Budapest: An afternoon exploring Buda
Budapest is a rather unique city in Europe. Formed from two cities in 1873; Buda on the West Bank of the Danube and Pest on the East. One of the most famous crossings between the two sides of the city is Széchenyi Lánchíd (Chain Bridge), which is where our exploration begins. Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge over the Danube, making it very important in Hungarian history with the unification of Buda and Pest twenty four years after its completion in 1849.
Medieval Buda was built around a 13th century castle on top of a hill facing the river Danube and although the castle is no longer standing, the steep hill of Buda remains. If you have a bit more time it is well worth walking up the hill and checking out the views of the Danube and Pest as you gain elevation. For a quick trip up to Buda, take the funicular from the bottom of Clark Ádám Tér for HUF 1200 (about £4). At the top of the hill the view that greets you is stunning. The views of Pest stretch as far as the eye can see, making out landmarks such as the impressive spires and dome of St Stephen’s Basilica.
Once in Buda, there are some beautiful buildings to explore. The Royal Palace is a massive structure that encompasses the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. The palace was built around the site of the old 13th century castle under the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Empire in the 18th century. The building was partially destroyed in the Second World War and has been renovated since. The Royal Palace overlooks the city of Budapest and when in standing in Pest looking across the river; the palace dominates the view. One can spend hours here enjoying the artwork in the gallery or learning about Budapest’s history.
After exploring The Royal Palace, head through medieval Buda via the Presidential Palace (and witness the changing of the guard every hour on the hour until 5pm) and down the quaint cobbled streets towards Mátyás Church. The first thing you notice about Mátyás Church is the beautiful ornate tiled roof. This roof is a similar mosaic tiled style to that of St Mark’s in Zagreb and St Stephen’s in Vienna; all of which are cities in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The ornate church is named after the 19th century King Mátyás (Matthias) who married twice here. The church itself has an intriguing history. During the Turkish occupation of the city in the 1500s the church was used as the city’s main mosque. Legend has it that when the Christian Habsburg empire fought to take back Budapest from the Ottoman empire in 1686, a part of the church wall was destroyed by cannon fire. When the wall collapsed, a hidden statue of the Virgin Mary appeared in front of the praying Muslim congregation. The city fell the same day with the Christians believing that this was due to the miracle of the Virgin Mary, lowering the morale of the enemy.
Great parts of the church such as the roof, are not original. During the Second World War, the church was heavily damaged and not restored until the late 1960s.
Across from the church is Fisherman’s Bastion, a Neo-Romaneque style turreted structure that serves as a monument to the Guild of Fishermen built in 1895. Bring your camera as not only is Fisherman’s Bastion a white wonder to behold but the views of the Parliament building across the river are something else.
If done right you can spend a good amount of time exploring and enjoying Buda. If possible, go when the sun is out and the sky is clear for the best views of the city.