One of the focal points for any visit to Budapest is the St. Stephen’s Basilica. Located in the Inner City District, it is in the heart of the old town region with all of the restaurants and shopping. Visiting the basilica is free, but there is a recommended donation of 200 Ft (~2 euros) for entering the cathedral. The inside of the cathedral is quite beautiful with all of the ornate gold arches and wonderful domes. Another highlight of the basilica is the observation deck, which has spectacular panoramic views of the city from a different perspective than those of the Castle District or the Citadel.
We actually visited St. Stephen’s Basilica twice, once on a rainy day to see the interior of the cathedral and then a second time when the weather was better to go to the observation deck and take photographs of the city. Due to its central location, the cathedral can be quite crowded with tourists, so you’ll want to be patient as you walk around the cathedral. Depending on the time of year, there can also be long lines waiting to get up to the observation deck, but we didn’t have too long of a wait while we were there.
St. Stephen’s Basilica also offers organ concerts at different times during the week and a schedule is available if you are interested. The cathedral is named after St. Stephen I, who was the first king of Hungary. Construction began in 1851 and it wasn’t completed until 1906. The domes of the basilica and the Parliament Building are the same height and they dominate the skyline of the Pest side of the Danube River. They were purposely created to be of equal height in order to symbolize the balance between church and state in Hungary.
It is possible to get guided tours of St. Stephen’s Basilica, but we found that most people just tour the cathedral on their own. The basilica is one of the most important sites to visit during a trip to Budapest and we would definitely recommend taking the time to go the observation deck for the views.