5. Dohany St. Synagogue
Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe, and second largest in the world, was built in 1859. The Central Synagogue in NYC is an almost exact replica.
This synagogue has a rich history, and during the early years of WWII, it was used as a German radio base. A chilling thought, right? For a time, Adolf Eichmann himself had an office in the women’s balcony, behind the rose window, which still stands today.
Between 1944-1945, the ghetto where the synagogue is located witnessed the death of between eight and ten thousand people, with two thousand people buried on site. It’s a sobering and heart-rending piece of history to visit.
But, there are some quirks to this place too. For example, you might notice that Dohány is not lined up with the street – this is because the synagogues must face east, towards Jerusalem. So, if you find yourself geographically disoriented during your visit, at least you’ll know which way is east!
And, there are some uplifting narratives to Dohány as well. Tony Curtis and Estée Lauder, both of Hungarian-Jewish descent, contributed to the restoration of the synagogue following the communist era. So standing here, you’re truly walking in the footsteps of some of the most iconic people of our time.
6. Gellert Hill
Want to know one of the best spots to catch the magnificent views of Pest and the Danube River? Look no further – climb the 140m high Dolomite rock, better known as Gellért Hill! Plus, to top it off, the hill and surrounding areas are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Banks of the Danube.
Interestingly, Bishop Gellért came all the way from Italy to help Hungarians convert to Christianity and was allegedly rolled down the now Gellért Hill by Pagans in 1046. To make sure Hungarians remained in check, the Habsburgs even built a fortress – the Citadella – right on top of the hill.
Hungary has its own Statue of Liberty? Pretty cool, right? The statue was put up back in 1947 to celebrate the liberation of Budapest and Hungary from Nazi rule. Take a look at the picture above – such a powerful symbol of freedom and democracy.
Did you know that the Liberty Bridge is not only one of the most iconic bridges in town, but it’s also the shortest? It was built back in October of 1896 as part of the Millennium celebrations of Hungary’s 1000th birthday. Fun fact: Turul statues – falcon-like birds that played a significant role in ancient Hungarian mythology – guard both portals of the bridge.
RELATED 10 Reasons Why Budapest Should Be Your First Solo Trip
8. New York Cafe
CThe New York Cafe in Budapest once served as the go-to spot for artists and writers alike, like Les Deux Magots in Paris, Harry’s Bar in Venice, or Bar Marsella in Barcelona! It’s part of the luxurious New York Palace Hotel.
Sadly, the building was destroyed during WWII, only to later become a sporting goods store. Although it was re-opened in 1954 under the name Hungary, it was nowhere near its former glory.
It wasn’t until 2006, when Italian luxury hotel chain Boscolo purchased and restored it, that the magic and splendor returned to Budapest’s iconic coffeehouse. Pretty amazing, right?
9. Hungarian Parliament
The Hungarian Parliament building is the largest in all of Hungary! The cupola reaches an impressive height of 96 meters, the same as St. Stephen’s Basilica, which represents Hungary’s independence in 896.
The building has more than just great height – it also houses the country’s greatest collection of Hungarian Parliamentary documents in its own library. And speaking of remarkable history, this is the place where you can find St. Stephen’s Holy Crown, gifted by Pope Sylvester II, along with other royal insignia.
The building also bears visible bullet marks from WWII and the Revolution of 1956. Surprisingly, the restoration team decided to leave them intact, making them a unique feature and lending the site a sense of depth and history. Keep an eye out for these marks, especially around the windows on the square side.
10. Buda Castle
Take a journey through the rich history of Buda Castle. Originally constructed in 1356, this stunning fortress has undergone a myriad of transformations that embody the passage of time. After a Gothic-style palace replaced it around 1400, the castle witnessed the Turks ruling Budapest between 1541-1626 and left it in ruins.
In the 18th century, the Habsburgs constructed a smaller version, only for it to be expanded following the Austro-Hungarian compromise. But adversity struck again in 1944, during a violent battle between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht, leaving the Castle in ruins once again.
While reconstruction began in 1950, the Castle’s interior has since lost its charm and personality. However, don’t let that deter you from visiting this gem of a World Heritage Site. The castle’s exterior is stunning and provides you with countless Instagram-worthy photo opportunities.
11. Ruin Bars
What’s not to love about Budapest’s hidden Ruin Bars? Grabbing their beginnings in the early 2000s and gaining traction these bars are now one of the top attractions drawing visitors from across the globe.
The story has it that District VII, the old Jewish Quarter, was repeated with collapsed homes and abandoned stores – remnants of the deportation of around 10,000 Jews during World War II. But the Ruin bar owners saw a glimmer of opportunity amidst the ruins.
The visionary owners of Szimpla Kert, which is the OG ruin bar and the most popular to this day, took a different approach. Rather than renovate and make everything neat and predictable, they worked with what was available and embellished the place with a mishmash of styles, vintage furniture, string lights, and anything else that simply doesn’t fit in – yet everything merges terrifically to craft a a welcoming haven like no other.
Quickly, the idea caught on like wildfire, and the bar became the savior of the old Jewish District. However, the Ruin bars are not just drinking dens; they serve as common spaces, concert venues, flea & farmer’s markets to name a few.
The next time you’re in Budapest, stroll down Kazinczy utca, and bask in the vibrant life of the District VII neighborhood. You definitely won’t be disappointed by these wonderfully eccentric spaces – I’m sure it wasn’t. We had dinner at Mazel Tov Ruin Bar and it was fantastic! It’s the one pictured with the ivy.
RELATED Ultimate Day of Relaxation in Budapest
The Budapest funicular, lovingly known as Budavári Sikló, has been transporting visitors in vintage style since 1870 from Clark Ádám tér, at the end of the Chain Bridge, to Castle Hill, all without breaking a sweat.
It underwent repairs and restoration after WWII, eventually reopening in 1986, complete with UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1987. And with the funicular making the trip every ten minutes, don’t let a line deter you! Despite my perpetually warm body temperature, I ventured up Castle Hill by foot on my way to Fisherman’s Bastion – but let’s just say that next time, I’ll happily opt for the funicular.
13. Great Market Hall
If you’re in Budapest, don’t miss the chance to experience the buzzing Great Market Hall, affectionately known as Nagyvásárcsarnok. Built in 1987, this three-story market has everything from fresh produce, meats and cheeses to spices, clothing and much more.
While the Great Market Hall is closed on Sundays, Saturdays are the perfect time to indulge in a tasty guided tour. You’ll leave feeling well-fed and more knowledgeable about Hungarian cuisine. Try longos, chimney cakes, and Hungarian strudel.
Looking to avoid the crowds of locals? Visit early in the morning or opt for a weekday late morning or early afternoon shopping spree.
14. Street art in the Jewish District
Thanks to the Façade Rehab Project, citizens once tasked with watching their city’s buildings deteriorate were instead encouraged to channel their artistic energy into breathing new life onto the decaying walls around them.
Now, you can spot masterfully done artworks of varying sizes featuring anything from dark, torrid history to Rubik, the famous Budapestian who invented the cube. And of course, you can always find a mural that speaks for you and is sure to give you the perfect Instagram moment, regardless of whether you are taking photos, selfies, family photos, or anything else.
15. Fisherman’s Bastion
If you visit Budapest, don’t miss out on what I think is the most breathtaking sight in the city – Fisherman’s Bastion or, as the locals call it, Halászbástya.
Built between 1895 and 1902 as part of the Millennial developments for Hungary’s 1000th birthday, this enchanting castle-like structure on Castle Hill simply looks like something out of a fairy tale. Heck, it’s even styled like the medieval architecture of 1000 AD What’s more, the seven towers represent the seven chieftains who settled in the city in 896, and there’s a stunning statue of St. Stephen too.
Fisherman’s Bastion used to defend the old ramparts and was damaged during WWII, but it’s been immaculately restored by the sons of the original architect, Frigyes Schulek.
So, if you want the perfect photo-op (because it’s coming on, who doesn’t?), make sure to head there at sunrise before the crowds take over. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
One place you absolutely cannot miss: Matthias Church. Not only is it a breathtaking example of medieval architecture, but it’s also one of the most Instagrammable spots in the city. Trust me, your followers will thank you for the post. Plus, who doesn’t love a little history with stunning views? It also doesn’t hurt that it’s located at Fisherman’s Bastion so you are already there!
With its mix of stunning architecture and charming streets, Budapest offers countless images to capture Hungary’s old world charm. Whether you’re an Instagram novice or pro, you won’t be able to resist the urge to pause – some might even say ‘inhale the moment’ – and take a snapshot at these spots! From Fisherman’s Bastion to Gellert Hill, there is something perfect for capturing your best photos on the ‘Gram. Who knows, with the right composition and filters, you just might be the envy of all your friends! Now tell us: where is your favorite place to take photos in Budapest? Drop us a line and let us know!