (Öreghegy). If you want to taste the real flavors of Etyek, don’t leave without sampling the delicacies of Sonkamester, the meals at Rókusfalvy Fogadó and the wonderful wines, for example, at the atmospheric garden of Etyeki Kúria.

Gödöllő

The town north-east of Budapest can boast with about 70 sights but tourists come here mainly to see the Royal Palace (Királyi Kastély). The building has come to be known as one of the symbols of Hungarian autonomy as it had been the summer abode of Sisi, empress of Austria and queen of Hungary in the 19th century.

Gödöllő
Gödöllő

 

Emperor Franz Joseph and his royal consort Queen Elisabeth, affectionately called Sissi by Hungarians, would often stay in the 250-year-old Baroque royal palace (1 Szabadság tér) of Gödöllő. The park of the Baroque building is beautiful, visitors are awaited with permanent and temporary exhibitions and classical concerts.

After 200 years the restored Baroque Theatre is open to the public once again. The chapel and Calvary in Elisabeth Park are from the 18th century. Because of the 700-year-old miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary, the devotional church in Máriabesnyő was elevated to the rank of basilica minor and became a famous shrine.

The Hungarian Grand Prix takes place at the Hungaroring in the outskirts of Mogyoród in mid-August. There is an aquapark adjoining Hungaroring.

Visiting Szentendre

Only 45 minutes outside the city by HÉV, this small Serbian village boasts a number of tiny museums, shopping opportunities, and pleasant strolls along the Danube.

Szentendre
Szentendre

 

It’s hard to point out what makes Szentendre the charming town it is. You wouldn’t be very far from the truth saying either the Mediterranean feel, the little old alleys, the galleries, the tiny shops or the fresh air. One thing is for sure: the view of the Danube from the hills Szamárhegy and Templomdomb contributes a lot to the atmosphere. At the Museum of Micro Miracles (Mikro Csodák Múzeuma) and Művészetmalom exciting exhibitions are on display. The humanistic nature of the settlement is further emphasized by the collection of the Kovács Margit Ceramics Museum (Kovács Margit Kerámia Múzeum). And the most life-like museum is the Skanzen, an open-air ethnographic museum.

Vác

A delightful town. The center square is a mix of historic buildings with a modern square completed in 2006.

Vác
Vác

 

Vác is a one-thousand-year-old episcopal seat on the Danube bank. It was the terminus of the first railway service launched in Pest in 1846, at the time trains arrived here at a speed of 30 km per hour.

The country’s only triumphal arch, the Kőkapu ("Stone Gate"), can be seen here, erected in 1764 to celebrate the visit of the Empress Maria Theresa. Konstantin tér is dominated by the imposing Classicist cathedral. The Episcopal palace (1 Migazzi tér) was built in the 18th century. The tabernacle of the Piarist Church and Monastery (Szentháromság tér) are also noteworthy. All houses on Március 15. tér are protected Baroque monuments.

The Church of the White Company (24 Március 15. tér) was named after the Dominicans in white habit. Its altar is a richly decorated Rococo masterpiece. Aptly entitled "Memento mori", an exhibition in the air-conditioned cellar in the adjoining Baroque house displays rare 16th-18th-century burial memorabilia found in the vault. The bridge over the Gombás brook is the only Baroque stone bridge with statues in the country.

Visit Visegrád-Esztergom

Hungary’s seat of Catholicism, Esztergom is located 46km (29 miles) northwest of Budapest. St. István, the first Christian king of Hungary, was crowned here on Christmas Day a.d. 1000. The cathedral has impressive views of the Danube and the rest of the city.

Esztergom
Esztergom

 

Visiting the Rennaissance Royal Palace (Királyi Palota) at Visegrád is surely a kind of time travel, which is only taken to another level by seeking out the historical exhibition in the Citadel (Citadella). Going further on along the Danube make sure to stop by the town of Esztergom and see the most prominent Roman Catholic basilica of Hungary. Here you should get across the Danube – and the border, too – and revel in the sight of the church from the downtown of Šturovo, as well.

Explore the Monastery at Pannonhalma

Prince Géza founded the monastery in 969. This is where the gothic cloisters are housed as well as a magnifi-cendy ornate 19th-century library, with the most important collection of Hungarian historical documents. It sits on a hill between the forested slopes of the Bakony region and the low-lying Kisalföld (Little Plain), with a fantastic view.

Pannonhalma
Pannonhalma

 

Esztergom is the seat of the archbishop of Esztergom, the primate of the Hungarian Catholic Church. St. Stephen (970?-1038), the first Hungarian king and founder of the country, was born in the castle erected here in around 970. Built on Castle Hill in the first half of the 19th century, the Classicist cathedral on Szent István tér is the country’s largest church with the world’s largest altarpiece, painted on a single piece of canvas.

The cathedral incorporates the early 16th-century red marble Bakócz Chapel, the only intact Renaissance edifice in Hungary. The Treasury of the Cathedral exhibits the richest collection of Hungarian ecclesiastical art of some 400 items. The private royal chapel, the frescoed castle chapel and a rose window in the vicinity of the cathedral are remainders of a Romanesque royal palace.

The Castle Museum (1 Szent István tér) in the restored halls of the palace of Árpád kings traces the history of the castle in Esztergom. The head of the Hungarian Catholic Church resides at the Primate’s Palace (2 Mindszenty hercegprímás tere), which also houses the Christian Museum exhibiting the most valuable pieces of medieval Hungarian fine arts. The Baroque ambience on Széchenyi tér is created by middle-class houses and the City Hall. Topped by two spires, its parish church (1724-28) is a unique monument of Italian Baroque architecture.

Historical Visegrád

Located 40km (25 miles) north of Budapest., You first travel to Nagymaros, then take a ferry to Visegrád, you can find the ruins of King Béla IV’s reign. The Citadel and the reconstructed Royal Palace are among the places worth seeing.

Visegrád
Visegrád

Visegrád, from here the Papal Nuncio, well used to pomp and chivalry, headed his letters "from Visegrád, a Paradise on Earth" when he stayed as a guest and saw the breathtaking palace of the great Renaissance monarch, King Matthias (1458-1490). With 350 rooms and two-tier fountains of red marble, it was one of the most luxurious royal residences of the age.

The Renaissance courtyard of the palace and the so-called Hercules Fountain, which used to stream wine on various celebratory occasions, have been faithfully restored. The original fountains and sculptures are stored at the five-storey 13th-century Solomon Tower, which is one of Central Europe’s largest and most intact Romanesque fortified dwellings. Battle scenes are re-enacted in its courtyard on occasion. The tower is part of a defence system with massive walls connecting the 13th-century water bastion on the Danube with the castle on top of the hill.

This system defended the royal court that was relocated here from Buda in 1316. The Holy Crown was kept at the Citadel built between 1245 and 1255 for nearly 200 years. It was also here in 1335 that the rulers of Eastern Europe met for the first time in history. The kings of Bohemia, Poland and Hungary concluded an economic agreement, to the exclusion of Vienna. On the nearby heights there are three notable things to see: the ruins of a Roman military encampment from around 330 AD on Sibrik Hill; the Nagyvillám ("Great Lightning") lookout tower on Fekete ("black") Hill; and Mogyoró ("hazelnut") Hill, a prime hiking destination with facilities including a bobsleigh course, a yurt camp, a camping site, forest restaurants, playgrounds and a game preserve open all the year round.

Ördögmalmi ("Devil’s Mill") Waterfall, Magda Spring and Telgárthy Meadow, an ideal place for picnicking, are situated in the Apátkút Valley. A thermal spring in Lepence Valley supplies water to the 33-m long swimming pool of a terraced forest spa situated on a hillside.