Technically, Budapest is a young city, formed in 1873 when Buda, the capital of Hungary since 1361, was united with Pest, its neighbour across the River Danube. In reality, it is an old and beautiful city with a rich history and culture.
Budapest enjoys a spectacular setting, with the leafy Buda Hills to the west and the edge of Hungary's Great Plain to the east. It is one of central Europe's finest cities and boasts a wealth of baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau architecture, with some fascinating churches and museums.
A romantic cruise down the Danube is a popular activity for visitors to Budapest, along with a stop at one of the city's numerous thermal spas. Spend the evening sampling some excellent food and wine which served at very reasonable prices, but be sure to save some energy for enjoying Budapest's great nightlife!
Buda is the older, more historic part of Budapest, and is home to Castle Hill, where most of the city's medieval remains can be found. Enjoying a prime position overlooking the Danube, the area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Take the funicular railway from Clark Ádám tér up the hill to Szent György, or take a minibus from Várfok utca to Vienna Gate. Key attractions on castle hill include: Matthias Church, with its colourful tiled roof and impressive interior; Fishermen's Bastion, an attractive Gothic structure offering great views of Pest and the Parliament Building; and the often-rebuilt Royal Palace (Buda Castle), once home to the Hungarian and Habsburg royal families and now the site of the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
To the south of Castle Hill is the Citadella, built but never used as a fortress by the Habsburgs. It offers panoramic views over the Danube and its 8 bridges and was used by Soviet troops during the Hungarian Revolution as a vantage point for firing on the city. You can reach the Citadella by climbing the stairs behind the statue of St Gellért, which stands imposingly above a small waterfall surrounded by greenery.
Those interested in Budapest's political history should take a tram or bus to Statue Park in south-west Buda, where over 40 monuments stand in honour of socialist and Soviet heroes.
Much of Pest's most important architecture can be found on the attractive Andrássy út boulevard, such as the elegant, neo-renaissance Hungarian State Opera House and the strikingly modern New Theatre. Also on this road is the House of Terror, once the headquarters of the ÁVH secret police and now a museum recording the brutal acts and atrocities committed under the fascist and Stalinist regimes.
At its south-west end, Andrássy út meets Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út, where the impressive St Stephen's Basilica is located. The most important church in Hungary, the basilica stands 96m high and houses the mummified right hand of St Stephen in its reliquary. You can ascend the impressive dome by taking the lift and climbing about 150 steps to the top.
One of Budapest's most iconic structures is the Parliament Building, set on the banks of the Danube. As well as being the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, it is also home to the Crown of St Stephen, the country's most important national icon.
Other important sights in Budapest include the National Museum, Heroes' Square, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Great Synagogue, home to the Jewish Museum.
Margaret Island (Margit-sziget) is located in the middle of the Danube and makes a great place to relax on a sunny day. The island is mainly covered in landscaped parks, with a Japanese garden, medieval ruins, a musical fountain and a small zoo.
A visit to Budapest isn't complete without spending some time in the Thermal Baths. The city lies on a geographical fault and has over 120 thermal springs spilling out over 40 million litres a day. Soak in the warm mineral waters at one of the city's numerous bathhouses, the most famous of which is Gellért Baths on XI Kelenhegyi út.
Enjoy traditional Hungarian hospitality at one of our great Budapest B&Bs or panzios.Budapest Rooms
Budapest Rooms is a fresh and stylish B&B offering comfortable accommodation, quality service and a friendly atmosphere in the centre of Budapest. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms, free internet access and cable TV. Each has been individually decorated using a soothing palette of warm tones, creating a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere for you to come home to after a long day of sightseeing. Guests also enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast and free internet access. Budapest Rooms is located close to two metro lines and numerous bus routes, and all the top attractions are within easy reach.Antique Guesthouse
If you're looking for somewhere with a bit of character, try Antique Guesthouse, a quiet and cosy B&B located at the foot of Castle Hill. Offering a taste of traditional Buda, Antique Guesthouse has a number of comfortable guestrooms furnished with a quirky collection of antiques, many of which are available to buy or trade! Margaret Island and the Danube are just minutes away, with good bus, tram and metro connections also close by. You can also find thermal baths within walking distance.Budapest Museum Central
Budapest Museum Central is a small and intimate guesthouse at the heart of Budapest, right opposite the National Museum. The property is set in an attractive 19th-century building and offers a range of well-appointed rooms, suitable for singles, couples or families. Facilities include LCD TVs, free internet access, air conditioning, heated floors and en-suite bathrooms, while the luxurious studio suites also boast jacuzzi baths and kitchenettes. A tasty breakfast is delivered to your room each morning.Botel Hotel Lisa
Enjoy life on the Danube at Botel Lisa, a charming hotel boat moored on the island of Csepel. Get cosy in the cute cabins, each of which is equipped with an en-suite bathroom, satellite TV and internet access, or head down to the bar and restaurant to enjoy delicious Hungarian food and wine overlooking the water. Within easy reach of public transport connections, Botel Lisa is the ideal choice for travelers who want to experience something a bit different while visiting Budapest.
Budapest Ferihegy International Airport (BUD) is located about 16km from the city centre, with minibuses, taxis and trains running in between.
All public transport in the city is operated by BKV-ZRT. An extensive network of buses, trams, trains and a metro make it very easy to get around, especially if you buy a pass which means you can hop on and off without having to buy a ticket for each journey.
The underground metro system is the second oldest in the world and dates back to 1896. It currently has three lines but a fourth is under construction.
Taxis vary in price depending which company you use, but will be cheaper if you book in advance.
The Danube-Ipoly National Park extends West from Budapest and is one of the most diverse areas in Hungary in terms of its flora and fauna, which includes several types of eagle. The forested mountains and hills hide fascinating caves, meadows, lakes and even traces of a prehistoric human settlement.
Szentendre is a charming medieval town about 20km north of Budapest. Its picturesque riverside location and wealth of arts & crafts shops make it a popular destination for daytrips from the city. Szentendre also has an attractive selection of churches and cathedrals and some interesting museums, but on a summer's day you'll enjoy just strolling down the cobbled streets and taking in the atmosphere.
On the banks of the Danube about 50km north of Budapest is Esztergom, one of the oldest towns in the country. Esztergom has a huge historical significance and has been the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary for over a millennium. A key attraction, therefore, is the Esztergom Basilica, the largest church in Hungary, a stunning domed building which dominates the town. You can also visit the remains of a medieval royal palace, a number of museums and thermal baths.
Find out more information about travel in Hungary at Hungary.com.
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By: Eleanor Brown