Budapest may have formed from the joining of two riverside cities, Buda and Pest, but the two sides could not be more different. While Pest is where one goes to shop and eat, Buda is where one relives Hungary's glorious past, and where sees Hungary's national pride pushing the newly-liberated nation into the next century.
The western bank of the Danube is much hillier than the East, lending itself naturally to the construction of prominent castles and monuments. The grandest of them all is Old Buda and the Buda Castle (pictured both above and below). Old Buda is a square-mile walled borough perched on a hill a stone's throw from the Danube across from the heart of Pest. The above picture was taken from the narrow confines of the south, Buda is deceivingly large.
Old Buda is loaded with must-sees. The Castle itself is a massive structure housing a Theater and several art Museums, along with excavated ruins in the front and exquisite statues and fountains carved along many of its walls. It also houses the Budapest City Museum on the south side. Meanwhile, Buda has several prominent churches and old world restaurants, and ancient Parliament building and the National Archives. The most picturesque of the churches is the Evangelical Matthias Church, that sits over the Fisherman's Wall, pictured below. This Wall provides a wonderful view of the River and of Pest.
But there's much more to the West Bank than just Old Buda. Further to the south, and much higher, is the Citadella sétány -- a famous military fortress on the highest ground in Budapest. The fortress is an outdoor museum and also hosts the national Statue of Liberty and a temple. Below the southern wall is a major archaeological dig of ancient Roman ruins and the famous Cave Chapel (pictured below). The Chapel is an active Catholic Church built inside a real cave, and is open for tourists year-round.
Budapest also boasts several beautiful bridges crossing the Danube, but none of them compare to the sheer beauty of the Chain Bridge, the Széchenyi lánchid, especially when lit at night. The below picture was taken from the East Bank of the Danube and shows the Chain Bridge with the Buda Castle in the background. It is among the most fantastic night shots I've ever taken!
While the West Bank may challenge the mountain goat in you, it is worth every ounce of energy to climb the hills (or you can do it the lazy way, there is a funicular train at the west end of the Chain Bridge leading up to Old Buda!). You certainly can't say you did Budapest without doing Old Buda!
Trip taken 22-23 November 2001 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin