Hungary is not often thought of as a holiday destination, but ask anyone who’s been there and they won’t be able to recommend it highly enough. It is a small landlocked country sharing its borders with seven neighbouring countries. Originally it was inhabited by the Magyars, an equestrian nomadic tribe, and it still upholds its Magyar traditions, culture and arts, whilst at the same time attentive to what is new and fashionable in the outside world.
The capital, Budapest, is undoubtedly what the country is most famous for. It is an intensely beautiful city, with incredible baroque architecture, and seemingly endless art works and treasures.
Split by the Danube, it is actually one city made of two halves - Buda and Pest. Buda is the older, more historic part of the city which is hillier and somehow more graceful. Pest on the other hand is the lively modern sector, a commercial centre peppered by stunning art nouveau buildings.
Wonderful as Budapest is, there is far more to Hungary than just its capital. Hungary is also home to historic towns and evocative landscapes, not to mention quality wines, rejuvenating thermal springs, and a thriving arts and music scene. As a country it has long held a reputation as a bohemian haven, with cities such as St Andrew's (Szentendre) and Pecs becoming home to some of Central Europe's most famous writers and artists.
Hungary also has 11 national parks and hundreds of protected areas to explore, along with Lake Balaton, Europe's largest body of fresh water, rivers and thousands of acres of vineyards and orchards.  
Hungary’s currency is the Hungarian Forint (Ft). Currency can be exchanged at hotels, banks, post offices, Bureaux de Change, airports, railways, travel agencies and some restaurants as well as automatic exchange machines. ATMs are found throughout the country and all major credit cards are widely accepted. If you are going to use Traveller’s Cheques, they are accepted in most post offices and banks but you are advised to take either Euro or US Dollar ones to avoid any further exchange rate charges.
Budapest was originally two cities built on either side of the Danube - namely Buda and Pest. They are still quite distinct today with their contrasting makeup. Buda is older and is made up of atmospheric cobbled streets, picturesque coloured houses and a medieval, neo-Classical mixture of architecture all set among the gentle hills of the west bank. It is famous for its historic Castle Hill featuring the Royal Palace, museums and galleries, St Matthias Church and the ramparts of Fisherman's Bastion.
In contrast, Pest lies on the flat plain and is the commercial hub of the city. It boasts fashionable shopping areas and wide, leafy boulevards. Andrássy Boulevard is the Champs-Elysées of Budapest culminating in the enormous Heroes’ Square.
Visitors are treated to a familiar European culture with a distinct Hungarian flavour which is evident everywhere - the neo-Gothic Parliament buildings, sidewalk cafés and Magyar cuisine. Highlights for visitors include a river cruise on the Danube and a thermal bath in one of the Turkish-era bathhouses.
To holiday in Budapest is to revel in one of the world's most beautiful cities. You can indulge in its breathtaking classical architecture, stunning vistas, and the romantic Danube River. But it’s not just about aesthetics, there are also the city's renowned operatic and music events and famed spa baths.
See & Do
Budapest has a wealth of sights to offer its visitors. The only problem you’ll have is trying to fit them all in. It is impossible to name everything here, so listed below are just some of the highlights:
  • Parliament Building
  • Castle District
  • City Park
  • St Stephen’s Church (Bazilika)
  • Royal Palace of Buda & Hungarian National Gallery
  • Jewish Budapest
  • Margaret Island
  • Gellert Hill
  • Roman Ruins of Aquincum
  • Thermal Baths
  • Ludwig Museum
  • Széchenyi Lánchid (Chain Bridge)
  • Budapest History Museum
  • Fisherman’s Bastion
  • Central Synagogue
  • Heroes’ Square & Millennium Monument
  • Matthias Church
  • Memento Park
  • Buda Castle Labyrinth
  • Budapest Eye
  • Cave Chapel
  • City Zoo & Botanical Gardens
  • Dreher Brewery & Beer Museum
  • Funfair Park
  • House of Terror
  • Hungarian State Opera House
  • Municipal Great Circus
  • Planetarium
Shopping in Budapest is very much a mix of western style superstores and independent traditional retailers. Many people buy folk arts and crafts, porcelain and antiques when they visit but fashion, salami, paprika, Fois Gras and wine are also excellent buys.
The main shopping area in the city is Vaci Utca in central Pest which is made up from a mix of traditional and westernised chain stores. For those that enjoy the shopping mall experience there is the West End Shopping Centre on Vaci Street. This mall comprises of two floors jammed packed with well known high street names such as Mango and Marks & Spencer as well as many restaurants and cafés.
You will find that the closer you get to the Castle District, the more touristy and pricey stores become. A great area for browsing is the streets north of Parliament Building (e.g. Falk Miksa). Here you will find small antique shops, art galleries, small boutiques and traditional crafts.
The city is also home to several markets. The best flea market is Ecseri Piac (Monday to Sunday) and there is a smaller one held in City Park called Petofi Csarnok.
At Pest end of Liberty Bridge is the Central Market Hall (Kozponti Vasarcsarnok) which sells just about anything and everything.
Food & Drink
Budapest is seeing an influx of international cuisines in its restaurants, but the dominating type is still traditional Magyar.
The city is home to thousands of restaurants and cafés. It is impossible to name them all but here are few of the best:
  • Gundel (Hungarian)
  • Museum (Hungarian)
  • Shiraz Restaurant (Persian)
  • Rivalda Café and Restaurant (Mediterranean)
  • Gloria Jean’s Coffee House (Mediterranean)
  • Karma Restaurant (Asian)
  • Articsoka (Seafood)
  • La Bodega (South American)
The city also has a thriving café culture ranging from the Grand Café to beer halls. Again, there are far too many to mention so below is just a selection of names to look out for:
  • Café Gerbeand
  • Leroy Café and Bar
  • Amstel River Café
  • Muvesz
  • Mandarin Bar and Etterem
  • Portside de Cuba
  • White Heaven
Budapest has a huge variety of world-class cultural entertainment to offer. From theatre to cinema and opera to music there are a number of stunning venues in the city such as Zeneakademia (Franz Liszt Academy of Music), Magyar Allami Operahaz (Hungarian State Opera House), National Concert Hall and Petofi Csarnok (main venue for rock and pop music events).
Bars and clubs abound in the city although there tends to be a high turnover rate. Below are a few current names you might like to look out for, but for up to date nightlife information check out the weekly magazines Scene and Pesi Est.
  • Kaméleon Club II
  • Bahn Hof
  • Fat Mo’s Music Club
  • School Club – Kozgaz
  • Piaf
  • SOTE Klub
  • Fészek Club
  • Angyal Bar
There are many events that take place throughout the year too. Below are just a few of the ones you might enjoy should your trip coincide:
  • March – Budapest Spring Festival
  • June – Margaret Island Open Air Theatre & Budapest Fair
  • July/August – Organ concerts at St Stephen’s Basilica, Summer Opera & Ballet festival, International Palace Tournament
  • August – Sziget Festival, F1 Grand Prix, St Stephen’s Day
  • September – Budapest’s International Wine Fair
  • September/October – Budapest Art Week, Contemporary Music Week
Despite the wealth of activities to see & do in Budapest you may want to take the opportunity to explore this fascinating country further. Your hotel will be able to provide you with details of what is available however here are a few suggestions to temp you with:
·         Lake Balaton
·         Szentendre (St Andrews), Visegard and Estzergom
·         Pecs (Hungary’s 4th largest city)
·         Puszta & the horsemen of the Plains
·         Danube river trip
Health & Safety
The tap water is safe to drink in Budapest. Healthcare is adequate but not up to Western European standards. Travellers are advised to ensure they have sufficient medical cover in place before travelling.
Crime is low but you should take the usual precautions with your valuables especially when in crowded tourist areas. Watch for overcharging, it is quite common so have your wits about you.


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