Budapest’s Line Two, also known as the Red Line, takes passengers to some of the city’s most popular sightseeing destinations, including the Hungarian Parliament, Matthias Church and the iconic Buda Castle. It is the city’s second oldest, the first to cross the Danube and the only metro to link Buda with Pest until the opening of Line Four last year.
Initial plans were drafted as early as 1895; however construction didn’t begin until after World War II and the line wasn’t completed until 1970. Today the red line links up with Lines One and Three at Deák Ference tér, and connects with two of the city’s most important railway stations – Keleti (Eastern) and Déli (Southern).
A major reconstruction was carried out in 2008, and Line Two also takes travellers to such popular destinations as the multi-purpose Puskás Ferenc Stadium, the Király Thermal Bath and Budapest’s original ruin pub, Szimpla Kert. So whether you’re a sports fan, history buff, political aficionado, shop-‘til-you-drop type or pub lover – Line Two is sure to have something special just for you.
Suggested Route: Puskás Ferenc Stadion – Blaha Lujza tér – Astoria – Kossuth Lajos tér – Batthyany tér – Széll Kálmán tér.
Highlights: Buda Castle, Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Hungarian Parliament, Matthias Church, Király Thermal Bath, Puskás Ferenc Stadium and Budapest’s original ruin pub (Szimpla Kert).
Pest – the Hungarian home of sports and politics
Our tour begins at the easternmost terminus of the line at Örs Vezér tere, a major transportation hub that links travellers to the Hungarian suburban train system and features a tram and bus hub alongside the Arkad and Arkad 2 shopping centres.
Horse-racing enthusiasts may want to stop at Pillangó utca to catch a race at the nearby Kincsem Park, however the next must-see stop for most sightseers will be at Puskás Ferenc Stadion – Hungary’s sports hub. Here visitors will find Budapest’s sports and entertainment district where they can catch handball, boxing, ice hockey and musical concerts at the Papp László Budapest Sports Arena; tennis at the Syma Event and Congress Centre; basketball and ice hockey at the Kisstadion; or football and major outdoor concerts at the Ferenc Puskás Stadion, the largest in Hungary.
The stadium, which originally held over 100,000 spectators, was especially built in the hope of hosting the Olympic Games, though it never did. Now undergoing an extensive refurbishment, the venue – which is home to the Hungarian national football team – hopes to host the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games, for which Hungary is considering a bid.
The next stop on the tour takes us to Keleti pályaudvar (train station) which, in addition to being Budapest’s main train station, is home to Budapest’s largest shopping mall – Arena Plaza. Among the first Western-style shopping plazas in all of Central and Eastern Europe, it hosts a variety of services for shoppers, including an indoor ice skating rink, a rooftop garden and an IMAX movie theatre that offers some showings in English.
Your next stop will be Blaha Lujza tér (named after a Hungarian actress), a major transport junction linking Line Two with Trams 4 and 6 that run the length of Budapest’s wonderful Grand Boulevard. Step out here to go for a coffee at the magnificent New York Café.
This opulent restaurant, now part of the luxury Boscolo Budapest Hotel, initially opened in 1894 and underwent a major reconstruction in 2006 to bring the eatery back to its original glory.
Your next stop is at Astoria, home of the Astoria Hotel – where scenes from the 2004 Annette Benning-Jeremy Irons film “Being Julia” were shot – and the nearby Dohány utca Synagogue, better known as The Great Synagogue. Built in the mid-19th century in Moorish Revival style, it is one of the largest synagogues in the world and at one time marked the border of Budapest’s Jewish ghetto.
If you haven’t yet checked out the city’s tram museum, be sure to give it a look when you get to Deák Ferenc tér. If you have, then keep moving on to the last stop on the Pest side of the river, Kossuth Lajos tér, home of the Hungarian Parliament and many of the major political moments in modern Hungarian history.
The Parliament building (pictured) is a wonder in its own right; completed in time for Hungary’s millennium celebrations in 1896, the Gothic Revival-style building remains the largest in Hungary and the tallest in Budapest. One of the largest parliaments in the world and one of the most photographed sites in Budapest, the stunning building houses the Holy Crown of Hungary and features majestic stained-glass windows and stunning glass mosaics.
Also found at the square are the wonderful Ethnographic Museum and the memorial to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
Buda – marvel in the medieval city
While you’re free to catch the metro under the Danube to the next station, Batthyány ter, we recommend instead taking a stroll across one of Europe’s most legendary rivers on its most famous bridge – the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. The suspension bridge, the first to connect Buda with Pest, is known as one of the world’s pre-eminent architectural wonders and carries cultural relevance in Europe much the same way that the Brooklyn Bridge does in the United States.
The bridgehead on the Buda side is also the centre of possibly the most-visited sites in Budapest – Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church and Buda Castle District. Another one of Budapest’s UNESCO-recognised World Heritage Sites, the Castle District – also known as the Royal Castle – is a 13th-century castle complex known for its medieval and Baroque architecture, churches and other public buildings.
Katy Perry fans might recognise the area because it served as the background for her viral hit “Firework”. Nearby, guests of Budapest will find the 11th-century gem Matthias Church. This sumptuous Roman Catholic cathedral was originally crafted in Romanesque style but was reworked into its haunting Gothic manifestation in the late 14th century. The building was wonderfully restored at a cost of HUF 9.4 billion in 2013 and houses replicas of the Hungarian Royal Crown and coronation jewels.
The cathedral rests along the Fisherman’s Bastion (pictured) – among the most popular sites in Budapest for photographers. The neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque terrace offers delicious views of the Danube, the Parliament Building and Buda Castle, which is why it was chosen as a Pit Stop in the sixth season of the popular American television show The Amazing Race.
A 1.4-kilometre walk from the Bastion down the hill towards the river and then along Fő utca, which dates back to Roman times, will take you to one of Budapest’s premiere spa locations – the Király Thermal Bath. After a long day of exploring Budapest’s rich medieval history, what better way to relax than to take a dip in warm therapeutic waters of the city’s oldest thermal bath? Oozing with Ottoman charm, the once male-only waters that served the Empire’s sultans are now open to both sexes daily from 9am to 9pm.
After you’ve finished relaxing, take the half-kilometre hike back to Batthyany tér and hop on the metro to Széll Kálmán ter. Be sure to jump out here to catch a ride on Hungary’s longest escalator, as this metro stop is the deepest in Budapest at 38.4 metres.
Feel free to head on out to Városmajor Park, where you can find the city’s historic cog-wheel railway. Dating to 1874, this normal-gauge, single-track railway will delight any transportation lover with its scenic sightlines and romantic feel. The best thing is that it is considered part of Budapest’s transportation system (Tram #60), so you can use your metro pass to ride.
The final stop on the Line Two tour is at its western terminus, Déli pályaudvar. This transport hub will link you with the Southern (Déli) railway station, as well as city trams and buses. Of course, you could just head back to Fisherman’s Bastion for the once-in-a-lifetime view of the sunset along the Danube in front of the Parliament building. Trust us – it’s a view that you just can’t miss out on!