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My favourite place in Budapest has to be the magical Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) with its turrets, towers and balconies.
The entire place looks like it has been plucked from the pages of a fairytale and there are even some valiant knights guarding the fortress.
Beyond the structure being whimsical, the entire complex in Buda has enchanting views over the Danube towards Pest and the Budapest Parliament Building.
This not only makes it one of the top places to visit in Budapest but a top photography location too.
The entire place feels like Hogwarts in Harry Potter and you cannot miss it. Here is a complete guide for the Fisherman’s Bastion and my top tips for visiting.
Fisherman’s Bastion history
Although there used to be a castle here in the 15th century, most of the complex we see today was built as a tourist attraction in the 19th century.
The name Fisherman’s Bastion comes from the Guild of the Fishermen who used to protect the old fort during the Middle Ages.
It was in an area known as Szentháromság Square and there was a weekly fish market here near the church.
The incredible panoramic complex we can visit today was built between 1895 and 1902.
It was constructed to celebrate the 1000th year anniversary of the Hungarian State and for residents to admire the spectacular views from the vantage point.
It’s 140 metres long and there are 7 turrets of the Halaszbastya to represent the 7 Hungarian tribes who founded the country in 895.
You can also find a statue of St Stephen I who was the first Hungarian king who ruled from 1000 AD – 1036 AD.
The architect was Frigyes Schulek and he was also responsible for the reconstruction of the St Matthias Church.
The design was based on Neo-Romanesque designs and was meant to be a romantic version of a medieval castle. A fairytale castle to experience the enchanting panoramic views over the city.
It was briefly damaged during WWII but went under major reconstruction in the 1980s. Today, it’s the most popular attraction in all of Budapest and sees thousands of people visit every year.
How to visit Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion can be found on Castle Hill in the Buda side of Budapest. It’s close to popular attractions like Buda Castle and Gellért Hill.
There are many ways that you can visit depending on your preferences;
- On foot – You can easily walk to Fisherman’s Bastion either from the Szechenyi Chain Bridge or Buda Castle in around 15 minutes. But, be prepared for hills and many steps to reach the top of the bastion. Sensible footwear is required.
- By public transport – You can take Metro M2 to Batthyány ter and walk up the rest of the way. Or, you can take the 216 bus that runs from places like St Stephen’s Basilica in Pest to Fisherman’s Bastion. It will drop you off right outside St Matthias Church.
- By taxi – If you’re heading here for sunrise, I would recommend getting a taxi. Especially if you’re staying on the Pest side. I found Bolt the most frequent and reliable in Budapest.
Fisherman’s Bastion address is Budapest, Szentháromság tér. Click here for a Google Pin!
Opening times and ticket prices
The amazing thing about Fisherman’s Bastion is that it’s open 24 hours a day and the views from here are fabulous whether you visit during the day or night time.
It’s also completely FREE to visit but some of the upper tower terraces have a small fee during the daytime.
However, if you visit before 9 am or after 9 pm – you’ll get to enter these towers and turrets for free without paying.
That’s why it’s always a great idea to visit this place early. Not only do you face fewer crowds but you also have free entry to all the fairytale towers.
Things to do in Fisherman’s Bastion
1. Admire the view of the Hungarian Parliament Building
One of the top reasons for visiting the Fisherman’s Bastion is the incredible views you can see over towards Pest and the Hungarian Parliament building.
This dramatic building on the River Danube is one of my favourites in all of Europe and you can capture it beautifully from up here.
Make sure to take a photo of you sitting on the ornate ‘windows’ with the parliament building in the backdrop.
There’s also another beautiful spot from one of the balconies by the Schulek Staircase too. It’s fabulous.
2. Pose for photographs on the Schulek Staircase
One of my favourite spots for photographs at Fisherman’s Bastion is the Schulek Staircase.
You’ll find that this ornate staircase is mirrored and both sides have a tunnel which makes a gorgeous framing for your image of the towers and city views beyond.
Again, it’s important to visit early for fewer crowds as this place does get very crowded during the day!
I absolutely loved the Fishermen or ‘knights’ who look as if they are guarding the entrance too.
3. Visit the upper terrace turrets and towers
There are gorgeous views to be had from all over the bastion but I would recommend heading up to the upper tower balcony.
From here, you can enter many of the fairytale towers which make great photo opportunities.
Again, you get postcard views of the Budapest Parliament Building plus lovely photos of St Stephen’s Basilica, Széchenyi Chain Bridge and Elisabeth Bridge.
If you visit early morning before 9 am or after 9 pm, access is free. But, during the daytime and early evening, you have to buy a ticket to access this area.
Tickets aren’t too expensive though. Adults pay 1200 HUF (£2.69 /$3.50 ) but there are discounted tickets for students, children and pensioners who pay 600 HUF (£1.30 / $1.75).
4. Go for coffee in Panoramia Cafe & Bar
If you want to have a pick me up after your early visit to Fisherman’s Bastion then definitely visit one of the cafés in this area.
A popular one is Panoramia Café and they have several tables that overlook the panoramic views over Budapest.
This café can be quite popular and you may have to wait for a window seat. But, I’d say it would be worth waiting for!
5. See the St Stephen I Statue
A notable monument here is the gorgeous statue of Saint Stephen outside of St Matthias Church.
Schulek designed the base of the statue but he hired the famous sculptor Alajos Stróbl to construct the king on his horse.
St Stephen was the first king of Hungary and founder of the Hungarian state. You can see him with a double cross in his hand and a Holy Crown on his head.
6. Visit St Matthias Church
Towering over the Fisherman’s Bastion is St Matthias church with its colourfully patterned Hungarian Zsolnay tiles.
It was used as a coronation church of Hungarian Kings for centuries and even used as a mosque for Ottoman Turks at one point when they had control over Buda.
This incredible building is named after King Matthias Corvinus the Fair who commissioned its reconstruction in the 15th century. He was one of the only kings to be crowned without a royal bloodline.
There are many legends about Matthias the Fair and he is almost seen as a Hungarian Robin Hood who would shame the rich carrying out injustice and helping the poor.
It was destroyed during the Ottoman occupation but was reconstructed as part of Frigyes Schulek’s project to reconstruct Fisherman’s Bastion.
It’s well worth going inside to admire the architecture and unique features on your visit. There is also the option to climb the bell tower for even higher views!
7. Fisherman’s Bastion restaurant / Halászbástya Étterem
If you want to treat yourself to a luxurious lunch or dinner, then I would recommend booking a table at the Fisherman’s Bastion Restaurant called Halászbástya Étterem.
This is a fine dining restaurant and you can expect the prices to reflect that but it all looks worth it due to the incredible setting and views you get from up here.
They have several tables outside, so you can enjoy a magical al fresco dinner whilst admiring the twinkling lights of Budapest.
8. Visit Fisherman’s Bastion at night
If you thought visiting Fisherman’s Bastion was magical during the day, then you must visit at night time.
Not only is the entire place lit up but you also get to see the twinkling lights of the city below!
The Budapest Parliament building at night time is one of my favourite things to admire whether that be on foot or by river cruise. The view of it lit up at night from this viewpoint here is breathtaking.
There are a few cafés and restaurants dotted around as well. It makes a great place to wander around in the evening.
I would then recommend heading over to Buda Castle to see even more incredible evening views.
The best photography spots in Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most Instagrammable places in Budapest and for good reason.
The entire place with its turrets and towers looks like it’s been plucked from the pages of a fairytale.
The best photography spots at Fisherman’s Bastion have to be from the archways overlooking the parliament building, the Shulek Staircase and the tower balcony.
Top tip: if you visit for sunrise or before 9 am, you get to visit the tower balcony free of charge!
What is the best time to visit Fisherman’s Bastion?
If you wanted to get empty photos of Fisherman’s Bastion then I would recommend heading here for sunrise.
This way, you can visit with fewer crowds and you get to visit most of the complex for free without a ticket like the tower balcony.
But, don’t expect to be alone! Even when I visited at 6.30 am there were 4 separate photoshoots going on and lots of people wanting to take their photographs.
Many people visit here to watch the sunrise without taking photos too and some people come here drunk straight from the bars!
My top tips for visiting
- Watch your stuff. Although this is a popular photography spot, it’s rife with pickpockets as they know tourists visit and expensive camera equipment will be around.
- Consider a photographer – I took all my photos here with a tripod but there are many photography tours you can take of Fisherman’s Bastion if you’d prefer that.
- Visit early in the morning for free access to the towers and fewer crowds. If you visit after 9 am or before 9 pm you have to pay to visit some attractions.
- Don’t miss visiting this beautiful place at night time as the views from up here are stunning once the sun goes down.
- Make sure to book any restaurant reservations around here well in advance. It’s a very popular place to eat!
- I know people will grumble at me for this but there is a Starbucks under the Hilton Hotel opposite the bastion. It was the only place open early enough in this area and I needed caffeine in my veins.
Things to do nearby in Buda
Budapest is one of my favourite cities in Europe and there is so much to see and do here, especially on the Buda side.
Just nearby, you can visit Buda Castle which has some stunning views over the city and Budapest Parliament Building.
You could visit the Hungarian National Gallery. Or, take a stroll around the castle district with a myriad of gorgeous buildings.
You can learn about the history of the Rock Church, or visit Gellert Hill for sunset with the famous citadel.
No visit to Budapest would be complete without a visit to the thermal baths in the city.
You can find Gellert Baths in this area which are my personal favourite and look like something from a Wes Anderson movie.
Where to stay in Budapest
If you want to avoid early morning travel to Fisherman’s Bastion, I would recommend staying in the Hilton Hotel.
This is right next to the bastion and would mean you don’t have to walk far if you have an early wake-up call to take photographs.
On my recent stay in Budapest, I chose to stay in the Anantara New York Palace and I’m so glad I made this choice. It’s a 5-star property and a Leading Hotel of the World.
As the New York Café is part of the hotel, you get to visit any time of day and dine here for breakfast each morning without a reservation.
Beyond having access to New York Café, the hotel itself is spectacular and the staff were so lovely. They couldn’t do enough for you.
The palace has a range of comfy rooms and suites. As well as a swimming pool, a spa area, a lounge bar, and two restaurants surrounding the café interiors. I would highly recommend it.