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Budapest Attractions

Romantic Sightseeing for Couples in Budapest


Why choose Budapest for a honeymoon or romantic trip? Its attractions are many. The capital of a small country that didn’t wrest itself from communist control until 1989, Budapest has flourished in the intervening years.

Some couples come to see and sail the Danube, some because Hungary is part of their family heritage, some because they’ve heard about Hungarian wines and want to sample them, others simply because they want to explore its cultural, World Heritage, and natural treasures. Discover some of the top romantic attractions for lovers in beautiful Budapest, a manageable city with excellent transportation.

1. Overlook the City from the Citadel

© Susan Breslow Sardone.
The first place to help you get your bearings ought to be The Citadel, high on the Buda side of the river (several of the city's other leading attractions will aid in orienting yourselves). From up high, though, a romantic view of the city spans out before you.

Close to the cannon-ball-pocked 19th-century fort and the left-over Soviet munitions on display is the “Liberation Monument,” an inspirational sculpture in the spirit of socialist realism. Perhaps due to her height, she’s one of the few remnants of the Soviet occupation that hasn’t been consigned to Budapest's Memento Park for old and unloved statues that remind citizens of dark days.

2. Visit the Castle District

© Hungary Tourism.
In the fortified Castle District you can visit the Hungarian National Gallery, see the surprisingly unsecured location of the Hungarian President's office, attend a concert, and dine out. A major romantic attraction in Buda's cobblestone Castle District is the multi-turreted Fisherman’s Bastion, a fairytale like setting where couples can marry and take memorable wedding photos on its Lookout Terrace. Mathias Church, formerly reserved for royal couples to take their vows, is now open to all.

3. Take a Danube Cruise

© Susan Breslow Sardone.
Sailing on the placid Danube is a scenic and relaxing way to view Budapest's waterside attractions and another pleasant way to get your geographic bearings. You can buy tickets at the dock across from the Budapest Marriott hotel.

If you have time on your cruise, alight on Margaret Island, located between Buda and Pest. It has a jogging track, petting zoo, parkland, gardens, and hotels where you can take the waters or drink the coffee. Or pack a picnic lunch, dine among the greenery, then sit on the steps to the Danube and watch the water flow. In summer, outoor plays and concerts are held on the island. The best time to go to make great photos is late afternoon as the sun is setting behind Buda, illuminating the historic buildings of Pest.

4. Go for a Swim

© Susan Breslow Sardone.
No, not in the Danube, but in one of the city’s public spas. The city boasts more than a hundred thermal springs, 12 thermal baths, and has nearly 20 million gallons of mineral-rich water gush from the earth at a temperature of 86 degrees F every day. The thermal waters are so warm and soothing, they attract swimmers even when snow is on the ground. The two main public spas are Gellért on the Buda side, which is affiliated with an Old World hotel and has a wave pool; and the vast Széchenyi complex, which maintains 9 pools of different temperatures. It's located in the City Park on the Pest side. These facilities also offer massage services — but don't confuse them with sissified, chakra-adjusting aromatherapy parlors.

5. Walk Across the Chain Bridge

© Susan Breslow Sardone.
Connecting Buda and Pest, it’s the oldest iron bridge in the city (built in 1849) and was bombed like all of the city’s eight bridges during World War II. Today couples peacefully perambulate, stopping in the middle of this major Budapest attraction to steal a kiss. At the end of the bridge, on the Buda side, is the circa-1870s funicular that carries passengers up to the Castle district.

6. Attend Parliament

© Susan Breslow Sardone.
Facing the Danube River on the Pest side, the Hungarian Parliament building is a magnificent Gothic Revival that extends to Kossuth Square. The largest building in the country, it is believed by many to be the Budapest's most architecturally beautiful attraction inside and out. Consider a 45-minute tour here time well spent.

7. Stage a Trip to the State Opera House

© Hungarian National Tourist Office.
Andrassy Street, which has been called the Champs Elysees of Budapest, is a long, wide boulevard filled with coffee shops, theaters, bars and restaurants, hotels, the pedestrian Franz Liszt Square, and the State Opera House, a lifesize gilded jewel box that romantics will appreciate.

Whether you’re die-hard fans or aria virgins, Budapest’s well-preserved house (second oldest in Europe, after Milan’s La Scala) rings the rafters. If theatre is more to your taste, there are some three dozen venues that offer live dramatic attractions.

8. Cavort in the City Park

© Susan Breslow Sardone.
Follow Andrassy Street to the end and you’ll reach Heroes Square, a large semicircular monument topped with statues of Hungary’s kings. Beyond it is the City Park, a place to stroll, visit the zoo, swim, dine, go boating, and simply enjoy yourselves.

Perhaps the most unique and charming attraction in the City Park is the area where the millennium was celebrated in 1896 with the construction of a series of buildings in different architectural styles. Visitors pass under an elaborate stone arch to enter this Disneyesque spot where structures from ancient Rome, the Gothic era, and the Renaissance stand cheek by jaw. In winter couples can go ice skating on the adjacent rink and take in the hot waters at Széchenyi surrounded by banks of snow.

9. Browse in the Great Market Hall

© Susan Breslow Sardone.
In operation since the early 1900s, it's where locals shop for food and spices. One of the best (i.e. lightest and cheapest) souvenir gifts you can buy to bring home is paprika, sold in all sizes and in pretty containers. Just know whether you want sweet (regular) or spicy (hot). You can also purchase bottles of Tokaji wines and absinthe here.

Serious shopping in Budapest takes place at the 500-shop West End mall. It's nearby the Western Railway station, designed by the same architect as the Eiffel Tower; you’ll see a resemblance in the ironwork.

10. Savor Hungarian Wines and Champagnes

© Carol Cuddy.
The country has 23 wine districts and vintages range from dry to late-harvest sweet. The village of Tokaj in northwestern Hungary, a major attraction for oenophiles, is world-renowned for its wines. Louis XIV dubbed it, “the wine of kings, the king of wines.” We haven’t been disappointed with either the dry Tokaji Furmint Mandola’s 2006 Oremus or the after-dinner Tokaji Late Harvest 2007 Demeter Zoltán. If you’re true oenophiles, plan your visit for September, to coincide with the annual Wine Festival held in the Castle District high above the city.

11. Say a Prayer in the Great Synagogue

© Susan Breslow Sardone.
Budapest's Great Synagogue is the largest in Europe and one of the major attractions to Jewish and non-Jewish visitors alike. Take the tour and learn about Hungary’s Jewish ghetto, the Holocaust, and how this bitter period in history is remembered and its victims honored. Especially stirring is the weeping willow sculpture outside the temple, its eight branches holding leaves inscribed with the names of Jews slaughtered by the Hungarian Nazis. Nearby is a small memorial to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat and Righteous Gentile who saved some 70,000 Hungarian Jews from perishing during this black period.

12. See More Budapest Attractions for Less Money

© Susan Breslow Sardone.
The Budapest card is good for free public transport (buses, subways, trams) for 72 hours as well as use of the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus to take in multiple city attractions at your own pace. It also provides discounts on Segway tours, Danube cruises, and admissions to more than 100 places and other goodies. It is honored at dozens of museums, the Géllert and Széchenyi swimming pools, Great Synagogue tour, House of Hungarian Wines, Margaret Island Athletic Center, bike rental, and certain romantic restaurants. The card is also good for 20% off the airport train that deposits visitors in the city center.

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