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The city of Budapest is split by the river Danube - the two ancient settlements of Buda and Pest merged in 1873, yet it remains a city of two halves. Buda with its craggy hills topped by medieval ramparts, cobbled alleyways and the superb Royal Palace; and Pest, a flat swathe of grand boulevards, museums, shops and nightlife.
A truly historic city, its wide boulevards, public buildings, monuments and parks are all remnants of previous empires that once occupied it, however, you can now feel the post-communist-now-European vibrancy on every street.
Pest in particular is filled with pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs and even in mid-winter you'll find plenty of alfresco musicians.
More than 120 hot springs bubble under Castle Hill and many have been tapped to provide exotic bathing so take advantage of this natural phenomenon while in Budapest. Enjoy the cobbled alleyways and restored Hapsburg architecture in the area as well – it’s like another world!
Statue Park, in the south of the city, is where huge Communist-era statues have ‘gone to pasture’ – the shift in the political system saw the removal of these statues from the streets of the city.
Flights to Budapest are with Malev Airlines and Aer Lingus on a daily basis.
Budapest offers exactly what a city break should be – it’s exotic, but manageable.
Hungarian cuisine is rich, meaty and cheap and with tourism hitting new heights, the restaurant industry has rearranged itself to meet, greet and feed its new patrons as they expect. That’s not to say that every restaurant will deliver, but it’s miles ahead of where it used to be.
• Gundel, Allatkerti Ut 2, Budapest 1146 – Awarded the accolade of one of the top 50 restaurants in the world in 2006, Gundel is at the top end of the market. Reservations, which are essential, can be made by email at email@example.com
• Karpatia, Ferenciek Ter 7 – 8, Budapest 1053 – Serving a mix of traditional Hungarian and International cuisine, Karpatia is a favourite among locals as well as tourists.
• Central Kavehaz, V. Karoly Mihaly Utca 9, Budapest – Coffee-house culture is big in Budapest and for gooey cake and cappuccinos in 19th century grandeur then Central Kavehaz should keep you content.
Hungarians drink hard and party late, but that should only make you feel at home! The Linszt Ferenc Square is a buzzing little square flanked by trendy drinking holes where many start their night out.
• Café Mediterran, Linszt Ferenc Ter 10, Budapest. Cool, laid back and a great place to grab a beer or three.
• Incognito, Linszt Ferenc Ter, Budapest. A bit more posy than the Café Mediterran, but ideal to start a night out.
• Oscar Café, Ostrom Utca 14 Moszkva tér, Budapest. Near the Castle District, the Oscar Café is dark and cosy with a bar counter as long as the Danube.
Shopping areas in Budapest are well planned, so you should find that the shops along the Vaci Utca or along the Nagy Korut meet with even the most discerning tastes. In recent years Budapest has seen more than ten major shopping malls open, attracting some western retailers, one of the largest malls being the WestEnd City Centre Mall, boasting over 400 shops, situated close to the city’s Western railway station.
If you do one thing in Budapest...
Landmark – Opera House
Museum – Museum of Contemporary Arts in the Royal Palace on Castle Hill
Club – Go to Bed, on the island Remenyi Ede utca on the Danube.
Baths – Rudas Gyogyfurdo
Airport to City Information
There is a half-hourly shuttle bus from Ferihegy Airport into Erzsebet Bus Station, the main Bus Station in Budapest. Taxis are also available at the airport for transport into the city.