The city of Budapest spans either side of the Danube River, with what were originally two separate cities: Buda and Pest. In 1873, they were unified to form the city we know today.
But which side of the river should you stay on when travelling to Budapest?
Both areas are full of places worth visiting so it isn’t as simple as choosing one side of the city over another.
So what are some of the most popular attractions in Buda and Pest?
The Buda side of the river is home to Castle Hill, one of the prettiest districts in Budapest and a World Heritage Site. With its cobbled streets and colourful houses, it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon wandering around.
Buda Castle sits on the hill overlooking the city. Once the home of the Hungarian royals, it now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum.
Szent György tér 2 | Visit the website
The castle can be reached on foot, or you can take the funicular railway up the hillside. Travelling up a steep incline, a funicular railway is a bit like a cable car that works via counterweights. Originally opened in 1870, it was destroyed during the Second World War and reopened in 1986.
There are two footbridges built across the railway that provide a great view of the cars as they make their way slowly up and down.
Be warned, if you fancy taking the funicular railway up Castle Hill, the queues can get pretty long so arrive early.
Clark Ádám tér | Watch a video
This terrace, also located on Castle Hill, around Matthias Church, offers a stunning view across the Danube to the Parliament building. It can get incredibly busy with tourists, so if you want to get the best photographs plan to visit early in the day.
As a tip, it sits right beside the Hilton hotel, so it’s worth checking their rates if Fisherman’s Bastion is high on your to visit list.
Szentháromság tér | Visit the website
Hospital in the Rock
This museum is built in what was a WW2 hospital inside a nuclear bunker. The museum runs regular tours that allow you to experience what it might have been like in the underground hospital, with the aid of waxwork tableaux.
Lovas út 4/C | Visit the website
Gellert Spa and Baths
Budapest is known for its thermal baths and the Gellert Spa is one of the most famous. It’s worth a visit for the architecture alone.
Kelenhegyi út 4 | Visit the website
During our stay in Budapest, we were based in Pest.
Where Buda is built on the hillside, Pest is much flatter and full of wide boulevards.
Pest is also home to some brilliant attractions.
The Hungarian Parliament
Arguably the most beautiful building in the city, Parliament sits right on the river front. You get a stunning view from the Buda side of the river, but it’s worth getting closer to wander around outside and take in the detailed architecture.
There are regular tours of the building in a variety of languages.
Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3 | Visit the website
House of Terror Museum
This museum provides an insight into one of the darker periods in Budapest’s history, when it was under Communist occupation.
Located in the former headquarters of the occupiers, the building has been renovated in dramatic fashion, with every exhibit telling a different part of the story against a visually symbolic backdrop.
Andrássy út 60 | Visit the website
The Book Café
The Book Café in Lotz Hall is located on the upper floor of a department store. It might not sound like much, but with its ornate fresco-style ceiling and chandeliers, it’s a gorgeous place to stop for coffee and cake, plus a spot of book shopping.
While we were there, a tour group even came in purely to take photos of the ceiling.
1061 Budapest, Andrássy út 39 | Visit the website
Danube River cruises
The Pest side of the river is lined with docks, where you can jump on and enjoy a cruise along the Danube or an evening meal.
Travelling by boat is a brilliant way to see the city and learn more about some of the beautiful architecture on either side of the river.
The staff on the cruise boats make an effort to be inclusive too, on the cruise we took, two members of staff took it in turns to recite a long welcome greeting in what must have been a dozen languages. They got a round of applause from the amazed passengers at the end!
Recommendation: Hotel Parlament
If you’re looking for a hotel recommendation, we stayed in the Hotel Parlament. It’s a boutique hotel full of lovely design features, offering free tea and coffee in the lounge throughout the day, with a hot tub in the basement. It’s close to tram routes and there are plenty of places to eat in the surrounding neighbourhood, which is a couple of streets away from the Parliament building.
Kálmán Imre u. 19 | Visit the website
Have you been to Budapest? What are your recommendations for places to stay?