At day it’s best to go up to the Castle (Budai Vár) by Sikló, a funicular railway, thus, saving energy for exploring the antique little streets of the Castle Hill, the Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) and the Matthias Church (Mátyás-templom). The Gothic residential buildings will amaze you as you take short breaks in between the Museum and Institute of Military History (Hadtörténeti Intézet és Múzeum), the National Archives of Hungary (Magyar Országos Levéltár) and the Mary Magdalene Church (Mária Magdolna-templom). At night the Castle provides the atmosphere, the cityscape delights the eye, and the two together deliver romance.
Surrounded by ramparts, Castle Hill overlooks the Danube. At night, it takes on a new appearance with lighting effects... The royal palace with its dome, Mathias church with its glazed roofs, Fishermen's Bastion, to be seen from Pest, then shine with the light from a thousand spotlights. If you take the funicular railway up the hill, do not miss the sculpture symbolising the famous 0 kilometre, the coat-of-arms of Hungary and the beautiful view over the Danube and Pest (telescope).
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Castle District (Várnegyed). This district is the city’s most beautiful and historic dating back to the 13th century, with some settlements here even earlier. This is district I, which is a small district that encompasses the plateau where the grand Royal Palace and grounds fill the southern end above the surrounding neighborhoods and the Danube below. The Castle District is defined by its medieval walls. The northern end is home to small winding streets, with old homes, St. Matthias Church, the Fishermans Bastion, and the Hilton Hotel.
Watertown (Víziváros). A long, narrow neighborhood wedged between the Castle District and the Danube, makes up district II. Víziváros is historically a quarter where fishermen and artisans reside. Built on the steep slope of Castle Hill, it has narrow alleys and stairs instead of roads in many places. Its main street, Fő utca, runs the north-south length of the Víziváros, parallel to and a block away from the river. It is a high-rent district for residents and tourists.
Rose Hill (Rózsadomb). This is the part of Buda Hills and still part of district II, closest to the city center and one of the city’s most fashionable and luxurious residential neighborhoods.
Buda Hills. The Buda Hills are numerous remote neighborhoods that feel as if they’re nowhere near, let alone within, a capital city. By and large, the hills are considered a classy place to live. Neighborhoods are generally known by the name of the hill on which they stand. Unless you like to walk neighborhoods, there is nothing more for the traveler in this part of the city.
Óbuda makes up district III and is mostly residential now, though its long Danube coastline was a favorite spot for workers’ resorts under the old regime. Most facilities have been privatized, so a large number of hotels are found here. Transportation for the traveler into Pest would be cumbersome, so we do not recommend staying out here. The extensive Roman ruins of Aquincum and the beautifully preserved old-town main square are Obuda’s chief claims to fame.
Inner City (Belváros). The historic center of Pest, the Belváros, literally meaning “city center” is the area inside the Inner Ring, bound by the Danube to the west. Making up part of district V, it has many of Pest’s historic buildings in this area. In addition, a number of the city’s showcase luxury hotels and most of its best-known shopping streets are here.
Leopold Town (Lipótváros). The continuation of district V is just north of the Belváros, making Lipótváros a part of central Pest. Development began here at the end of the 18 th century, and the neighborhood soon emerged as a center of Pest business and government. Parliament, plus a number of government ministries, courthouses, banks, and the former stock exchange, are all found here. Before the war, this was considered a neighborhood of the “high bourgeoisie.”
Theresa Town (Terézváros). The character of Terézváros, district VI, is defined by Andrássy út, the great boulevard running the length of the neighborhood from Heroes’ Square through Oktogon and down into the Inner City. This grand street has been regaining its reputation of elegance: Andrássy út is once again the “best address” in town, especially since the upper part is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Teréz körút section of the Outer Ring cuts through Terézváros; Oktogon is its major square. The area around Nagymező utca is the city’s small theater district.
Elizabeth Town (Erzsébetváros). This is district VII. Directly to the southeast of Terézváros, Erzsébetváros is the historic Jewish neighborhood of Pest. During the German occupation from 1944 to 1945, this district was where the ghettos were established for the Jewish people. This district is still the center of Budapest’s Jewish life. Although it had been exceedingly run-down due to the war, in the last couple of years, it has become gentrified and considered one of the up-and-coming districts to invest in.
Joseph Town (Józsefváros). One of the largest central Pest neighborhoods is district VIII. Józsefváros is to the southeast of Erzsébetváros. It has had a reputation of being a less-than-desirable district of Pest, but there are some places in this district worth your time and energy. It should not be dismissed across the board. It is working hard at gentrifying.
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace. Budapest, V. Roosevelt tér 5-6. (00 36 1 268-6000), has gained the reputation as Hungary’s foremost hotel. The workmanship of the recreated Art Nouveau architecture is breathtaking. Guests get the royal treatment, with customer care that will enamor you for a long time.
After entering the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal, Budapest, VII. Erzsébet krt. 43-49. (00 36 1 479-4000), you will not want to leave the sumptuous building and there’s no need to do so with its pool, spa, and restaurants.
Best for Families
The accommodations at Charles Apartment House, Budapest, I. Hegyalja út 23. (00 36 1 212-9169), are comfortable and clean flats with fully equipped kitchens in a Buda-side apartment building.
Best Moderately Priced Hotel
The jazzy Cotton House Hotel, Budapest, VI. Jókai u. 26. (00 36 1 354-2600), conveniendy located near the Opera House and Liszt Ferenc tér, will soothe the blues away.
Best Budget Hotel
The accommodations at Medosz, Budapest, VI. Jókai tér 9. (00 36 1 374-3001) are comfortable and clean and close to Oktogon and Liszt Ferenc tér.
Best Apartment in the city centre
The Buddha Budapest Apartment. Budapest, V. Váci u. 46. (00 36 30 278-5200). Located on the most famous pedestrian street of Budapest. These fully equipped, premium apartments are the perfect location for your downtown Budapest stay.
Best Bed and Breakfast
Without humility, we have to say it is our own BudaBaB, Budapest, VII. Akácfa u. 18. (00 36 1 267-5240), where English is the first language, and which is perfectly located to start your touring or shopping expeditions within easy walking distance of public transportation just two blocks away.
This one is a tie between two hotels, one on each side of the river. On the Pest side, it is the Four Seasons 7 Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest, V. Roosevelt tér 5-6. (00 36 1 268-6000), with the Chain Bridge outside its door.
On the Buda the Hilton Budapest, Budapest, I. Hess András tér 1-3. (00 36 1 899-6600), is a luxurious lodging right next door to the Matthias Church and the Fishermans Bastion square.
Sunrise to sunset, you can find a number of garden areas on the enchanting island in the Danube. During the summer months, the whimsical fountain, set within one of the beautiful garden areas, plays classical music while spraying water in time to the music.
The island did not become a public park until 1908. Before that time only the leaders of the upper classes could set foot on it. Plebeians should take advantage and visit with a picnic.
The name is Freedom Square in English. Surrounded by historical buildings, including the U.S. Embassy, this well-tended green space has gardens interspersed with pedestrian walkways.
There are plenty of benches under shady trees for relaxing and even a small children’s playground for a family rest stop. It is also home to the tall obelisk with a star on top, the last remaining monument to the Soviet Union’s liberation of Budapest after World War II.
Szent István Park
This attractive green park in the XIII district is often overlooked by visitors who don’t even know it’s there. It’s a flowering oasis during spring and summer. To reach it, take tram No. 4 or No. 6 to Jászai Mari tér and walk parallel to Margaret Island three blocks along the Danube to reach it. The gardens are open from 6am to 8:30pm.
If you take the Millennium walking tour, you will discover the four pleasant garden areas, each with its own statue.
Jókai tér & Liszt Ferenc tér
Where they are intersected by Andrássy út just past Oktogon, each has attractive flower gardens. The Liszt Ferenc side is always shaped like a giant valentine heart. If you continue down Liszt Ferenc tér, an umbrella of trees will shadow you as you walk along the winding path.
For those looking for a quick lunch or a brief coffee and chat in between excursions or sightseeing, here are two recently redeveloped and "cool" locations which come fully recommended: one is Liszt Ferenc Square off Andrássy Avenue not far from Oktogon, the other is Ráday Street which starts from Kálvin Square. Both places are packed with cosy restaurants, bars, cafés and a youthful clientele. From a single star to 4-star, you’ll find every kind of restaurant here serving everything from traditional Hungarian to Chinese and even Argentinean cuisine.
Again, just off of Andrássy út in district VI, you will find an extended sidewalk with a planter built up from the ground filled with flowers. Beyond the flowerbeds is a modern, tranquil water fountain. Benches are provided for a rest stop, so give your feet a break and enjoy the views.
Hollán Ernő utca
Just as the street starts off Szent István körút in the XIII district, there is a pedestrian street for one block. Like Nagymező utca, a new pedestrian area has been created complete with flowers and a water fountain decorated with colored lights.
ENJOY A SUNSET IN BUDAPEST
From the Riverside
As the sun sets, you will find many locals and visitors flocking to the riverside to enjoy people-watching, admire the sunset, and just plain relax. Depending on how busy your day was, you may either want to find a bench to sit on and unwind, or take a stroll onto one of the bridges that span the mighty Danube, the second-longest river in Europe.
This thermal is open until 10pm. Relax in the hot spring waters while watching the end of the day’s sun’s rays as they fade into the horizon.
Margaret Island (Margit-sziget)
This island, once called Rabbit Island, was home to the cloistered nuns’ convent founded by Princess Margaret, daughter of Béla IV, who promised his daughter to nunnery. Enjoy the flower gardens or the singing fountain as the sun sinks into the western sky.
Sip a glass of wine in this romantic sunset spot. On Castle Hill, it overlooks the city on one side and St. Matthias Church on the other.
Academy of Sciences Park
For a casual place to relax, sit in the park across the street from the academy and take in the engaging architecture, the river view, and a beautiful sunset on Széchenyi István tér.
The Sculptural Grounds at Buda Castle
There is a powerful statue called the Matthias Fountain. It is based on a legend of King Matthias, who, while on a hunting trip through the forest, came across a woman stranger, Ilona; she fell in love with him instantly, not realizing he was the king. He reciprocated the love.
If you want to start at the highest point, you will have to go to János-Hegy (John Hill) where the tower is 529m (1,736 ft) high. On a clear day, you might just see the Tátra Mountains. The best way to get there is the chairlift. The next highest vista is the Citadella (Citadel) on Gellért Hill. The bus only gets you so far, and then you hike up the rest, but it is worth the effort. This is where you’ll find the Lady of Liberty statue viewable from the Pest side. Castle Hill is of course an excellent viewpoint for photographs from both the front of the castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. The best view though is from behind the President of Hungary’s office buildings. Margit Híd (Margaret Bridge), the side across from the island, has a breathtaking view of the river from where the bridge elbows.