We visit a beautiful capital of Hungary - Budapest. This city is very rich in monuments and interesting places, so you need at least a few days to thoroughly explore everything. We had only one day, hence the necessary big compromise and the choice of only the most important locations. Of course, one day (especially in a sunny weather) is enough to feel the atmosphere of this wonderful city.
It just happened that we did not come to Budapest by car, but by train. It resulted from the fact that we lived near Lake Balaton, and in our village there was a railway line leading straight to Budapest Déli station, which is located on the same side of Budapest (in Buda) like the old town and the Royal Castle. Our plan was as follows: morning departure to Budapest, visiting the Castle Hill, then moving to the other side of the Danube and the walk towards the Parliament building, passing along the way some interesting places such as the St. Stephen's Basilica or the Liberty Square.
You should prepare yourself for such a trip. First of all, we recognized when and what trains will go to and from Budapest. The website of the MÁV Hungarian railways is very useful here. Thanks to it, you can find the right connections and check what platforms are used for the trains. The second issue is with getting around Budapest. We have a choice of buses, trams and metro. A great solution here is the FUTÁR mobile application, which allows you to track the city transport traffic and get information about routes. This application was very useful for us. Departure times of buses, trams and metro can also be checked on the BKK website - Budapesti Közlekedési Központ (Transport Center in Budapest).
So in the morning we went to the railway station in our town and in less than an hour we were at the Budapest Déli train station (A; GPS: 47.5005533, 19.0247342). The trains are air-conditioned, quiet, comfortable. In each compartment there are monitors displaying the route and informing about next stops. Despite the lack of knowledge of the Hungarian language you can not get lost.
If you would like to come to Budapest by car, we recommend a parking lot located near the Budapest Déli train station. It is called "BOE - Krisztina Garázs", located at the Kosciuszko Tádé street (P1; GPS: 47.498543, 19.026287). The price is 480 HUF per hour - pretty expensive, so we again recommend to use the train to get the Budapest.
You can either reach the Castle Hill on foot or take a bus. We chose the second option. First of all, after leaving the station, you should go to Széll Kálmán Square, from which you will go by bus. A slow walk to Széll Kálmán Square takes about 10 minutes.
Being already on this square, it is worth buying a day ticket valid for all means of transport (including the metro). This is particularly useful if we intend to actively move around Budapest. After entering the bus or tram, we show the ticket only at the request of the driver or conductor. Tickets can be bought in vending machines, paid in cash or by card. In our case, the machine was located at the entrance to the bus station building (B; GPS: 47.506965, 19.025065). There are cheaper tickets for a group of passengers traveling together (up to 5 persons), so it's a good solution if you are in such a group. You can also buy tickets at a more expensive price, which include free admission to selected monuments/museums - more information on the BKK website.
With a ticket, we go to the bus stop at Várfok street (C; GPS: 47.506573, 19.023975) - you just have to go upstairs and cross the street. We will take bus number 16 or 16A. Buses arrive very often (every few minutes), so we will wait not too long. This type of transport will get us to the Szentáromság tér square (D; GPS: 47.501576, 19.033705), where the famous Matthias Church (Mátyás Templom) is located.
The Castle Hill (Vár-hegy) is a unique area of Budapest - there are located, among others, the huge Royal Castle (Budavári Palota), the palace of the President of Hungary, unveiled ruins of ancient buildings, Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya), and the Matthias Church, where we get off. In addition, we have here a regular old town with streets and lots of old tenements and other interesting buildings.
The Matthias Church (E; GPS: 47.502056, 19.034386) was built around the 13th century. Formally, it is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but it is better known under the name of the Matthias Church (the name comes from the king Matthias Corvinus). It looks great both outside and inside. To visit the interior, you should buy a ticket costing 1400 HUF. Seniors (60+) and students pay less: 1000 HUF. The church is located at the Holy Trinity Square - this is where the largest numbers of tourists gather to visit the Castle Hill. Nearby the church we can see a beautiful statue of Saint Stephen on horseback, while at the Szentháromság tér (Holy Trinity) square is located a magnificent Baroque plague column.
Near the Matthias Church there is another symbol of Budapest: the Fishermen's Bastion (F; GPS: 47.502960, 19.034764). It was once part of defensive walls. Its name comes from the guild of fishermen who defended this part of the city. From the area of Fisherman's Bastion we have the opportunity to get beautiful views of the Danube and a large part of Budapest - you can see, among others, the building of the parliament and the Saint Stephen's Basilica.
After staying in the vicinity of the Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion, we stroll the Budapest old town: we walk the Táncsics Mihály street towards the National Archives building (G; GPS: 47.504860, 19.030203), we pass the Town Hall, the tower of the Church of Mary Magdalene from the 13th century (H; GPS: 47.503853, 19.028779), and then we return the Úri street. We reach the Dísz tér square (I; GPS: 47.499024, 19.036347), then follow the Szent György street towards the Presidential Palace.
Palace of the President of Hungary (J; GPS: 47.497703, 19.038283) presents itself relatively modestly compared to other monuments from the Castle Hill (and especially the nearby Royal Castle). There are two guards standing in front of it. If you want to see the changing of the guard, wait until 12:00.
Next to the palace you can find the magnificent Royal Castle (K; GPS: 47.496599, 19.039218). Its origins date back to the 13th century. It was many times destroyed and rebuilt . The current version comes from the Baroque period - it's a huge palace complex, so you have to spend a few hours exploring it. That's why we unfortunately had to give up this attraction. We only looked at it from the outside, but it still made a great impression on us. The courtyard of the castle itself is a very good place from where you can admire the panorama of Budapest. We enter the courtyard through a decorative gate, where you can notice a monument of an eagle with a sword in its claws. In the courtyard there are also other monuments and fountains.
To see the building of the parliament and the St. Stephen's Basilica you should move to Pest. You can use the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular (Budavári Sikló) and then walk the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge. You can also use public transport by getting on the nearby Díš tér square to the bus number 16 (that we already know) which will take you to the other side of the Danube and leave at Deák Ferenc tér (L; GPS: 47.499158, 19.053996). From this place you have a short walk to the St. Stephen's Basilica.
Saint Stephen's Basilica (Szent István Bazilika) (M; GPS: 47.500732, 19.053317) from the mid-nineteenth century is the largest church in Budapest that can accommodate over 8000 people. It makes a very big impression both from outside and inside. Entrance to the basilica is free. Fee (500 HUF normal ticket, 400 HUF discount for students and seniors) is charged while entering the tower, from where you can have beautiful views of the city. In front of the basilica there is a large square, with lots of cafes and restaurants where you can relax, have a drink or have lunch.
Not far from the Saint Stephen's Basilica you can find the Liberty Square (Szabadság tér) surrounded by interesting buildings (there are, among others, the American Embassy or the Hungarian Stock Exchange building). At the square there is a large monument dedicated to the Red Army. Nearby (on the path leading to the aforementioned monument of the Red Army) you can also see the monument to US President Ronald Reagan (N; GPS: 47.504821, 19.049823).
About 600 meters from Liberty Square you can admire the most famous building in Budapest: the parliament building (Országház) (O; GPS: 47.506781, 19.045688). It is simply a symbol of this city, beautiful both during the day and at night. The building was built in the late nineteenth century in the neo-Gothic style. Having more time, we would certainly look at it from the inside (we are going to do it in the future). Remember: only guided tours inside; the tickets can also be purchased online and this is a recommended form of purchase, as the number of people admitted per day is limited, and the number of visitors is very high. Ticket prices: 2000 HUF for EU citizens (for visitors under 18 years the ticket price is 1000 HUF); for non EU citizens respectively 5200 HUF and 2600 HUF. More information on the parliament's website.
To quickly get back to the Budapest Déli station, go to the nearby (approximately 800m) Széchenyi István Square, where the very well known bus number 16 stops (P; GPS: 47.500547, 19.046755). We get in and in 10 minutes we are in the railway station, thus returning to home.