The Very BEST of Buda and Pest

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The city that was once two cities has an abundance of history, culture, sights, and experiences to offer the millions of visitors who flock to the ‘Pearl of the Danube’ each year. Given that it is one of the largest cities in the European Union also indicates that there is no shortage of things to do and see. But, before we get into the must-see activities and attractions, let’s quickly discuss the distinct differences of the two cities now within THE city- Buda and Pest (which became one in the year 1873).

A Tale of Two Cities: Buda and Pest

Buda and Pest

Buda prominently lies on the west side of the Danube with its winding and narrow streets draped over the hilly landscape, whereas Pest is completely flat with more navigable streets, as it is the urban center of the city. Because many of the city’s most notable buildings lie along the waterfront, it is only natural that the river’s edge provides incredible views of the opposite side. Buda Castle on the Buda side offers outstanding views the Parliament Building on the Pest side, and visa versa. Of course, if you want an epic view over the entire city, be sure to make the trek to Gellért Hill. Regardless of which side you choose to stay in during your visit to Budapest, there are benefits to each. While Pest may have more hotels and types of accommodation, Buda tends to be a little quieter, with still an ample amount of choices. Having explored both sides, we’re convinced that regardless of where you stay in the city, you’re guaranteed to be near some of the main attractions… or at least near the fairly easy to navigate public transportation system. So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the very BEST of Buda and Pest!


Buda Castle

Buda Castle proudly sits atop Castle Hill (Várhegy) overlooking the River Danube. Often referred to as the Royal Palace (Budavári palota), the castle contains countless medieval monuments and cultural institutions, such as the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.

Buda Castle

Most visitors enter the castle grounds via the Habsburg steps, leading to a terrace which provides outstanding panoramic views over the Danube, Chain Bridge, and Pest. Also on this terrace is a statue honoring Prince Eugene of Savoy, the man responsible for defeating the Ottoman Army and liberating Budapest from the Turks.

Habsburg steps Budapest

Matthias Fountain

Walk through a corridor leading away from the aforementioned terrace and come to another courtyard featuring a statue of the Horse Wrangler (Lószelidítő) and off to the right of the statue, Matthias Fountain (Mátyás kút).

Horse Wrangler and Matthias Fountain Budapest

This Neo-Baroque masterpiece by Alajos Stróbl depicts a hunting party led by King Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary.

Matthias Fountain Budapest

Matthias Church

Also named after King Matthias is Matthias Church (officially known as The Church of Our Lady), one of the oldest buildings in Buda. It has been refashioned and refurbished over the years to mimic the popular architectural style at the time.

Matthias Church Budapest

Originally built in Romanesque style, the current church was designed in late Gothic style in the late 14th century and restored extensively in the late 19th century. We particularly enjoyed the colorful Zsolnay ceramic tiles on the rooftop. You can also find frescoes by many famous Hungarian painters.

Matthias Church Budapest

Fisherman’s Bastion

During the Middle Ages, fishermen occupied the area now known as the bastion. They would sell their fresh catch on the square near Matthias Church. The guild of fishermen were also responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls. Who knew?!

Fisherman's Bastion Budapest

There’s no doubt about it, Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the BEST spots in all of Buda to get a picture perfect shot overlooking the Parliament building and all of Pest. Just be prepared for the crowds!

Toccara Forget Someday Travel Blog Budapest Parliament

Sándor Palace

Sándor Palace is the official residence of the President of Hungary. You can witness the changing of the guards every day of the week on the hour from 9 am until 5 pm. If your visit to Buda and Pest coincides with the last Saturday of the month, you will be treated to the changing of the guards accompanied by special music at midday (12 pm).

Sándor Palace Guard

Aquincum Museum

Also included in the Budapest Card, but slightly outside of the city center is the Aquincum Museum. It is one of the largest archaeological parks in Hungary. Explore the uncovered remains of the Civil Town of Aquincum and discover objects from prehistoric times. Definitely worth a visit for history buffs and children (there is a virtual reality room with several hands on activities).

Aquincum Museum Budapest

Gellért Spa

One of several public spas in Budapest, Gellért is among the most popular. Melt away your stress in the thermal pools, relax in the sauna, and enjoy a massage. It contains a total of 13 different pools, including an outdoor wave pool, and is tastefully decorated in beautiful art nouveau style.

Gellért Spa

Lukacs Spa

If you purchased a Budapest Card, entry into this newly renovated spa is FREE! In addition to the multiple thermal pools, outdoor pools, and saunas, Lukacs contains a full medical spa, and is also host to Saturday night bath parties October-December.

Lukacs Spa

Read more about our experiences at two of the spas in Budapest.


Parliament Building

The Parliament Building took 19 years to construct. Without a doubt, it is one of the most exquisitely detailed buildings in Hungary, if not all of Europe. If you want to take a tour inside, be sure to purchase your tickets online in advance to avoid long lines at this popular attraction.

Parliament Building Budapest

Its interior includes 10 courtyards, 13 passenger and freight elevators, 29 staircases, and 691 rooms, including more than 200 offices.

Parliament Building Budapest

Shoes on the Danube

Sam was moved to tears at this emotional memorial commemorating those who were shot along the Danube by the Hungarian Nazis. Unveiled on the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust, it serves as a somber reminder of the terrifying past.

Shoes on the Danube

Read Sam’s reflection in his post- Army of Men.

Shoes on the Danube

St Stephen’s Basilica

Budapest’s largest Roman Catholic church was named in honor of Stephen, the first king of Hungary. It took 54 years to complete this behemoth structure, partly because the dome collapsed in 1868, which required the destruction of what was already completed. They had to start completely from scratch. The bombings of WWII also caused significant damage to the building, requiring a good amount of renovation.

St Stephen's Basilica Budapest

It is free to go inside the basilica and is definitely worth a visit. The interior is magnificent and it is here where the mummified incorruptible right hand of St Stephen is said to be housed in the reliquary.

St Stephen's Basilica Budapest

Views from St Stephen’s Basilica

Take a series of two elevators or climb the 364 stairs that lead to the observation deck of the dome atop St Stephen’s Basilica. Enjoy 360-degree views over the heart of Budapest and the square below.

St Stephen's Basilica Tower

St Stephen's Basilica tower

Opera House

Originally known as the Hungarian Royal Opera House, the opera house in Budapest holds the provisional title as one of the most beautiful neo-Renaissance buildings in all of Europe. It is also said to have the best acoustics of any other opera house.

Budapest Opera House

Marble and frescoes adorn the interior, created by some of the world’s best artisans at the time of construction. You can take an inexpensive 45-minute tour of the opera house daily at 3 pm and 4 pm. Performances at the opera house can also be very affordable, so check the performance schedule for details.

Budapest Opera House

Great Market Hall

The Great Market Hall, also known as the Central Market Hall, is the oldest and largest indoor market in Budapest, spread out on 3 different floors, offering a wide selection of eateries and souvenir stands.

Great Market Hall Budapest

The market opens at 6 am and closes at 5 pm Monday, 6 pm Tuesday-Friday, and 3 pm on Saturday. It is closed on Sunday.

Great Market Hall Budapest

Hungarian National Museum

The Hungarian National Museum has several permanent displays. Here you can learn about the general history of the country, including the rise and fall of the communist system in Hungary.

Budapest Hungarian National Museum

The museum and its contents are bountiful. You can also learn about Hungarian scholars and gaze upon Medieval and Early Modern stone inscriptions and carvings, in addition to ancient Roman stone inscriptions and carvings.

Budapest Hungarian National Museum

 Both Buda and Pest take on a whole new personality after the sun goes down. Read more about how to best experience Budapest at night!

Chain Bridge at Sunset

Want to see even more great pics of Buda and Pest? Check out our gallery below.


  1. Buda Castle looks amazing! It looks like a great place for a bit of people watching and practicing some city scape photography.

  2. I was last in Budapest 15 yrs ago. I have been reading so much about it these days that i think I need to pay another visit. All I remember is my turkish bath experience and wondering the streets at night looking for my hostel… haha the life of a backpacker 🙂

  3. Carol Colborn

    I have never been to Budapest. In fact, it was not on our bucket list until now. Thanks for presenting the city to me in a fascinating way, including the awesome pictures!

  4. Free spa?? sign me up! Great info and photos guys-thanks!

  5. I love Budapest especially my experience in Gellert Bath …..its so relaxing oh and the Palinka shots ( that I didnt miss- 70% alcohol !)

  6. I really love your photos and the thorough description of what is there to see both in Buda and in Pest, and that the Gellért Hill offers the best views! I’ll have to remember that when I finally go to Hungary!

  7. Your photos are gorgeous. I’ve never been to Budapest, but would love to go. This might be embarrassing, but I didn’t know that Buda and Pest were once two separate cities!

    • No need to be embarrassed. I honestly didn’t know before our visit either! We learned a lot about the city and its history during our visit and would definitely recommend you visit someday.

  8. Wow! I’ve always wanted to go to Budapest, but never knew most of this information! Now I definitely really want to go. You’ve highlighted so many interesting points. What a beautiful city.

  9. Fantastic photos!! Those shoes are definitely a moving sight. Such a chilling reminder and an incredible way to invoke emotion without words or explanation! Can’t wait to visit Budapest (and both Buda and Pest!)

  10. Wow, you made a fantastic guide for what to do in Budapest. I had no idea that there were previously two cities. That is so interesting. Also, the spas really look great..!

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