A Walking Tour of the Most Beautiful Cathedrals in Budapest

Budapest is a historic city in Hungary, full of rich architecture and old-world atmosphere. While most people come to Budapest to take advantage of the incredible spas, one of the best ways to experience the sights and history of this city is by visiting its many churches and cathedrals. Even better, many of these buildings are within walking distance of each other, so you can explore easily without spending money on taxis or shuttle buses.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a peek at some of the most beautiful cathedrals in Budapest you can visit via a walking tour while on vacation in Budapest.

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St. Francis of Assisi Parish Church

We’re starting our walking tour at the southern end of the row on the eastern side of the Danube River. As you may know, Budapest is technically two cities - Buda and Pest. Buda is on this side, and we’ll cross over to Pest later on.

This is the largest church in the Ferencváros district, located on the Bakáts Square. The Roman Catholic Church was constructed between 1867 and 1879 by architect Miklós Ybl. The church was consecrated on April 24th, 1879. The architectural style is French Romanian, so you can see gorgeous gothic-style towers, pillars, and features.

The interior is just as stunning as the exterior, complete with a rose-colored ceiling, ornate columns, and intricately-carved stone elements. As with most of the cathedrals in Budapest, you can attend mass here during your visit. The inside of this church is not as opulent as others we’ll see on this tour, but the high ceilings make it more than accommodating.

This church is also one of the nicest in the city, thanks to some recent renovation work. So, the exterior looks almost as polished and brand-new as the day it was built.

Photo Credit: Eric Laudonien

Saint George Serbian Orthodox Church

About a kilometer north of the St. Francis church sits this modest Serbian Orthodox church. When comparing the two, this building is much less grandiose and opulent, but it has plenty of charm. Since it’s a church of St. George, the front has a mural of the good saint himself slaying the dragon.

This church was built in the early 18th century on the ruins of a destroyed medieval church. Serbian settlers built the structure to practice their religion in the city of Budapest since they were being persecuted by the Turks at the time. As with other Serbian orthodox churches, there are separate sections for men and women.

In 1838, a The Great Flood of Pest destroyed the contents of the church, so much of the interior has been more recently built. Out front, the gate was designed in the Zopf style, which is a blend of German Baroque and Classicism. Above the gate is a stone pillar with a stained glass window and a cross on top. A wall surrounds the church grounds, helping it feel like its own little world within Budapest.

Photo Credit: Borisb17

Budapest’s Inner-City Church of Saint Michael

Budapest has multiple inner-city churches, including this one and a cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption. St. Michael’s Church has the more decadent and gorgeous interior, though, which is why we chose it for our list. Also, it’s just a couple of blocks away from the Saint George Serbian Orthodox, making it super convenient for our walking tour.

Saint Michael’s church is a baroque building dating back to the mid-1800’s. Construction began in 1700, but the building wasn’t finished until 1765. Originally, the church was part of the Dominican Order, but in 1787, it became part of the Congregation of Jesus.

As with other cathedrals in Budapest, Saint Michael’s church was damaged during the Great Flood of 1838. Fortunately, though, the wooden elements didn’t rot, so the church didn’t have to undergo extensive restoration and renovation afterward.

The church’s altar is exquisitely detailed and ornate. It was rebuilt in the Rococo style, so it has many gilded elements to illustrate its opulence. The altar also depicts St. Dominic. Although this church doesn’t have its own plot of land, it still stands out, thanks to its classical architectural style and immense bell tower.

Another highlight of this church is its music festivals, where the 19th-century church organ gets to shine. The church hosts organ concerts from time to time and is something you shouldn’t miss if you’re interested in classical music.

Photo Credit: Borisb17

University Church

During your walking tour, you’ll want to grab a bite to eat along the way. Fortunately, there are tons of cafes and restaurants between Saint Michael and our next stop, University Church. Although they’re only separated by two blocks, you can find all kinds of unique eateries to sate your hunger.

If you’re on a budget, you and your wallet will be happy to know that some of the best Hungarian food is at some of the cheapest places to eat in Budapest.

This church is formally called the Church of St. Mary the Virgin to show it’s allegiance to the Virgin Mary, but everyone calls it University Church because of the Central Priestly Educational Institute which operates nearby.

This building is notable because of its twin bell towers in front. Inside, there are many intricate stone carvings, pillars, and statues. A massive church organ sits above the altar, and its music creates a powerful energy whenever it’s played.

University Church was built between 1715 and 1771 by Hungarian monks of the Pauline Order. The building was erected on the foundations of a destroyed mosque, since Budapest used to be part of the Ottoman Empire.

The main monastery was completed in 1742, which is when the church was consecrated. The bell towers were finished in 1768, and the rest of the church was completed in 1771.

There are many architectural marvels and carvings both inside and outside the church. So, during your visit, you’ll want to spend time exploring them all if possible.

If you’d like to include one more cathedral in your walking tour, on the way to St. Stephen’s, add in a quick detour to St. Anne Church.

Photo Credit: MarkoV87

St. Stephen’s Basilica

When talking about cathedrals in Budapest, you can’t ignore St. Stephen’s Basilica, or in Hungarian Szent Istvan Bazilika. This neoclassical church is one of the most famous, both in Hungary and around the world. The building is also one of the largest as it can house over 8,500 people during mass.

If you’re curious about who Saint Stephen is, the church is actually named after the first king of Hungary, Stephen I who ruled until 1038. The church also holds the right hand of St. Stephen, which is a crucial Hungarian relic.

You can take in the beauty from St. Stephen’s Square, or Szent István tér, just in front of the Cathedral.

The size and height of the church may derive from respect from the king. At 314 feet tall, St. Stephen’s cathedral dome is the tallest building in Budapest, matched only by the parliament building. Construction on the church began in the mid-1800s, but it wasn’t finished until 1905. The lengthy process was due in part to a collapse of the main structure in 1868. The culprit was shoddy building practices, so it’s probably for the best that it collapsed before it was completed and not after. The dome is known for its neo-renaissance style.

Like University Church, this cathedral has twin bell towers. The right one is open to the public, and it offers stunning views of the city and the Danube River. If you’re not looking forward to climbing the stairs to the observation deck, you can pay a small fee and ride the elevator.

While you’re in the area, if you have some time to spare, I highly recommend you head a bit farther north along the Danube River to see the Hungarian Parliament Building.

Photo Credit: Darthway

Matthias Church

On the western side of the Danube sits Matthias Church, which is in the heart of Buda’s Castle Hill. The church itself looks like a medieval castle, thanks to tall spires, turrets, and parapets. This building is the most-visited Roman Catholic Church in the city.

To get to this church, you’ll have to cross the historic Széchenyi Chain Bridge. As of 2022, the bridge is undergoing renovations, until renovations are complete, you’ll need to use the St. Elizabeth Bridge instead. Coming from your Budahome Apartment, you’ll be right near the St. Elizabeth Bridge but if you’re coming from Széchenyi Chain Bridge, there is a tramway connecting the two bridges. Wait time is minimal and the service is excellent!

Although the church was originally built between the 13th and 15th centuries (at that time it was called the Church of Our Lady), it was completely renovated in the 1800s. This renovation gave the building a neo-Gothic style, hence the spires and pointed arches everywhere. The man responsible for the renovation of this church also built the famous Fisherman’s Bastion monument.

Since the church looks so imposing and ornate, it’s been the site of many royal events, including weddings and coronations. It currently houses the tombs of Béla III of Hungary and his wife Agnes of Antioch. Bela ruled Hungary and Croatia from 1172 to 1196. Notably, Matthias Church also hosted the coronation of Charles I in 1916. Charles would be the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

As with other Budapest churches and cathedrals, Matthias church has an impressive organ. The church hosts music concerts and converts itself into an opera house regularly throughout the year.

Photo Credit: Artur Bogacki

Gellért Hill Cave Church

As you make your way on our guided tour south along the Danube, be sure to stop at Gellért Hill Cave Church. This church is a world heritage site and a popular spot for sightseeing in Budapest. This building offers a glimpse into Hungary’s history, both as an independent nation and as part of old-world empires, including the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian.

As the name implies, this church is built into a cave inside Gellert Hill. So, this building is quite unique and unlike anything else you might visit in Budapest, or anywhere else for that matter.

The Pauline monks decided to build into the cave not because it looked pretty, but to avoid persecution. The order had been banned from Hungary by Joseph II, but they returned 150 years later to build this church.

It operated for decades until the communists shut it down in the 1950s. The church remained sealed until 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union. Afterward, the caves were reopened to the public, which they have been since.

Beyond the structural elements of Cave Church, this site is also unique because of what it lacks. Unlike the ornate cathedrals we’ve mentioned so, Cave Church is all about humble worship. There are no intricate carvings or opulent details. A simple church for modest followers.

Photo Credit: Bencsik Antal Zsolt

On your way back to your apartment, I highly suggest you also check out Buda Castle. You can reach this castle via Varkert Bazaar if on foot, via funicular (Budavári Sikló), or by bus. There’s a lot to explore in the Castle District so take your time and enjoy all that this neighborhood has to offer.

Budapest has many other cathedrals you can visit during your trip, but these are certainly the top highlights. Enjoy your excursion!