Exploring Budapest Part 1: The Bridges and the Buda Side

View from the top of the castle

The city of Budapest is a combination of two historical towns: Buda and Pest. Separated by the Danube River, the Buda side originally had a German majority as opposed to the Hungarian majority on the Pest side. Ottoman rule in the 17th century changed the demographics of the city before it was retaken and changed again in the late 1600s. Eventually rural Hungarians settled there and the two cities became more prosperous before merging together in 1873 as Budapest.

Geographically the two parts couldn’t be more different. Buda is hilly and more spread out while Pest is flat and densely populated. Buda has high castles and monuments dominating the landscape while Pest has more shops and nightlife to go along with its historical buildings.

View of the Liberty Bridge from our room

“Visit Buda but stay in Pest” is the advice every Budapest visitor is given, so we stayed in the inner city on the Pest side right next to the river. This allowed us to walk across the various bridges to see the Buda side. This worked out well as Budapest is a large but very walkable city.

As you can already tell in the photos, Budapest is a city of bridges, so it was easy to move from one side of the city to the other. We stayed directly across from the Liberty Bridge, so it was an easy trip over to the Buda side of the river.

One of the sights you can see from almost anywhere in Budapest is the Liberty Statue, so that’s where we went first.

The Liberty Statue way up high on the left. Now we just have to get there
Heading across the Liberty Bridge to the Pest side

Once we made it across the bridge, It took some time to walk up to the top of the statue, but we eventually reached it.

One of many sets of stairs to make it up to the top
At 40 metres high it towered above me

The Liberty Statue was built in 1947 to commemorate the liberation of this city by the Soviet Union near the end of World War II, though the inscription changed a bit after the fall of communism.

One of the monuments
With the city in the background
Great views of the city from the statue. Buda is on the left and Pest on the right. The bridge in the foreground is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge which we crossed later on
View of the Pest side from up top

Later on we crossed into Buda once again to see Buda Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings and has been around since 1265. However, it gained most of its present size between 1749 and 1769. To get a good sense of the size of the castle you need to see it from the Pest side before crossing.

Buda Castle seen from the Pest side of the city just before we were crossed the bridge
Crossing back to the Buda side later on to visit Buda Castle. This is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge seen in the earlier photo
Budapest in 1945. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge and Buda Castle were almost completely destroyed at the end of World War II. The reconstruction work was impressive

Once across the bridge we had to go up once again. Visitors have two choices to get to the top. There was a funicular available that only takes a few minutes to get to the top. However, the lineup was long so we took the stairs and walked up the hill in the summer heat.

The funicular going up to the castle
Although we didn’t take the funicular, we crossed over it on the walk up
In front of Buda Castle. It was too large to take in all of it up close and was easier to see from across the river
In front of the palace
Looking back towards the bridge
The Maria Anya statue, a popular spot for tourists with great views. It’s a recent addition to the castle
Walking back towards the castle
The gardens behind the castle
The tram we took on the Pest side. Trams were an easy way to get around certain parts of the city
The view from a mansion near the bottom of Buda Castle

Margaret Island lies between the Buda and Pest sides of the city, so we dropped by on the way back from the Pest side by taking the Margaret Bridge. The island has a number of walking trails as well as food and souvenir stands and the large Palatinus spa. For the brief time we spent there the musical fountain was the highlight, as the water moves to rock music played on loudspeakers throughout the day. It was quite well done.

In front of the musical fountain
Who doesn’t like to pop bubbles?

We enjoyed walking on the Buda side in spite of all the uphill climbs. Although we spent the majority of our time on the Pest side of the river, both have very different qualities that make Budapest such a unique city. In the next post we’ll go over to the Pest side.

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