Budapest is the capital of Hungary. With an unusual, modern atmosphere, world-class traditional music scene, a never-ending nightlife increasingly prized among European youth, and last but not the least, an excellent offer of natural thermal baths – Budapest is one of Europe’s most charming and delightful cities. Due to the incredibly scenic setting, and its architecture, it is also called “Paris of the East.” Budapest has direct flights to most European cities.
Travel guide to Budapest
Budapest’s appeal is not all granted by nature; men have played a decisive role in developing this pretty face. Architecturally, the city is a wealth trove, with elegant neoclassical, baroque, Eclectic and lavish art nouveau buildings to capture everyone.
They say history is another nation, but it’s always been just a blink away from Budapest. Witness the shrapnel pockmark and bullet holes on buildings from World War II and the 1956 Uprising. There are sad cues like the emotional Shoes on the Danube memorial. You can find cues of hope and settlement too in the ‘sword’ of the old secret-police construction on Andrássy út, now beaten into the “plowshare” – the House of Terror, with left and right sides of the account told.
Eat, Drink & Be Magyar
There’s more to Hungarian food than goulash, and it remains one of the most modern styles of cooking in Central and Eastern Europe. Magyars may stretch when they say that there are three basic world cuisines – Chinese, French, and their own. But Budapest’s reputation as a food capital records mostly from the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. Despite a dormant period under communism, the town is once again demanding attention. So are Hungary’s finest wines – from Eger’s complex reds to honey-sweet Tokaj.
Soaking the hot spring
Budapest is covered with plenty of hot springs. As a result, ‘taking the waters’ has been an adventure here since the Romans’ time. The array of bath houses is free – you can pick from art nouveau, Turkish-era and modern establishments. Some people come seeking a cure for whatever ails them. However, most of them are there for relaxation and fun. We still maintain it’s the global solution for what Hungarians call a macskajaj (cat’s wail) – hangover.
Orientation is not a big issue in Budapest. The river Danube splits the town into two areas: Buda and Pest. Apart from the very centre, the city’s construction is entirely rational. Milestones in Buda as the Royal Castle or Citadella Castle also help you find your way. Other than the Danube itself, the best reference points for locating yourself are the bridges crossing the river.
Top places to visit in Budapest
Hungarian National Museum: The Hungarian National Museum houses the country’s most prominent ancient relics collection in an imposing neoclassical building. Displays on the 1st floor take you to the Carpathian Basin from the earliest times to the Magyars’ appearance in the 9th century; the Magyar people’s continuous story resumes on the 2nd floor, from the triumph of the basin to the eventual end of communism.
Aquincum: A comprehensive Roman civilian city in Hungary was constructed around 100CE and became the seat of the Roman territory of Pannonia Inferior in 106CE. You can explore its baths, houses, fountains, courtyards, and complex underfloor heating systems and the recreation of a Roman painter’s residence.
Castle Hill: Castle Hill is a mile limestone plateau towering 170m above the Danube. It contains some of Budapest’s most prestigious medieval museums and monuments and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. There are numerous ways to reach Castle Hill from Pest. The simplest way is to take bus 16 from Deák Ferenc tér to Dísz tér, more or less the focal point between the Royal Palace and the Old Town. Much more fun, though, is to walk across Széchenyi Chain Bridge and board the Sikló, a funny railway constructed in 1870 that rises steeply from Clark Ádám tér to Szent György tér near the Royal Palace.
Great Synagogue: Budapest’s marvelous Great Synagogue is the largest Jewish house of worship outside New York City. Constructed in 1859, the temple has both Moorish and Romantic architectural elements. Inside, the Hungarian Jewish Archives & Museum carries stuff relating to both religious and everyday life. On the synagogue’s north side, the Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial leads over the mass graves of those butchered by the Nazis.
Memento Park: Home to more than 50 plaques, statues of Mark, Lenis, Béla Kun, portraits that have ended up on trash heaps elsewhere, Memento Park is truly a mind-blowing place to visit. It is 10km southwest of the city centre. Gaze upon the socialist realism and communism and find yourself wondering that some of these relics were erected as lately as the 1980s.
Things to do in Budapest:
The easiest, and perhaps best of all: get a map, mark the things you want to see, divide up your time, and walk around in the city. Don’t forget to spend time in charming restaurants or cafés and walk on a bridge in the evening. Avoid Guided Tours. The lively aura of this jewel of a town, both by day and night, cannot be felt via guided tours locked into a tourist boat/bus. Here are a few amazing things to do in Budapest:
- Rent a bike. Szentendre is a couple of hours ride from the centre, and you get to see lovely places – most of the way is around the Danube. If you fancy more organised paths, a guided bike tour brings you some training and takes you around the local geography.
- Take a stroll in City Park with your kids. Stroll around the lake and feed the ducks. See the statue of Anonymus at the Vajdahunyad Castle, a fairy-tale-like building. Széchenyi Spa, right next to the lake, is also enjoyable for kids.
- The same lake is moulded into the sizeable ice-skating rink with an extraordinary view during winter. It is a favourite place for teenagers.
- River Cruise in Budapest is an option to explore the city with a Danube boat, which takes just over an hour, and you can visit the most popular destinations with it.
- Formula One: If you are traveling to Budapest in July, Formula One race should not be missed. Few tips before visiting Hungarian Grand Prix, make sure that you carry water and a packed lunch. It is also fitting that you bring your smartphones and headphones so that you can follow online commentary. There is minimal race commentary during the race, and when there is, it has to be in Hungarian, English, and German to serve all the fans. As a result, the race analyst is usually telling you something that occurred a while ago.
What to eat in Budapest?
Budapest’s local delicacies revolve around meat (beef, pork, poultry, or veal), often including liberal paprika, although not necessarily of the hot kind.
Major unmissable specialties include:
- gulyás(leves) usually interpreted as ‘goulash soup’ – a filling meat soup with paprika and potatoes, among other ingredients- served as the main dish or as a (heavy) starter.
- paprikás chicken or veal cooked in delicious creamy paprika sauce.
- pörkölt a stew with of sautéed onions and…… paprika. Similar to what is served as ‘goulash’ abroad.
- halászlé – fishermen’s soup served differently depending on the area
- töltött káposzta – stuffed cabbage, the cooked cabbage leaves are filled with meat and in a paprika sauce, served with sour cream.