So, are you looking for the best viewpoints in Budapest?
Budapest is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. At the same time one of the oldest and one of the youngest European capitals, it’s been called ‘The Paris of the East’, ‘The Jewel of the Danube’, and ‘The Wisconsin of the West’ (OK, we made that last one up).
But, whatever you choose to call it, there’s no doubting the amazing views that await you each time you turn a corner.
From neo-gothic and renaissance architecture to spectacular panoramas and amazing nightscapes, Budapest has it all. The photos you take here will be some of your most treasured, but exactly where should you be pointing your camera? Don’t worry, we’re here to share with you the best viewpoints in Budapest. Read on….
So, where is the best view in Budapest?
If you’re looking for the best viewpoint in Budapest then most of the locals we know, will tell you it’s the view of the Chain Bridge, often with the Parliament Building in the background. And you simply must see it at night, just after sunset, when it literally sparkles!
Opened in 1849, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (to give it its full name) was the first bridge to cross the Danube and link the two cities of Buda and Pest.
You’ll get a great view of this iconic landmark from many different places in Budapest, but our favourite is from the Fisherman’s Bastion which is part of the Buda Castle complex. We’ve got a whole webpage dedicated to that area, and you can view it here.
Feeling romantic? Many loving couples inscribe their initials on padlocks – sometimes called ‘lovelocks’ – and attach them to the railings of the Chain Bridge. We’ve checked with the locals and it’s not illegal, so go ahead……
(Fun fact: Before construction of the Chain Bridge, the closest bridge was in Vienna and so most people simply walked across the Danube when the river froze. In 1820, Count István Széchenyi – an important Hungarian politician – was walking across when the ice melted, he got stuck and he missed his father’s funeral. This made him come up with the idea of a permanent bridge.)
The Best Viewpoints In Budapest
The Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház)
One of the best viewpoints in Budapest that is often included as an afterthought in the background of Chain Bridge photos, this is a stunning building in its own right. Completed in 1902, it’s the largest building in the whole of Hungary. It sits right alongside the Danube on the Pest side, so the best way to view the whole building is from the opposite side of the river (the Buda side).
Some people will tell you the best time to view this impressive sight is at night. In fact we think it’s better if you start watching just before sunset. The artificial lighting is on a timer which mimics the setting of the sun and you can watch the building change from pearly white to shimmery gold.
We recommend viewing this from Angelo Rotta Rakpart, which is the name of the bank alongside the Danube. If you have time, and don’t mind crossing the bridge again, the inside of the Parliament Building is also worth a few photos.
(Fun fact: the inside of the Parliament Building has two identical halls on opposite sides of the building, one of which is used just for guided tours.)
Margaret Bridge (Margit Híd)
The second bridge to be built across the Danube, Margaret Bridge is famous for its golden arches – nothing to do with a popular hamburger restaurant! – and it links both sides of Budapest to Margaret Island (more about that below).
Accidentally destroyed in 1944 by retreating German forces during WW2, the bridge was re-built in 1948 and was restored to its former glory in 2011, complete with period-style lamps and original sculptures. The extension that links to Margaret Island was part of the original plans, but wasn’t actually built until 2009 due to lack of funds. This bridge is bent in the middle at a 30-degree angle and from the centre of the bend you get a great view along the length of the Danube.
(Fun fact: the designer of Margaret Bridge was the Frenchman Ernest Goüin. He insisted that all of the ironwork was constructed in Paris, and so it had to be transported to Budapest by train.)
Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
In 1241, King Béla IV of Hungary made a promise that if he defeated the invading Mongol army, he would build a convent dedicated to God and send his daughter there. He won, built the Dominican convent on a small island in the middle of the Danube, and sent the 9-year-old Princess Margit to live there as a nun. She wore an iron girdle and shoes spiked with nails, cleaned the cesspits every day, and died a virgin aged 28. The island was later renamed Margaret Island in her honour.
Although Princess Margit obviously didn’t have too great a time back in the day, that’s all changed because Margaret Island is now a favourite place for Budapest locals. Known by many as the ‘Green Heart of Budapest’, the whole island is one big beauty spot where Budapesti lovers stroll hand in hand through gorgeous flower gardens and quiet, tree-lined pathways; perhaps stopping to visit the ruins of the Dominican monastery where Princess Margit lived all those years ago.
And if beautiful flora and fauna are high on your agenda, look no further than the Japanese Gardens with its water lillies, rockpools, dwarf trees, and purpose-built waterfall. You should also check out the Rose Garden, with examples of at least one of every rose known to the world (well, up to 1927).
The Japanese Garden on Margaret Island
From June to August you can enjoy opera, ballet, and light classical concerts in the Open-air Theatre. Or, if rock music is more your thing, then check out the Music Fountain – one of the largest in Europe with jets that reach over 10m and synchronized illumination from 250 LEDs. And we’re not joking about the rock music: from 9:00pm onwards the playlist includes Dire Straits, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Steppenwolf and The Rolling Stones!
If you’re travelling with kids in tow, then you’ll be pleased to know that Margaret Island offers many activities to tire them out keep them entertained, including a small zoo, the Water Tower with 152 steps to climb (and great panoramic views once you reach the top), and the Palatinus Spa Baths with its giant water slides and iconic wave pool.
No matter what time of year you visit Margaret Island, or what time of day, there are photo opportunities everywhere. Ideally you should plan to spend 2 or 3 hours on the island, and perhaps rent some bikes or Segways to help you get around.
(Fun fact: Margaret Island used to be called Rabbit’s Island. You won’t find many rabbits here now, but you might see some deer or a few peacocks strolling around.)
Shoes on The Danube
This is not usually included in a list of beautiful views of Budapest, but if you have an interest in World War history then it’s worth visiting.
Between December 1944 and January 1945, members of the fascist Arrow Cross militia lined up 3,500 people along the bank of the Danube, including 800 Jews, and ordered them to remove their shoes, which were valuable items during the war. The citizens were executed and their bodies were carried away by the tide.
In 2005 Can Togay, an award-winning Hungarian film director, commissioned a memorial to those who lost their lives and this simple yet poignant sculpture was the result.
Perhaps take a moment for quiet contemplation, take a photo or two, then move on.
Heroes’ Square (Hősök Tere)
Every great city has its monuments to their heroes of yesteryear, and Budapest is no exception. Located at the end of Andrassy Avenue (Andrássy út) and at the entrance to Budapest City park (Városliget), Heroes’ Square is immediately recognised by its towering 36 metre column, topped by the Archangel Gabriel holding St Stephen’s Crown (St Stephen, or Istvan, was the first king of Hungary). This is just as well, as there are three other squares in Budapest called Heroes’ Square, and we’d hate for you to visit the wrong one!
The Archangel Gabriel holding St Stephen’s Crown and the two-bar Apostolic Cross
The column is the central feature of the Millenium Monument (Millenáriumi Emlékmű), which started construction in 1896 to celebrate the 1000 year anniversary of Hungary’s conquest of the area known as the Carpathian Basin. 1896 was also the year that Hungary became an official state. Seated at the foot of the column are the ‘Seven Chieftains of the Magyars’, and taking pride of place at the front is Árpád, considered the founder of the Hungarian nation.
(Fun fact #1: In 1900, Heroes’ Square was awarded the Grand Prix at the World Exhibition in Paris, even though it wasn’t completely finished until after the exhibition!)
A further 18 statues flank the monument, depicting various kings and princes of Hungary, and at the front of the monument is the Memorial Stone of Heroes (Hősök Eemlékköve). Many people, some of them Hungarians, refer to this as ‘The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier’, except it isn’t. There’s no tomb, no remains, and if you were to dig it up you’d only find an artesian well. (We strongly advise you not to dig it up, as the well supplies water to the famous Széchenyi Baths nearby….)
(Fun fact #2: The Heroes’ Square Monument has a 90%-scale duplicate at the Global Paradise exhibit in Shanghai. Since it opened in 1996, it has been covered with graffiti and most of the statues have been removed – some were even stolen!)
OK, these all look great, but where can I see the whole of Budapest?
We were hoping you’d ask that. There’s one place that literally towers above the whole city, and in English it’s called Three Border Mountain but everyone refers to it by its Hungarian name: Hármashatár-hegy. Back in the 19th century it was the meeting point of three cities (Buda, Óbuda and Pesthidegkút) and, although these three cities have since merged into Budapest, the mountain still retains its old name.
At almost 500m above sea level, it is the highest point in Budapest and you’ll need to be on the Buda side to reach it. The Budapesti don’t really visit very often and the bus service is poor, so most people take a car or taxi. But the most satisfying journey is by foot. There’s only one trail that goes all the way to the top and that’s the Country Blue Trail (Az Országos Kéktúra). It’s really cold and windy at the top, but the view of Budapest is spectacular!
Once you reach the top there’s a purpose-built lookout point and that’s one of the best places to take some pics. There’s also a restaurant, called Udvarház, which offers beautiful panoramic views, decent (if pricey) food and a gipsy band playing authentic Hungarian folksong (warning: they also play ‘Czardas’ which is definitely not Hungarian, but most people aren’t too bothered.)
I’m feeling romantic. Where’s the best place to watch the sunset in Budapest?
A lot of people have a lot of different views on this, but we know a secret. The best place to see the sun go down is not from the banks of the Danube, but from the Danube itself.
There’s two ways to do this – the cheap way or the (slightly more) expensive way. The expensive way is to book a ‘sunset cruise’ which usually includes a meal, drinks and live music. We love the Duelling Pianos cruise, but they all offer unparalleled views of the sun going down and you’ll get some amazing ‘reflection on the water’ photos whichever one you choose.
The cheaper way is to use the BKK riverboat service. Most tourists don’t realise that a day pass for Budapest’s trams and busses also includes unlimited use of the riverboats and ferries. They usually stop running at about 8pm, but that’s still enough time to see the sun go down and the lights going up on the bridges and buildings. And, if you have the time, why not spend the whole afternoon on a riverboat? They criss-cross the Danube and you can get to most of the major attractions from the ferry stops.
(Fun fact: The Hungarians have a unique word they use to describe the reflection of the setting sun. The word is aranyhíd and it literally translates to ‘golden bridge.’ Do you think they were looking at the Danube when they came up with it?).
The Best Viewpoints in Budapest: The Conclusion
As we said at the start: Budapest is beautiful, really beautiful. We hope our guide on the best viewpoints in Budapest will help you experience some great views of this wonderful city, and we’d love you to post a few pics to our website when you get home. Have fun!
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