Buda Orientation Walk, Budapest (Self Guided)

The capital of Hungary Budapest is a relatively young city, resulted from an 1873 merger between Buda on the western bank of the Danube and Pest on the east. Set on a number of hills, Buda is the site of a grand Hapsburg palace with a detached, imperial air of old-time wealth. While in Buda, you can enjoy sweeping views of the opposite Pest, lying across the river, from the Fisherman's Bastion on Castle Hill or Gellért Hill to the south. Come on this walk and see these and other key attractions of this magnificent part of the Hungarian capital.
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Buda Orientation Walk Map

Guide Name: Buda Orientation Walk
Guide Location: Hungary » Budapest (See other walking tours in Budapest)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 km
Author: kane
Gellert Spa Bath

1) Gellert Spa Bath (must see)

One of best-known thermal baths in Budapest, Gellert Bath has contributed to the city's image as a wellness and spa center for over a century. Built in 1918, it is famous for its sparkling bath, its vaulted glass roof and open-air pool with artificial waves.

It was the Turks who introduced the tradition of baths to Budapest in the 16th century, when parts of Hungary were occupied by the Ottoman Empire. However, the hot spring waters of Gellert Spa have been recorded since the 15th century. Hungarian stories from the Middle Ages tell us that the deep underground waters under the hills of Buda have been used for many centuries, specifically by Hungarian monks and hermits who praised their miraculous healing powers. These thermal baths were incredibly popular by the 19th century when more and more Budapest citizens and foreign travelers rushed to get the benefits of aqua therapy. To meet the popular demand, fine buildings were erected to give access to the waters in a more civilized manner.

Such was also the case of the new Gellert Spa, which is a complex of a spa hotel and thermal bath in a single building. A great example of ostentatious “Art Nouveau” from the Austro-Hungarian era, this large structure has stunning architecture and tiling right from the entrance. Inside, it offers a variety of indoor and outdoor pools, as well as a range of treatment and massage rooms. Visitors often choose the traditional Thai massage that helps treat tired feet and comes at a reasonable price. They can also benefit from at least two thermal baths, two swimming pools, two saunas, and a steam room. In the garden café, they can also have a meal among flowers and pretty statues.

The Baths are open from 6am to 8pm, very convenient to combine them with sightseeing.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-8pm (last entry: 6pm)
Gellert Hill

2) Gellert Hill (must see)

At 140 meters high, Gellért Hill offers some of the best and most picturesque panoramic views of Budapest. This dolomite rock rising above the Danube is, in fact, named after a bishop who carried out his mission in bringing Christianity to Hungarians.

In the 18th century, the hillsides of Gellért were serenely covered with vineyards. Soon enough, however, they saw plenty of action with the outbreak of the Second World War and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, when Soviet tanks fired down into the city from above. Climbing the paths and stairways of Gellért Hill, you may reach the base of Hungary's very own “Statue of Liberty”, which was erected to commemorate the liberation of Budapest from Nazi rule and to celebrate the annexation of Budapest and Hungary to the Soviet bloc. The bronze lady stands on top of a concrete pedestal, holding a giant palm leaf – the symbol of victory, triumph, peace and eternal life. Following Hungary's political and economic turnover, the liberal mayor of Budapest decided to rename the statue, and today it is the “Statue of Freedom” commemorating all those who devoted their lives to Hungary's independence.

Adjacent to the Statue of Freedom is a Citadel fortress that was built after the 19th century Hungarian uprising by the ruling Hapsburg Austrians, as it was a prime, strategic site for shelling both Buda and Pest in the event of a future revolt. The Citadel has been used also as a prison and shelter for the homeless. Unfortunately, you cannot go inside it, as it is not open for tourists.

Now an affluent residential area, a number of embassies and ambassadorial residences line the streets which wind up the hill. Once at the top, you can take some time to walk to different lookouts and get views of different sections of the river and the city. Even if you only go up for the spectacular views, Gellért Hill is really worth the climb.

There are several stalls selling food and drinks at the top if you're feeling a little peckish after your climb.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Ybl Budai Creative House

3) Ybl Budai Creative House

Listed as a World Heritage building, this tiny palace was constructed in the late 19th century. A decorative combination of Renaissance and Baroque style features, it was designed by Hungary's most influential architect, Miklós Ybl. One would never guess that the charming building was actually used as a pump house to supply water to the nearby Royal Palace. In 2009, during a canal construction, a cistern system consisting of six rooms, by then completely forgotten by contemporaries, was discovered, revealing the gravel layer that filtered the Danube water for use in the castle, before construction of the city's utilities. Later, when the utilities were eventually built, the cisterns lost their role, but the building was then assigned a whole different role – that of entertaining the general public as a music-dancing pavilion. It was rebuilt as a café at the start of the 20th century and served as an elegant café-restaurant for 40 years. From people's recollections, it had a large garden with a dance floor at the front and a band playing on the terrace. For another 15 years, until 2007, it functioned as a casino where gambling enthusiasts enjoyed a very aristocratic environment.

In 2016, the building became the property of the Pallas Athena Foundation, and thus came another change of orientation. Not only did the new owners masterfully restore the facade and internal parts, but they also assigned them a new function. Instead of merely redesigning a closed public building, they sought to create an open space that would also launch a new opportunity for the arts. Thus, the Ybl Budai Creative House was shaped and crystallized as a historical monument that serves as a cultural meeting point on the Danube, with the added bonus of contemporary fine art exhibitions, interactive events, performances, workshops, concerts, movie screenings and family programs. Furthermore, as a continuation of tradition, visitors can enjoy the restaurant or just relax and have a coffee on the terrace with a panoramic view.

Opening Hours:
[Exhibition Space] Mon-Fri: 8am-7pm; Sat, Sun: 9:30am-7pm
[Catering Spaces] Mon-Fri: 7:30am-12am; Sat, Sun: 9:30am-12am
Buda Castle

4) Buda Castle (must see)

This famous palace goes by the names of Royal Castle or Buda Castle, after the fact that it was built on Buda Hill. The massive complex is a home to Hungary's royalty and completely dominates the city skyline. At over 300 meters long, it is a sight to see at night, but also a wonderful place to walk around, as the views of River Danube and Pest on the other side are just fantastic.

From a design standpoint, the castle is a mixture of architectural styles, due to the fact that it has been destroyed and rebuilt at least six times during the past seven centuries. You can find elements of Gothic, Romantic, and Baroque styles. Unlike other castles and palaces, the interior is not a representation of what life would have been like centuries ago when the royals lived there – instead, the complex now holds the Budapest History Museum providing an overview of Budapest's history from its beginnings until the modern era, the Hungarian National Gallery which houses some of Hungary's most famous and important artifacts and works of art, and the Hungarian National Library with a collection of rare and antique books.

The castle grounds are always open – even at night – and make for an interesting visit, as they are home to many beautiful and historic buildings as well as affording outstanding views of Pest across the Danube, along with the lower part of Buda. There are so many different courtyards and layers that one may easily spend a good hour just wandering around. The fountain in the main courtyard is very impressive and quite unique, depicting King Matthias on a hunt along with his hunting party. The figures are so lifelike that one can almost hear the dogs panting. The guards are also of interest, especially during moments where they go through their routine of marching and shouldering their rifles as a way of exercising between long stints of standing on guard.

If you're lucky, your visit will coincide with a festival event, featuring medieval displays, concerts and parades of old military uniforms and weapons. If you're simply looking for a quiet spot to enjoy the view of the Danube, then try the Várkért Bazár, which has beautifully landscaped gardens and renovated structures. It's a perfect place for a picnic on a sunny afternoon, so don't forget your blanket and favorite wine.

Opening Hours:
[National Gallery]: Tue-Sun: 10am–6pm (closed on Mondays, but often open on national holidays)
[Budapest History Museum] Tue-Sun: 10am–6pm (Mar–Oct), 10am–4pm (Nov–Feb)
The courts and courtyards of the Buda Castle are open day and night, 24/7
Castle Hill

5) Castle Hill

Castle Hill in Buda is a magnificent mix between castle and fortification. Here you can see numerous valuable sight worth visiting such as the Royal Palace, the Mary Magdalene Church Tower, the Fisherman's Bastion, the sculpture of the Tatul bird, or you can have a rest in some of the most famous coffee houses around. The Baroque style dominates in the architecture of the palace and reveals all of its beauty.
Matthias Church

6) Matthias Church (must see)

Officially known as the Church of Our Lady, this church in the Castle District of Budapest has been popularly named after King Matthias, who did much to change its architecture and add to its beauty. A patron of the arts and enlightenment, he was revered for reconstructing the Hungarian state after many years of feudal anarchy.

According to history, the original church founded in the 11th century was built in Romanesque fashion, while the current structure is Gothic in style and took shape during the 14th century. Considered the second largest church in medieval Buda, and seventh largest church of the Hungarian Kingdom, it has been the scene of many royal coronations through the years and is home to important tombs and ecclesiastical treasures. During the years of Hungary's Turkish occupation, the building was converted into a mosque, and that is how the original ornate frescoes were whitewashed and removed. It was returned to a Christian church in the 17th century, during which time some of the more Baroque architecture was added, to compensate for the damage done by cannon fire during the siege to remove the Turks.

In modern times, it has become the home for the Ecclesiastical Art Museum, which starts in the medieval crypt section, and goes up to St. Stephen Chapel. There are lots of sacred relics and medieval stone art housed there, as well as a replica of the Hungarian Royal Crown. Thanks to its splendid acoustics, the interior also hosts classical music concerts. As long as you are interested in exceptional stained-glass windows, frescoes and wall decorations, it is absolutely worth visiting in any season.

Why You Should Visit:
Breathtaking architectural intricacies in both the outside tiling and the inside design; a great bonus for when you go to see the Castle and Fisherman's Bastion.

If you're reasonably fit and don't mind heights, you can pay a small fee to go up to the church's tower platform. Admittedly there are many steps and they are very steep and not too wide, but you'll see a complete panorama of Budapest.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm; Sat: 9am-12:15pm; Sun: 1pm-5pm
Fisherman's Bastion

7) Fisherman's Bastion (must see)

Directly adjacent to Matthias Church, the massive neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque structure known as the Fisherman’s Bastion is historically a stretch of the city walls that was defended by the local fisherman’s guild assigned by the King in the Middle Ages. Today, it is better known for its beauty and its views of the mighty Danube and the Pest side of of town. The seven upper turrets offer the best angles for photography, and one can access them for a small fee, while access to the remainder of the Bastion's terrace is free of charge.

The structure was built between 1895 and 1902 as part of a series of developments that were meant to celebrate the millennial anniversary of the Hungarian state. To put this into perspective, its seven towers symbolize the seven Hungarian chieftains who had led their tribes to present day Hungary to settle down in the 9th century, with the statue of St Stephen – the first Hungarian king who ruled between 1000-1038 – placed nearby. The wide ceremonial stairs leading up to it feature further historical statues, from bottom to top: the Statue of John Hunyadi – a leading military and political figure, the statue of St George Piercing the Dragon, as well as the 10th century soldiers guarding the gate, who sit at the top of the stairs, under the arch. In short, this bastion is a symbolic and historical monument dedicated to Hungary's millennial existence.

On a normal visit, you can sit on the benches, hide in the arcades when it rains, or you can enter the top turrets to get a bit higher and get more privacy for a little romance or contemplation. Otherwise, you might want to check out to the beverage restaurant on the top of one of the turrets, to refresh, avoid possible crowds and get clear, unobstructed panoramic views.

Opening Hours:
24/7, all year round
Visiting between Oct 15 and March 15 is free of charge all day long
Otherwise, tickets for the upper towers are sold between : 9am-7pm (Mar 16–Apr 30); 9am-8pm (May 1–Oct 15)

Walking Tours in Budapest, Hungary

Create Your Own Walk in Budapest

Create Your Own Walk in Budapest

Creating your own self-guided walk in Budapest is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
City Park Area Leisure Walk

City Park Area Leisure Walk

When in Budapest, do not fail to make it to the famous baths. The thermal springs, besides providing a relaxing and rejuvenating experience, are also claimed to have curative powers for muscular ailments. With the locals, it is a favorite way to socialize and a hot soak in the waters is often combined with a relaxing massage afterwards. The baths are open from 6am to 7pm every day. Besides the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 km
Walking Tour Around Margaret Island

Walking Tour Around Margaret Island

Margaret Island on the river Danube is a popular recreational area. Stretching for around 2.5 km, this place was declared a public park in 1908. Beautiful landscaped parks, ancient ruins and various sports facilities dot the island. The island can be accessed by the Margaret Bridge on the south and the Arpad Bridge in the north. This is a quiet place to laze around and enjoy your day. Vehicular...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 km
Walking Tour on Andrassy Utca

Walking Tour on Andrassy Utca

Andrassy Avenue, recognized as a World Heritage site in 2002, is a fine boulevard in the city that dates back to 1870. The entire stretch is lined with cafés, restaurants, luxury shops and cultural institutions. The long, wide road that connects Downtown and City Park is lined with trees and renovated villas and palaces. At the City Park end is the Heroes Square where the most important national...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 km
Pest Orientation Walk

Pest Orientation Walk

Separated from its western neighbor Buda by the magnificent river Danube, the eastern part of Bupadest, formally known as Pest, takes up almost two thirds of the Hungarian capital. Unlike hilly Buda, Pest is predominantly a flat plain with a pretty buzzing and bourgeois setting. It houses some truly magnificent architectural sights, including the Hungarian Parliament itself. In part, this is...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 km
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Budapest without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Budapest, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 km
Nightlife Tour

Nightlife Tour

A major city that attracts a lot of visitors each year, Budapest offers a healthy selection of hot bars and clubs where guests are encouraged to party all night long. The diversity of the venues found on the Budapest Nightlife Tour is notable, including decadent nightclubs with heart-thumping live DJs spinning the latest house and techno, hip and artsy crowds relaxing with a cocktail to jazz and...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

15 Must Buy Hungarian Things in Budapest

15 Must Buy Hungarian Things in Budapest

Other than the standalone language and catchy Czardas tune, there's a lot more to memorize Hungary by. Here are some of the things you might want to carry from Budapest to your family and friends back...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Budapest for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Budapest has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money getting around Budapest and visiting the city's multiple highlights, you may want to resort to the Budapest Card.

Among other conveniences, this card allows its bearer to explore Budapest's top attractions, tours, and restaurants either completely free or with great discounts. The card provides 24-, 48-, 72-, 96- or 120-hour passes to these locations, plus free ride on public transportation, thus putting Budapest at your fingertips!

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few Budapest hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: Carat Boutique Hotel, Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest, The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Budapest, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Budapest typically costs somewhere between US$20+ and US$90+ per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker bus or cruise boat to enjoy sightseeing of Budapest in comfort from either land or water, listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able to get on and off at any of the stops along the four interconnecting bus routes (your ticket is valid for all four) or the Danube riverbanks as often as you like.

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour of Budapest – this usually lasts up to 2 hours and allows visitors to get a real sense of the Hungarian capital. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise would have by walking.

- Pedal your way around Budapest on a 3-hour bike tour visiting the city's most spectacular sights, stopping at each of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the city from an informative group leader.

- Acquaint yourself up-close with the wonders of Budapest on a 3-hour walking tour of the UNESCO-listed and other heritage sites of the Hungarian capital, plus many more unexpected gems of this magical city.

- Awaken your taste buds to the highlights of Hungarian gastronomy on a 4-hour guided gourmet food tour of Budapest to sample some of the tastiest treats of the famously hearty Hungarian cuisine the city has to offer. Apart from feasting on its gastronomic treasures, with each bite you will also learn about the culinary culture of Budapest.

- Explore the centuries-long fascinating and complicated history of the Hungarian Jews. Take a guided Jewish heritage walk in Budapest to visit the historic Jewish quarters, memorials and synagogues of the city, home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe.

Day Trips

If you have a day to spare whilst in Budapest, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like the Etyek wine region, the Danube Bend, or Pecs. For as little as circa US$80+ to US$140 per person you will get a chance to savor some of Hungary’s delicious wines and learn some tricks of the local winemaking trade, visit the beautiful cities along the Danube Bend, travel to the old Hungarian capital Esztergom, get a chance to enjoy Mediterranean atmosphere amid the land-locked country, see the remnants of Turkish presence in Hungary, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up straight from your hotel in Budapest and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned minibus or private vehicle to the destination of your choice and back again.