For my birthday in October, S and I decided to plan a spontaneous weekend getaway. We looked at booking flights to specific cities online but since it was such short notice, we couldn’t find any good deals. Instead, we decided to try another Eurowings Blind Booking since we had great success with our previous blind bookings to Hamburg and Barcelona. As luck would have it, we got Budapest as our destination this time and we were over the moon excited since it was our number 1 choice! We booked our tickets at 9:30pm Thursday night and left Friday morning from the Stuttgart airport around 11am. Talk about spontaneous!
Thursday night was a little chaotic – lots of Google searching, scanning Trip Advisor, reading blog posts about Budapest, researching the best way to get into the city from the airport, etc. Good thing we have lots of practice trip planning! I wanted to see the key sights during our 2.5 days in Budapest and I’m happy to say that we were able to see quite a few. I’ve put together a summary of the top sights we visited in the city that I can definitely recommend.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s is a Roman Catholic basilica named in honour of Stephen, the first king of Hungary. It’s considered to be the most important church in Hungary and is one of the top tourist attractions in the city. Measuring 96 metres high, St. Stephen’s Basilica is tied with the Hungarian Parliament Building for the record of tallest building in the city.
We happened to step into St. Stephen’s during a Friday evening mass – I couldn’t believe how gorgeous the church was inside. We also got a peek at St. Stephen’s the next day when it was sunny and clear – lovely! We wanted to go up the tower for panoramic views of the city but unfortunately we ran out of time. Tip: You can take the 364 steps to the top of the tower, but there’s also an elevator that many people don’t know about.
Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings of Budapest. Overlooking the city and the river Danube River from its spot atop Castle Hill, this World Heritage Site is one of Budapest’s most stunning landmarks.
The Fisherman’s Bastion is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style on the Buda side of the Danube River. The seven towers of the Bastion represent the seven Hungarian tribes who founded the present day country in 895. The name derives from the guild of fishermen who protected it during the Middle Ages. The view from the balconies (recently made free to access) is one of the best in the entire city. Matthias Church next to the Fisherman’s Bastion is also well worth a visit – we didn’t go inside but the church and its roof are immaculate.
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge was the first permanent stone bridge to connect Buda with Pest (the cities on either side of the Danube). You can’t miss the large guardian lion statues on either side of the bridge.
Hungarian Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most famous buildings in the city, and for good reason! Tied for the record of tallest building in Budapest with St. Stephen’s Basilica, the parliament has a prominent position along the Danube on the Pest side of the city. The outside of the building is beautiful, but the inside is jaw-dropping. We went one afternoon intending to take a guided tour but somehow we got free entry and a peek at the crown jewels. Don’t miss this spot while you’re in Budapest! (I still wonder where we were supposed to go to sign up for a tour…)
Great Market Hall
The 3-level Great Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. The bottom floor features spices, fruits, veggies and meats. The second floor is where you can find local Hungarian food specialties like Lángos and goulash as well as souvenirs. The basement is where you can find butcher shops, a fish market, and pickles. The market can get incredibly crowded, so try to arrive early, especially if you plan to have a lunch stop here. We waited in a line for Lángos for about 10 minutes before giving up and going elsewhere. (It’s okay, we ended up going somewhere else yummy! Favourite food spots in the city coming up in my next blog post!) The market is a great place to stock up on gifts like Hungarian paprika – I surely did!
The market is open every day of the week except for Sundays.
Known as the “City of Spas”, Budapest has more thermal and medicinal water springs than any other capital city in the world. A visit to a thermal bath is a must when you’re in Budapest. We visited two thermal baths – Gellért Spa and Bath and the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and they both were fantastic. Gellért is situated inside a nearly hundred year-old Art Nouveau building – it feels like taking a bath inside of a cathedral! Széchenyi is the most famous thermal bath in the city and boasts 18 thermal pools as well as 10 saunas and steam cabins. Whichever spa you choose, you’ll surely have a relaxing time.
Shoes on the Danube Memorial
One of the most moving memorials in a city with a somber past, the Shoes on the Danube Memorial honours the people (mainly Budapest Jews) who were shot and killed by fascist militiamen in Budapest during WWII. The iron statues of the shoes represent the shoes left behind by those who were shot on the bank.
The largest square in Budapest, Heroes’ Square was laid out in 1896 to mark the thousandth anniversary of Hungary. Located at the end of Andrássy Avenue and next to City Park, Heroes’ Square is one of the most visited sights in the city. Tip: Visit at sunset or dusk for stunning photos.
Like Heroes’ Square, Vajdahunyad Castle was also built in 1896 and is situated in City Park. Based on a Transylvanian gothic castle, Vajdahunyad Castle melds various architectural styles from the Middle Ages to the 18th century: Romanesque, Gothic Renaissance, Baroque, and Romanesque.
I’ve included a map below of the sights I’ve mentioned above to help you plan your own sightseeing in Budapest.
P.S. Curious to book your own Blind Booking flight? Here’s my how-to guide: How to complete a Blind Booking flight.
What are your favourite sights in Budapest? Which top sights should I make sure to see during my next visit?