When I decided that I would be heading to Eastern Europe to see what all the fuss was about Budapest, I was most intrigued by two things. First, I was shocked to learn that I had been pronouncing Budapest wrong this whole time. The “Pest” in Budapest, is not pronounced “Pest”… but “Pescht”. BudaPESCHT. Secondly, and most intriguing, was the fact that this capital used to be three separate cities, which joined together to form Budapest in 1873. The three former cities originally known as Buda, Pest, and Obuda.
Buda and Pest began to form, independently, in the 12thcentury. Buda on the west bank, Pest on the east bank. They were completely separated by the Danube River until 1840 when the Szechenyi Chain Bridge was built to bridge the two cities together. By the time they had become one – Budapest, the city was an insignificant town mostly under the control of Vienna. But, by the end of the 19th century Budapest had become a powerhouse in Europe.
Today, while Buda and Pest are united as Budapest, they are still referred to separately. Buda is still on the west side, Pest still on the east. So when learning of this I had a choice to make. Which side is better? Buda or Pest? Where should I be spending most of my time?
I’d like to think of Buda as the angel on your shoulder. On the west side you have responsible fun! Buda is culturally rich and beautiful, housing some of the most unique architecture in the capital. It is the hilly side of the city, famously known for the Castle District and the impeccable views of Pest to the east. Here you’ll find the highest point in Budapest – Gellért Hill, which offers panoramic views of the entire city.
Buda is where you’ll want so spend the majority of your daylight hours. Here you could wander for hours through the Castle District, stopping to study the beautiful neo-gothic and neo-Romanesque style architecture of Fisherman’s Bastion. Staring in awe at Matthias Church behind the Bastion or the Parliament in front.
Note: Make sure to visit both during daylight and night hours for when both the Bastion and Parliament are lit up.
But come nightfall? That’s when you’ll want to head over to Pest.
I’d like to think of Pest as the devil on your shoulder. In this day Pest is the lively side of the capital during both daylight and night time. It contains tons of bars, restaurants, and shopping stores. Hang out in the Ruin Bars or the energetic Jewish Quarter. The east side houses fancy hotels and quaint wine stores. Shop in the farmers market or buy tickets to enter Parliament.
When being compared to Buda, Pest is not only the more lively side, but also more strikingly dark and dangerous. With the House of Terror, the Shoes on the Danube, and the Holocaust Memorial Center, this side of Budapest shows the darker times of the city.
BUDA OR PEST
So which is better? Buda… or Pest? I’d like to think of them as equals. I equally enjoyed my time on both sides of the river. I remember Buda as the beautiful and unique part of town. While I remember Pest as the fun and energetic part of town. Both places you’ll want to experience, and neither place where you can go wrong.
For 10 things to see and do in Budapest, click here.
Visiting Budapest? Find out how to spend four days in Hungary’s capital.
For more on Budapest, make sure to check out my Instagram story highlights.