Budapest has many great attractions – and whether you are in the city for just a long weekend or a fortnight, there are some things that are not be missed. The Matthias Fountain is definitely one of them. It is located in Buda and overlooks the courtyard of the royal palace. It is not only a fine waterwork in itself, but is surrounded by statues and ornaments, most notably that of King Matthias and the beautiful Ilonka. Legend has it that the king and his hunting party went out incognito one day and that was when he met Ilonka. Not knowing who he was, she fell in love. Only when she responded to his invite to visit him in Buda did she learn he was the king. Convinced she was of too low a class to marry him, she returned home and died of a broken heart.
St Stephen’s Basilica is the biggest church in Hungary, a neoclassical cathedral so large 8,500 people can get in all at once. Overlooking the spacious St Stephen’s Square with its fine pavement cafes, this vast and beautiful cathedral contains several fascinating sights. These include the mummified hand of the saint himself!
There are also musical performances at various times of the year and visitors can climb the highest tower – called the Cupola – to enjoy a panoramic view of the city. Heroes’ Square is located in the heart of the city, on the edge of Budapest Park and close to the city’s zoo. Completed in 1896 to mark a thousand years since Hungary was founded, its features include the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kunsthalle (Hall of Art). It is also adjacent to Andrassy Avenue and its opening coincided with that of continental Europe’s first underground rail system.
The Millennium Monument stands in the heart of the square, but five statues of Austro-Hungarian emperors were replaced after the Second World War by Hungarian freedom fighters. Finally, don’t miss the iconic Chain Bridge. This beautiful stone suspension bridge was the first to connect Buda and Pest when it was inaugurated in 1849, with construction beginning ten years earlier. It is to Budapest what Tower Bridge is to London.