- 10 Oct 2023 5:46 AM
MTI Photo: Márton Mónus
Not all vantage points in Budapest are atop buildings or hills. The panoramic Chairlift (1121 Budapest, Zugligeti út 97), the Libegő to Hungarians, whisks passengers up steep János Hill in two-person gondolas to reach the summit 527 metres high. As your feet dangle over the receding slopes, great swathes of Buda come into view, the downward journey providing a wider picture of the Hungarian capital.
The upper terminus allows you access to the Elizabeth Lookout Tower (see below), the highest point in Budapest, and a landmark in its own right.
The Chairlift can be accessed by taking the 291 bus from Nyugati station via Budagyöngye, or the upper terminus is a ten- to 15-minute walk from the Jánoshegy stop on the Children’s Railway.
Click here to read: Insider's Guide: Budapest Chairlift
2. Elizabeth Lookout Tower
You don’t get higher than this in Budapest, unless you’re a bird flying over it. Named after the Habsburg Empress who loved coming up here until here untimely assassination in 1898, this lofty confection created by Frigyes Schulek of Fishermen’s Bastion was one of several memorials dedicated to the beloved monarch.
It’s actually quite stubby, a relatively easy ascent up a winding staircase – it’s János Hill itself that tests your calves as you stride up breathlessly from Normafa, the main point of access on bus routes 21/21A.
The view here at 528 metres can be phenomenal, however, stretching as far as the High Tatras in the right light.
3. Fishermen’s Bastion
Created by Frigyes Schulek after his decades of painstaking work on Matthias Church next door, Fishermen’s Bastion is one of the key sights atop Castle Hill, and the one that affords the best views. Its seven towers represent the seven Hungarian chieftains who led the original Magyar tribes to this part of the Carpathian Basin in 895, while its name harks back to the fishermen’s guild who used to sell their catch here, brought straight up from the river immediately below.
Note that the lower level of Fishermen’s Bastion is free to enter all year round, the panoramic upper level, free between late December and the public holiday of 15 March. Best reached by the Funicular, which drops you by Buda Castle a short walk away.
Click here to read: Insider's Guide: Fishermen’s Bastion in Budapest
4. Hármashatár Hill
Paragliders congregate at this lofty peak nearly 500 metres above Budapest, at the borders Districts II and III in north Buda, while hikers stroll purposefully up the marked walking trails amid abundant greenery.
It’s also a great location for a transmission tower and a number of observation points, including a strange wooden contraption named after the Károly Guckler, who paved the way for tourism in the forested heights of Buda more than a century ago. The walking trail named after him is the one that looks over towards Óbuda.
The nearest you can reach these heights by public transport is to take the 65 bus from Kolosy tér to Fenyőgyöngye, a kilometre or so from the summit.
5. High Note Skybar
Budapest is blessed with many panoramic rooftop bars these days, but High Note probably tops the lot. Having walked through the piano-themed lobby of the high-design Aria Hotel on Hercegprimás utca, just over the road from Erzsébet tér, you take the special lift that brings you to this lofty cocktail bar, staff greeting you as you do so.
Here, it’s not just the view that leaves you in awe – although sunset over the Buda hills is pretty spectacular – but the fact that you can almost touch the clock of the Basilica alongside. Drinks, snacks and service align with the setting, making this one of those unique Budapest experiences to be reserved for very special occasions.
6. Hungarian National Gallery
It’s still not commonly known that your standard admission ticket to the largest public collection of Hungarian artworks also allows you access to the panoramic dome that characterises the skyline of Buda Castle.
Open between 10am and 5pm except in unfavourable weather conditions, the roof can be visited by up to 15 people at any one time for unparalleled views of the city.
This is two attractions in one, of course, because you can spend the rest of the time admiring the creations by the big names in 19th-century art, both Hungarian (Mihály Munkácsy, Pál Szinyei Merse) and foreign (Delacroix, Pissarro).
Click here to read: Insider’s Guide: Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest
7. St Stephen’s Basilica
Dominating the skyline of downtown Pest, the grand Catholic basilica is dedicated to the first king of Hungary, Szent István or Saint Stephen. The dome you can see for miles around can be accessed by taking the elevator or climbing the 364 stairs for outstanding panoramic views.
This also allow you to appreciate the task facing architect Miklós Ybl, who also designed the Opera House, when he took over the project in 1867. The original roof collapsed and it wouldn’t be until the 1890s that Ybl could see the fruits of his labour.
Click here to read: Insider’s Guide: St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest
+ 1. Citadella
Think of Budapest and you think of the Statue of Lady Liberty, holding her palm frond aloft in both hands, 40 metres above 235-metre-high Gellért Hill. No wonder this spot is popular for wedding photos, the observation deck near the base of the monument offering a perfect view of the Danube and city spread before you.
Citadella actually refers to the Habsburg fortress that crowns the hill, the statue rising up at its south-eastern bastion. Currently closed, it is being converted into a museum dedicated to Hungary’s struggles for freedom.
No bus on the public transport network struggles up the incline to reach here, only tourist coaches. Take the 27 from Móricz Zsigmond körtér to Búsuló Juhász close to the summit and walk the rest.
Note that the classic spot for a panoramic view, Citadella and the Statue of Lady Liberty at the top of Gellért Hill, is currently closed due to this former garrison being converted into a museum.
Words by Peterjon Cresswell for Xpatloop.com
Peterjon has been researching the byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website liberoguide.com