Now that the weather is finally warm in the Hungarian capital, the best way to discover the city’s splendor is to head out for a walk that includes close encounters with many parks and dazzling sights along the way, while also stopping by cozy eateries for a snack or lunch break. Whether it’s a walk along the Danube Promenade to admire the breathtakingly beautiful panorama, a stroll along the streets of the Zugló District lined with ancient trees, or a hike up to the Citadel from Budapest’s mysterious Tabán district, these three sweet strolls all hold splendid sights and memorable experiences.
When suggesting a stroll along the Danube Promenade, we are not proposing anything groundbreaking, as the walkway stretching between the Chain Bridge and the Erzsébet Bridge has always been a classic place for strolling hand-in-hand. The panorama here just couldn’t be more picturesque, as there are many major attractions to see along the way – like the Buda Castle,Fishermen’s Bastion, and Matthias Church– and there is no lack of eateries and cafés either; however, bear in mind that tourist traps are unfortunately quite prevalent here. If you start the walk from Március 15. Square, we recommend popping into the Inner City Parish Church that can be visited daily between 9am and 4:30pm when there’s no service under way. The Gothic-style church was built in the 14th century, however, during Hungary’s era under Turkish occupation it was used as a mosque, and it was afterwards renovated in Baroque style, hence its two Baroque towers. Recently a glass floor was installed here so that visitors can view the Roman ruins beneath the nave.
Strolling around the square, we can also admire the ruins of Budapest’s old city wall that even many Hungarians often forget (or don’t even know) about. If you feel like taking a laid-back lunch or coffee break around here, we recommend KIOSK, Kuglóf, or Monk’s Bistro, all found nearby. Heading towards the green waterfront while passing by the sculpture of one of Hungary’s most famous poets, Sándor Petőfi, the breathtaking panorama just makes you stop in awe. This is another reason why it is worthwhile to frequent the Danube Promenade repeatedly, as it is a breathtakingly beautiful place in all seasons, and when the sun slowly sinks behind the Buda Hills across the Danube, it paints different colors on the sky above the Royal Palace every night.
After passing the Marriott Hotel, we arrive at Vigadó Square – here stands the first-ever sculpture erected on a public square in Budapest in the middle of a small and symmetrical park. After World War II, this fountain that depicts two boys playing had to give its spot to a Soviet memorial and spent a lengthy period of time at the Dagály pool park, but it was fortunately placed back to its original location in 2000. A sculpture of Shakespeare is also found here by the side of the hotel; out of the total of Hungary’s 21 registered sculptures of the English playwright, this is the only one that depicts him as an actor. The impressive edifice of the Pesti Vigadó used to provide a venue for prestigious balls, and in the past such renowned musicians as Wagner, Franz Liszt, and Debussy filled this building with wonderful classical tunes. This edifice, built by Frigyes Feszl, is spectacular both inside and outside, and can be visited daily between 10am and 7pm.
Continuing our walk along the riverside, we stumble upon the Little Princess Sculpture sitting on the railing, a piece by László Marton created in 1972, that is always a popular spot for taking photos with the Buda Castle in the background. Although the Danube riverfront is lined with hotels even today, business was truly flourishing here a century ago, when The Carlton Hotel, the Bristol Hotel, the Grand Hotel Hungária, and the Ritz Danube Palace were all considered as modern buildings that were ahead of their time. Continuing this tradition nowadays, the panoramic terrace eatery of the InterContinental Budapest hotel, the Corso Restaurant, provides excellent dishes for good value compared with most of the other spots on the Danube Promenade.
Walking further, we can admire theChain Bridge and the Gresham Palace up-close. A good stopping point for this walk is at Pontoon, an alfresco bar on the Pest quay just on the other side of the Chain Bridge, where we can enjoy plenty of exciting programs, pleasant music, and refreshing drinks. It is an ideal place for friendly chats, a romantic rendezvous, and for watching the sunset. However, if you still would like to see more, you can continue the stroll straight ahead to admire the “Shoes on the Danube Bank” installation – a heart-wrenching Holocaust memorial recently honored by Architectural Digest– and Budapest’s astounding Parliament building.
The long plateau that is home to Budapest’s most historic neighborhood – the elevated Castle District – is popular among visitors and locals alike for the sweeping views across the Danube River and Pest cityscape that can be admired from the butte’s eastern side. However, the less-populated western ramparts of the Buda Castle are frequently overlooked, despite the beautiful vistas over the Buda Hills and the lush, sloping greenery that awaits here.
To see this more placid side of Budapest’s primary tourist destination, begin your brief stroll at Dísz Square (the first stop within the Buda Castle walls when taking bus 16 from downtown Deák Ferenc Square) by walking around the Korona Kávéház to the beginning of the Tóth Árpád Promenade, a long tree-lined walkway at the top of the castle walls, which stretches along almost the entire western side of the hilltop. From the very start of this stroll, you will enjoy broad views over the now-green Buda Hills, while various patches of nearby foliage make this area a welcome oasis of flowers and other plant life.
From the Tóth Árpád Promenade, there are several opportunities to explore attractions both within the Buda Castle and nearby down the hill; for example, a few minutes into the walk, Szentháromság Street to the right leads directly to Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion – as well as to the popular Budapest branch of Jamie’s Italian restaurant, where terrace tables on this cobblestoned street are now available to provide a beautiful view over the Matthias Church steeple while dining. Meanwhile, just down the stairs to the left at Szentháromság Street, this is where you’ll find the historic Hospital in the Rock, an increasingly popular destination for its relics from World War II and the 1956 Revolution.
Keep walking along Tóth Árpád Promenade to its end, and it bends around to the right as the Anjou Bastion, a tree-shaded walkway offering more panoramic views to the north of Buda; eventually this leads to the Vienna Gate archway, which you can also climb to enjoy sweeping vistas that now include the northern sections of Pest – and nearby here you can catch bus 16 back into downtown Buda or Pest, or you can continue your stroll by discovering any of the many stairways leading back downhill.
There are not many places in Budapest that are more romantic and legendary than the Tabán District used to be. Today, only archive photos, drawings, urban legends, and works of literature guard the memory of the twisting alleys of District I by the base of Gellért Hill, crammed with restaurants, pubs, and brothels. The ambiguously mysterious history of the Tabán unfortunately ends in the 1930s, when most of the buildings here were demolished as part of urban planning. When coming here for a walk, you can still get a little bit of the Tabán feeling by starting the stroll with a slice of cake at the charming Asztalka café on Döbrente Street, located within one of the few remaining buildings of this once-notorious neighborhood.
After traversing the bumpy parkland that is popular among families and dog walkers and crossing a busy intersection, head to the Szent Gellért steps found opposite of the Elizabeth Bridge; this is the best way to get up Gellért Hill. Soon, you will arrive to the sculpture ofSzent Gellért (Gerard of Csanád), where you can take a little break and admire the view to the curving Danube below. According to legend, the sculpture is located at the exact spot from where Szent Gellért fell to his death during a violent revolt against Christianity.
Continuing up the steps for an exhilarating hike (fortunately, several benches line the path for breaks), you eventually reach the Citadel, which is crowned with the now-70-year-old sculpture of Strobl Kisfaludi, the Liberation Monument. Here you can spend enough time to catch your breath after climbing all the steps, and to admire the picturesque panorama either during the day or when the city sparkles brightly under the night sky.
There are not too many other attractions to see at the peak, but for anyone who wants to conclude this exhilarating journey with a refreshing soak, both the Gellért Bath and the Rudas Bath lie right at the base of this hill formed by thermal water pushing up from deep beneath the earth – and the huge wave pool at the Gellért Bath is now operating for the summer season, making this an ideal place to make a splash after your serene stroll.