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Must see places in Budapest!

Published by Saba Jalali — one year ago

Blog: Budapest diaries
Tags: Erasmus blog Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

I have been living here during almost the whole last year and if there is something that I never get tired of is the city itself. Every day I am amazed by how beautiful and breathtaking this city actually is. There is always more to discover and more to see and this is why Budapest never ceases to amaze me.

I have talked about various sites in Budapest over the last few months but I haven't actually put them together and it just seems like it would be a lot more convenient if I did that. So here's some of the must see places in Budapest. Hope you enjoy.

1) Chain Bridge

The chain bridge is indisputably the most important landmark of Budapest. It is seen on every post card and website but it is more than just a pretty bridge to take selfies on. Will Smith also recently made a video of him doing the Drake's #inmyfeelings challenge on top of the bridge which made a lot of noise here. Anyways let's see what's the story of this bridge.

The story behind the chain bridge still fascinates me. Before actually researching the story, I had heard so many conspiracy theories about the architect of the Chain bridge; some said that he jumped off the bridge and took his own life. Some said that the reason behind his suicide was the fact that he found a dent in one of the lions of the bridge. This information went on and on until my Hungarian teacher told me that he ended up in a mental hospital and his life ended there. So I researched it and this was the actual story apparently but no one really talks about it so it's difficult to know.

But let's leave appart the architect's story and let me introduce you to some background details about the chain bridge.

The story of this bridge goes back to 1839, the construction started in this year and it only finished about 10 years later. 10 years? Can you believe it? There are countless names of people involved in the construction and financing of the bridge but I’m not going to go into details with that, if you have some genuine interest in the history of the bridge you can check the website.

Anyhow the name “chain bridge” actually comes from the two long iron chains which are suspended on the sides of the bridge. You can see two stone lions on the sides of the bridge which were sculpted by a famous sculptor but were only allocated here in 1852, which is about a couple of years after the construction of the bridge had terminated.

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The bridge that you see today isn’t actually the one that was built in 1839 as, during the Second World War, german troops blew up almost all of the bridges of Budapest. I mean all! How cruel. Don’t mind me guys, I’m just way too sensitive about historical places and their meaning. Anyways, the chain bridge was among the ones that were blown up. Almost the whole bridge was destroyed and only the pillars were left intact. In 1947 the decision to rebuild the bridge was taken and, with some minor modifications, the bridge was almost as good as new in 1949. The interesting thing is that the bridge was once opened again at the exact day that it was built 100 years ago. How cool right?

2) Citadella

So citadella is a fortress which is located on top of Gellert Hill. It’s interesting to know that a place that is now only offers you beauty, a spectacular view and nice work out up the hill was once a military base. I'm not going to get into details about the history of the Citadella but that it was made by a Austrian Emperor after the Hungarian revolution in 1851 and it contained 6 cannons! I know, the cannons were basically there as a weapon of mass destruction upon this beautiful and sacred city.

All that aside, the first thing anyone notices when looking up towards Citadella is the tall statue of a woman holding something that appears to be a leaf. The statue can be seen from anywhere, even when you’re strolling next to the Danube.

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So what’s the story behind it?

This statue is actually the Freedom Statue of Budapest, it kinda reminds me and I'm sure thousands of others of the Statue of Liberty in the US. Anyhow like I mentioned above, the Citadella was constructed by Austrians in 1851 during the times when Austria and Hungary had a lot of conflicts, which in the resulted in the formation of Austro-Hungary. It was then that the Hungarians demanded the demolition of Citadella, I mean after all it was a sign of their oppression but the Austrians didn’t accept it. In 1897 the troops of Citadella apparently got tired or left (I’m guessing that’s what happened; it wasn’t mentioned why they left). When they left, in 1899 the Hungarians finally demolished the walls of the Citadella.

After the soviets took over Hungary -or in their words liberated Hungary from Germany in World War II- a sculptor named Marshal Klimient discovered an unfinished sculpture. The sculpture was made by a Hungarian sculptor for a son of the Hungarian governor who had gone missing in 1943. Klimient was a true soviet and he thought that the statue would be better off if it became dedicated to the Soviets who freed Hungary. And that’s how it happened. Today there stands a 14 meter tall woman holding a palm leaf in her hand; there are also two figures next to it which symbolize the “progress” and the win against the evil - the evil being the german Nazis that occupied Hungary.

I would definitely suggest you guys to visit the Citadella near the sunset, when the sunsets you can see how all the city lights turn on simultaneously and watch the weak evening sun disappear into the orange sky. There are some small stalls there where you can buy a can of beer or some light snacks. If you want to stay there for long, I would suggest taking up some drinks and snacks; as it’s much cheaper that way.

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Sights of the Danube at night in Budapest.

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As for getting to Citadella, the easiest way is taking the tram 47 or 49 from Deak Ferenc Ter to Moricz square and then going up the hill. There is also a bus number 7 apparently but I have never taken it so I don’t know. I usually take the tram and it’s much easier. Anyways once there you need to climb up the Gellert hill, there is a pathway which is asphalted and easy to walk up to; there are also stairs that you can take. The stairs are slightly crooked but it gives you the sense of being in jungle and surrounded by nature and all that.

I genuinely think that you shouldn’t miss out on this place. Let me know what you think of it once you get the chance to visit.

3) Heroes Square

Hosok Tere (pronounced "Hooshok Tere") is one of the main squares in the Hungarian capital. To put it simply this square is very iconic, it has many important statues, among them the statues of the seven chieftains of the magyars. If chieftain is too complicated for you (I know it is for me) just remember them as the seven tribes which first arrived to Hungary back in 800 AD. They have really difficult names and I don't want to turn this entry into a history lesson for you all. There are memorials of other important hungarian national leaders and there is also a tomb of an unknown soldier.

The Heroes Square is located right next to the City Park or Városliget, as the Hungarians call it, which is an extremely beautiful park during the warmer months and it is home to one of the largest ice skating rinks in all of Eastern Europe during the winter months. I actually wrote a piece about the ice skating rink and you can find the link of it in here if you want. Anyhow, back to the Heroes Square, there are a lot of national and art related events that take place here and although I have never attended any of it, I would like to. I really think this square is a sight to be enjoyed and you should really take your time and explore it, it's very beautiful and majestic.

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4) Buda Castle

Buda castle is surely one of the most important sites of Budapest, it is for sure one of the main landmarks and definitely one of the best touristic spots. No proper tourist would miss out on visiting this place. In fact my mom is going to visit me soon and the first place I'm going to take her is here. By the way, contrary to the popular belief, the Buda castle is in fact ¡a castle! Yes, I know so shocking (please laugh at my jokes).

This castle which was home to most of Hungary's kings was first built in the 12th century but was then further expanded in the 17th century. The Buda castle also sits on top of the castle hill and it's basically in the castle district, which also contains the Matthias Church and the Fisherman's Bastion. However, the castle itself is really big and has many different things that you can see. I literally discover a new corner every time I go and so it's quite exciting. The court and courtyards are open all the time but I suggest visiting it during the daylight even though it's well lit and it has certain majesty to it in the night as well.

The Royal Palace is now the home to the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. I have never been to the museums so I don't know much about it but you can find further information here.

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5) Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church

The Fisherman’s Bastion is undoubtedly my favorite spot in Budapest and even though Citadella offers a better view, I still prefer to go here for a perfect evening.

Halaszbastya, as it is called in Hungarian, is a rather decorative place for a bastion and let's see why is that. Oh, before we go on, this place is rather one of my personal favorites as well so do expect my review to be a little biased. The bastion again has 7 towers as the symbol of the 7 tribes or the 7 chieftainsthat we mentioned before. Brace yourselves as there are quite a few stairs leading up to this place, but I promise you it's worth the climb. The stairs are quite wide and ceremonial and I read that they meant it to be like this so it provides a dramatic entrance and enhances the views (they were smart I know). Just like everything else, the bastion was also damaged during the Second World War but was quickly renovated. I’m not going to include more details about the bastion just to leave some mystery in this whole piece. But don't miss out on this sight please.

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6) Elizabeth Bridge

Elizabeth Bridge is considered to be one of the most important landmarks of Budapest. The original bridge was actually considered the largest suspension bridge in the whole world but now the Akashi Bridge in Japan is the longest and largest suspension bridge of the whole world. Anyhow, this bridge also held a design competition in which Hungarians, Americans, Austrians and some other nationalities competed to win the rights to the design of the bridge. A German engineer won the competition and built the bridge.

And oh, I bet you are all wondering why is it called Elizabeth Bridge and if you aren’t wondering about that, I'm still going to tell you anyway. Well it's actually named after Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Francis Joseph which was assassinated in Geneva. For some reasons, Hungarians have a lot of respect for Queen Elizabeth and hence they named a whole bridge after her.

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I hope that you guys enjoy this article!

Cheers!


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