The Wonderful Pest District of Budapest

Budapest is a city with sweeping and memorable views. The Danube, a river that divides the city into Buda and Pest, is majestic with several iconic buildings lining its banks. Naturally, one must cross the Danube River to get optimal views of buildings on the opposite riverbank. Perspective and lighting are everything. If you have a short stay and don’t plan carefully, you can only hope that the photography gods of sun and light smile on you. After experiencing the very bright light and haze of Budapest in August of last year, I have purchased a polarising (circular) lens filter for my camera. I only wish I had brought one to Budapest.

The Chain Bridge, Gresham Palace, and St. Stephan’s Basilica behind Gresham Palace line up beautifully. The linear alignment of these monuments makes for easy cognitive mapping and therefore excellent urban legibility.

A view of the Chain Bridge, Gresham Palace and St. Stephan’s Basilica in the background.
A closer view of the Art-Nouveau Gresham Palace with photo taken from the Chain Bridge.

The Hungarian Parliament building is a unique piece of architecture. It is huge, it has a red roof, and is unmistakable in the city environment. In fact, the building is so large that some of its chambers go unused. The Parliament serves as an effective city landmark, helping people find their way when traversing the city.

Parliament seen from across the Danube River with photo taken from the Buda Castle area.
Parliament as seen from Kossuth Square.
Guards at the entrance to Parliament. The tourist pavilion and entrance are around the corner.

We booked our tour of Parliament weeks ahead of time, as the English language tour groups fill up quickly. The Parliament interior is shockingly lavish. It would be difficult for me to work in this environment if I were a politician, but it was obviously designed to be awe-inspiring (and it is).

One of the corridors of power, speaking metaphorically.
The main chamber of assembly drips with gold.

St. Stephan’s Basilica, completed in 1905, is built in neoclassical style. It is dedicated to the first king of Hungary, István or Stephan (1000 – 1038).

We watched the sun go down over the Basilica during a balmy evening while sampling Hungarian wine and cheese at an outdoor table of the DiVino wine bar. It was a bit pricy I thought, but worth it given the very good wine, attentive and friendly staff, and the intoxicating spectacle of diminishing light over St. Stephan’s Basilica.

A glass of wine on my table at the Basilica (I meant at DiVino).
The sky is darkening over St. Stephan’s Basilica.
It is nighttime!

Ándrassy Út, a grand boulevard, is considered to be the Budapest version of Paris’ Champs-Élysées. If you stroll down it heading away from the river you will eventually get to Hero’s Square. It is a long walk, so we rode part of the way on Line 1 (the oldest) of the Metro, just for the experience.

Luxury stores on Ándrassy Út.

Ándrassy has some run-down buildings in the process of renovation as funds become available. These will be stunning, once the renovations are completed. As you walk along the boulevard, step into some side streets to explore.

Drechsler’s Palace: A beautiful ruin in the process of renovation..
Liszt Academy of Music on a side street off Ándrassy Boulevard. Liszt was a great Hungarian composer.
I would love to stay in the apartment with the gorgeous balcony, right off Ándrassy.
Lunch: Pan fried brook trout at a restaurant on tree-filled Franz Liszt Square.
Quaint Metro Line 1 is not very deep. It has been in operation since 1896 and the nice elderly ticket taker looked as if he had been there since that time. We hopped on the metro to ride to Hero’s Square.

Hero’s Square in City Park is an open area with the exalted Millenium Monument, a structure built to celebrate Hungary’s 1000 years of existence around 1896 (the millenium date is disputed).

Millenium Monument
Detail on Millenium Monument
Apostle’s Tower Castle was constructed for the millenium celebrations. It is on a lake in City Park near Hero’s Square.

The night time Danube River cruise was spectacular. I was saddened to hear about the recent Danube boat accident and deaths.

We stayed near the Jewish District and visited this area right before leaving Budapest.

Here is the Tree of Life sculpture with Holocaust victims’ names written on each leaf. It is part of the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Monument in the courtyard of the Great Synagogue. Wallenberg was a heroic Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Jews.

Budapest Street Scenes

If you enjoyed reading about Pest, then you may also like to read my post about Buda.


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