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Budapest City Holidays

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Top 5 things to see and do in Budapest, the Pearl of the Danube

1. See fine art at Buda Castle

Explore 1,000 years of Hungarian art and history at Buda Castle, the former home of the Hungarian royalty. You can see the huge building from most places in the city, and these days it houses both the National Gallery and the History Museum. Make a day of it and see 19th-century Hungarian paintings before getting a good idea of Budapest through the ages.

2. Cross the Chain Bridge

The separate cities of Buda, Pest and Óbuda were united in 1873 to create a new capital, Budapest. Cross the Danube from Buda to Pest (or vice versa) using the 19th-century Chain Bridge – it’s best to come after sunset when it’s completely lit up. On the Pest side, there’s the beautiful Gresham Palace, while on the Buda side you’re just a funicular ride away from Buda Castle.

3. Chill out in the Icebar

Enjoy a drink at Budapest’s trendiest bar, where everything from the bar top to your champagne flute is made of ice. A nippy 5oC means you’ll need to wear your winter clothing no matter what season you’re visiting, but thermal capes and gloves are given out at the door. Book ahead as this place gets very busy.  

4. Enjoy a thermal bath

Take your pick from the 15 thermal baths that are open to the public. Enjoy a bit of pampering at the baths near Gellért Hill, or head to the 16th-century Rudas Bath that also hosts regular spa parties on Fridays and Saturdays. Children will love the chutes and wave machine at the Palatinus Bath on Margaret Island.

5. Explore Gellért Hill

Walk to the top of Gellért Hill and get the best view of the city. At the very top is the Citadella, a fortress-like building with views up and down the Danube river. On your way up, stop off at the caves and be dazzled by the white crystals that cover the interior walls. Finish your walk (or start it) with a relaxing dip in the Gellért Baths at the foot of the hill.

Insider Tip

1) Great Market Hall is the number one place to pick up real Hungarian food and drink. It can get very busy at weekends, but is quieter during the week – especially on a Monday.

2) If you fancy doing a spot of shopping during your city break, Pest is best! As the more modern side of the city, its streets combine artisan fairs, chic boutiques and contemporary shopping arcades.

3) It may be steep, but it’s well worth the effort to reach the top of Gellert Hill. Amongst the mighty statues, you’ll enjoy incredible views of Buda Castle, the River Danube and Chain Bridge.

4) Visit one of the most original venues in Europe – the Artemovsk A38. Converted from a Ukrainian stone trawler, this huge ship on the Danube houses cultural events, live music and a nightclub!

Food and drink

When dusk draws near, the city ignites, as you can enjoy cool drinks in romkocsma pubs set in arty ruined residences. As well as trying the local fruit brandy known as palinka, you should also stop by at Budapest’s famously ornate coffee shops. Delicacies are often liberally spiced with paprika, such as the classic stew, goulash. Wander along the Danube in Pest and you’ll see many restaurant boats to enjoy the traditional cuisine in a waterfront setting.

Shopping

For unique souvenirs, Hungarian folk art shops are a sure thing as they feature traditional embroidery, delicate dolls and local pottery. Shopping of a grander nature starts on Vaci Street, which is the main medieval thoroughfare of Pest. Andrassy Avenue is also lined with both boutiques and architectural marvels. Alternatively, you could find some bargain souvenirs at the many stalls of the Great Market Hall.

Must-see

As the capital of Hungary, a grand atmosphere flows through the city, especially at the mint-topped domes of Buda Castle. Rising high upon the hillside, at the castle you can look out upon the colossal suspension structure of the Chain Bridge and the elaborate neoclassical facade of St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Getting around

Travelling around Budapest is a beautiful, unique experience, thanks to the Millennium Underground Railway. The oldest underground system in mainland Europe, its stations have a classic style that recall the late 19th century when they were built. Many areas of the city are pedestrianised too, such as the grand Heroe's Square.

If you’re in town…

…from 6–8 February you can experience the Mangalica Festival – a three-day extravaganza in celebration of Hungary’s most famous breed of pig. The Mangalica pig is native to Hungary and easy to spot thanks to its thick hair. It’s one of the city’s biggest events and best of all it’s free.

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Budapest City

top holiday deals

nights,

At A Glance

  • Language

    Hungarian
  • Currency

    forint
  • Time difference

    1 hour
  • Travel

    4,150 forint for a 3-day public transport tourist ticket (approx £10.50)
  • Beer

    200-1,000 forint (approx £0.50 - £2.50)
  • 3-course meal

    5,000 to 12,000 forint (approx £12.50 - £30.00)
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