Budapest once used to be a city of two halves, with Buda and Obuda on the West of the River Danube and Pest on the East. Before the two came together, Budapest as it once was, had been invaded by the Ottomans who occupied the city in 1541. Eventually, after over 140 years, Hungary regained control but a reminder of the Turks remains with their beautifully constructed bathing facilities around the city.
Nowadays, Budapest is a thriving city after Buda and Pest united together in 1873. It is now the 6th most popular city destination in Europe with a flourishing financial district but it still retains the old romantic charm that this city has always had.
This beauty can be seen from the top of Gellert Hill where visitors can take in a full panoramic view of the city’s intricate architecture and winding river. Many of Budapest’s World Heritage Sites can also be seen from here and are just waiting to be explored!
Where to start first in this wonderful city? We think the best place to start is with a stroll down by the river. Take a walk on the East side to get some beautiful views of the hilly old half of Buda. From here you can see Buda Castle which is magnificent to look at in the day but it’s also a spectacular sight in the evening when the whole building is lit up.
Cross over the Chain Bridge, Budapest’s first permanent bridge that linked the two halves of the city. This iconic bridge built in 1849 provides a great connection over to the Castle District area, one of the most beautiful and historic parts of the city. This is when you get to see Buda Castle close up and learn about how it was first constructed in 1265 after the Mongolian invasion. The castle is now home to the National Library and Budapest History Museum.
From Castle District you can also get to Gellert Spa, one of the many thermal pools of Budapest. The Palace of Baths, as it is also known, takes advantage of the world’s largest underground thermal system and houses several geothermal pools to relax in. Take a swim under the beautiful Art Nouveau style glass roof or bathe in the beautifully tiled thermal baths which are said to be able to help joint illnesses among other medical ailments.
Another thermal pool in Budapest is the Szechenyi Baths at the Northern end of City Park. This popular and busy collection of thermal pools can be reached by taking a walk up Andrassy Avenue, one of the oldest streets in Budapest. It is under this road that the second oldest metro line in the world runs. This was Budapest’s way of reserving the road above and nowadays it is a street full of designer shops and cafes. Before reaching City Park on this long road, you’ll come across Heroes Square. Home to the Millenium Monument, this square is a reminder of those who gave their lives for Hungary and it’s national independence.
Budapest isn’t just a lovely city to visit in the summer. If you are lucky enough to visit Budapest at Christmas, expect to see one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe. With mulled wine, steaming hot chocolate and trams lit up like Christmas trees, there is no better place to get you in the Christmas spirit.
Hungary has a delightful mixture of traditional food combined with modern bistros serving up 5* food. Expect to find Fisherman’s and Goulash Soup on the menu along with a variety of fried sausage and bread. However, dishes aren’t as stodgy or as calorific as they used to be, so expect a more refined taste to the usual Hungarian favourites.
Restaurants are also starting to become more conscious with their wine choices with many upper end restaurants serving up tasty, vintage Hungarian wines. This connoisseur attitude has also become popular in the upcoming café culture of Budapest. Coffee houses now house champion baristas, who are ready to serve up your first delicious coffee off the day. There’s many independent shops around the city so you won’t be short of choice if you’re looking for a pick-me-up throughout the day.