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. Hell ~ we really only had about 12 hours! Perhaps because of the time crunch, we were dead-set on exploring as much of the city as possible, in the little time we had. And once we took a look at the glowing castles of Budapest, twinkling & towering over the River Danube: the race was on.
Ready to Explore Budapest?
Map of Budapest
On the map of Budapest below, I’ve highlighted virtually every place discussed in this article ~ including the hotels. All these sights are highly walk-able, & are within a fairly compact (sometimes hilly) area. Scroll over the red balloon to find out the name of the highlighted sight. Also, keep in mind: the left side of the river is known as the “Buda” side, & the right side is known as the “Pest” side. This may help you out as you walk through & discover the castles of Budapest.
St. Stephen's Square
Hotels by Castles of Budapest
The train station in Budapest is surrounded by taxi drivers, many of whom will attempt to rip you off. Our first taxi driver quoted us $20 for a ride of less than a mile. After politely telling him to “sod off,” we started walking. (Always be able to carry your bags!) A second taxi pulled over, gave us a much better rate, & we arrived at the sexy Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest in short order.
We chose the Buddha-Bar primarily for its good location & hip vibe, as it’s only a few short 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 potentially being electrocuted…
There’s no shortage of premium hotels in Budapest, many which have glorious views of the River Danube and the castles of Budapest, which look especially beautiful at twilight. To check hotels & rates in Budapest, click here. Two options near the water on the east side of the Danube include the Budapest Marriott Hotel & the Intercontinental Budapest, both in District V, & both directly across the river from the 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 walk along the flatter “Pest” side of Budapest, where all the hotels listed above are located. Perhaps you’ve just left your hotel, & want to grab some food before heading out into the city. Head north along the Danube until you find yourself at St. Stephen’s Square (south-east of the famous Parliament building). This is a great area to stroll ~ you’ll find beer gardens, hip restaurants, wine taverns, & St. Stephen’s Basilica is close by. In this area, not only did we find some good food to power us for our hilly ascents into the “Buda” Castle District, but we also found this great photo op with the “Budapest” sign below.
Take the Chain Bridge…
To get up to the castles of Budapest, or the “Buda” side of town, take a walk across the famous Szechenyi Chain Bridge. It may just 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 is itself one of the great landmarks of Budapest, as it was built in the 1800’s & is beautifully lit at night.
Castles of Budapest….
The most famous castle in all of Budapest is visible from nearly anywhere, residing proudly over the central part of the city, just across the Chain Bridge. This castle is of course, Buda Castle, and was considered home by all of the Hungarian kings from 1265-onward. Built in the Baroque-style, it lends a feeling of grandeur & romance to Budapest, & has been referred to either as the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle ~ both which are perfectly appropriate names.
Fisherman’s Bastion, on Castle Hill
My favorite part of the Castle District is the quite un-romantically named “Fisherman’s Bastion” complex, which is technically part of Buda Castle & Castle Hill, & includes Matthias Church (pictured above). If you walk across the Chain Bridge from the “Pest” side, Buda Castle will be on your left, while the Fisherman’s Bastion complex 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” side of the city, & just a slightly further walk to the east from St. Stephen’s Square, you’ll find Vajdahunyad Castle nestled within the City Park. This makes a great option for a day trip, as you’re also near the boating lake & skating rink. The castle was built in 1896, & is considered one of the most romantic castles in Hungary, showcasing an eclectic mix of Romanesque architecture, Gothic Renaissance, as well as Baroque. Throughout the year, Vajdahunyad Castle is home to numerous concerts & festivals.
Farewell, Castles of Budapest…
There is SO much to discover in Budapest ~ this is merely a little morsel of the romantic goodness that is Budapest. And we didn’t even discuss any of Budapest’s famous baths! The thermal baths of Budapest are probably its most popular attraction….but we’d need an entire post just to cover them! Alas ~ until next time….