I had no idea how photogenic Budapest was. Although I only live 2,5 hours away here in Vienna, I only managed to discover the best photo spots in Budapest now. Even though you’re not a photographer or too much into photography, Budapest is worth a visit. Here’s my photography guide through Hungary’s capital.
The bridges of Budapest
Budapest is divided into two parts – the Buda and the Pest side. The divider is the lovely Danube. There are three awesome bridges crossing the river. Bridges have a magic power of attraction to me. Whenever I see one, I have to go and see it. The features, the construction paired with the water beneath – I just love them.
The Chain Bridge is named after one of the supporter of its construction, István Széchenyi and was opened in 1849. At that time it was one of the largest bridges in the world. In World War 2 it was bombed and rebuilt in 1949.
The Chain Bridge is a fantastic and popular object. Especially at night when the lights turned on, the bridge shows its full glory. You can capture great photographs from Castle Hill and on both sides of the bridge itself.
Shoot the bridge from both sides of the bank with the St. Stephen’ Church or the Royal Palace in the background. Two lions on each side should guard the bridge. Light trails of cars add a dynamic to the photographs.
Elisabeth Bridge sits between the Chain and Liberty Bridge and does not seem to look very spectacular during the day. At night, however, it offers a beautiful setting with the St. Stephen’s Basilica in the background.
Liberty Bridge or Szabadság híd in Hungarian is located at the southern end of the city right beneath Gellért Hill. The yellow trams are passing Liberty Bridge and offer a fantastic scenery. It is beautiful during the day but again, the lights in the night make the bridge pop out and transform it into a stunning photo spot. Not only does it look great from Gellért Hill, I also recommend to photograph the bridge from both sides as well as from the bridge.
If you want to master your photography skills, I invite you to join one of my photo workshops in Budapest.
Viewpoints overlooking the city
Besides the fantastic architecture of the bridges I really loved the easily accessible viewpoints of Budapest. As a solo traveler on a mission to find the best photo spots, I need to walk beyond the main roads that sometimes causes unpleasant feelings. There’s no need for any worries when walking up the viewpoints of Budapest because these trails are frequented by many others who want to enjoy the view or locals just hanging out having a great time with friends.
Castle Hill on the Buda side is offering a fantastic overview of the city and St. Stephen’s Basilica. Right at the end of Chain Bridge, you find stairs and trails leading on top of the hill or you can take the Funicular for 1200 HUF (approx. 3,70 Euro) and give your legs some rest. On top of the funicular you can try playing with long exposure shots making the cabins blurry. Definitely stay until sunset and watch the lights of the Chain Bridge go on.
Gellért Hill on the Buda side is right above Elisabeth and Liberty Bridge. Get off the tram 47 or 49 or the metro line U4 at Szent Gellért tér and you’re finding a trail leading up the steep hill. Depending on your speed it might take you up to 40 minutes until you reach the top overlooking the panorama of Budapest. It is a nice hike during the day, however, I suggest you be on top for the sunset. During the hike, you will find several vantage points to have a rest and enjoy the views over Budapest and its bridges.
I am a huge fan of architecture: I love the classic monumental buildings with its amazing details as well as modern steel and glass buildings. Budapest is a great place to find impressive historical buildings.
The Parliament of Hungary with its Neo-Gothic architecture is a glorious construction on the Pest side of the city. The historic tram no. 2 stops right there and provides a beautiful scenery shot in front of the building. Unfortunately, I haven’t made it inside because of time constraints but what I see from photos, the main entrance hall looks fabulous. You can only enter the Parliament through a guided tour. Night shots of the Parliament can be taken either from the opposite side of the Danube or from the Chain Bridge.
The Fishermen’s Bastion, Halászbástya, was built in the 19th century as a lookout tower. Located on Castle Hill on the Buda side of the city it invites for a stroll during the day and sunset. The towers, the stone walls and the features carved into the stone makes the Fishermen’s Bastion look like a cute Walt Disney castle. Tip: Be there early in the morning (before 9 am). Tourist busses start arriving at the sight at 9.
Walk along the cobblestone streets on Castle Hill and marvel at the magnificent Matthias Church (Mátyás templom), its beautiful details and colorful roof right next to Fishermen’s Bastion.
Metro station Szent Gellért tér is a wonderful example of architecture. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to use my tripod and the supervisor was suspiciously looking at me ready to admonish me in case I disregard the rule.
The Great Market Hall of Budapest is also worth a short visit either to buy a delicious salami or to take some shots of the construction of the hall.
The trams (streetcars) of Budapest
Yes, trams. I think the yellow trams dominating the public transport of Budapest can be perfectly composed within your photographs. You see them everywhere – on the Liberty Bridge, in front of the Parliament or coming out of the underground by the Chain Bridge. Especially at night, they look fabulous with long shutter speeds. It’s also worth a try converting the photo into black and white like this one.
It is absolutely worth strolling along the Danube bank on both sides of the river. On the Pest side between the Chain Bridge and the Parliament, you reach the Shoes on the Danube. Take the tram no. 2 to Széchenyi István tér or to Kossuth tér. The 60 pair of iron shoes should remind us of the terrible act between 1944 and 1945 when Jews had to line up naked facing the river and were shot in the back.
From the monument, you’ve got a beautiful view of the Matthias Church and the Fishermen’s Bastion on the other side of the Danube.
On the Buda side of the Danube at Batthyány tér station you, have an amazing view of the Parliament – no matter what time of the day. If you want to do a long exposure shot during the day to make the water flat and the boats blurry, you need to add a ND filter to your lens. You can see the photography gear I am using when I travel in this article.
The best hours to take fantastic shots
Budapest is one of those cities where you achieve the most incredible results during the blue hour or at night. The blue hour is the time in the morning before the sun rises and in the evening after the sun has set. Due to a specific angle of the sun behind the horizon, the sky appears to be in a rich, blue color. The advantage of the blue hour is, that it takes place every day no matter if it’s cloudy, way overcast or sunny. You may want to check out my blue hour photography guide with lots of tips to master your shots.
In Budapest, I used the short time slot of the blue hour to shoot the cityscape with the bridges beneath from Castle Hill and Gellért Hill. Since the sky has this intense blue color only for a very short period of time you should either find one great spot and stick to it or find a location where you can quickly move to a different spot. On Castle Hill, you can take one shot from above and then rush down to the Chain Bridge and take some more shots there.
The blue hour starts after sunset. In Summer, it might get really late. But how about visiting Budapest off-season when the crowds have left?
After the blue hour, don’t stop shooting. This city is just a perfect location to master night photography. I mainly stayed at the Chain and Liberty Bridge and tried different angles and perspectives.
How to get around in Budapest?
This city is so easy to explore by foot or public transport. Google maps helps a lot to find the right bus, tram or metro and this is what I mainly used. You can buy single tickets, 24 or 48-hour tickets from the vending machines at the bus, tram and metro stations.
Where to stay in Budapest?
I can recommend Budapest Holidays Fashion* apartments located centrally 2 minutes away from metro station Astoria, bus stop and tram stations. They have very clean mini apartments and a friendly host is welcoming you. The value for money is really great.
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