Having many architectural gems, a romantic ambience and a flourishing cultural scene, Budapest certainly deserves the name Paris of the East. But unlike France’s capital, Budapest hasn’t been around for a long time. Less than 200 years ago the city was established by merging Buda and Pest – two cities with distinct personalities.
For centuries, both Buda on the western bank of the Danube and Pest on the opposite side have been populated. However, the two cities have developed so separately that the first bridge spanning the Danube – the marvellous Chain Bridge – wasn’t built until 1849. While Buda is characterised by stout rampant, palaces and mediaeval architecture, Pest displays a modern and dynamic metropolis with businesses and cultural scenes.
Located on a series of hills overlooking the Danube, Buda is the former capital of the Kingdom of Hungary. It comprises one-third of Budapest’s territory and houses the Buda Castle, the Matthias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion, as well as the Citadella. Although the golden time of Buda has long gone, its imperial air and wealthy past still linger on every street and building of the Castle District. From Buda, you can enjoy a breath-taking view across Pest where the heart of Budapest beats.
Visit Buda, but stay in Pest
This recommendation sounds true. Rolling on flat terrain, Pest is where Budapest’s city life is most vivid. It is busy, jolly and bourgeois, with a wide array of bars, cáfes and gourmet restaurants. From food enthusiasts to pub crawlers, everyone will fall in love with Pest.
Pest also boasts several architectural gems, including the Heroes’ Square featuring Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, the opulent Opera House and the majestic St. Stephen’s Basilica. Most noteworthy is, however, the neo-Gothic inspired the Hungarian Parliament Building. Covering nearly 33,000m² and comprising of 691 rooms, it is the largest building in the country and houses the National Assembly of Hungary.
Despite being so different, Buda and Pest have joined together to create the most livable city in Eastern Europe. The opening of the Széchenyi lánchíd (or Széchenyi Chain Bridge) in 1849 officially marked this unification. The 375-metre long bridge was designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark in 1839, followed an initiative by Count István Széchenyi (hence comes the name of the bridge). Its centre span is 202 metres long and was one of the largest in the world at that time. Since then, the Chain Bridge has become an icon of Budapest symbolising advancement, national pride and the linkage between East and West.
Practical Information in Budapest
- Bus 16 or 16A – Station: Dísz tér. The bus runs from Metro: Deák Ferenc tér. Or Bus 105 to Clark Ádám tér, then take the funicular. But keep in mind that the funicular ticket is not included in the Budapest Travelcard.
- Apart from the parliament building, most attractions are located along the Metro line 1. The parliament building is accessed by Metro line 2 – Station: Kossuth Lajos tér. You can only visit the parliament building as part of a guided tour. English tours can be fully booked very quickly, so book well in advance.