Elisabeth Lookout Tower (Erzsébet kilátó) on János Hill, at the Children’s Railway in Budapest

If you want to breathe some nice fresh air, be in the green and take panoramic photos of Budapest, it’s a good idea to take the Children’s Railway and get off at Janoshegy, at the Elisabeth Lookout Tower (in Hungarian Erzsébet kilátó). Skip to the video at the bottom if you want to watch not read.

Although it’s a beautiful memorial, admission is free and kids also love it very much. Most of the time it is open all year round. On the first floor there is a mini-exhibition (a few words about the history of the lookout tower), which tells you that the tower was built between 1908 and 1910 from lime and sand stone (by Pál Kluzinger), and the top part was rebuilt by Frigyes Schulek (who also planned the Fishermen’s Bastion, so if you felt a resemblance between the rampart in the Buda Castle and Erzsebet kilato, you are right). Renovation took place between 2001 and 2005.

Elisabeth Lookout Tower (Erzsébet kilátó) at the Children’s Railway in Budapest on the Buda hills

It’s on the highest point of Budapest at 527 m/ 0.33 miles, while the tower itself, which has six floors, is about 23.5 m/ 77 ft. If the weather is truly clear you can see the hill tops of Pilis and Mátra as far as 77km/ 48 miles without binoculars.

The beloved Elisabeth or Sissi liked taking tours here, similarly to many Hungarians, so when the wooden lookout structure was replaced by a stone one, it was named after Sissi (in Hungarian Erzsébet, say: air-jay-beth)

The guard of the lookout tower used to live on the ground floor, then in 1923 he got a new building not far from Erzsebet kilato (not in use anymore). Now the guard uses the ground floor places again.

Needless to say, just like any other important building, the Lookout tower got a red star in the communist era:

Elisabeth Lookout Tower (Erzsébet kilátó) with a communist red star

To go back to the city center you can take the mini railway operated by kids (the engine is driven by an adult), you can take a good walk or you can get on the Chair lift (Libego) and then on bus 158 to get back to Moszkva tér metro station.

Here’s the Lookout Tower on the Budapest Tourist Map in the middle (map icon for panoramic photo spots: lilac cameras)


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The video (made by Cix688) is good for three reasons: a, it starts with the Chairlift, which helps you decide if you want to sit on it or not, b, Erzsebet Kilato is shown from inside out, c, you can hear the cheesiest panflute-soft rock music since the 1980s:

Lookout Towers in Budapest: Where Can You Take a Good Panoramic Photo?

There are several lookout towers in Budapest where you can take a good panoramic photo, and I think one of the best gifts for your friends is a beautiful shot shared with them of the places you have been to.

City Center

To start with the city center, you should definitely get to the top of the Basilica on the Pest side, either being sporty and climbing the 364 stairs, or taking the elevator (see the link for more details on the opening hours). The Pest side is totally flat, so this could be the topmost part of the eastern part of Budapest.

As for the Buda side: the Fishermen’s Bastion is a typical choice since you can get a clear view of the River Danube with the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the Parliament, the Gresham Palace, etc. Another frequented spot on the Buda side is around the Statue of Liberty on top of the Gellert Hill. I think the top of the Tunnel (right overlooking the Chain Bridge) is also a good spot.

Outside the inner city

Outside the city center you can take panoramic photos on Normafa, for instance, or take the Children’s Railway and get off at Janos

hegy, at the Elisabeth Lookout Tower (in Hungarian Erzsébet kilátó). Although it’s a beautiful memorial, admission is free and kids also love it very much.

Elisabeth Lookout Tower (Erzsébet kilátó) at the Children’s Railway in Budapest on the Buda hills

Another option on the route of the railroad is to go to the Szechenyi Memorial Lookout Tower, which is slightly lower than the Elisabeth. The ride on the Children’s Railway itself also has a panoramic part.

Szechenyi Memorial Lookout Tower at the Children’s Railway in Budapest on the Buda hills

Check out the lilac camera icons on the Budapest Tourist map to find your panoramic photo places easily:

Millennial Monument (Millenniumi emlékmű) in Budapest

Heroes Square is one of the most visited squares in Budapest packed with some of the most beautiful Budapest attractions to see, and some fun things to do (lake / skating rink, cycling tour, Segway tours, etc.).

Millennial Monument (Millenniumi emlékmű) on Hosok tere, Budapest: the monument, also known as the Millennium Monument, was built for the 1000th birthday of Hungary. Andrassy Avenue seems to culminate in the beautiful memorial. It consists of a 35m/ 118 ft column (with Archangel Gabriel on top), and two wings with statues of Hungarian politicians & military men – you guessed: the Heroes of Hungary (children love the big horse statues).

While the domineering central piece of the square is the Millennial Monument, the two museums, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hall of Art (Mucsarnok), which flank the the square, are enhancing the grandeur of this fin-de-siecle complex. If you have a Budapest Card you can get a free entry to the Museum of Fine Arts, 20% off the entry fee in the Kunsthalle (Hall of Arts). You can also visit the Vajdahunyad Castle and Szechenyi Baths if you are on Heroes’ Square.

Note: Hosok tere is also the favorite hangout place for acrobatic bikers, line skaters, etc.

Address: Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) Budapest
Opening hours: 24/7
Prices: free
Getting here: the underground (old metro, yellow line) has a station called ‘Hősök tere’ but you can also take buses (e.g. number 30), or trolley buses (e.g. number 79)

See its location of the Hungarian Millennium Monument on the Budapest Tourist Map (the yellow balloon icon in the middle). Click the View larger map blue link under the map to enlarge the map-view.


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The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest

The Parliament in Budapest (the Hungarian Parliament) is a wonderful building completed in 1902 in eclectic style. Visits need to be booked in advance. Parliament tours are daily, but the Parliament (Orszaghaz in Hungarian) tours may be cancelled if someone important is visiting the political leaders. Regular starting hours of the guided tours. 10 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2pm, 6pm

Budapest Parliament Hungary

Budapest Parliament (photo: Christine McIntosh)

You can book your Budapest Parliament tour here. Unfortunately the tickets to the Hungarian Parliament building are not free for EU citizens from 2013.

Address: 1055 Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3., Hungary
Phone: 00-36-1-441-4904 or 00-36-1-441-4415
Getting here:
Budapest metro (red line), station: Kossuth Lajos tér
trams/ streetcars: number 2

Cafe Gerbeaud: the Must See Cafe and Restaurant in Budapest

Café Gerbeaud is a few minutes walk from the Gresham Palace at the Chain Bridge: it is one of the most elegant historical cafes in Budapest (on Vorosmarty ter on the yellow metro line). The café was founded by Henrik Kugler in 1858 in Viennese style during the high times of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and expanded by its later owner, Emil Gerbeaud. Sumptuous interior with graceful chandeliers, marble-topped tables, lavish fine wood paneling, gold-plasters and statuettes, etc. The cafe can take up about 330 people inside and another 300 outside on the terrace, if weather allows. As Frommer’s Travel Guide writes: “Whether you sit inside amid the splendor of the late-19th-century furnishings, or outside on one of Pest’s liveliest pedestrian-only squares, you will surely enjoy the fine pastries that made the name Gerbeaud famous; we especially recommend their moist plum pies (szilvás lepény)

Café Gerbeaud in Budapest

It is also a restaurant and a bar. Great place to ‘people watch’. By the way, the name ‘gerbeaud’ or zserbó in Hungarian is used for a type of layer cake (with fruit spread, loads of nuts, chocolate, etc.).

Address: Vörösmarty tér 7. Budapest 1051
Phone: 00-36-1-419-9020
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9am-9pm

Take a virtual tour here. A good photo of the facade and part of the square (Vörösmarty) where the Gerbeaud is located. See its location on the Budapest tourist map (check the Cup icon in the middle and click on icons to get further info). Read more about the Best Restaurants in Budapest or the Best Cafes in Budapest.


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History of Cafe Gerbeaud

The café was founded by Henrik Kugler a world traveler confectioner, who has been working all over Europe gathering experience of the coffee house and confectionery lore. Although the original coffee house was established in 1858, it was not the same building what you see today as it stood on another square (József Nádor tér). Cafe Gerbeaud moved to Vorosmarty square in 1870, and soon became a prestige place where ‘to be seen’ meant a difference.

Owing to Kugler’s rich European confectionery studies, the cafe was the best in Budapest in the 19th century: not surprisingly selling all kinds of exquisite products from China to Russia, as well as house made specialties like Kugler’s frothy coffee with chocolate, Kugler’s special liqueurs and Kugler’s bon-bons. Cafe Gerbeaud also boasted about the title “the best ice-creams in Pest” at that time.

The musician and composer Franz Liszt, and the ‘wise of Hungary’ Ferenc Deák politician were among the patrons of the café. In 1881, Kugler’s was called “the meeting point of six elegant worlds.”

Henrik Kugler met Emil Gerbeaud in Paris in 1882. He invited him a year later to Budapest in order to make him his business partner, and he became the cafe’s later owner. Emil Gerbeaud did not change the name of the cafe to his own name, but decided to use the well-known name of his predecessor, Henrik Kugler for several decades. He expanded the cafe, so today it can house about 330 people and the terrace can host an additional 300 guests. Soon he was making the take-away services of the cafe flourish with good tastes: good pastries and beautifully decorated artistic paper boxes of his own design. Gerbeaud was presented with numerous awards at various fairs and exhibitions. At the 1898 World Fair in Brussels and the 1900 Paris Exposition, he was invited to be a member of the jury, and was awarded the French Legion of Honour.

Over time, the interior decoration of the café underwent improvements: Henrik Darilek made new designs emphasizing fine woods, marble and bronze features in the 1910s. He used the examples of the French and Austrian royal palaces: for instance, the ceilings were decorated with rococo plaster work in Louis XIV style, the chandeliers and wall lamps were created in Maria Theresa Style. In addition, Cafe Gerbeaud got secessionist style tables to be sent from the Paris World Fair. Emil Gerbeaud survives the awful years of the First World War, sees the deterioration of his beautiful coffee house, then dies on November 8, 1919.

The nice history of the cafe suddenly stops: world wars and communist rules mean severe obstacles. Gerbeaud’s name is not welcome by the western-hating communists, so the cafe is renamed after the Hungarian poet Mihály Vorosmarty (yes, like the square). From 1950 to 1984, Café Gerbeaud is known as Cafe Vörösmarty. With the loosening ties of the goulash communism, the cafe gets back its name in March 1984, and about ten years later the cafe is bought by the German businessman Erwin Müller. The new owner makes sure that the café regains its old glory: the rich plaster work, the brocade wall coverings, etc. of the cafe were renovated in 1997.

(sources: the official website of Cafe Gerbeaud, and Budapest Lexikon)

Crossing from Pest to Buda: Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd)

Széchenyi Chain Bridge is one of the several nice bridges connecting the two parts of Budapest: the hilly Buda side and the flat Pest side. It was built in 1849 as the very first permanent bridge spanning the River Danube (the river ‘Duna’ has an average width of approx. 400 meters / 1,325 feet). In fact, when the Chainbridge was built, Budapest has not existed yet: the major city parts (Buda, old Buda aka Óbuda and Pest) were united more than 20 years later in 1873 partly due to the first bridge as a pre-condition.

“The bridge was designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark in 1839, after Count István Széchenyi’s initiative in the same year, with construction supervised locally by Scottish engineer Adam Clark (no relation). It is a larger scale version of William Tierney Clark’s earlier Marlow Bridge, across the River Thames in Marlow, England. ” (wikipedia)

The Chain Bridge was blown up by the Nazis in WW2, so it was rebuilt in 1949.

Walk over the bridge, which connects Roosevelt square (Four Seasons Gresham Palace, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Sofitel Hotel Budapest) with Adam Clark square (Funicular Railway, Tunnel, Zero Kilometer Stone statue), and is part of the Unesco world heritage (with the Royal Palace, the Parliament, etc.).

Here’s a video made on the Chain Bridge (by hcjfisch) to give you some idea of the dimensions:

See the attractions close to the bridge on the Budapest Tourist Map (click on the icons to learn more about them, or follow the View Larger Map blue link under the map to enlarge it)


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Anecdotes:

  • Check if the lions guarding the ends of the bridge have tongues. Find out what’s the truth in this common Hungarian insider’s joke.
  • Do you think that the Chainbridge could be rolled into the Tunnel? When the weather is bad, the bridge needs to be protected, so there was a tunnel needed under the Castle Hill. Could it be?

Note

  • You can easily cross the bridge on foot (on bike too, although there’s no designated bike route so you’ll have to carefully meander through the pedestrians). It takes about 5-15 minutes to cross the bridge (3 min in a hurry, 15 min with taking photos, and a deep breath, 1h – proposal to girlfriends considerably expands time)
  • If you don’t want to walk, take the bus (number 16 and 105).
  • In the past few years, the Chain Bridge was closed down for cars and turned into a cultural program venue at weekends in summers (about June 23- Aug 12). Concerts, theater performances, buffets pop up. Buses usually cross on Elisabeth or Margaret bridge at this time.
  • Unfortunately, there’s a lot of graffiti on the bridge – but it’s still a landmark.

Here’s a video on the summer cultural festival on Chain Bridge (Lanchid):

Why the bridge is called Széchenyi is because this noble man, Count István Széchenyi was one of those few politicians and thinkers in the 19th century who wanted to make things better in Hungary and did accordingly so. Not only did he urge the construction of the bridge between the two sides of the river Danube, but he also gave away the full annual income of his estates for the establishment of the Hungarian Academy of Science, organized the first national Casino (nay, not primarily for gambling but in order to organize the reform-minded nobility – to encourage networking and thinking), he imported horse breeds to improve the Hungarian horse culture, etc. He is called ‘the greatest Hungarian’ although he was a Hungarian who could hardly speak the Hungarian language, and who was born and who died outside Hungary – but his family was an old Hungarian aristocratic dynasty and, most importantly, he considered himself a Magyar.

Cafe Ruszwurm (Ruszwurm Cukrászda)- the Old-style Confectioner’s in Budapest

Cafe Ruszwurm is one of the oldest traditional cafes & confectioner’s in Budapest. It’s also one of the best cafes in Budapest. As Frommer’s guide puts it: “the Ruszwurm is an utterly charming little place, with two rooms outfitted with small tables and chairs, and shelves lined with antiques.” There is a wide range of great pastries, which you can have in a century old beautiful Biedermeier interior (now the furniture is protected). You will see traditional tools of the old confectionery trade, glass cabinets, mortars, models, etc.

Café Ruszwurm in Budapest

Address: Szentháromság u. 7., 1014 Budapest, Hungary
Phone: 00-36 1 3755-284
Opening hours: 9am-8pm (spring-fall) 10 am-7pm (winter)
Prices: (cakes) 200-500 HUF

Location of Café Ruszwurm on the Budapest Tourist Map (check the Cup icon indicating cafes in the middle of the map – you can enlarge the map by clicking on the View larger map blue link under the map). Ruszwurm Cukrászda is located on Várhegy (the Castle Hill on the Buda side): once you go up the hill to see the Royal Palace, and the Fishermen’s Bastion, it’s only a 2 minute walk from the Matthias Church and you should not miss it. You will find Ruszwurm cream pastry, Esterházy cake, Szamos cake, Dobos cake (Dobos torta is highlighted by several guides but I would rather suggest the heavenly Ruszwurm cream pastry, or – for the less sweet-toothed – traditional Hungarian scones/ pogácsa).


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Confectioner Ferenc Schwabl set up his business almost two-hundred years ago in 1827. Now it’s owned by the Szamos dynasty whose name is a trademark for good pastry and sweets in Hungary. The biedermeier cabinets were made by Krautsiedler and the sculpture by Lőrinc Dunaiszky in the 1830s, surviving the Hungarian revolution of 1848-49 against the Austrian oppression and the world wars too.

Read more about the Best Restaurants in Budapest or the Best Cafes in Budapest.

Fishermen’s Bastion (Halaszbastya) in Budapest

Fishermen’s Bastion (Halászbástya) built in 1905  is one of the best panoramic views of Budapest & the river Danube (part of UNESCO world heritage). Halaszbastya is located on the Buda side overlooking the beautiful attractions on the Pest side with the river Danube and the 19th – 20th century bridges.

Fishermen Bastion Budapest Attractions

Fishermen Bastion Budapest (photo: Robert Marse)

The bastion can be approached by the minibus circulating in the Buda Castle District on top of the hill, or you can climb the many scenic stairs leading up to the Fishermen’s Bastion. The open air attraction is literally open, an open arcade with stairs, towers and balconies. It is one of the best sights to visit if you are staying in Budapest one day only.

Address: Szentháromság tér 5, 1014 Budapest

Opening hours: 24/7
Prices: free


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Labyrinth (Budavári Labirintus) – Maze under the Castle District in Budapest

Labyrinth ( Budavári Labirintus) is an intricate maze under the Buda Castle Hill (Várhegy).

UPDATE: the former Labyrinth under the Buda Castle was closed down and reopened under new management with a different concept. The Hungarian government decided to make the labyrinth state owned again and shut it down for good. Sorry.
Do you dare to go through the dimly lit labyrinth? And drink wine from the wine well? Yes, there is an actual wine well in the maze!
There are Budapest kids programs every Sunday in the labyrinth, and children love the adventure and the excitement.

Address: Úri utca 9, 1014 Budapest or Lovas utca 4.
Phone: 00-36-1-212-0207
Opening hours: 9:30 – 19:30
Prices: 1500 HUF, and 1100 HUF for kids & retired, family ticket 3000 HUF
Getting here:
minibus from Szell Kalman Square (former Moszkva tér) (Várbusz)
number 16 bus from Deák tér

Here are the two entrances of the labyrinth indicated with yellow balloon icons in the middle of the Budapest Tourist Map (click the View larger map under the map if you need it in a bigger version).


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Here’s a video: some guys tasting the wines of the Budavári Labirintus (maybe not of the utmost quality?):

St Gellert Statue and Waterfall in Budapest (Szent Gellért szobor)

St Gerhard Statue (Szent Gellért szobor) shows St Gerhard, an Italian missionary and Benedictine abbot, later Hungarian bishop, who converted many a Hungarians to Christianity in the 11th century, and privately tutored the son of the first Hungarian king, St Emeric. However, after 8 years of education and conscientious preparation for the monarch’s role, Emeric (Prince Imre) was killed – by a boar while hunting.

Pagans did not like the efficiency of St Gerhard, so they put him in a spiked barrel and hurled it down Gellért Hill in 1046 (the hill, Gellérthegy, also bears his name). Historians point out that Hungary’s conversion to Christianity, which meant giving up the nomadic pagan life style in 896, was crucial to make Hungary a state and remain a constant player in the political field of the Carpathian-basin and Europe.

Tips:
It’s a nice walk up to the statue of the martyr and the waterfall: cool shadows, green in the gray, nice spot to have some tranquil moments, when it’s not busy.
It’s also ideal for taking photos of the Pest side of Budapest with the Parliament, the Gresham Palace, etc.
Take something to quench your thirst.
Mosquito repellent is not a bad idea in summer time.

The bronze statue of Szent Gellért made in 1904 by Gyula Jankovits was originally planned to be 3 meters/ 9.8 ft high, but to make it stand out more of the hill its size was increased to 7 meters/ 23 ft. The main figure is the bishop raising a cross towards the sky, and there’s a pagan soldier as a complementary figure, the latter is not really easy to take it out in this photo, I know. The waterfall is oftentimes interpreted as the symbol of Hungary’s baptism. St Gerhard statue is one of the ten statues presented by Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Budapest (it alone cost 100,000 crowns in 1904 – yes, at that time the currency was not forints but crowns).

The statue is overlooking the sleek modern bridge, Erzsébet Híd, and is very close to some of the spa baths in Budapest (the statue is in the middle of the map indicated with a yellow balloon icon – click the View larger map blue link under the map to enlarge, double click to zoom in, etc.):


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St Stephen’s Basilica: Szent István-bazilika in Budapest

St Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István-bazilika) was built between 1850 and 1905 in neoclassical style based on the plans of József Hild, who could not see the complete church as he died in 1867. Miklós Ybl took over overseeing the works, who could not see the completion either, as he died in 1891. Eventually it was finished by József Kauser: the keystone of the basilica, indicating the completion of the long works, was put on in the presence of Franz Joseph I. the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1905.

The church is truly huge: it can take up approx. 8500 people, as it’s as big under the ground as over it.

The Basilica’s dome is like a compass in Budapest – you can easily locate yourself in the city if you spot the dome. In 1868 the dome collapsed – partly due to the low quality pillars given as presents to the church. Then the works were stalled for about 3 years. It explains why the construction of the church took more than half a century. There’s an elevator, which will take you up to the top (about 96m/ 315 feet high), where you can take some nice photos of the city. Or you can make a thorough workout by climbing the 364 stairs that lead to the balcony.

Highlights: statues made by Alajos Stróbl (see the floor plan below), ‘St Stephen offers the crown to Virgin Mary’ – painting by Gyula Benczúr, the panoramic view from the top, the Treasury and the Reliquary (incl. the mummified right fist of St Stephen (considered a holy relic), the first king of Hungary), the heaviest bell in Hungary in the southern tower (9,600 kilogram/ 21,164 pounds), the organ made by József Angster (1834- 1918). The Choir of the Basilica (founded in 1909) sings every Sunday at 10 am: here’s the Program of the Basilica Choir.

Address: Szent István tér Budapest V. ker.
Phone: 00-36-1-311-0839 or 338-2151
Opening hours:

  • Mon-Fri 9 am – 5 pm, and 7-8 pm,
  • Sat 9 am – 1 pm, and 7-8 pm,
  • Sun 1 -5 pm, and 7-8 pm
  • Elevator operating from April 1 to October 31

Prices: 1600 HUF, for students & retired 1200HUF
Getting here:
metro (blue line): Arany János utca station

Here’s the (Greek-cross) floorplan of the Basilica with some of the prominent statues made by Hungarian sculptors, painters:

floor plan and some statues in St Stephen Basilica Szent István Bazilika

Video of St Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest (made by a fellow traveler, adelsonline)

And another user made video (garrymay) of the Basilica, with a short sample of the Choir singing:

1, If you want to see the Treasury, the Reliquary, the Chapel, and get further info on the Basilica, turn to the official guides (Mon-Fri at 11am, 2pm, 15:30, St at 11am), 2000HUF/ person. Book in advance, and for groups get reductions, contact: turizmus@basilica.hu.

If you are looking for further programs or a good restaurant in the neighborhood of the Basilica (map icon: red balloon in the middle), take a look at the Budapest Tourist Map: double click to zoom in, and click on the icons to learn more about the attractions:


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If you wish to do some shopping, e.g. find specialty products (wines, paprika, Unicum, designer clothes, etc.) in the neighborhood, use the Budapest Shopping Map:

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