Separated by the Danube River, Buda and Pest form the two halves of Hungary’s capital, linked by the famous Chain Bridge since 1849. Their separation runs deeper than the river though, these two regions have their own distinct personalities. Where Buda’s hills offer sweeping panoramas across the city, Pest is entirely flat. While Buda’s Castle District purrs with imperial taste, Pest’s buzzing bar scene is always lively. Here, we introduce the city’s two faces: Buda and Pest.
With its pretty leafy avenues and spectacular panoramic views, Buda contains the city’s most rewarding daytime itineraries. Take in the sunrise over the city from the fairy-tale turrets of Fisherman’s Bastion. It’s a beautiful medieval terrace that dates back to the Middle Ages, constructed with seven look-out towers to honour the chieftains who settled their tribes in Hungary – and those views never fail to impress.
If Fisherman’s Bastion enthrals, Castle Hill will certainly wow with its ancient history, atmospheric cobbled streets, ornate Baroque buildings, and of course, its enchanting castle itself. This World Heritage Site invites exploration – and getting lost here is all part of the fun. All roads gravitate eventually towards the grand sweep of Trinity Square, which is flanked by the towering white spire of Matthias Church. Those lucky enough to catch a concert here are rewarded with a show-stopping glimpse of the church’s soaring interiors and the sounds of the spectacular acoustics.
The low, leafy mountains of the Buda Hills are a favourite local escape from the city. One of the most interesting – and scenic – ways to scale the slopes is in the charming fire-engine red Cogwheel Railway. Chug up to alight in the verdant avenues of Széchenyi-hegy, Buda’s most attractive neighbourhood. From here, it’s a quick jaunt on the cute Children’s Railway through the rural wilds, with plenty of beautiful hiking options along the way.
Where Buda offers fairy-tale architecture, pretty promenades and an escape into nature, Pest delivers a convivial, lively atmosphere with plenty of trendy bars, cafés and restaurants. It’s also home to the striking neo-Baroque Széchenyi Baths, situated in Budapest’s huge City Park. The three steaming outdoor pools – by far the most popular option – are open until 10pm every night, perfect for a scenic soak beneath the stars or falling snow. Party-goers will also enjoy the pop-up club nights here every Saturday during summer.
Post soak, head out to explore Pest’s notorious ruin bars. Unlikely abandoned spaces have emerged as hip enclaves serving craft beers and laid-back cocktails alongside Hungary’s full-bodied Bull’s Blood wine. From roof terraces overlooking the cityscape to an atmospheric wine bar that used to be a dental clinic, there’s something in this eclectic collection to suit all tastes.
It’s not all hedonism and parties in Pest, though. On this side of the Danube is Budapest’s iconic neo-Gothic Hungarian National Parliament. It’s a formidable feat of architecture that’s a true emblem of the city. The best way to see it? After dark from a river cruise, its glittering lights reflected spark for spark in the beautiful Danube.