Top Cities to Visit in Europe: Vienna and Budapest

Are you struggling to choose new country or city for your next travel destination?

 

Finding new, interesting place to visit can be a tough task.

 

When it seems like you’ve already been everywhere, remember that you have one more ace up your sleeve.

 

And that’s Vienna and Budapest.

 

 

In my previous articles, I wrote a lot about the capitals and major cities of Eastern and Central Europe, and the most interesting places to visit. I also gave recommendations on the best ways to travel and the most comfortable means of transport. If you want to know how to travel to Europe with kids, where to go with them, or if you would like to go shopping, or partying, or try something from national cuisine, but don’t know the best places for it, please read my previous blog posts.

 

In this post, we continue to walk along the streets of imperial Vienna and ancient Budapest.

 

So, what to see in Vienna and Budapest?

 

Imperial Vienna

The capital of Austria is a real open-air museum, a masterpiece. There are so many beautiful and interesting places in Vienna where you can spend a whole month, and discover something new and unexplored every day. That’s why I’ve decided to start my review of the top cities in Europe from Vienna.

 

In my article titled “The Must-see Cities in Austria”  I wrote about the main sights of Vienna, which are worth a visit on the first day (read it for sure!). Today I will tell you about the places that were left behind the previous material.

 

1. Schönbrunn Palace

As I recommend you to start a journey through Vienna from this place, my review will also begin with it. Even against the background of other bright sights of the capital of Austria, this is an unequivocal must-see. The main summer residence of the imperial family of the Habsburgs is rightly considered one of the most beautiful palace and park ensembles in Europe. When seeing this place, even the most experienced tourists are excited.

 

Schönbrunn Palace looks really impressive: with its huge park, beautiful fountains, and benches with a superb view of the city. Even in the off-season, the imperial residence of the Habsburgs will still make a very pleasant impression on you. Just imagine how it all looks in the summer!

 

Further, move up the hill towards the fountain of Neptune and a beautiful structure with columns bearing the ornate name “The Glorietta”.

 

2. The Belvedere Palace

In my previous article “The Top Places in Vienna You Must See in Two Days”, I wrote a little bit about Belvedere. I repeat myself and give you more details as this is an impressive palace complex, at the sight of which you instantly realize all the former greatness and all the unprecedented power of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. By its architecture and general mood, the Belvedere Palace please our tourists even more than its “colleague” – the Vienna Schönbrunn Palace. Even under the gray autumn sky, this complex looked just … wow! Prince Eugene of Savoy had a good taste.

 

In different years many historical events took place in this place. In 1955, the Declaration of Independence of Austria was adopted here. Today, the Belvedere Palace complex is used as a museum hall. Within its walls, there are the collections of works of the Austrian art gallery, including paintings by Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, and many other famous artists.

 

What to see nearby? The Lower Belvedere. In fact, it’s just a continuation of the palace complex. But it looks completely different and is at a respectful distance from the Upper Palace. So I’ll put it in a separate category.

 

The Lower Belvedere presents exhibitions of various art periods. The Marble Hall is one of the highlights of the inner rooms. The sculptures, wall reliefs, and the ceiling paintings are just amazing. The Gold Cabinet lives up to its name. The walls are decorated with mirrors and gold wall paneling.

The Palace Garden, which starts at the Lower Belvedere, impresses with its fountains, water pools, and well-kept paths. The giant cascade fountain in the center of the park is especially spectacular. It is built up of two water basins, interconnected to each other by five cascades. The water flows over the cascades and the rushing water is amplified by some fountains.

 

3. Hundertwasser House

It’s one of the most unusual sights of Vienna. A multi-colored house with “rolling hills” and trees on the roof. The building seems to have been copied from the paintings of Salvador Dali. Actually, it was founded by FriedensreichHundertwasser, one of the most important Austrian artists of the twentieth century.

 

Hundertwasser really stands out against the backdrop of other structures in Vienna, and its architecture produces a very pleasant impression. It is also called “green museum”, as it gives visitors a chance to experience FriedensreichHundertwasser’s visionary ecological commitment – he experimented with grass roofs and planted trees in building façades. Over and above this, Hundertwasser House is Vienna’s premier place for photography exhibitions.

 

4. Vienna City Hall

When I first started writing this article, I immediately decided for myself that it would only contain the main sights of Vienna. I wrote about what to see in the capital of Austria, in case you stay here for a longer period of time, in my previous articles.

 

Here are the must-see places, and one of them is the City Hall, as it is one of the most splendid amongst the numerous monumental buildings along Vienna. It’s a tall grotesque building with five sharp spiers. Its architecture is dominated by historicism. In Historicism, various stylistic elements of the past were combined into a style in its own right. The City Hall was built in gothic style, with a tower similar to gothic cathedrals.

 

Today the City Hall is the head office of Vienna’s municipal administration. You’ll be stunned by the magnificent appointments of the staterooms, which frequently provide an atmospheric backdrop to various events such as press conferences, concerts or balls.

 

5. The Austrian Parliament

It is very close to the City Hall building, situated a couple of hundred meters away. A massive structure with columns is surrounded by a series of gilded sculptures in antique style. In general, Vienna has some special love for gold. Even a soldier at a memorial to Soviet soldiers has a gold helmet.

 

What is interesting, even on days when Parliament is in session you can still enter the visitor center where free interactive stations explain Austria’s system of government. The adjoining café makes for a lovely spot from which to view the other Vienna’s buildings. The Parliament Building looks especially impressive in the soft light of morning, and when lit at night.

6. The Museum of Art History and the Museum of Natural History

You’ll see two twin buildings that are facing each other. There are a green park and a splendid statue of Maria Theresa between them.

 

The highlight of the Museum of Art History is its extensive Picture Gallery. The number of grandmasters you’ll encounter is unbelievable. You can see works by Raphael, Rubens, Bruegel, and Titian among other greats. Look for other treasures collected during the Habsburg Dynasty, Egyptian and other ancient antiquities before admiring some of the oldest coins in the world in the Coin Cabinet.

 

For the detailed information, please visit the website.

 

In the Museum of Natural History, you can see the large skeletons of Diplodocus, Allosaurus and Iguanodon, and dozens of other extinct animals. Elaborate computer animations created by the animation experts not only revive the skeletons and fossils but also explain their environments and modes of life.

 

If you’re interested in it, you may visit the website of the museum.

 

What to see nearby? More than a hundred of meters from the twin museums you can find the famous Museum Quarter, as well as the Volkstheater, founded in 1889 as a counterweight to the Burgtheater. In the meantime, I will say that across the road, from the opposite side of the twin museums, there is the famous Hofburg Palace, which was and remains the landmark number one for Vienna.

 

7. The Hofburg Palace

It’s winter residence of the Austrian emperors, the current “office” of the President of Austria and just a real “city in the city”. The Hofburg Palace is so huge that, walking along Vienna, you will stumble upon it regularly. At present this grandiose building consists of about 2600 rooms and rooms.

 

Virtually every new emperor of the Habsburg dynasty rebuilt the palace in its own way and added some new extensions and branches to it. Therefore, there are other palaces inside Hofburg today.

 

As part of the palace, you can the Palace chapel, Burgkapelle. One of the aspects, why this chapel is worldly renown, is the Vienna Boys Choir which sings here on every Sunday mass (see “Top Places Must-see in Vienna in Two Days”).

 

In the palace complex, the Amalia castle can be found. At first, this was a single, separate building. That museum is more popularly called Sisi-Museum, the nickname by which the Empress was known.

 

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the most impressive part of the Hofsburg was built, the Neue Hofburg. This is an integral part of the  Kaiserforum. The chambers of this building are part of the Austrian National Library and various museums and collections.

 

Here you can also find a three floors deep wine cellar. After the collapse of the Monarchy, the remaining contents of the cellar was auctioned, after which they built a plaster vault in which all the monuments from the Ringstrasse were stored.

 

By the way, if you walk from the Vienna Opera and the Albertina Museum in the direction of Stefanplatz, you will see two branches of the Hofburg Palace again.

 

8. The Vienna State Opera

It is one of the centers of the musical culture of the planet and one of the main attractions of Austria. It is a legendary building with a majestic hall, which, for sure, everyone saw in the cinema, on photos, and on the television. There you can hear the works of world-famous musicians like Giuseppe Verdi and Luciano Pavarotti. For hundreds and thousands of people around the world, the Vienna Opera is a cult place.

 

If you’ll have time, take a 40-minute tour, and you’ll hear many interesting facts about the building’s history, its architecture and how the Opera House is run. If you’ll have time, visit Tea Salon, Marble Hall, Schwind Foyer, Gustav Mahler Hall.

 

By the way, if you want to buy tickets for a performance at the Vienna State Opera House, visit the official website.

What to see nearby? Albertina, the Picture Gallery, tickets to which you can buy on their official website.

 

9. St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom)

It’s a huge Catholic church, one of the symbols of Austria, a building that does not want to get into the frame. It is one of the eight highest churches on the planet! The building is very pompous and majestic.

 

In addition, there are observation decks, so you can see the whole city from the highest building. Under the cathedral, there are large catacombs, which in fact represent an underground cemetery. There is a tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy, who once owned the Belvedere Palace, as well as the symbolic burials of many other representatives of the Habsburg dynasty. Go there if you like such places.

 

What to see nearby? A complex of Stefanplatz buildings, An old pillar with nails, which the merchants once drove for luck, and the Plague Column to the right.

 

10. Karlskirche

Karlskirche is one of the most beautiful cathedrals of Vienna and part-time is the most interesting place, which I must add to my review. This Baroque building is one of the symbols of the capital of Austria (and even depicted on the magnet that tourists often bring home from this city).

 

Before the Stephansdom, it has been a spiritual center for the entire city for a very long time. So have a good look at the plain masonry of the columns outside and at the impressive frescos inside the church.

 

By the way, there is an elevator that will take you up to the frescos, which requires a ticket. It is worth the investment, as you won′t get much closer to any roof-fresco in Austria than here.

 

What to see nearby? The building of the Society of Friends of Music.

 

11.  Vienna Park Prater

This is a local amusement park. It is located just 10 minutes walk from the complex of buildings of the Economic University. This park is definitely worth visiting, at least, for two reasons.

 

The first of them is a giant (212 ft!) Ferris Wheel called Wiener Riesenrad, which regularly appears on various postcards and souvenir magnets connected with Vienna.

 

The second reason is the Viennese “department” of the famous Madame Tussauds. It’s a cool place both for adults and children. Here you’ll see that after receiving the Oscar, Leonardo DiCaprio looks very good.

 

12. Museum Quarter

A well-known Museum Quarter unites several interesting museums. The main building of the complex once served as the imperial stables. Today, there are exhibition pavilions, which were opened for the first time in 1921.

 

Even if you do not particularly love various museums, I still advise you to take a walk there. This Viennese quarter is an excellent example of a skillful combination of modern and classical architecture. Only MUMOK museum is worth visiting the whole complex!

 

For the more detailed information about the must-see places in the capital of Austria, please go to my article “The Best Way to Travel Between Prague, Budapest, and Vienna” and “The Must-see Cities in Austria” .

Related: Travel from Budapest to Vienna

 

Majestic Budapest

It all started with two small settlements located on both sides of the Danube. They were called Buda and Pest. Over time, they united and became a single city. Yes, today it is Budapest – the capital of Hungary, the “pearl” on the Danube, one of the most beautiful and rich in the sights of European cities.

 

Are you planning to go to Budapest? Remember places that must be visited.

 

Definitely, it’s better to have two or three days in Budapest to take a leisurely walk around the city, but in one day you can also see a lot if you plan your time effectively.

 

What to see and where to go in Budapest? In our list, there are thermal baths, a historic metro, addresses ruin pubs and much more, which is useful to know when going to the capital of Hungary. To complete the entire program you will need comfortable shoes and a swimsuit. Did you know that in Budapest one of the monuments of UNESCO’s historical heritage is underground? Do not pass by!

 

By the way, for the first acquaintance with Budapest, it is advantageous to purchase a Budapest discount card, which includes public transport, free admission to 8 museums, 2 walking tours, the St. Lukas bath, discounts of 10-50% in 100 different institutions in Budapest.

 

1. Buda Castle

Want to see where the Hungarian kings lived? Then you must visit the fortress of Buda, whose rich and complex history began in the distant 13th century. It survived many wars, it was conquered, transformed, destroyed and rebuilt. Today it is a luxurious architectural complex, including the Royal Residence (here you can visit the National Gallery, the library and the History Museum of Budapest), the Fishermen’s Bastion, the Trinity Square, the ancient cathedrals, the former Carmelite monastery, and the current residence of the president of the country.

 

The description of these and many more places you can find in my article “Best Things to Do in Budapest in 3 Days” .

 

2. Shoes on the Danube Bank

This memorial is often called the most emotional monument of Europe. Here, on the banks of the Danube, during the Second World War, the Nazis killed the Jews. Previously, the victims were ordered to take off their shoes, which at that time was a valuable commodity on the black market. Among the exactly recreated bronze copies of shoes, you can see men’s, women’s and children’s shoes. This place causes tears and pain … But of course, you need to come and see it!

 

3. Budapest Baths

118 mineral springs and artesian wells of Budapest contain mineral water with a temperature of 21-76 degrees. World-famous baths are not only therapeutic and prophylactic but also of historical interest. Bathhouses in Budapest were built at different times and in different styles: Roman, Greek, Turkish, more modern North-European. The most popular historical baths are Széchenyi, Gellért, Lukács, Rudas, Király, Tsarskaja (Császár, original name – VeliBej).

 

If you come to Budapest for several days, visit the whole thermal complex Saint Gellert and receive wonderful impressions and sensations. Gellert’s baths are in the same building as the Danubius Hotel Gellért with views of the Danube, a well-known restaurant with spa.

 

4. Millennium Underground

This second oldest metro in the world was opened in 1896 and since 2002 is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The yellow M1 line consists of 11 stations. At the station Deák Ferenc tér there is a museum (Földalatti Vasút Múzeum). You can enter this historic metro by regular ticket.

 

Go to the first station Vörösmarty tér and then to the penultimate station Széchenyi fürdő, going out at each one. This historic branch and trains running along it are very different from the usual metro you have ever seen.

 

 5. The City Park Városliget

Visit the largest park in Budapest, on the territory of which there are a zoo, a circus, attractions, Vaidahunyad Castle and historical Széchenyi baths. If you do not plan to visit the baths, then it is worthwhile to bypass this large, beautiful building in the Renaissance style and go inside to see the interior.

 

The castle of Vajdahunyadis surrounded by an artificial lake, in summer it is full of boats and catamarans, and in winter people skate there. Now the building is occupied by an Agricultural Museum. In the yard, there is a statue of the Anonymous Chronicler (it is necessary to make a wish and rub a feather).

 

6. Margitsziget Island

Margitszigetis a real picturesque oasis in the middle of a noisy city, settling in its very heart. There is a surprisingly pleasant microclimate, clean air, and a beautiful landscape. There are thermal springs, swimming pools, parks, tennis courts, a beach, an alpine slide, a Japanese garden, a rosary, and even a summer theater. SO if you want some peace among the city bustle, visit it.

 

This green park in the center of Budapest is a favorite vacation spot for residents and visitors of the city. You’ll also see a musical fountain, a sports pool, a hotel with thermal springs, a cafe, playgrounds. You can rent a bike or scooter. Visit Margitszigetfor sunbathing and picnicking.

 

7. Ruin Pubs

These interesting places have become very popular in Budapest over the past 10 years. Ruin pubs are housed in dilapidated buildings, former garages, with courtyards decorated with unsuited furniture and interior items.

 

Go there for a true atmosphere of modern Budapest and for the performances of fashion groups. Prices for drinks and food are democratic, most establishments are open all year round, others – from May to September. The high concentration of ruin pubs is observed in the Jewish quarter of Budapest, there are several names with addresses: Corvintető (Blaha Lujza tér 1-2), Kuplung (Királyutca 46), Instant (Nagymezőutca 38), Fogasház (Akácfa u. 51), Grandio Bar (Nagy Diófa utca 8).

 

8. The Hungarian Parliament

The parliament building on the banks of the Danube, built in the Neo-Gothic style, is considered one of the most beautiful and majestic in the city. On the outer facade, you can see sculptures of Hungarian kings, warriors, and generals. The interiors of the two side wings are decorated with marble, wood, various frescoes, and sculptures. The building has about 700 rooms, the largest and most beautiful of which is the Domed Hall. There is the Holy Crown of Hungary, mace, scepter, and sword.

 

9. Basilica of Saint Stephen (Istvan)

In the largest church in Budapest, there is something to see and there is something to listen to. It is unique with its architecture and history of creation. The construction of the cathedral was carried out by two architects, each of which contributed to its appearance. At first, it was Jozsef Hild, an adherent of laconic and strict classical style. After the death of the architect, Miklos Ibbl, who is more democratic in approach, took up his job.

 

Even if you’re the most experienced tourist, you’ll be impressed by the luxurious decoration of the temple – marble, mosaics, murals, and the statue of St. Istvan. The relics of St. Stephen, the first king and founder of Hungary, can be found there. Very often, there are concerts of organ and classical music in the basilica. Upstairs there is an observation deck with a beautiful view of the city.

 

For the more detailed information on things to do and places to visit in Budapest, please read my article “Best Things to Do in Budapest in 3 Days”.

Related: Travel from Ljubljana to Budapest

Conclusion

 

Such top European cities as Vienna or Budapest can give tourists a real journey through time due to the presence of many historic monuments. The atmosphere of the presence of antiquity attracts sophisticated connoisseurs of ancient culture.

 

In different parts of Eastern and Central Europe, you can see majestic churches and cathedrals, castle complexes and palaces, parks and gardens, nice restaurants and interesting quarters.

 

If you want to have a good time, relax, visit fairy-tale castles and just find peace, visit Europe. You’ll remember this bright, eventful trip for a very long time, and you’ll never forget these beautiful countries!

 

Steeped in history and packed with museums, castles and seasonal festivities unlike anywhere else in the world, Eastern Europe is the best place for a holiday.

 

If you are looking forward to going to Eastern and Central by a private car, our service with the local English-speaking driver can drive you to the destination in every season of the year and with a high comfort!

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