Pest is located on the East bank of the Danube River and together with Buda make up Budapest, the capital of Hungary. We stayed at the fantastic Palazzo Zichy hotel which is located in North Pest and in walking distance of all the main sites. Pest makes up two-thirds of Budapest therefore there is a lot to see and do on this side of the river. As we only had 3 and 1/2 days to explore this city we chose the quick option and bought hop on, hop off bus tickets. Mr ESLT and I do like to wander but when time is limited – needs must. So trusty bus map in hand we headed to the stop closest to our hotel which was only a 5/6 minute walk away.
I normally like to do a ‘My top 5’ but I couldn’t whittle the amazingness down to 5 so instead a ‘Quick Top 10’:-
1. Hungarian Parliament Building – in my opinion this is one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest. It was also the opinion of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, if the Hungarian rumours are to be believed he wanted to buy the building. It is the largest and tallest building in Budapest and is one of the oldest Parliament buildings in Europe. Mr ESLT and I found that the best views of the Parliament Building were from the Buda side of the Danube River or from the river itself on a river cruise. Tours of the building are available but unfortunately we simply did not have the time to take one.
2. Heroes’ Square – Mr ESLT and I jumped off the hop on, hop off bus at Heroes’ Square. This is one of the most visited attractions in Budapest. The square features a number of statues including the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars (who were the leaders of the seven tribes of the Hungarians at the time of their arrival to the Eastern Europe) and other important national leaders, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The statues are very impressive and on the day we visited it wasn’t that busy so we could spend as long as we wanted wandering around.
3. Shoes on the Danube Promenade Memorial – this is a very poignant memorial which sits on the Pest side of the Danube River near the Hungarian Parliament Building. The memorial was created by Gyula Pauer, Hungarian sculptor in 2005. It was designed to honour the Jews who were ordered to take their shoes off, lined up on the banks of the Danube and shot during World War II by the Arrow Cross Party. This is a very moving tribute and you will see a number of flowers placed in and a number of candles around the shoes.
4. Vajdahunyad Castle – We stumbled across this magnificent castle whilst we were wandering around the City Park which is literally right behind Heroes’ Square area. It was built between 1896 and 1908 and is absolutely stunning. It wouldn’t surprise me if a number of people never come across the castle because it is a little bit of the beaten track. Today it houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, the biggest agricultural museum in Europe. It also as an amazing gift shop (I love a gift shop) where I bought a few souvenirs for friends and family.
5. The Danube River front – I love the fact that it Budapest has the Danube River running through the middle of it which has 8 fantastic bridges spanning it. I also loved the fact that you can walk the entire length of the river front marvelling at the water and the buildings are you can find on either side of it. There are a number of bars and restaurants on the Pest side of the Danube which are great for stopping off at and grabbing a quick drink or lunch and watching the world go by. Along the Pest side of the Danube river are all the berths for the river cruises and tours.
6. St. Stephen’s Basilica – is a Roman Catholic Basilica named after the first King of Hungary, Stephen. It is the most important church in Hungary and is a major tourist attraction. I have made no secret of the fact I love churches before. I think it’s because in the hustle and bustle of a major city you can find a few moments of peace and place for contemplation together with the opportunity to marvel at the fantastic architecture. Entrance into the Basilica is free however should you wish to visit the cupola there is a fee of 500 huf and a guided tour will set you back 2000 huf.
7. Dohany Street Synagogue – is also known as the Great Synagogue and it is the largest synagogue in Europe. The Dohány Street Synagogue complex consists of the Great Synagogue, the Heroes’ Temple, the graveyard, the Memorial and the Jewish Museum. The synagogue was bombed by the Hungarian pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party in 1939 which caused a lot of damage. Restoration was completed in 1996. The Synagogue is beautiful. We didn’t visit inside the Synagogue however tours are available if you wish to do so. There is also a handy hop on, hop off bus stop right outside.
8. Great Market Hall – located a mere 5 minutes was from our hotel and close to the Liberty (Freedom) Bridge. I would recommend you pop in to see what seasonal local produce and souvenirs you can pick up? The Great Market Hall is hard to miss as it is a beautifully ornate building. In fact I actually thought it was a train station at first. As the Great Market Hall is three storeys high there is plenty to see, I would recommend allowing yourself 1 – 2 hours to wander around. Please note that the market is not open on a Sunday
9. Hungarian State Opera House – Originally known as the Hungarian Royal Opera House and is the largest Opera House in Hungary which was opened to the public on the 27 September 1884. Unfortunately, opera is not really our thing therefore we did not go inside the building but I imagine the interior is just as grand as the exterior. If opera is your thing a number of touring groups visit the Opera House on a regular basis with over 120 (one average) performances being delivered each year. If like us you don’t go inside at least visit just to take in the beauty of the building from the outside.
10. House of Terror – this is a relatively new museum in Budapest it only opened on 24 February 2002. It contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in 20th-century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building. I personally wouldn’t recommend this for families with small children as some of the things that can be seen inside could be considered quite scary for tots. I’d recommend teenagers and up. If you do not have time to go inside at least look round the outside of the building where you will find portraits of all the people killed.
In summary, there is so much to do in Pest I don’t think the 3 and 1/2 days we had allocated to exploring the whole city (Buda included) was enough. This is only a list of ten of the hundreds of things you can see and do on the Pest side of the city. On the Pest side you will also find the main shopping and commercial area of the city if a bit of retail therapy is in order. We tend not to go back to the same place twice but I think I would make an exception for Budapest. Ideally I would love to do a river cruise along the Danube through a number of a countries in Eastern Europe. Fingers crossed I can do this one day and return to this beautiful city.