Visiting Budapest - What to See and Do
(Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport BUD, Hungary)
The twin cities of Buda and Pest, set on the opposing banks of the River Danube, combine to form one of Europe's most lively and fascinating cities - Budapest
. The capital of Hungary
for many centuries, Budapest's unique ambience includes a buzzing nightlife scene, as well as world-class classical concerts, operas, theatre performances, and great shopping and eating opportunities.
Nicknamed the 'Paris of the East' for its stunning architecture, much of which features the romantic Art Nouveau style, the city gives visitors an exceptional bonus with its natural thermal baths. The Buda Castle Quarter, Andrassy Avenue and the banks of the Danube all contributed to this city becoming UNESCO World Heritage-listed.
Whilst its glorious buildings are the city's main attraction for its ever-increasing number of visitors, Budapest offers a great deal more to see and do. Its festival calendar is packed with events and, for family visits, its famous circus, amusement park, state-of-the-art zoo and choice of museums are fun for kids and their parents alike.
Ten things you must do in Budapest
- The Royal Palace and Hungary's National Gallery are set high on Castle Hill with a stunning view of the city. Seven more museum attractions are located on Castle Hill, from the Historic Museum with its medieval treasures and the Military Museum with artefacts and uniforms from the 11th century, to everyone's favourite, the Marzipan Museum.
- Two of the most magnificent buildings in Budapest are the neo-Gothic Parliament Building, set on the banks of the River Danube, and St. Stephen's Basilica. A third is Budapest's Opera House, said to be the loveliest in Europe. Even if you are short of time, these three are sightseeing musts for their elaborate styles and sheer size.
- The thermal spa baths and their healing waters are high on the list of things to do in Budapest. Most are set in heritage buildings and all have a range of soothing thermal pools, with many offering swimming pools, massages, beauty therapies and natural healing treatments. The Szechenyi Baths even features games of chess with local players and an outdoor bath lit at night.
- Shopaholics will fall in love with this city for the sheer variety of ways to spend money. The Central Market Hall, the Design Market and the Gozsdu Udvar courtyard are the places to go for gifts, fashions, spices, handicrafts, unique textiles and homewares, as well as jewellery, art and antiques. The centrally located shopping district is crammed with boutiques and department stores.
- Sipping a glass of champagne while gliding down the River Danube on a boat cruise is one of the most lovely treats in this romantic city. Night cruises are favorites for their spectacular views of the illuminated Old City and Castle Hill, and longer daytime cruises follow the Danube into the countryside.
- Jewish Budapest is a fascinating district popular for its iconic Klezmer music and concerts, as well as for the annual Jewish Summer Festival. The Dohany Street Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, delicious deli foods, boutiques selling handmade crafts and much more are found in this atmospheric area.
- Budapest's lively nightlife simply has to be experienced for its parties, dance clubs, pubs and bars catering to all ages and tastes. Live jazz is popular here, as is gypsy music, with many bars boasting resident musicians. Late-night dance clubs are crowded with party animals and some offer famous DJs or visiting live bands.
- For a chilling look back to Hungary's days as a Communist Bloc country, a visit to the House of Terror Museum is a must. This attraction is the most popular history museum in the city and displays unique content from the black days of the WWII German occupation and the post-war Communist era.
- Varosliget Park, a former royal hunting ground, is now a beautiful green oasis set behind Heroes Square and containing Budapest's zoo and amusement park, a lake which becomes a skating rink in winter and the remarkable Vajdahunyad Castle, as well as some ancient trees and the eerie Statue of the Unknown.
- Ramblers and walkers in need of a break from city life should head for the Buda Hills just behind the city. The comprehensive trail network passes several interesting caves complete with stalactites and stalagmites, and winds over forested slopes and pretty valleys. Getting here is half the fun, via tram, chair lift or mini-train.