Photographing Budapest Image of the Hungarian Parliament building from the Fishermen's Bastion in Budapest

Photographing Budapest ( Updated 2021)

In our guide to photographing Budapest we’ll take you around the best Budapest attractions and the best views in Budapest. We’ll also suggest ways of looking at the city differently and seeking out less obvious subjects along the way. Just be sure to build your time around having the ‘blue hour’ free each evening, as Budapest at night is especially beautiful.
Photographing Budapest Image of the Hungarian Parliament building from the Fishermen's Bastion in Budapest
The Hungarian Parliament from the Fishermen’s Bastion

I’ve always found photographing Budapest incredibly moreish. I’ve been extremely fortunate to visit Budapest several times, and building on my portfolio of Budapest photography has always been a big reason for returning so many times.

Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and this is largely because its main asset, the river Danube, is given centre stage. Much of your Budapest sightseeing – and many of your best Budapest photos – will be done along here.

There’s also a vast wealth of Budapest architecture to explore. This formed my first impression of Budapest, that it is one of the most exotic cities in Europe. Along with Vienna it enjoyed the huge benefits of being a Habsburg Imperial city, an influence you see all over Budapest. Yet it also offers a taste of what lies further east and south-east, and this makes it one of the most fascinating European cities to visit.

For lovers of photography Budapest is also immensely rewarding. In our guide to photographing Budapest we’ll take you around the best Budapest attractions and the best views in Budapest.

We’ll also suggest ways of looking at the city differently and seeking out less obvious subjects along the way. Just be sure to build your time around having the ‘blue hour’ free each evening, as Budapest at night is especially beautiful.

Our Top Tips For Photographing Budapest

Image of Budapest from Gellert Hill at sunset
A gorgeous Budapest sunset from Gellert Hill
  1. Spend plenty of time around the river Danube, as this is where many of the main Budapest landmarks and the best viewpoints in Budapest are concentrated
  2. Whatever you do, arrange your schedule to accommodate at least an hour’s shooting time around dusk each evening
  3. Depending on how long you visit Budapest for, aim to spend at least one dusk / twilight on each side of the river – shooting towards Pest from Buda one evening, and from Pest to Buda the other
  4. If you’re planning to photograph Budapest in summer – and you have free rein – the city can get very hot, and I found I got the best results getting up at 3.30-4.00 am, heading back to bed from 9.30 to 2.00 pm, getting lunch and shooting again from 4.00 to 10.00 pm.
  5. Most of the best Budapest Art Nouveau buildings are spread around the Pest side of the river – and they really are quite spread out!
Image of the Applied Arts Museum in Budapest
One of the highlights of Art Nouveau Budapest, the Applied Arts Museum

Photographing Budapest – 15 places you shouldn’t miss

 1. River Danube in Budapest

Image of the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle at night Budapest Hungary
The Chain Bridge and Buda Castle at twilight

Seeing the sights along the Danube is right up there with the best things to do in Budapest.

The river isn’t so much a subject in itself a s an element in multiple compositions along the way. It’s where you see different elements lined up close to each other, the place where you can juxtapose away to your heart’s content.

One of the central elements is, of course, the Chain Bridge, which lines up rather beautifully with several other Budapest monuments. You’ll need to do a fair bit of legwork to get the best vantage points, which include the Royal Castle, Fishermen’s Bastion and Gellért Hill and next to the Chain Bridge. Also try to give yourself a ‘night off’ and enjoy one of the sunset Danube river cruises.

2. Chain Bridge

Image of the Chain Bridge and St TStephen's BAsilica Budapest Hungary
The Chain Bridge looking back towards Pest
Image of the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle at night in Budapest
Another take on the Chain Bridge while the cruise boats were out of the way!

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lanchid) is a splendid sight, and one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe.

It’s in prime position with the Royal Castle (Var) behind it to the west in Buda, and from the Castle, it’s right in front of the Parliament building, so, needless to say, it’s going to feature in many of your Budapest pictures.

It was the first bridge built in Hungary to span the Danube, and was completed in 1849. It’s very impressive by day but comes into its own at night when the lights come on.  Cruise boats tend to block the view immediately next to the Bridge, but the line of sight is usually clear in the evening when most of the boats are out on the river. Also look to shoot on the bridge, using the traffic trails from long exposure to add an extra dynamic to your images. The fine stone lions at either end of the bridge can also bring a lot to your compositions.

3. Budapest Royal Castle

Image of Buda Caste - or Budapest royal Castle - at night
The Royal Castle from Gellert Hill
Image of the Royal Castle Budapest - also known as Buda Castle
The Royal Castle from across the river in soft early morning light

Budapest’s Var is a magnificent place overlooking the city from the heights of Buda.

There are two places which stand out as the best vantage points – Gellért Hill and around the Pest side of Chain Bridge. If you’re shooting in. the daytime, try to get down to the river for the early light, otherwise twilight time is best.

The Castle also makes a fine vantage point, most notably for possibly the most iconic of images Budapest can offer, the Chain Bridge and Parliament shot at night.  Another shot that works from the Castle is of the yellow Baroque tower of the Tabán church just to the south, with the St Gellért Memorial in the forested hillside behind.

Image of the Turul eagle sculpture at Budapest Royal Castle
The Turul sculpture overlooking Budapest

Also seek out the huge eagle sculpture (Turul), its wings spread out over the city below.

4. Fishermen’s Bastion (Halaszbástya)

Image of the Fishermen's Bastion in Budapest Hungary
The distinctive towers of the Fishermen’s Bastion

The Fishermen’s Bastion is one of the busiest Budapest tourist places.

It’s built on the site of an earlier bastion of the old Buda Castle walls, and gets its name from Halászvaros, the Fishermen’s Quarter next to the riverbank. The Bastion was built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by Frigyes Schulek, who also worked on the neighbouring Matthias Church (see below).

Image of the statue of St Stephen and the Fishermen's Bastion Budapest
The statue of St Stephen below the Fishermen’s Bastion

The Bastion is well over 100 metres long, and its seven conical neo-Romanesque towers – representing the seven Magyar tribes that arrived in the region in 895 – should be on any what to do in Budapest list. It’s best either in early morning light or at night, when it’s well lit. It’s not the easiest subject to photograph – one of the best places is actually around the statue of St Stephen, where you can show some of the towers.

Image of the Hun garian Parliament building in Budapest at sunrise
The Parliament building through the arches at sunrise

Otherwise, the ramparts offer views along to some of the towers, and the arches beautifully frame them and the Hungarian Parliament building across the river.

5. Matyas Templom

Image of the Matthias Chuirch or Matyas templom in Budapest
The Matyas templom and St Stephen’s statue

Towering above the Fishermen’s Bastion, the Matthias Church is one of the main places to go in Budapest Castle District.

 It’s a beautiful building, largely a 19th century reconstruction of it in its Gothic guise. However, it’s not an easy one to photograph, simply because it looms so large in the camera frame, and other than the equestrian statue of St Stephen there aren’t any other elements nearby  to incorporate into a composition.

Image of the tiled roof of the Matthias Church or Matyas templom in Budapest
The superb tiled roof of the Matthias Church

That said, the colourful tiled roof is fantastic, and there’s definitely something to work with there, including in conjunction with the church tower.

Image of the Matthias Church or Matyas templom and Chain Bridge Budapest at night
The MAtyas templom and Chain Bridge at dusk

Sometimes you have to take a walk away to get the best out of a place photographically. I think the Matthias Church looks best from across the river. There are several options – with the Chain Bridge, or with the Calvinist Church near the riverbank below.  

6. Batthyány tér

Busy Batthyány tér (pronounced Botty-arn tayr) is not one of the best places in Budapest to hang out, but it’s right across the road from one of the best Budapest photo spots. It’s directly opposite the ornate Hungarian Parliament building, a fine sight in late light or when lit at twilight. Here you get the full width panoramic view of the Parliament building, often reflected the waters of the Danube.

Image of St Anna's church in Budapest
St Anna’s Church on the corner of Batthyany ter

Also look out for one of the most beautiful churches in Budapest, St Anna, on the corner of Batthyany ter. It’s a lovely Baroque twin-towered church, and there’s not much you can do other than shoot up at it. It’s surprising, given its size and stature, how few Budapest churches there are – especially compared with the wealth of churches in Prague, whose city centre is considerably smaller.

7. Hungarian Parliament (Országház)

Image of the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest at sunrise
The Parliament building at dawn

After the Houses of Parliament in London and Bundestag in Berlin, the Hungarian Parliament is probably the most famous building of its kind in Europe. It’s a vast, grandiose neo-Gothic fantasy, a forest of spires and turrets crowned by a large central dome. Its site also helps, located right next to the river Danube.

As with many other Budapest sites, it looks at its best in the ‘blue hour’ when it’s lit up and there is still some colour in the sky. It looks fantastic from the Royal Castle, in conjunction with the Chain Bridge, and through the arches of the Fishermen’s Bastion up on the hill in Buda.During one of my Budapest trips I had a hunch that a shot through the arches of the Parliament building might work at sunrise, and so it did.

Image of the Hunbgarian Parliament building in Budapest
Another close-up view of the Orszaghaz

The Orszagház is one of the main places to visit in Budapest, and the plush interior is well worth a visit. The building looks great from up close in very early or very late light, the light-coloured stone glowing orange and pink at the beginning and end of the day. While there, also take time to see the poignant Shoes on the Danube Bank (Cipok a Duna parton) memorial to the Jews.of Budapest murdered by the Nazis.

8. Gellert Hill and Memorial

Image of Budapest at night fdrom Gellert Hill
Budapest night view, zoomed in on the Chasin Bridge and river

The summit area of Gellért Hill is a Budapest must see. It’s the location of the Citadella, a fortress built on the orders of Emperor Franz Josef I to keep an eye on the fractious locals.

You can’t visit the fortress, but everyone visits for the incomparable Budapest night view.The whole city is laid out before you, with the Royal Castle overlooking the river, the lights of the Chain Bridge twinkling in the twilight and the serene Parliament building illuminated by the riverside.

Image of the Gellert Memorial on Gellert Hill Budapest
The Gellert Memorial – also worth visiting for the view from behind the colonnade

Along with a Danube river cruise, a visit here is one of the best things to do in Budapest at night. Also look out for the St Gellért Memorial which faces east and overlooks the river. Gellert was the first Christian martyr in Hungary, thrown off the hill that bears his name in 1046. The memorial is in the form of a Neoclassical colonnade with behind a statue of Gellert. It’s a short, steep walk up from the river, but this is one of the better – and more unusual – Budapest views to take in if you have the time.

9. Applied Arts Museum

Image of the tioled roof of the Applied Arts Museum in Budapest
The amazing tiled roof of Lechner’s Applied Arts Museum

This outstanding building and museum (Iparművészeti Muzeum) may not be one of the most popular Budapest tourist attractions, but that doesn’t mean a thing. For my money this is one of the top three or four Budapest highlights, a jaw-droppingly beautiful Art Nouveau building with a breathtaking green and gold tiled roof. It is the work of Ödön Lechner, who is responsible for two other buildings in this article. His work preceded that of Catalan contemporary Antoni Gaudi by a few years, and less outré and revolutionary than Gaudi. Yet I’ve always found his buildings somehow more satisfying, and this is one of his best. Make this a must do in Budapest.

It’s located on Úllói út, very close to Corvin-negyed metro station (formerly known as Ferenc körút).

10. Great Synagogue

Image of the Great Synagogue in Budapest
The Great Synagogue on Dohany utca

Budapest’s Great Synagogue – also known as the Dohany Street Synagogue – is the largest in Europe, seating around 3,000 people. It dates back to 1859, and was designed by the Austrian architect Ludwig Förster. It’s a fine building indeed, its twin towers and domes a little reminiscent of some mosques I’ve seen in my Middle East travels. The façade is the best part to photograph, but the interior is also very striking. While here, also visit the small Jewish Cemetery and Holocaust Memorial Park, the latter dedicated to heroes like Giorgio Perlasca and Angelo Rotta who saved many thousands of Budapest Jews from murder at Auschwitz.

11. St Stephen’s Basilica

Image of the Basilica of St Stephen in. Budapest
St Stephen’s – Szent Istvan – Basilica

St Stephen’s Basilica (Bazilika Szent Istvan) is the Westminster Abbey of Hungary, and home to the one surviving relic of Hungary’s first king, St Stephen I, who died in 1038. His right hand is preserved in the shrine in the Basilica, and it’s hugely important symbolically to Hungarians.

The Basilica was built in the 19th and early 20th century, eventually being opened in 1905. It’s one of the most popular Budapest things to see, and its most impressive feature externally is its dome, built to exactly the same height as the nearby Parliament building. It’s rather hemmed in by modern buildings in a small square that does nothing at all to enhance it. The nearby Budapest Eye ferris wheel on Erzsébet ter gives a better view, and the dome of the Basilica offers a great Budapest view from the external gallery.

12. Budapest Central Market

The Central Market is a great barn of a building and a Budapest must see. It’s packed with a mixture of stalls selling food, Hungarian souvenirs (everything from dolls to folk-inspired clothing), snack bars, wine bars and restaurant. This is the place to come for Budapest detail shots – the food and accompanying signage is always a good bet. My excuse for not having a shot to accompany these words is that I was carrying all my wife’s shopping last time we visited!

13. Former Post Office Savings Bank

This stupendous Art Nouveau building by the ‘Hungarian Gaudi’ (not my words!) Ödön Lechner is close to the Parliament building, and just around the corner from the US Embassy on Hold utca. Its standout feature is its green Zsolnay tiled roof, but I always found this amazing building a tough one to photograph as the views from the street are quite limited – especially in summer when the trees block many an opportunity.

I have yet to visit it myself, but for the price of a drink on the rooftop terrace of the Hotel President on the other side of the street, which has an uninterrupted view of the whole edifice, roof included.

14. Heroes Square Budapest

Image of Heroes Square in Budapest Hungary at night
The imposing Hungarian Millennium Monument at Heroes Square

Heroes SquareHősök tere in Hungarian – is a large monumental square on the edge of the Varosliget Park, at the end of one of thre main Budapest streets, Andrassy ut.  It has always been one of the more popular places to visit in Budapest, but there’s not a great deal to occupy you in the square, other than a colonnade, statues and monument. 

Image of statues silhouetted at sundrise in Heroes Square Budapest
Heroes Square at dawn

The best time to photograph it is at night or in very early or late light. I’ve stayed with a friend just off Andrassy ut several times, so was well-placed to get there before sunrise. This is when it’s at its most dramatic. The whole area is well worth a visit at any time of day though – therer are several Budapest attractions close by, including the Széchenyi Baths (see below) and Fine Arts Museum. Travel there on the yellow M1 line, the late 19th century földalatti that was the first underground line to be built on mainland Europe.

15. Széchenyi Thermal Baths

Image of Szechenyi Baths building and gardens Budapest
The exterior of Szechenyi Baths

The Széchenyi Baths are a few minutes’ walk from Heroes Square, and also close to the 19th century Vajdahunyad Castle. The baths are among the easiest to photograph in Budapest, as the pools are outdoors and most people don’t mind cameras around, especially if you’re photographing the overall scene. Taking a dip in the waters is one of the top things to do in Budapest, and these gorgeous Art Nouveau baths are an amazing place to do so. The main façade (pictured) is pretty marvellous too.

16. Hungarian National Geological Institute

Image of the blue roof of the hungarian Geologiocal Institute and Museum in Budapest
The extraordinary tiled roof of the Geological Institute

One of the most beautiful Budapest photography subjects is way off the beaten path, very close to Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas Arena (built on the site of the famous old Nepstadion where the Magical Magyars trounced England 7-1 in 1953, but I digress!)

Image of the Art Nouveau doorway of the Hungarian Geological Institute in Budapest
The Art Nouveau doorway

The Hungarian Nation al Geological Institute is a handsome creamy mustard-coloured Art Nouveau building with an extraordinary blue tiled roof. It’s one of the most fascinating places to see in Budapest, and another building by Ödön Lechner, It is home to the small but beautiful Hungarian Geological Museum, with a vast collection of fossils, minerals and more.

It’s on Stefania ut, and can be reached on bus number 75. I shot it early on a summer morning.

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David Angel
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.