budapest City Breaks
A charming and elegant city sitting astride the River Danube, Budapest offers a mouthwatering mix of history and culture. It is known as the “City of Spas” and is also very much a city of the 21st Century, having changed significantly in many ways since the Communist era.
Ensure that you explore both halves of the city with their very different characteristics, which were only joined together as one in 1873. Buda has a rather detached, imperial air and is built on a series of hills. Amongst its many delightful buildings are a number of gems such as the Royal Palace, Mattias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion - the series of ramparts facing the river - named after the traditional defenders of this stretch of the walls. From here the views over the River Danube and the Pest side of the city are superb. In contrast Pest is flat, busy and buzzing, containing the majority of the city’s shops, restaurants and bars. Sites of particular interest here are Heroes Square, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the glorious Parliament building by the Danube. Linking the two parts of the city are various bridges including the Chain Bridge which looks particularly spectacular when illuminated at night. Close to the Chain Bridge on the Buda side of the river is the Gellert Spa and Baths, one of many spas to be found throughout the city.
Budapest has a number of interesting museums and the Budapest History Museum on Castle Hill in Buda and the Hungarian National museum help to give visitors some background information on the Magyars and the relatively new country which is present day Hungary. Another popular tourist attraction is the House of Terror Museum on Andrássy út in Pest. This innocuous building was the HQ of the Secret Police and today’s museum remembers a time when political prisoners were locked away in basement cells. Two churches well worth visiting are the elegant Matthias Church on Castle Hill in Buda and the vast St. Stephen’s Basilica in Pest which houses Hungary’s most sacred treasure, St. Stephen’s mummified right hand. Climb the cupola to enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top.
Eat and Drink
Traditional Hungarian cuisine reflects the rich and varied flavours of the many nations who have influenced the country’s history. Soups are very popular. Gulyás (goulash) is a meat soup usually made with beef or pork, carrots, and potatoes in a rich broth. Another popular soup is Sargaborso Leves, a split pea soup - a particularly good choice in winter. Soups are usually served as starters but tend to be substantial enough to be a complete meal. Try Hungarian lemonade – usually beautifully presented and extremely refreshing, often containing a mix of fresh orange, lime, mint, strawberries and lemons, sparkling water or even rose water.
Andrássy Avenue has some of the most expensive and glamorous shops in the city and Váci Street, one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares in Pest, features a large number of fashionable shops as well as tourist shops, cafés and bars. At one end of Váci Street is the Great Market Hall with its shops selling a colourful array of fresh fruit and vegetables, sausages, cheeses and peppers and paprika of all types. The Market Hall attracts many tourists but a large number of locals do their daily shopping here too.
Hidden among the nearly six miles of natural caves and tunnels beneath Buda Castle Hill is the Hospital in the Rock Museum, which preserves the history of a secret underground hospital that was later turned into a nuclear fallout shelter. Today visitors to the museum can wander through the cramped operating theatres and machinery filled nuclear bunkers, all of which have been restored to their wartime conditions.
A short distance to the north of Budapest on the banks of the Danube lies the picturesque town of Szentendre with its well-preserved 18th century Baroque townscape. Winding streets lead off the Main Square which is packed with museums, restaurants, cafés and souvenir shops
Warm or very warm summers and cold winters (November – March), with relatively little sun. Snow is quite frequent most years.
Any time of year. Budapest always represents good value for money.
In Our Opinion
If Budapest were to grace the front cover of a fashion magazine, it would undoubtedly be Vogue. Beautiful, stylish and with a history often too complex to comprehend, Budapest is a city not to be missed.
We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday and would not hesitate in using Cities Direct again in the future...Prague, Vienna & Budapest
Combining with a stay in Vienna, Prague or Bratislava