With more than thousand years of history and with a fantastic riverside, Budapest is one of the most photogenic city in Europe.
But it is also quite big and the highlights are a bit scattered – at least compared to some other European cities like Prague.
That’s why I listed all those beautiful photography locations you should visit in Budapest. I ordered them by importance, so if you have only a few hours, I suggest you start with the first ones.
From Buda Castle
You can get up to Buda Castle on many paths. One I recommend starts at Clark Adam Square, right next to the Funicular’s starting point. On this picture, it’s at the bottom right:
Although it is tempting to go with the Funicular, but it gets up too fast. Sure, it’s much easier 🙂 I recommend to walk.
If you move up and up, you can cross the rails of Funicular. And from these bridges you’ll have a great sight on Chain Bridge and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
This is an excellent spot to play with long exposures at night, so that you’ll have circular lighttrails in the foreground:
If you decide to ascend on foot, the road beautifully winds up, surrounded by the medieval walls of the Castle.
Once you are up, you’ll probably get to Oroszlános-udvar. (I say probably, because you can choose from many small paths along the way).
Behind yourself you’ll have the central part of Buda Castle:
And looking towards the Chain Bridge:
This is also the best spot to capture the epic fireworks on 20th August every year. It’s St Stephens’s Day in Hungary: kind of what 4th July is in the States.
But beware, that it’s almost impossible to grab a spot for the fireworks, the crowd is so big, and available space is just a few ten meters along the edge.
Around here it’s also fun to play with vertical compositions with the Parliament and the Chain Bridge. A long lens like 70-200mm comes handy for these shots:
From here you should start walking northern direction, and you’ll soon be at:
Buda Castle – Fishermens’ Bastion
This is probably the most touristy and crowded spot in the whole city. But if you go early morning or at evening, it’s a bit calmer.
Here’s how the Fishermens Bastions look from a distance:
Here it is from “the inside”. Although there’s no out or inside, this area always open and public.
From here you have a very good panorama on the Parliament and the norther side of the city:
If you can’t get up to the top of tower next to Hotel Hilton, just walk a bit to the side towards the Hilton, and you’ll find a great foreground composition for the Parliament Building:
As the Fishermens Bastion is a very spread-out complex building, it’s hard to capture it on one frame. Therefore I usually pick the details from here.
For example, the arches and towers can give a very nice framing to anything.
There’s plenty of opportunity to play with the towers, stairs and arches. So go unleash your creativity! 🙂
Just next to the Bastions is the Mathias Church:
And you can even go up to its top, there’s a balcony around, you can clearly see on these pictures:
You have to climb 197 stairsteps and take a guided tour to get there, but the view is worth it! 🙂
It’s also worth to have a look inside of Mathias Church:
Chain Bridge, from Pest side
Okay, the Chain Bridge looks great from every angle.
But if you’re shooting it from Pest, you’ll be able to compose Buda Castle into the picture.
You’ll discover lots of great angles as you walk around the bridge: the lions, the garden, the pillars, car’s light trails and so on…
Gellért-hill: the best vantage points in Budapest
Walking up to Gellért-hill is a must for anyone who wants to see an epic panorama of Budapest. There are several paths on the hill, and all go upwards, to the peak, which is called Citadel.
One of the best place to start climbing up is from Elizabeth Bridge. There’s a waterfall, and as you move up (and start to sweat :)) you get to a place where the Statue of Bishop Gellért stands.
If you continue from here, you’ll have good views on Elizabeth Bridge. Be prepared that the trees are really working against the photographer here 🙂
Gellért-hill at Citadel – Looking north
Once you got to Citadel, and look north, you see the city in its full glory.
I suggest you go on foot, but this area is also easily accessible by car, there’s a big parking lot nearby. Just find a spot, from where the trees do not interfere with the view, and there you go!
You can see the whole Buda Castle area, the Chain Bridge, Margaret Bridge, Parliament, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Budapest Eye at Deák Square.
The best time to go there is at Blue Hour, after sunset, or in late afternoon in sunlight.
The above pictures were taken from the north side of Citadel.
Gellért-hill from the Liberty Statue
If you walk to the Liberty Statue, you have a great view on the Elisabeth Bridge and St Stephen Cathedral:
And if you’re at the Liberty Statue, you’ll need all the luck in the world to catch without people… This was shot at a cold winter night:
Did you know that this statue is one of the few pieces of communist artwork that’s still left in the city? After the communist era ended, all the ugly looking, non-artistic statues were transported into Memento Park, outside of Budapest.
Liberty Statue was raised in 1947 by the russians to celebrate their victory over the germans in World War II. The russians claimed that they’ve “liberated” Hungary. Of course, they forgot to mention that they stayed here for 45 years…
Anyway, it’s a woman holding a palm leaf. The palm leaf is supposed to symbolise freedom. But don’t ask me why they couldn’t find anything else than that, as we never ever had any palm trees in Hungary.
I really recommend that you go to this spot at night, because during the day it’s crowded. And it just looks a lot better at night! 🙂
Gellért-hill – Looking at Liberty Bridge
The other side of Gellért-hill is gorgeous too. Once you start walking down from Citadel, you’ll many terraces like these (probably with young people occupying them :))
Descending lower you’ll find 3 places from where you can see Liberty Bridge without any trees disturbing.
There is another good spot, which is just next to the entrance of the Rock Chapel.
Again the best time to take pictures here is in the Blue Hour or around sunrise. If you go there by night, you’ll be able to capture great light trails of the trams and cars.
Opposite of Parliament
The Parliament of Hungary is really huge, 265 meters wide, and faces directly the Danube. So on the other side of the Danube (the Buda side), there’s a spot from where you stand exactly at the center line of the building.
The best time to take pictures is in the morning, around sunrise. In the evening Blue Hour there are too many boats cruising. so it’s almost impossible to have a long exposure shot without any boat interfering the shot.
It’s also a good idea to visit the inside of the Parliament. It’s monumental and wildly decorated. Architect fans will love it:
Also, the Holy Crown of Hungary is exhibited here. Click here for opening hours.
St Stephen’s Basilica
The biggest church of Budapest, the neo-classical St Stephen’s Basilica got its name from King Stephen I. who established the Hungarian Kingdom in the year of 1001. It looks epic from every angle. Be prepared that there’ll be many tourists around.
Once you’re in, comes the tricky part:
- you’ll have to try to avoid people’s heads popping up on the pictures
- sometimes they’ll allow you to use tripod, sometimes not. If you come during the day, it’s bright enough to handhold the camera
And you can even go up to the top of the central dome! There’s a balcony running around it, offering good view on the Buda Castle and the Citadel:
This fantastic 360 degree panorama was shot from that balcony.
This is one of tourist hot-spots of Budapest. I wouldn’t want to dive deep into the history, you can read it on wikipedia.
In short: on the centre of the square is a statue complex which commemorates the birth of the hungarian nation. And on the sides of the square are two museums: Museum of Fine Arts, and the Palace of Arts.
In most of the time you will find world-class exhibitions here.
Personally, I never understood what’s so special in this place. Probably, because it’s not something really historical. But anyway, it can look great on a photo, so don’t let yourself be influenced by a local! 🙂
This is the only way during the day to get rid of (almost) all the people:
GPS coordinates for this spot: 47°30’52.5″N 19°04’37.9″E (click to see on Google Maps)
The Square itself is nothing compared to the sights beneath it! I already mentioned the two museums. There’s also Városliget, a great park behind it, Vajdahunyad Castle, and the Budapest Zoo (kids love it), and the popular Széchenyi thermal bath.
There’s also the first ever underground railway in continental Europe, the Földalatti (M1) line.
Behind Heroes’ Square: Vajdahunyad Castle
On the other side of the lake there benches all-year and is a popular place to relax:
GPS coordinates for this spot: 47°30’56.7″N 19°04’53.5″E (click to see on Google Maps)
Behind Heroes’ Square: Széchenyi Bath
If you go inside that door, a beautiful entrance hall welcomes you. To go besides that you’ll have to buy tickets.
Important note: the building of the bath is not lit up at night, unfortunately… So it’s best to capture it in the morning, when the sun is shining on the front side.
GPS coordinates for this spot: 47°31’04.9″N 19°04’57.7″E (click to see on Google Maps)
From Hármashatár-hill: view on the city
This is absolutely not a touristy part of the city: even the people of Budapest don’t really come here. Mainly because there’s no direct transportation to the top of the hill. So you can only get there by car or on foot.
But the sight is really worth it. You can have a wonderful view on the whole city!
I am so in love with this spot, that I used to ride my mountain bike around here 3 times week. And took a lot of pictures and timelapses from here.
There’s also a restaurant on the top, I highly recommend taking a dinner there.
A view to the northern part of Budapest, and Pilis mountains:
As the eastern horizon is totally undisturbed, you can watch the sunrises perfectly from here:
I shot this entire timelapse video from the peak of Hármashatár-hill:
Great timelapse movies about Budapest
My timelapse videos first, featuring a few of the mentioned scenes. Enjoy! 🙂
This is just a short timelapse, but I love how it shows how many ships we have in Budapest:
Other photographers’ timelapses:
Not a 100% timelapse, but I really love how Kotsas Petsas managed to capture the athmosphere of the city:
After all this, are you ready for a little fun game?
Quiz about Budapest with lots of images. How do you measure up?
My friend, Miroslav Petrasko’s great guide on top photography spots in Budapest
For german speakers: Anita Brechbühl’s guide of photography locations in Budapest with her epic images
Most people coming to Budapest also visits Prague. If you are one of them, I recommend you taking Johnny’s Prague Photo Tours.