The brilliance of Budapest – One of the most beautiful capital cities in the world

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On either side of the Danube, both Buda and Pest are wonderful to wander round, and the combination will provide a memorable short break any time of year.

Gypsy violins, brilliant architecture, red wine goulash, wonderful markets and famous restaurants all combine to make this a capital city that should be on everyone’s wish-list.

Budapest is built upon several hot water springs which provide the city with a range of spas.

The Gellért Baths opened in 1918 and are today part of a hotel complex, but you don’t need to be a guest to make use of the outdoor and indoor pools, steam baths, mud treatment, hot stone massages or any of the various health treatments offered.

A day ticket costs a little over £10, with a half-hour massage roughly the same price. See www.danubiushotels.com/gellert

Budapest, Hungary
Budapest, Hungary

There’s a lot to see in Budapest and there are several different districts to explore. The best way to do this is to use public transport and the Budapest Cardis a good investment.

Don’t bother with the City Sightseeing bus tour – it’s always packed and not that good.

A far better bet is to hop on tram two for an unofficial sightseeing tour of Budapest – it costs about £1!

Equally, if you want a personalised guided walking tour I thoroughly recommend booking a tour through a website called underground.com

They have multi-lingual guides who will show you not just the obvious sights, but also alternative attractions such as the wonderful food markets that only the locals know about.

Buda and its castle complex sits high upon a limestone plateau dotted with caves. Obuda (Old Roman Buda) is on the Buda side, north of Castle Hill.

One of the most beautiful and interesting districts is Castle Hill where you find Buda’s fortress and the royal centre of Hungary since the 10th Century.

Here you can visit a theatre, palace, museums and churches. You also get excellent views of Pest’s landmark

Neo-Gothic Parliament, as well as from the turreted Fisherman’s Bastion viewing terrace.

Try to avoid mid-afternoons as it’s packed with coach tours. The cafes and restaurants up here are lovely, but pricey so you might want to eat before your visit.

A lovely walk is along the River Danube and you can then tour the Parliament building (free entry with your passport) and take in the impressive dome of St Stephen’s Basilica.

Follow Budapest’s grandest boulevard, Andrassy útca, to the impressive Heroes’ Square with its vast statues of assorted Hungarian historical figures.

Of course, Hungary was for a long time behind the Iron Curtain and controlled by the former USSR.

Some of its grim history can be experienced by a visit to the chilling Terror House Museum, located in the former headquarters of the secret police.

Further reminders of the that era can be seen at the Statue Park which is full of Communist sculptures.

There’s no lack of choice in Budapest. No matter what budget you’re on, there are wonderful places to eat.

With its Mediterranean summer climate, outdoor cafes and restaurants abound from May through October offering traditional Hungarian dishes, like the famous goulash, as well as other plenty other European fare.

Erzsébetváros, containing the city’s old Jewish quarter, is a particular hotspot for new bars and restaurants at reasonable prices.

If you want a meal you will remember all your life book a table at the award-winning Budapest legend, The Gundel.

This fabulous restaurant is located near Heroes’ Square and offers the finest Hungarian and European cuisine in opulent surroundings, but at a fraction of the cost you would pay in Paris or London.

Dating from 1910, it has survived Hungary’s turbulent recent history and continues to host presidents, celebrities and royalty. Everyone from our Queen to the Pope and Madonna have eaten here.

This isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an institution. Their all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch for £18 is an absolute steal. It runs from 11.30am to 3pm weekly. Book ahead!

See www.gundel.hu

Budapest has some lovely green spaces, none bigger or better than Margaret Island. Slap bang in the middle of the Danube, this is a 2.5km-long green stretch, full of perfect picnic and sunbathing spots.

There’s also a small zoo here, with deer and an aviary with numerous species of birds. And you can pick up some wonderful food at the impressive Central Market Hall.

www.visit-hungary.com
A 72-hour Budapest Card is approx £21.
See www.budapest-card.com/en

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