I must confess I am a history lover so everytime I visit a place, I search for historically significant places where I can get to know more about the history of the place. I do not like that some events of our past will be easily forgotten so I feel like I have to research and know more about them.
Budapest is a city that oozes with historical places: some remind Hungarians and tourists of good events, also others remind of unlucky and sad episodes. We have to remember both of them and even more the negative ones as they can teach us more about how to avoid repeating the same mistakes of the past.
If you are going to visit Budapest I advice you to visit the following places as they can show you the complicated and torn history of Hungary:
Parliament – Országház
It is the undisputed iconic symbol of Budapest and a must see attraction while in Budapest. It was built on the Pest side of the Danube in order to show the world that they finally gained indipendence, after centuries of wars, from the Austrian Empire. What better way to show it off than building a splendid and wonderful palace?
It is a clear example of Neogothic architecture but mixed with other styles as well. The building is visible from every corner of Budapest and it is really a breathtaking sight.
It towers over the Danube and witnesses the struggles and the pain Hungarians went through in order to finally attain their indipendence. Now after overcoming the Soviet rules, they can finally have their own country without anyone else trying to rule over them.
It is a perfect history reminder of the struggles of Hungarians and a beautiful art masterpiece. I did not visit inside but just strolling around the Parliament is a unique experience. You can walk along the Danube Promenade until the Parliament. Once you reach it, you can sit down on one of the benches and enjoy its imposing size from a closer position.
Compared to other European cities, the security is less tightened. Yeah, I spotted some guards all around the Parliament but not soldiers with guns ready to shoot so it made me feel at ease.
Coffee Houses – Kávéház
Coffee houses were common in 18-19th century Europe as a meeting place for intellectuals where they could discuss about political changes all across the continent and compare their ideas. So if you are a history lover like me, you would check this out to try to experience the atmosphere of the old times.
When we think about Coffee Houses, we mainly think about those beautiful and pictuesque buildings in Paris or in Vienna with their delicious sweet pastries and drinks. Nobody would ever think of Budapest as a place where the culture of coffee had flourished so much.
There are many coffee houses scattered all around Budapest so you just have to choose one and try it out. Do not worry too much about the prices as they are much more reasonable compared to other coffee houses in Vienna or Paris.
My boyfriend and I checked out Centrál Kávéház located in the heart of Budapest. The interior did not disappoint me as they still retained the old furniture and the walls were very well decorated.
Entering the shop was like jumping right into the past, when Europe could still brag about its splendour and wealthy. I ordered a curious hot chocolate mixed with almond and vanilla-flavoured and a very delicious chocolate cake. The experience is really worth it.
Heroes’ Square – Hősök tere
The Heroes’ Square is located near the park where the renowned Szechneyi Baths are located so if you are planning a visit there, you should also stop at the Heroes Square and at the big city park where you can come across the peculiar Vajdahunyad Castle.
This is one of the most important, and I would add, suggestive squares in the city; it shows the rich history that the country of Hungary had. They started to build it in the 19th century but just finished in 1929.
It is located between two very important Hungarian museums: the Museum of Fine Arts and Mucsarnok Gallery. Unfortunately the museum of fine arts was closed due to enlargement works so I could not visit and was a bit disappointed.
The monument located at the center of the square represents the leaders of the seven tribes that founded Hungary when they first came from Asia and settled down in the Pannonian Plain. When the monument was being built, Hungary was still ruled by the Austrian Empire so some of the statues portrayed famous Austrian monarchs like Leopold I or Francis Joseph but when the monument was half destroyed during the bombings occurred in the second world war, they rebuilt it changing the portrayed characters.
In front of the Heroes’ monument, you can also come across a big Budapest sign like the one found in Amsterdam. It is really popular as people queue up there in order to take a photo with the big writing.
Vajdahunyad Castle – Vajdahunyad Vára
It is a beautiful castle located in the middle of a park near the famous Széchenyi Baths. I was attracted by its beauty so I decided to have a look.
It was built at the beginning of the 20th century by using wood for a fair but then was rebuilt with bricks for its increasing popularity.
The area is very lively and all around you can find families with children, young people and food stands. It is a perfect place where to sit down and relax after a tiring visit to the thermal baths ahah
Dohany Street Synagogue – Dohány Utcai Zsinagóga
Otherwise known as The Great Synagogue (in Hungarian Nagy Zsinagoga) is the biggest synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world. It has always been a meeting point for the once-large Jewish community of Budapest.
It denoted the entrance of the Jewish Quarter or Ghetto in the past. It is not the only synagogue that can be found in the Jewish Ghetto but there are many minor others (if you want to know more, check out my previous article). It was built in the mid 19 century in the Moorish Revival style. That is why, when I first saw it, I thought it was a mosque.
The synagogue was bombed by the Hungarian pro-nazy party but was mostly spared thank to the fact that the Germans used it as a radio base during the war. Some of you might not ever have heard of Theodor Herzl but for the Jewish, he played an important role.
This guy was born in a house near the synagogue, which was later demolished, and that area became part of the Great Synagogue. He is the first one who theorized the Jewish State, that is to say the nowadays Israel; a state inhabited by Jews and ruled by Jews following the principles of the Kabalah.
The Jewish Ghetto and its synagogue also represent the dark side of Hungarian history, the Holocaust. It was once the border of the Jewish Ghetto, the non-trespassing line for every Hungarian Jew. During the war, they were confined here and condemned to die a painful death: starving or dying of exposure.
After the war, hundreds and hundreds of corpses were retrieved and were buried in the new garden of the synagogue. Some have been given names, others have never been recognized. In the synagogue there is a beautiful sculpture made to pay honour to these people.
It represents the Tree of Life, a traditional symbol of the Jewish religion, and every leaf has a name of those who died during the war. There are also guided tours in the synagogue, which I really encourage you to follow. The ticket is not expensive at all and the guides explain everything very clearly and tells interesting facts that otherwise you would never get to know. The service is avalaible in more languages: English, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Hungarian.
The religious complex includes the Heroes’ temple, the graveyeard, the Memorial and Jewish Museum. All of these are included in the ticket prize. All men must wear the small jewish hat when inside the Synagogue.
Do you know other historically important places to visit in Budapest? Have you ever been to those I just listed? Let me know in the comments below 😉