Castle Hill - home to what you might call Buda's 'old town' - has been a cultural and strategic focal point of the city for centuries and was also the site of over 30 sieges. The inevitable damage resulted in several episodes of rebuilding, often re-using stones from the rubble and lending to the district a fascinating mix of architectural styles. The showpieces are the spectacular Mátyás Church and the Buda Royal Palace to the south. In addition, the views over Pest from the Fishermen's Bastion will take your breath away.
Buda Royal Palace
The enormous building at the southern end of Castle Hill has been the royal palace, in various styles and guises, since the 14th century. It was rebuilt 400 years later and required major reconstruction work after World War II. It now houses the Budapest History Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery and the National Széchenyi Library.
The Fishermen's Bastion (Halászbástya) is often the first stop for tourists visiting Budapest, the fairytale turrets offering an elevated vantage point from which to view the city. The minarets and walls look medieval, but they were actually built in 1902 by Frigyes Schulek to complement Mátyás Church.
Visible from almost everywhere in Budapest, Gellért Hill (Gellért hegy), with the impressive Freedom Monument on its peak, is one of the city's memorable landmarks.
The 14-metre monument was originally commissioned by Miklós Horthy as a memorial to his son, who died in a wartime air accident. When the Russians arrived, they replaced the propeller that the figure was originally meant to hold aloft with a palm frond to symbolize the country's liberation from the Nazis. Just beyond the monument is the Citadella, a fortress constructed by the Habsburgs following the 1848-1849 war of independence. It now houses an open-air museum chronicling the history of the hill.
The Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge (Lánchíd) was the first permanent link between Buda and Pest and is a fitting monument to István Széchenyi - known as the 'Greatest Hungarian'. The bridge has a British connection too: it was designed by William Tierney Clark
and constructed by Adam Clark, after whom the roundabout on the Buda side is named.
Budapest's playground, car-free Margaret Island (Margitsziget) has everything you need to enjoy a relaxing day - including sport stadium, numerous tennis courts, outdoor swimming complex, an open air theatre, Japanese and Rose gardens, early medieval ruins, two spa hotels and a beer garden.
The world's second largest parliament building is a postcard favourite, particularly when reflected in the River Danube below it. It is equally lavish on the inside, but tourists must be part of an organized sightseeing tour to enter.
St Stephen's Basilica
Named after Szent István (St Stephen) founder of the Hungarian Christian state, the basilica is visible from all over Budapest. The dome, at 315 ft is the exact height as that of the Parliament, whose builders decided not to go higher.
The Great Synagogue
This synagogue is the second largest in the world (after the one in New York). It has three naves and following orthodox tradition, separate galleries for women. Together the naves and galleries can accommodate up to 3,000 worshippers. It is also a focal point of Budapest's thriving Jewish community, which holds an annual festival in and around the impressive building. The Jewish Museum can also be find here, and the Holocaust Documentation and Memorial Centre is an important and powerful reminder of one of the darkest periods in European history.
It was named after the former prime minister who had done much to make Budapest a true metropolis. He was determined that Budapest should have an elegant thoroughfare to emulate Paris's Champs Elysees. The cream of Eclectic architecture is to be seen along the Avenue including the outstanding Opera House and many beautiful tenement blocks with intimate inner courtyards, statues and fountains. One of the special features of Andrassy Avenue is barely visible on the surface. The only give-away is the occasional wrought iron balustrade leading underground. Europe's first sub-surface railway was built under the road, and the more than 125 year old underground is still carrying passengers today along a line only slightly longer than the original.
The Hungarian State Opera House is not only the sanctum of music and dance, but also a historical monument. The construction started in 1875 with the permission and financial support of Franz Joseph, emperor of Austria and king of Hungary. The plans and personal instructions were conducted by Nicholas Ybl. The Opera House opened its gate to the public on the 27th September, 1884. The Opera House can be visited with a local guide every day at 3&4 pm in 6 different languages. More information: www.operavisit.hu or +36 30 2795677.
The statues on Heros' Square (Hősök tere) are very much a who's who of Hungarian history (with the notable exception of the unpopular Habsburg monarchy, whose statues were removed and replaced) and its scale and grandeur is an indication of the pride Hungarians have for their country.
Budapest's second favourite park after Margitsziget, the City Park (Városliget) is situated behind and to the right of Heros' Square as you approach from the centre of town. City Park offers a host of attractions of its own, including the Budapest Zoo, the Petőfi Csarnok concert venue and the obligatory Széchenyi Baths.
This fairytale castle was originally constructed from timber and cardboard for the exhibition held in 1896 to mark the thousandth anniversary of the arrival of the Magyars to the Carpathian Basin. Its aim was to give the visitor an insight into Hungary's rich architectural past and it features small-scale reproductions of various buildings around Hungary and, in particular, Transylvania (now Romania). This architectural cocktail was such a success that it was rebuilt from more permanent materials in 1904. In winter, it provides a spectacular backdrop to an ice rink, while in summer, it is surrounded by a lake where pedalos and rowboats can be hired.
Liszt Academy of Music
The Liszt Academy of Music is a concert hall and music conservatory in Budapest, Hungary, founded on November 14, 1875. It is home to the Liszt Collection, which features several valuable books and manuscripts donated by Franz Liszt upon his death, and the AVISO studio, a collaboration between the governments of Hungary and Japan to provide sound recording equipment and training for students.
Palace of Arts (Müpa)
The Palace of Arts is one of Hungary's best known cultural brands and one of its most modern cultural institutions. Known to Hungarians simply as Müpa, it opened its doors in 2005 to offer cultural events of the highest quality to the diverse audiences of the above genres. The institution's fundamental task is to introduce new artistic trends and directions – while respecting Hungarian and European artistic traditions – and to relay them in a clearly understandable way that creates rich and rewarding experiences to be enjoyed by both the connoisseur and the person on the street.
The National Theatre is the main theatre of Budapest, originally opened in 1837. Its company has used several locations since then, including the original building on Kerepesi Street, the People's Theatre at the Blaha Lujza Square and their longest temporary home was at Hevesi Sándor Square. Their permanent, current home, the new National Theatre opened on 15th March 2002. The area of the theatre, along with an open-air stage is 20,844 square meters, and can be functionally separated into three parts. The central part is the almost-circular building of the auditorium and stage, surrounded by corridors and public areas. The second is the U-shaped industrial section around the main stage. The third section is the park that surrounds the area, containing numerous memorials commemorating the Hungarian drama and film industry.
Museum of Fine Art
The millenary session of the Hungarian Parliament in 1896 passed a law whereby art collections previously held in different institutions were to be unified and placed in the newly-established Museum of Fine Arts.
On the basis of a competitive tender, Albert Schickedanz and Fülöp Herzog were commissioned to design and construct the building, which opened in 1906. The gallery displaying original paintings was placed in the first floor halls of the neo-classical building; however, only plaster casts were available to illustrate a complete history of European sculpture. On the ground floor are the exhibitions of the Classical Antiquities and of 19th century paintings and sculptures; the Renaissance hall, where in addition to Renaissance frescoes and fountains items from the Sculpture Collection may be seen; the Prints and Drawings Gallery with temporary exhibitions; and the Marble and Baroque halls.
The Bálna (whale) is a commercial, cultural, entertainment and leisure centre, which has a unique modern design that resembles a whale. An easy to find and spacious meeting point, it connects downtown and inner Ferencváros, the tourist zone and the gastro-zone, and has a unique way to create an intimate contact with the Danube. The building is a characteristic attraction, as it occupies part of the Danube riverfront and is easily recognizable. The building alone combines the architectural traits of different eras. The historical brick building and the concrete structures typical of the last century are embraced in a computer-designed metal-glass shell. Bálna serves as the home to Budapest Gallery, which exhibits Hungarian and foreign contemporary art.
Central Market Hall:
CNN chose the Central Market Hall of Budapest as the greatest of Europe's Markets. The Central Market Hall won the 1st place among the five most vibrant city markets in Europe, followed by Mercat de San Josep de la Boqueira in Barcelona, The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the Portobello Road market in London and Les Puces in Paris.
The Hungarian National Gallery
The Hungarian National Gallery is the largest public collection documenting and presenting the rise and development of the fine arts in Hungary. It has operated as an independent institution since 1957. The HNG moved to its present location, the former Royal Palace of Buda, in 1975.
The Vigadó is a concert venue close the Danube on the Pest side, which has developed a rich concert life. Ferenc Liszt was soon to return to its concert hall, when he was invited to conduct his oratorio, The Legend of Saint Elisabeth on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Pest-Buda Conservatory. The five-hundred-strong choir came together from various Pest and rural choral societies. The Vigadó hosted the first all-Liszt concert in Hungary in 1869, and it was here that he conducted the premier of the orchestral versions of Mihály Vörösmarty's great poem "Appeal" and the Hungarian National Anthem, Ferenc Kölcsey's "Hymn". At the Vigadó celebration of his half-century artistic career, Liszt was presented with a gold laurel wreath and a number of foreign awards, including honorary membership of the St. Petersburg Academy of Music. In 1875 Liszt and Wagner co-organized a concert to raise funds for the construction of the Bayreuth Theatre (Festspielhaus). The Vigadó also hosted performances by the likes of Johann Strauss Jr., Mascagni, Dvořak, Debussy, and Arthur Rubinstein. Ernő Dohnányi had his first solo concert here. Béla Bartók and Annie Fischer made their debuts here in 1905 and 1932 respectively. Richard Strauss conducted from the rostrum of the Vigadó several times, and Prokofiev also appeared on its stage as a pianist.
Millenniumi Underground Budapest
The Budapest Metro (Hungarian: Budapesti metró) is the rapid transit system of the Hungarian capital Budapest. It is the oldest electrified underground railway system on the European continent, and the second-oldest in the world, predated only by the 1890 City & South London Railway (now part of the London Underground). Its totemic Line 1, completed in 1896, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002.
One of the most frequented green spots of Budapest, Normafa (Norma Tree) is a forested hillside area well-known to everyone living in Budapest. Youngsters and adults all enjoy the beautiful scenery, the fresh air and the panoramic view at 477 metres, high in the Buda Hills. In the surrounding area, restaurants offer a welcome rest to walkers. For those visiting Budapest, nearby hotels promise peace and calmness, a splendid panorama and environs that hotels in the city centre cannot offer. Normafa is a favourite walking destination of those of us living in Budapest. If you have not been to Normafa yet, let us invite you to discover the beauty of the Buda Hills in the heart of our capital.