Beautiful Budapest - the Pearl on the Danube River, and the pride of Hungary.
The Danube may seem like just another iconic waterway as it winds through Budapest, but back in the day it was actually the dividing line between the two cities of Buda and Pest, which were joined by bridges to become Budapest in 1873.
If you’re standing on Gellért Hill it’s clear to see the geographical difference with Buda’s hills and Pest’s flat terrain, but there are equally a number of cultural differences that may leave you feeling inclined to hang out on one side of the river more than the other. The divided cities may now be one, but locals and tourists love to debate about which side is their favourite. SO, which do you choose?
Buda – Definitely the classier and more residential side of the city, Buda is known for being a bit quieter and the place to go for a leisurely sightseeing experience.
Pest – Known for being where all of the action happens – the place to be touristy, hang out and have fun.
Buda – The home of all things regal. You’ve got the beautiful Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle and Matthias Church which are all grand and exquisite. Combine these with gorgeous thermal spas such as the Gellért or Rudas Baths and the presence of the elegant Liberty Statue and you can see why things are a bit more bougie on the hills.
Pest – Don’t get us wrong, Pest is beautiful as well, and the Parliament building is definite proof of that. There’s also the gorgeous Opera House on the Pest side, as well as the area around Heroes’ Square which includes the famous Széchenyi Baths, Budapest Zoo and Vajdahunyad Castle.
Things to do
Buda – The view from Buda is one of its best features, and just looking out at the city from Gellért Hill or Fisherman’s Bastion is a must-do. Other than staring in awe across the Danube, you’ve got to visit all of the castles and landmarks that add to the beauty of Buda, and the baths can certainly occupy a lot of your time as well.
Add in the Children’s Railway (which is actually run by children), picturesque parks and quaint restaurants and you’ll really feel the smaller city vibe that Buda used to have in its solo days. Buda’s where you get your sightseeing done, and get a more in-depth and cultural feel for the city as it once was.
Pest – It takes up about 2/3 of the city, so it’s not really fair to say that there’s seemingly a lot more to do over there, although it may be true. Remember, there’s the baths of Pest as well, but the best shopping in the city is found on and around Váci utca, as well as some of the best restaurants, bars, clubs and ruin pubs in Budapest.
Pest is where you go to eat, drink and be merry after you’ve wandered the Buda hills.
At the end of the day, it’s kind of a no brainer that you’ve gotta experience both sides.
Stay on either side, spend your lazy days in Buda, spend your souvenir hunting afternoons and crazy nights in Pest, and take in as many of the beautiful bridges as you can while you go back and forth between the two.
Oh, and don’t forget to spend your time cruising down the middle and enjoying the views from the Danube as well.