Iconic Budapest sights: Our fist look at Parliment

4 Iconic Budapest sights

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When we think of Budapest, what comes to mind are images of the massive parliament building, the towering cathedral, and Chain Bridge that spans the Danube River and connects Buda to Pest. Even though we have 11 days to discover the city, our first mission was to see these four iconic Budapest sights.

Iconic Budapest Sights:


As we rounded the corner into Kossuth Square and got our first glimpse of Parliament, I literally stopped in my tracks. The colossal building was much larger than I anticipated it being. It stretches 879 feet along the bank of the Danube River. Built from 1885 to 1904, it was inaugurated in 1896 for the country’s 1000th year celebration. The Gothic design features spires, statues, arches and a dome that soars 96 meters, in honor of the country’s birth date, 896. Tip: Take a tour of Parliament, which includes viewing the Coronation Jewels. 

Iconic Budapest sights; The massive parliament building doesn't fit into any one shot from my camera!

The entire square feels grand with perfectly manicured green lawns, a smattering of statues and the majestic buildings surrounding it. Relaxed guards are stationed at the entrances, but more rigid guards stood at the base of the flag in the center of the square. We walked the complete perimeter of Parliament, struggling to find an angle that could capture it all.

Iconic Budapest sights: Grand buildings ring Parliament, including this one that houses the Ethnographic Museum, but was originally built for the Ministry of Justice.

Grand buildings ring Parliament, including this one that houses the Ethnographic Museum, but was originally built for the Ministry of Justice.


Liberty Square

A short walk to the southeast brought us to Liberty Square. More playful than Kossuth, people lounged at the center café and played catch with their canines in the dog park. It’s ringed by historic buildings, such as the Hungarian National Bank, the old stock exchange and fashionable apartment buildings from the late 1800s. The US Embassy is on the northeast side of the square, which is guarded by a high fence, blockades and strict No Photo signs.

Iconic Budapest sights: The Soviet War Memorial at Liberty Square

The Soviet War Memorial at Liberty Square.

We were a little surprised to find two statues honoring Americans in the square: one of Harry Hill Bandholtz, an officer from World War I, and another of a smiling Ronald Reagan walking along the path. Since it’s not everyday I get the chance to walk alongside an American president, I grabbed his hand and we had a little chat. He’s much taller than I expected.

Iconic Budapest sights: Walking through Liberty Square with President Ronald Reagan.

Sarah walking through Liberty Square with President Ronald Reagan.

Two memorials stand at each end of the square, the Soviet War Memorial to the north and, to the south, a brand new sculpture commemorating Hungary’s German Occupation on March 19, 1944 – both of which are controversial. A counter exhibit of personal mementos has been set up in response to the newest memorial.

Iconic Budapest sights: A new monument has created quite the controversy and citizens have created a counter-monument from personal items.

A new monument commemorating Hungary’s German Occupation on March 19, 1944 has created quite the controversy and citizens have created a counter-monument from personal items.

Budapest 3-Day Itinerary JetSettingFools.com

Budapest 3-Day Itinerary

St. Istvan’s Basilica

Continuing southeast we walked a couple blocks to St. Istvan’s Basilica. Also built for Hungary’s 1000th birthday, the enormous church has two bell towers and a dome that reaches the height of 96 meters. The height, celebrating the year in which Hungary became a nation (896) matches that of Parliament’s dome to signify the balance between church and state. No other building in Budapest can exceed that height.

Iconic Budapest sights: St. Istvan's Basilica

St. Istvan’s Basilica

We entered the church via the wide staircase into the glittering interior. A special mass that had every pew filled kept us from touring the church. However, we were able to enter the small chapel that houses the decaying right hand of St. Istvan, Hungary’s first Christian king. Slightly gruesome, we passed on ponying up the 75 cents to light up the box.

Iconic Budapest sights: The glittering interior of St. Istvan's Basilica during a packed house mass.

The glittering interior of St. Istvan’s Basilica during a packed house mass.


Chain Bridge

From here, we walked directly west along the pedestrian-only promenade, Zrinyi Utca, to the Danube River and Chain Bridge. We passed many typical Hungarian eateries along the way, most of which offered goulash and meat dishes, as well as a statue of an old-time, typical Hungarian police officer.

Iconic Budapest sights: Statue of an old-time Hungarian police officer.

Statue of an old-time Hungarian police officer, complete with mustache.

Once we made it to the river bank, we got an up close look at Chain Bridge, the first to span the river and connect the two separate towns of Buda and Pest. The bridge was commissioned by Count Istvan Szechenyi and built by Adam Clark between 1842 and 1849. The original bridge was destroyed in World War II, but rebuilt. Lions mark both ends and walking paths on the outside edge provide spectacular views to all of Budapest.

Iconic Budapest sights: Chain Bridge

Iconic Chain Bridge.

Iconic Budapest sights: View from Chain Bridge of Parliament.

Equally iconic are the fabulous views from Chain Bridge of Budapest in every direction, including this one of Parliament.

Click here for Castle Hill sights in Budapest

We want to know: What would you add to our list of iconic Budapest sights? Which is your favorite? If you haven’t been to Budapest, which do you want to see most? Tell us in the comments!


Our Top Tips for Your Trip to Budapest

Read out 3-Day Budapest Itinerary for more things to do in the city! 

Sightseeing (and money-saving!) Tips

  • A trip to a spa is an essential Budapest activity! There are many Budapest spa packages available, which range from basic to luxury. Szechenyi and Gellert are the two most popular tourist spas, both of which also offer massages. 
  • A cruise on the Danube River is a popular way to see the city – which include everything from public passenger ferries to dinner cruises. Find a Budapest River Cruise that fits your style and budget! 
  • Guides lead visitors through the city on a variety of walking tours – everything from neighborhood specific to food tours to Ruin Bars (which can also be seen on a Pub Crawl!). 
  • The public transportation in Budapest keeps the city well-connected. Click here for information on methods of transport and cost or catch a ride on the Big Bus Budapest, which makes stops at all the top tourist sights!
  • If you are planning on visiting the top Budapest sights and using public transportation, a Budapest Card can save you money. 
  • Budapest is an affordable city, but many of the sights charge exorbitant entry fees. Click here for our recommendations for Budapest on a Budget.



Budapest on a tight budget: Our accommodations in Budapest, found on Airbnb, were only $34 a night!

We, once again, relied on our go-to option of Airbnb.com to secure accommodations – and we weren’t disappointed. Located in District Six, we were well within walking distance to the sights. Our high-ceilinged, bright apartment had one large room with a separate kitchen and bath – and only cost $34 a night. (Use this link to join Airbnb and save money on your first stay!) We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. Budapest holiday apartments can also be searched on FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor) or on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner

However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Budapest hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: Hotel Moments Budapest, Callas House and Aria Hotel Budapest. Or, find a deal on a hotel room by bidding on Priceline

Budget travelers can search for Budapest Hostels – like Georges, Metropolis Hostel and Flow Hostel. For a true bargain – and a unique experience – search for hosts on Couchsurfing, where travelers stay with locals for free


Getting There

Budapest can be reached by plane, train, bus or car. We arrived by train (Ljubljana to Budapest) and departed via plane. 

Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!) and when we do need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner or Flight Hub.

To get from city to city when flights are not possible, we usually rely on public transportation and take trains or buses. In Europe, we use Rail Europe to find train tickets and our preferred bus company is FlixBus – as it is economical, clean and comfortable with on-board wifi, seat-back entertainment, refreshments and a toilet. We aren’t keen on driving abroad, but renting a car can often save time and money (especially when traveling with more than two people) – and it allows for greater discovery.  


Before You Go

  • Budapest is a walkable city…but only if you have the right shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
  • We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
  • It’s easy to get turned around in any foreign city! Make sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook before arriving.
  • We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.

Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for our complete packing list and other travel resources!


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12 thoughts on “4 Iconic Budapest sights

  1. Oregon Follower!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What would Ronnie do? How many times have so many asked that question. Great picture!

  2. Anonymous

    What a beautiful city! BTW in your talk with Reagan I hope you mentioned that we sorely long for the days when he was our President!!!

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