The Danube river, known as the Duna in Hungarian, runs through the centre of Budapest (and through other cities and even other countries as well) and splits the city in two. On the left bank, in Buda, you can see Buda Castle and Castle Hill, the art gallery and various other monuments. On the right bank , Pest, is arguably one of the most famous buildings in the whole of the city – Hungarian parliament. Extremely picturesque, parliament sits right on the river and serves as the perfect starting point for a walk down the river Danube.
The Hungarian parliament building, or Országház for all you Hungarian speakers, was built between 1885 and 1904 to mark the unification of three cities to form Budapest, and to express the sovereignty of the country. It is the tallest building in the city and the largest building in the country, and it sits on the Lajos Kossuth Square. It’s a pretty amazing looking building from both sides, and you can even take a tour round parliament, though this is something we didn’t do. We did, however, re-enact some of the statues outside the building, and ‘go swimming’ in the fountain on the square…
If you cross to the river side of the parliament building and walk over the road, you’ll find yourself on a wide path alongside the river which you can follow north to Margaret Island, or south towards the famous chain link bridge. We turned south and meandered along, passing numerous floating restaurants and tour boats, and spotting the castle and gallery on the opposite bank, until we got to the famous Holocaust memorial.
Shoes on the Danube Bank is a Holocaust memorial sculpture created by Can Togay and Gyula Pauer to honour the Jews killed by fascist militiamen during the Second World War. The victims were shot dead at the bank to fall in the river which would carry them downstream, but beforehand were ordered to remove their shoes which were left on the bank. The sculpture symbolises these shoes, and is a very moving memorial. It’s very simple, but it shows the many different types of shoes that were left, and leads you to imagine all the different people – men, women, even little children.
After a moment sat down to take the memorial in, we continued down the river, walking past the Szechenyi lánchíd, the famous Chain Link Bridge. Designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark, the Chain Link Bridge was the first permanent bridge across the river, meaning it is a symbol of advancement and linkage between the East and West of the city. It’s a famous bridge through the whole of Europe for its cast iron decorations and, at the time, very modern structural engineering. It is a pretty impressive bridge, but I have to admit that I found the Szabadság híd, the Liberty Bridge, which is a little walk further down the river, prettier and a lot more impressive!
If you carry on past the Szabadság bridge, just a little further along you’ll find the Bálna, a cultural, commercial and leisure complex, recently completed in 2013 and now open to the public for all sorts of uses! There are lots of restaurants and bars, a marketplace, the Budapest Gallery, and space available to hire for events. It’s a really interesting, contemporary building and a cool place to be. We went to the restaurant Esco Bar & Café to celebrate our last night in Budapest, where I had an amazing lamb burger with goats cheese, served with a peculiar pear chutney. The restaurant sits on the river side of the building, and even has small bar-like tables on the railings, meaning you can sit right alongside the river with a drink and enjoy the view up the Danube.
The Danube river is a focal point of the city, and can make for a really lovely evening walk, especially if the sun is shining. Some of the best views in Budapest can be seen while walking down the riverbanks, including the amazing sight of parliament from Buda. Quite handily, the number 2 tram runs alongside the river on the Pest bank, and is a good way to get around and see some of the sights if you’re a little too tired to walk very far…or too hungover from last night’s visit to one of the famous ruin bars!
Read more about my trip to Budapest!
Budapest is the Buda-Best!
Budapest Great Market Hall | Nagyvásárcsarnok
Széchenyi Thermal Baths | Széchenyi-gyógyfürdő
Ráday Street | Ráday Utca
Buda Castle & Castle Hill | Budavári Palota & Várnegyed
Budapest’s Ruin Pubs
Gozsdu Courtyard | Gozsdu Udvar