Pest Orientation Walk, Budapest (Self Guided)

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 probably the reason why the Hungarians habitually refer to their capital city as simply "Pest". This walk invites you to explore some of the key attractions of this part of Budapest.
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Pest Orientation Walk Map

Guide Name: Pest Orientation Walk
Guide Location: Hungary » Budapest (See other walking tours in Budapest)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 km
Author: kane
Parliament Building

1) Parliament Building (must see)

The Hungarian Parliament Building is the official home of the National Assembly of Hungary. It is one of the oldest buildings of its kind in all of Europe. It is located in Kossuth Square, which rests on the banks of the Danube. It also happens to be the largest facility of any kind in the country.

In 1890, the country decided to erect this structure as a symbolic gesture of the country’s newfound political unity. The Hungarians held an international contest to decide who would be the architect for the new project. That campaign was won by Imre Steindl. Later down the road, this famous architect would also go on to design the Ethnographical Museum and the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture complex.

The new Parliament building was finished in 1896, just in time to be inaugurated at the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the country. Finishing touches were actually completed by 1904. It took over 1000 people to do the construction. In the project, 40 million bricks, 40 kilograms of gold, and 500,000 precious stones and jewels were used for the artful design of this place.

The Holy Crown of Hungary is kept here. The Parliament Building is done in Gothic style, sporting a symmetrical design and centralized dome structure. There are 13 elevators, 29 staircases, and 691 rooms in the building.

Why You Should Visit:
The building is beautiful and the tours short, but totally worth the visit (FYI; proper I.D. is required for entry).
If not a tour, it is definitely a sight to take in, especially at night, when it lights up like a Christmas tree.

Try the Parliamentary Dining Room for a nice, very quiet, breakfast or lunch.
Shoes on the Danube Bank

2) Shoes on the Danube Bank

The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial in Budapest, Hungary. Conceived by film director Can Togay, he created it on the east bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer to honor the people (mainly Budapest Jews) who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.
Sight description based on wikipedia
National Academy of Sciences

3) National Academy of Sciences

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences has its home in Budapest. The organization was founded in 1825. The founding organizational structure allowed for only 43 members. No more than 18 could come from Pest. The remainder had to come from outlying areas. There are six departments located here: history, law, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy and natural sciences.

The complex itself was built and finished in 1865. Architecturally speaking, the location represents a break with the many Gothic designed buildings of the city, as it was designed in a neo-Renaissance style. By 1870, this style of design began to dominate the construction of buildings in this old city. Hungary became a bit of a rogue country, then, by not following the traditions for urban development that were lead by the cities of Paris and St. Petersburg. Many heated arguments ensued over the design of the building.

Count Istvan Szechenyi really got the Society up and running in 1825, when he offered the income of his estate for one full year to fund the start of the group. Later, many other wealthy patrons joined the cause to promote the study of the arts and sciences in Hungarian.
Gresham Palace

4) Gresham Palace (must see)

A more modern form of architecture can be found in the Gresham Palace in Budapest (also called the Gresham Palota). It is arguably the best example of Art Nouveau architecture in all of Central Europe. The building was finished in the early 1900s. Currently, the location is managed by Four Seasons Hotels on behalf of the Irish company, Quinlan Private.

A neo-classical palace actually stood in this place during the early 1800s. It was called the Nako House. In 1880, the Gresham Life Assurance Company of London purchased the property. Eventually, the company made it the location of their foreign headquarters. The company wanted to make improvements to the place, so they retained noted architect Zsigmond Quittner. The new project started in 1904 and was completed in 1906.

For many years, the palace served as a home away from home for many wealthy Brits. During WWII, the building became occupied by the Soviets, who used it to house soldiers. The location fell into disrepair but was used for a bit as apartments during the reign of the People’s Republic of Hungary.

The Gresham Palace was given as a gift to the city of Budapest by the government for a short time. In 2001, the property was renovated to be used as a luxury hotel by the Four Seasons Hotel. After the property was taken over by Quinlan Private, many of its traditional features have been restored.

Why You Should Visit:
Tastefully renovated, with a perfect location by the Chain Bridge and excellent views of the Castle.

If you can't afford to stay here with the rich and famous go for cocktails, coffee, or a glass of champagne in the bar for a real touch of Budapest glamour...
...or just snoop and admire the Art Nouveau decorations.
St. Stephen's Basilica

5) St. Stephen's Basilica (must see)

St. Stephen's Basilica (Hungarian: 'Szent István-bazilika') is the official home of the resident bishop for the Roman Catholic Church in Budapest. It is named after King Stephen, who was the first such monarch of Hungary. In fact, his mummified fist is housed as a reliquary here.

One could content that this church is one of the most important religious sites in Hungary. It is a significant tourist attraction. It also happens to be the 3rd highest building in the country. In the city of Budapest, it towers into the air along with the Hungarian Parliament Building. Both structures are 96 meters high (this is regulated by the city authorities. No structure taller than this is allowed.)

It took 55 years to complete this project, which was worked on by two architects: Miklos Ybl and Jozsef Kauser. Much of the delay was caused by the fact that the original dome fell, due to structural defects, in 1868. The project had to be demolished and restarted.

The architectural styling is Neo-Classical. It has a Greek cross style plan. Two large bell towers hold the six bells of St. Stephen’s. You can access the dome by elevators or stairs to get one of the best views of Budapest.

If you get the chance, attend an organ concert here, as the acoustics are incredible.
The basilica's facade overlooks the grand St. Stephen's Square, a great place to enjoy coffee at open-air cafes.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm; Sat: 9am-1pm; Sun: 1pm-5pm
Hungarian State Opera House

6) Hungarian State Opera House (must see)

The Hungarian State Opera House is a located in central Pest on Andrassy ut. The building was designed by Miklos Ybl, who is perhaps one of the most famous 19th century Hungarian architects. It was officially opened to the general public on September 27, 1884.

Architecturally speaking, it is built in the neo-Renaissance style; however, you will also notice some Baroque elements. The ornamentation includes some of the finest paintings and sculptures to be found in the city, such as the works of Bertalan Székely, Károly Lotz, or Mór Than.

Although not anywhere near the largest concert hall in the world, it is considered one of the most beautiful. The acoustics is also considered to be among the best to be found anywhere. The inside can seat 1261 people in its horseshoe-shaped seating sections.

In front of the of the Opera House, you can find statues of two famous Hungarian composers: Ference Erkel (who wrote the Hungarian National Anthem) and Franz Liszt (arguably the most famous Hungarian composer).

Why You Should Visit:
If you have time, try to book a show. You will be happy you did.
If you can't get a seat for an opera or opera is not your thing, try the conducted tours of which there are three a day.

Get the 'Opera Cake' and a glass of wine at the interval.
Also, be prepared to dress up as it's a rather glamorous affair :)

Editor's note:
"The building is being renovated until the spring of 2019, therefore the Opera House starts its 2017/2018 season at Budapest’s Erkel Theater. However, Opera Shop, and certain parts of the building can be visited even during the time of the renovation."
Pest Broadway

7) Pest Broadway

The Pest Broadway is a section of the city of Budapest that is best known for its theatres and music. It is located at the intersection of Nagymezo utca and Andrassy Avenue. (This is very close to the Budapest Opera). In this area, you can find the Moulin Rouge Night Club, the Ernst Gallery, and the Mano Mai House of Photography.

Along Nagymezo Street you can also find the Operetta Theatre, the Mikroszkop Cabaret, the Thalia Theatre, and the Tivoli. In modern times, the entertainment businesses now expand all the way to the Academy of Music.

There is also a light of fine dining to be found on the Pest Broadway, between its fine food establishments, and the quaint cafes the dot the street. The nightclubs and bars have also made this area quite popular among the locals also.

Getting to Budapest Broadway: Take the Millennium Underground (M1), which runs underneath Andrássy Avenue (Between the Opera House and the Octagon). You can also reach this area of the so called 6th District by walking from the Octagon to the Nagymező utca by walking two minutes (4-6 tram station, M1 metro).
Rumbach utca Synagogue

8) Rumbach utca Synagogue

Located in the old historic district of the town of Pest is the Rumbach Street Synagogue. The inner section of the city is called Belvaros. The spiritual home of the local Hungarian Jews was built in 1872, designed by Viennese architect Otto Wagner.

It is a classic example of Moorish rival styling. The synagogue is octagonal, and has a beautiful balcony. The walls are painted and decorated in Islamic patterns and paint colors; the roof is domed. One might find similarities between this building and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

The outside of this very old structure is also much decorated. It is adorned in like fashion to the brickwork that can be found on the synagogue at Dohany utca. The vertical striping is very remarkable. You also need to take note of the two minaret octagonal turrets that tower high into the air. The cream, green, and deep red colors façade, along with the oriental style arches, make the perfect backdrop to the windows that contain the Star of David.

Sadly, the schul (another name for the synagogue) is not being used any more for religious services. The building is in bad need of repair. Once the reconstruction is finished, though, it is due to be reopened.
Great Synagogue

9) Great Synagogue (must see)

This famous historical spot is also referred to as the Dohány Street Synagogue. It is the largest of the Jewish houses of worship located in Budapest. The building was erected from 1854 to 1859. It was designed by the famous Viennese designer and architect Ludwig Forster.

The overall design is Moorish. It has two traditional tall towers that make the location viewable all over the city. You can also see the influence of Gothic, Romantic, and Byzantine art throughout this beautiful location.

The Great Synagogue is 174 feet long and approximately 90 feet wide. It can hold a little over 2900 people, split evenly between the women’s area and the men’s area. It is the second largest building of its kind in the world. Only the Temple Emanu-El in New York City is larger. The two towers that help to make the location distinct rise an impressive 143 feet into the air.

You will also want to look for the Jewish Heroes’ Mausoleum that is next door. The cemetery and gardens contain monuments to Jews who died during the Holocaust, as well as the bodies of non-Jewish people who helped to protect the lives of so many people.

Why You Should Visit:
Very large and very unique synagogue, with well-organised tours in many languages.

Go upstairs and spend some time in the museum and archives as they are particularly informative and enlightening.
You do have to dress modestly, though you can pay for an overall-type thing if your clothing isn't suitable.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Tue, Thu: 10am-4pm; Wed: 10:30am-4pm; Fri: 10am-2pm
Tree of Life / Raoul Wallenberg Park

10) Tree of Life / Raoul Wallenberg Park (must see)

Raoul Wallenberg Park is a place of commemoration for the people who risked their lives to help keep the Jewish population of Budapest safe during the days of WWII. Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat at the time and one of the main leaders in the movement to protect the Hungarian Jews. If this group had been caught, they would have been executed.

The famous Tree of Life memorial is a commemorative sculpture that has its home in the center of the park. It was designed to pay tribute to the 5,000 Holocaust victims that are buried in the area. It is made into the shape of a willow tree, which in traditional Hungarian Jewish thinking, is a symbol of mourning. It can also represent an overturned menorah. There is also a synagogue here, with some rather famous copies of Torahs housed in their ark.

The park was started in the 1990s after Hungary was returned to a democratic state. A large donation from the world famous Estee Lauder (approximately $5 million U.S.) made the whole memorial possible, with completion having occurred in 1996.

You can walk by the outside of the park to see the tree, but it's probably better to go inside and see it (staying outside is free while going inside requires an admission fee).
Vidago Palace (Concert Hall)

11) Vidago Palace (Concert Hall)

The Vigado Palace Concert Hall is a historic music center located along the shores of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary. It was built from 1859 through 1864. The architect was Frigyes Feszl. The structure actually is a replacement for the original that was located there and was completely lost to fire during the 1848-49 Hungarian Revolution.

The palace represents one of the best structures in all of Hungary that was built in the Romantic style. From its main façade, which overlooks the Danube River, one can find the classic outward projections, that are joined by the arcades, which are a prime example of this architectural design.

The Vigado, like the concert hall that it had replaced, was damaged during war. In this case, the damage to the palace occurred during World War II. A post war reconstruction of the building did take place, lasting nearly 30 years. In 2006, the façade was completely cleaned and restored.

Among the groups that still play concerts here, perhaps the most notable is the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble (Állami Népi Együttes Székháza). The group has been in existence since 1951, and is dedicated to the mission of keeping traditional Hungarian music alive and well.
Vaci Street

12) Vaci Street

Váci utca (Váci street) is one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares and perhaps the most famous street of central Budapest, Hungary. It features a large number of restaurants and shops catering primarily to the tourist market. Vaci utca is one of the main shopping streets in Budapest. Among the retaliers located here are: Zara, H&M, Mango, ESPRIT, Douglas AG, Swarovski, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Nike.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Great Market Hall

13) Great Market Hall (must see)

The Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. The idea of building such a large market hall arose from the first mayor of Budapest, Karl Kamermayer, and it was his largest investment.

The building was designed and built by Samu Pecz around 1897. The market offers a huge variety of stalls on three floors. The entrance gate has a neogothic touch. A distinctive architectural feature is the roof which was restored to have colorful Zsolnay tiling from Pécs. The area size of the building is 10,000 square meters, which is covered by a steel structure. During the World Wars, it was completely damaged and then closed for several years. Throughout the 1990s restoration works brought back the market to its former splendor.

Most of the stalls on the ground floor offer produce, meats, pastries, candies, spices, and spirits such as paprika, tokaji, túró rudi, and caviar. The second floor has mainly eateries and souvenirs. The lángos stand, which Rick Steves considers to be the best at the market, is located on this floor, serving the deep-fried snack lángos. The basement contains a supermarket, fish market, and pickles. Not only do they have traditional cucumber pickles, but they also offer pickled cauliflower, cabbage, beets, tomatoes, and garlic.

Why You Should Visit:
A very crowded yet well-ventilated place full of fresh fruit, meats, sweets, but also many tourist-oriented accessories and a variety of Hungarian "street-food".

Take your time to search for the best quality/price, since many vendors sell identical products.
The food booths on the 2nd floor offer local and regional beer and local cuisine.
Be sure you get all the way around the back if you are looking for handicrafts.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 6am-5pm; Tue-Fri: 6am-6pm; Sat: 6am-3pm; closed on Sundays
Sight description based on wikipedia

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.
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
Buda Orientation Walk

Buda Orientation Walk

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...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 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
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 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
Ruin Pubs Tour

Ruin Pubs Tour

A truly unique attraction to the city of Budapest, ruin pubs are thriving modern establishments that are located inside old abandoned buildings. The antiquity inherent in their architecture adds a certain character to these pubs. Inside the spots found on the Budapest Ruin Pubs Tour guests are treated to an assortment of entertainment opportunities, including hot DJ sets, live musical acts, film...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 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.