The Fairy Tale Castles of Budapest
We arrived in Budapest at two in the afternoon, after a short train ride from Vienna. Our flight left early the next morning for Croatia. Which meant: we had less than 24 hours in Budapest!! Actually, we really only had about 12 hours. Perhaps because of the time crunch, we were determined to explore as much of the city as possible, in the little time we had. And once we took a look at the glowing, fairy-tale castles of Budapest, twinkling & towering over the River Danube: the race was on….
Map of Budapest
On the map below, I’ve highlighted every spot discussed in this article ~ including the hotels. All sights are highly walk-able, & within a fairly compact, but hilly area. The left side of the river is known as the “Buda” side, & the right side is “Pest.” Together, they create the magical city that is Budapest….
St. Stephen's Square
Hotels by the Castles of Budapest
The train station in Budapest is surrounded by taxi drivers, some of whom may attempt to rip you off. Our first taxi driver quoted us $20 for a ride of less than a mile. After politely telling him “NO,” we started walking. (Always be able to carry your bags!) A second taxi pulled over, giving us a much better rate, & we arrived at the sexy Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest within minutes.
We chose the Buddha-Bar primarily for its good location & hip vibe, as it’s just a few blocks from the River Danube. And while it’s definitely a sexy hotel, I can’t say it’s a very practical one: the rooms are red, dark, & filled with Asian mystique ~ but our sexy rainfall shower flooded the entire bathroom. Had we tried to use a hair dryer, we could have been electrocuted. But alas! With so little time in Budapest, we couldn’t be bothered with such trivial things as potential electrocution…
But there’s no shortage of premium hotels in Budapest, many of which have glorious views of the River Danube and Budapest’s castles, which look especially beautiful at twilight. Two options near the water include the Budapest Marriott Hotel & Intercontinental Budapest, both in District V, & both directly across the river from world-famous Buda Castle.
Or of course, you could always stay in what is basically a castle itself: the Four Seasons Budapest.
Grab a Bite to Eat…
We’ll start our tour along the flatter “Pest” side of Budapest, where all hotels listed above are located. Perhaps you’ve just left your hotel, & want to grab some food before heading out in the city. Head north along the Danube until you find yourself at St. Stephen’s Square. This is a great area to stroll ~ you’ll find beer gardens, hip restaurants, wine taverns, & St. Stephen’s Basilica nearby. Here, we found a chic restaurant to power us for a long evening of walking, & also found this great photo opp with the “Budapest” sign below…
Take the Chain Bridge…
To reach the castles of Budapest, on the “Buda” side of town, take a walk across the famous Szechenyi Chain Bridge. It may show up as “Lanchid” on your Google map, & you’ll find it directly across from the Four Seasons Hotel & St. Stephen’s Square. The Chain Bridge itself is one of the city’s great landmarks; it was built in the 1800’s, & is beautifully lit at night.
Castles of Budapest….
The most famous castle in Budapest is visible from nearly everywhere, residing proudly over the heart of the city, just across the Chain Bridge. This is Buda Castle, & was considered the home of all Hungarian kings from 1265 onward. Built in the Baroque-style, it lends a strong feeling of grandeur & romance to the city, & is also known as the Royal Palace or Royal Castle.
Fisherman’s Bastion, on Castle Hill
My favorite part of the Castle District is the un-romantically named “Fisherman’s Bastion” complex, which is technically part of Buda Castle. If you walk across the Chain Bridge from the “Pest” side, Buda Castle will be on your left, while Fisherman’s Bastion will be a winding walk up towards your right. At night, the views you get across the River Danube are outstanding.
More Castles of Budapest
On the “Pest,” flatter side of the city, & just a short walk east from St. Stephen’s Square, you’ll find Vajdahunyad Castle. Nestled within a city park, this castle makes for a great day trip, as you’re also near a boating lake & skating rink. The castle was built in 1896, & is considered one of the most romantic in Hungary, showcasing an eclectic mix of Romanesque architecture, Gothic Renaissance, & Baroque. Throughout the year, Vajdahunyad Castle is home to numerous concerts & festivals.