Prior to visiting, I certainly wasn’t aware Budapest was a city of two sides – Buda and Pest – see what they did there? Pest is very much where the action is at, especially if you class ‘action’ as nightlife. However, before you rule Buda out – let me tell you – it has tons to offer! Think historical buildings, laid-back charm, amazing views, shops, restaurants, cafes, museums – not to mention (although I will) the Castle District is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I believe no trip to Budapest would be complete without time spent in beautiful & peaceful Buda.
Whether you plan to visit for the day or make this your home for the duration of your stay, here are my top 5 recommended things to do in Buda:
1. Fisherman’s Bastion
There is something so utterly charming and fairytale like about Fisherman’s Bastion. Built in 1895 as a communal terrace for locals to gather and take in the panoramic views over Budapest.
The Bastion is free to explore, however, there is a fee to enter the top turrets. We personally didn’t pay to do this, but we did visit early morning, so were able to experience views fairly uninterrupted by the large crowds that do swarm here later in the day.
Within the Bastion itself, there are some cafe’s, a Chimney cake vendor and souvenir shops. Book a table in the cafe if you wish to enjoy food with a view! You can really stay for as little or as long as you like here – only the weather need cut your visit short.
As an added bonus, Fisherman’s Bastion is located next to Mathias Church. One of the most impressive Church buildings I have ever seen with the prettiest patterned roof. You can enter the church if you wish for a fee of 1,500 HUF.
Fisherman’s Bastions is open all year round. If you would like further information visit their website.
2. Hospital in the Rock
Located under Castle Hill (accessible by a lift – if stairs are an issue for you) resides the Hospital in the Rock museum.
Originally built as a hospital to withstand the bombing of WW2 it was later re-purposed as a Top Secret nuclear bunker. It only lost this classification in 2002 and has since been operating as a museum.
Guided tours in English start every hour on the hour. Your tour starts with a quick video, before your guide navigates you through a labyrinth of underground tunnels leading to wards, operating theatres and a few surprises along the way (which I won’t spoil for you). Each room is set-up with real equipment from the time and the odd wax model dressed as a doctor, nurse or patient, helping to bring everything visually to life for you. Our guide spoke fantastic English and set the tone and pace well. You really have a lot to cover in 1 hour in what I can only describe as not your average museum!
Ultimately you are led to a very poignant exhibition on the catastrophic effects of nuclear war. At the time we visited we had opportunity to view actual artefacts from the devastation of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks.
I discuss more about why I cherished my time at the museum and why I believe this is a must-visit whilst in Budapest in: 48 Hours in Budapest.
For more information and to plan your visit click here
3. Buda Castle & Presidential Palace
Viewed from the Pest side of the river, Buda Castle is an exceptionally grand sight – especially when looked upon all lit-up at night. Up close the architecture of the building is just as impressive.
Significantly damaged during WW2, the castle has been lovingly restored to reflect it’s former glory. It’s now home to the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
Walking the grounds, admiring the breathtaking views over Budapest alone can take a reasonable amount of your time. So, if you want to add in visits to the Gallery and Museum be sure to allow sufficient time. You can easily spend half a day here if not more.
Good to know: Tickets can be purchased to enter any of the buildings within Buda Castle. However, if you’ve purchased a Budapest Card, your entry is free.
Whilst exploring the castle area, we also visited the Hungarian Presidential Palace – the official residence of the President of the Republic of Hungary. Although the inside of the palace is only occasionally open to the public to view, the outside is rather un-usually not surrounded by any walls or gates, enabling you an uninhibited view.
We happened to time our visit to coincide with the changing of the guard, which takes place every hour on the hour from 9am until 4pm. Having witnessed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, it was really interesting to see how this was performed in another country. I would recommend you time your visit to see this. On the last Saturday of every month the changing of the guard is accompanied by music.
For further information on both Buda Castle and the Presidential Palace, click here.
4. Buda Hill Funicular
Another Budapest casualty of WW2, these historical cable cars were re-introduced to the public in 1986. The Buda Hill Funicular is predominantly a novel and very easy way to travel up to Buda Castle and the surrounding areas.
Tickets are purchased from the booths at the bottom of the hill, which is only a short walk from the Chain Bridge. Although the queues to purchase and ride can get particularly long during peak periods, they do operate every 10 minutes. As with anything particularly attractive to tourists, it’s best to visit earlier in the day or later in the evening. Cars run from 7.30am until 10pm at night, but be warned they do shut bi-weekly on a Monday, so check the website before you visit.
As you board the cable car (and especially if you get a seat in the front one) you’ll be treated to some great views of the River Danube and Pest.
You can choose to return to the bottom of the hill in a Cable Car if you so wish, or you could (like us) choose to walk to the bottom exploring some of the side streets of Buda.
Whilst this isn’t the most exciting ride you’ll ever take, I recommend it. How often can you take a restful ride up a very steep hill in a little piece of history? This is a unique way to view Budapest. Plus if you’re travelling with young children, I don’t think they’ll let you get away without allowing them a ride on one!
For more information click here.
5. House of Houdini
Only 100 metres from the Royal Palace, The House of Houdini is a fun pit stop whilst in the Castle District. Especially recommended for any fans of Mr Houdini himself, but also appealing for anyone with even a slight interest in magic.
You are personally guided throughout the museum, which is great to enable you to ask further questions about the exhibits and also gain some extra interesting tales about Houdini.
However, before you can even begin, you need to solve a riddle which unlocks the door to the entrance of the collection. I’m not one for the pressure of a test, but this helped to set the fun tone for the rest of our visit.
The absolute highlight of our time here was the live magic show at the end. The resident magician did a superb and throughly entertaining job, which (excuse the pun) really made this the most magical museum I’ve ever visited.
Good to know: The museum is open daily from 10am until 7pm. Admission to the collection occurs every 30 minutes. But don’t despair if you’re a bit early, there are interesting artefacts to look at as you wait to go in. I would advise you allow 1 hour for your visit here.
To find out more and pre-book tickets, click here.
If you would like to discover more great things to do whilst in Budapest read: 48 Hours in Budapest
You might also like: Living.Pretty. Hygge in Copenhagen: Top 5 hygge inducing moments.
I hope you’ve found 5 things to do in Buda, Budapest helpful? Have you booked a trip to Budapest? Have you visited Buda before? Or do you usually keep your feet firmly on the Pest side of the river? If you’ve got any questions or comments on any of the places I’ve mentioned, please do get in touch via the comments below. I’m happy to help and I always love to hear from you!