Day 1 in Budapest, Hungary
-Suggested day itinerary for Budapest. If you don’t have many days in Budapest and you want to see the main sites follow this one-day itinerary to see the Chain Bridge and the Castle Hill area.
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1 – Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge in Budapest has a lot of history; it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube River in Budapest when it opened in 1849. The Chain Bridge was designed by William Tierney Clark, an English engineer; in fact the bridge was designed in sections and shipped from the England to Hungary where it was assembled! William Tierney Clarke also designed the suspension bridge over the Thames River in Marlow, England and there is a plaque on the Pest side of the bridge, commemorating the Chain Bridge as one of two surviving bridge designed by Clark. The Chain Bridge was severely damaged during World War II; and it had to be repaired, reopening in 1949. You can walk across the Chain Bridge, there is a sidewalk on both sides allotted just for pedestrians and safe from traffic, where you will have some of the best views of Budapest!
To read more about the history of the Chain Bridge in Budapest click here.
2 – Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest across the street from the Chain Bridge. The Gresham Palace is a wonderful example of Art Nouveau architecture with flower details and mosaics on the façade and an elaborate interior, with swirling patterns on the polished floors, stained glass windows, and wrought iron gates. The palace was built in the 1900’s and passed through many stages from being home, office, apartments, and finally bought by the Four Seasons hotel company in 2001.
Visit the official Four Seasons Budapest hotel website here.
3 -Funicular up to the Palace – The funicular up to Castle hill in Budapest was originally built in 1868, opened to the public in 1870, was completely destroyed in World War Two and rebuilt and opened again in 1986. There are two pedestrian bridges that cross above the railway tracks, which are a unique feature. * Ticket Price for the funicular ride in Budapest: one-way ride is HUF 900 (price as of summer 2012).
Fun Fact – The funicular in Budapest was the second in all of Europe, the only other one at the time in the 1870’s was in Lyon, France!
4 – Matthias Church
Matthias Church was built in the late 14th century in late Gothic style. The church is officially named the Church of Our Lady but is more often referred to as the Matthias Church after the 15th century King Matthias. The church was the site of many coronations and where King Matthias’ two weddings took place. During the 158 years of Turkish occupation of Hungary, the Matthias Church became Budapest’s main mosque and frescos were covered and interior furnishings removed. After the fall of the Turkish occupation, the church was restored to the Baroque style but only regained its full grandeur at the end of the 19th century under architect Frigyes Schulek. The extensive restoration in the 19th century also added a few new elements, which have now become iconic to the church, such as the diamond pattern colored roof tiles. There are many details inside Matthias Church, with every inch of the walls and ceilings painted in colorful patterns and covered in beautiful murals, it is certainly a wonderful site to visit!
*Fun Insider’s Note: The Matthias Church bells can be heard at noon.
You do need to buy a ticket to enter the church, the museum, and the Fisherman’s Bastion. The Matthias Church is actually undergoing extensive renovations now as well, from improved lighting to cleaning murals, to repairing stained-glass windows.
—Opening Hours for Tourists for Matthias Church: Weekdays 9-5….Saturday 9-1…Sunday 1-5
–Read more about the history of Matthias Church by clicking here for the official website (the website is available in English, German, and Hungarian.
5 – The Fisherman’s Bastion is a terrace and walkway built between 1895 and 1902, around the Matthias Church on Castle Hill in Budapest. The name is due to the fishermen who defended the city walls in this area in the Middle Ages and the seven towers represent the seven tribes that founded Hungary in the 9th century. The neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style of the Fisherman’s Bastion gives it a sandcastle like look and a fairytale book addition to the Castle Hill area.
*Stephen I of Hungary – statue of man on a horse – was the first King of Hungary from 1000-1038 and regarded as the founder of the Kingdom of Hungary.
Where to eat on Castle Hill in Budapest:
Do stop for lunch in one of the various cafes on the side streets and have a typical Hungarian meal. I recommend the Pest-Buda restaurant or café which actually has two locations right down the street from Matthias Church on Fortuna U. street. Or try the Pierrot Café and Restaurant located away from the mass of tourists at 14 Fortuna street.
6 – Buda Castle and Castle Hill
The Buda Castle and Castle Hill area is a large area with some main sites to see. Buda Castle or Royal Palace history dates back to the late 13th century with numerous reconstruction periods and many key elements redesigned and reconstructed during the 18th century. However in the 1950’s the palace was completely gutted inside and many exterior details were demolished and the remaining facades were simplified. Buda Castle became a home to three museums and the National Library in the 1980’s.
To get to the next destination – walk or take the funi down followed by a tram ride along the river to Gellert Baths and Hotel – tram 47 or 49 from the Deak Ferenc ter or tram 19 from Margaret Bridge
7 – The Gellert Hotel and baths is one of the most recognized baths in Budapest, built in the early 20th century in the Art Nouveau style. You can enter the main entrance and get a glimpse of the main hall and baths and pools on either side. The thermal baths receive water from the Gellert hill’s mineral hot springs.