Budapest is a fantastic city for visitors to explore, not least because it really gives them two cities in one, Buda and Pest. The regal past of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is obvious throughout the city but it is mixed with the grimy industrialism of communism and the scars of its epic failure. Budapest is well connected to all the major cities of Europe as well as many further afield and has excellent infrastructure to support the growing number of visitors that arrive each year.
photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis
Budapest is a city that rewards long walks and many visitors find that this is the best way to get around. The public transport system is good and anyone lacking mobility can use it to quickly shuttle between distant locations, but for everyone else it is best used as an addendum to their explorations rather than their primary means. Both Buda and Pest can easily take a full days exploring, excluding the time taken to visit the major museums and other sights.
Pest is almost entirely flat while Buda is perched on undulating hills that give great views over the rest of the city. Castle Hill is a must but it gets very crowded with coach tours loading and unloading every few minutes in the busy summer period. Gellert Hill is the taller and steeper cousin but the wooded, shady slopes can be a great relief from the sun, the view is better and the crowds lighter.
There are few unspoilt romantic opportunities as a cruise on the Danube through Budapest, especially at sunset. The view is spectacular whatever company you are keeping but for couples it can be a magical experience. Check out the boats available, the level of facilities and prices differ wildly and be aware that a cheap price may mean you are stuck on a barely floating bucket of bolts for an hour or two. The truly luxurious boats come with a price tag to match but it can be worth it.
Most visitors leave Budapest without ever trying one of the famous spa baths that are a relic of the Turkish occupation of the area centuries ago. The water comes from natural springs and is rumoured to have healing properties. It is certainly relaxing and can be a fun indoor activity if rain has driven you from the streets.
If your visit is long enough, a day trip from Budapest to Vienna is both rewarding and educational. Once the twin capitals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, twentieth century history left the two cities on different sides of the Iron Curtain and the consequences of this are still obvious today. This fact makes like for like comparisons of the two cities, of the types that guide book writers and travel agents enjoy so much, redundant and invites travellers to dig a little deeper into the history and culture of the region to discover for themselves the forces that shaped what they see around them.
Hotels in Budapest
Europa Centerpoint Guesthouse
Average Price: €25
Average rating: 8.1
Hotel Danubius Gellért
Average Price: €61
Average rating: 7.6
Inn Claudia Rooms
Average Price: €30