They say if when you look in the Danube River and it’s blue then you’re in love, while that might not necessarily mean you’re in love with someone, one thing’s for sure you’ll definitely be in love with enchanting Budapest.
Hungary’s multifarious capital and violate past has resulted in an exuberant soul with the friendliest of locals all too eager to re encounter the tales of the city they are so proud of – the fact it hasn’t eradicated all of its scars, instead keeping the bullets holes on many of its buildings as a reminder of what the city and country went through and how it survived and thrived.
Divided into 23 districts, the picturesque Queen of Danube is split into the two zones Buda and Pest. To the west of the river is the undulating Buda hills, home to the eponymous castle, which retells Hungary’s history through its Neo-Renaissance and bourgeois architecture.
Rebuilt and restored several times after numerous invasions, Buda Castle is built atop the land where Budapest was founded. Stretching under the hill is the castle’s elaborate labyrinth.
The Royal Palace homes the National Gallery, displaying an astounding collection of paintings, while St Stephen’s Basilica is one of the most important examples of Neo-Classical architecture. It’s named after Stephen, the first king of Hungary whose mummified fist is housed in the reliquary.
Meanwhile, downtown Pest is Budapest’s commercial core offering a modern venture with shopping malls and entertainment. That said old-world charm abounds with its 103-year-old Parliament building.
With numerous parks, Pest is a hotspot for amblers, but City Park is perhaps its best housing the Zoo, and the world famous therapeutic thermal springs at Széchenyi, a beautiful baroque building with three outdoor pools and numerous indoor spas.
In the country that produced two of the world’s greatest 20th century composers – Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly – the abundance of concert halls and operas comes as no surprise. For a flourishing opera performance, Budapest’s State Opera House doesn’t disappoint.
Boasting 237 monuments, 223 museums and galleries, 35 theatres, two opera houses and 12 concert halls, culture-phobes may feel suffocated. If that’s the case take the easy route, hop on a riverboat and sail past medieval ruins and fortresses seeped with Art Nouveau architectural heritage.
During the communist era cafés were considered ideal venues for conspiring, as such Stalin closed most of them down. However, today the city’s soul is best sampled in convivial off-beat cafés. And like an over-eager grandmother, Budapest’s eateries are ready to fatten you up and make you feel at home.
For divine cakes, head to Ruszwurm – a tiny 180-year-old cafe with doilied tables and an ancient ceramic radiator. For something more substantial, try traditional goulash, or head to Budapest’s Great Market Hall for a variety of Hungarian treats.
Budapest’s beauty is known for causing people to procrastinate in their sightseeing, so adopt a military precision approach if there’s spots you’re determined to visit.
Whatever you fancy, Budapest will supply in abundance but still leave you Hungary for more...
While you’re there...
Walk chain bridge
Take a stroll along the oldest bridge linking Buda and Pest.
Visit statue park
Rather than destroy all the statues that once haunted the city during communist rule, the Hungarians moved all of Stalin’s monuments to this park. There are 41 in total, each a reminder of the country’s harrowing past.
Enjoy a kodak moment
Fisherman’s Bastion on Buda hill is ideal for panoramic views of the city. So picturesque the structure itself is a continuation from the castle and is as breathtaking as the view.
Where to stay
Four Seasons Gresham Palace
An art nouveau masterpiece overlooking the famous Danube. Boasting opulent interiors – sweeping mosaic hallways, palatial rooms, marble accents and rich hues – it has old-world charm but modern amenities. One of the best equipped hotels with TV channels in virtual every language and a DVD player. Every night guests are surprised with sweet treats that show off the city’s famous pastries.
Decadence continues in the restaurants whether it’s foie-gras omelette for breakfast or rare wines at dinner. Burn it all off in the impressive steel pool, well-kitted gym, or on one of the jogging routes mapped out by the hotel! Every detail is thought of. The hotel complements everything!
Rihanna is one of many stars to come and perform live in the city’s arena.