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Soak up some unforgettable views

Hungary’s capital Budapest is a city of two distinct, but equally compelling, halves; Lively Pest and the more relaxed Buda, divided by a beautiful stretch of the mighty Danube River. On either side you can discover majestic churches and stunning art nouveau architecture, atmospheric ruin bars, revitalising thermal baths, eye-opening museums and bustling markets – all neatly wrapped up in one of Europe’s best value destinations.

 

Budapest is famed for its collection of historic thermal bathhouses. For the best experience head to the intimate, uncrowded example of Veli Bej Bath in Hotel Csaszar for a soothing dip. Linger over a coffee and chimney cake in New York Cafe, a palatial venue festooned with frescoes, gilded mirrors and stuccoed angels that’s been popular with the Budapest intelligentsia since it opened in 1894. Down a potent glass of palinka in one of the city’s quirky ruin bars, dilapidated Cold War-era buildings reimagined by hipsters as eccentric drinking dens. Stock up on foodie treats at the buzzy, neo-Gothic Central Market Hall, with stalls over three floors laden down with fruits, vegetables, dairy products, salamis, pickles, fresh fish, Hungarian paprika, Tokaj wines and more. Pay a sobering visit to the House of Terror, an excellent museum which documents the horrors of the city’s dark fascist and communist past. Book your flights to Budapest today and start exploring.

 

 

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Carefully selected Budapest hotels

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Best hotels in Budapest for all types of traveller

We have a great selection of quality hotels in Budapest to recommend. Hard Rock Hotel Budapest in the heart of downtown Budapest delivers amenities including a state-of-the-art Body Rock Fitness Centre, the Rock Om yoga experience and the option to have a Fender guitar delivered right to your hotel room. Aria Hotel Budapest is a luxurious boutique hotel near St Stephen’s Basilica. Its special music-themed rooms feature comfy sofas and velvet chaise longues and curtains, while most have balconies overlooking the attractive Music Garden Courtyard. The cosy and contemporary D8 Hotel is just steps away from the Chain Bridge. Enjoy a drink and a bite in the spacious lobby which also dispenses free tea and coffee in the mornings. Bo18 Hotel*** Superior near the Corvin shopping mall and promenade offers a lavish Champagne buffet breakfast, a wellness corner with Jacuzzi, infrared and Finnish saunas, and a bar with a 24-hour wine menu.

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Budapest holiday FAQs

Make the most of your Budapest holiday

One of Budapest’s most affecting memorials is next to the Danube, just in front of the National Parliament building. Sixty pairs of iron shoes line the embankment in tribute to the hundreds of Jewish men, women and children who were rounded up, ordered to remove their shoes and shot on the riverbank by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944-1945. The art installation was the brainchild of filmmaker Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer, and you’ll often find candles and flowers laid beside the shoes in tribute.

What are the best things to do in Budapest?

1. Buda Castle, also known as the Royal Palace, dominates the city skyline from its vantage point high at the top of Varhegy (Castle Hill). The castle’s origins date back to the 14th Century, though the majestic Baroque building you see today was built during the early 18th Century. Today it houses several important cultural institutions including the Hungarian National Gallery, the National Library and the Budapest History Museum. Reach it via a charming funicular railway and don’t miss the imposing neoclassical tunnel beneath the castle which connects it with the Chain Bridge and is considered the official gateway to the city.

2. The Fisherman’s Bastion sits high on Castle Hill offering fine panoramic views of the Danube and Pest. Built between 1895 and 1902 in neo-Gothic and neo-Romantic styles it features seven decorative towers which represent the seven tribes which conquered Hungary. Behind the bastion sits an equestrian statue of St Stephen, Hungary’s first king, which is one of the city’s most visited monuments. The steps leading up to the bastion are decorated with copies of ancient statues which make it especially photogenic.

3. A Danube River cruise is a must for any first-time visitor to Budapest. Whether you fancy a romantic four-course dinner cruise, a lunchtime cruise with a glass of wine or a trip on a party boat, the city is best seen from the water. You’ll glide past iconic landmarks such as the Hungarian Parliament building, which is illuminated at night, Buda Castle and the recently restored Varkert Bazar. Head to the boat’s open deck to take in views and snap pictures of the Vigado Concert Hall and the floodlit monuments between the Margaret and Rakoczi bridges.

4. The Hungarian Parliament building is one of the city’s most impressive sights. This magnificent building, constructed over 17 years in the late 19th Century, has a Baroque floorplan, a Gothic facade and a Renaissance ceiling, while architect Imre Steindl drew inspiration from Britain’s own Houses of Parliament for its design. The building is especially lavish with around 40 million bricks and 30,000 cubic metres of carved stones used for its construction, around three kilometres of red carpet and 40 kilograms of 22-23 carat gold. An underground visitor’s centre has a permanent exhibition and an excellent bookshop.

5. Named after Hungary’s first king, St Stephen’s Basilica is Hungary’s third largest church. The 96-metre-tall neoclassical church is one of Budapest’s tallest structures with its twin belltowers, one of which holds Hungary’s largest bell. The building was completed in 1905 and stands on the site of a former theatre which once hosted animal fights. Catch a concert here or take a guided tour to see the church’s collection of treasures, including a relic of St Stephen’s right hand, and get access to the dome with its panoramic city views.

6. The 13th Century Matthias Church on Castle Hill was used as a mosque during Turkish rule before being converted during the late 19th Century when it received its current neo-Gothic makeover. Look out for a pair of majestic gates and an intricate set of carvings at its southern entrance. Inside you’ll find three aisles decorated with lavish frescoes and the Matthias Church Collection of Ecclesiastical Art, which includes ornate monstrances, reliquaries and chalices, plus replicas of the Crown of St Stephen and the coronation throne.

7. The Hungarian State Opera House is a stunning neo-Renaissance building designed by Miklos Ybl in 1884. The facade is dotted with statues of Puccini, Mozart, Liszt and Verdi, while its interior dazzles with marble columns, gilded vaulted ceilings, chandeliers and fantastic acoustics. There’s also a statue of Ferenc Erkel who penned Hungary’s national anthem, while the royal box, foyer and numerous artworks make this a special place to watch a concert. Hour-long tours of the opera house are run daily.

8. If you’re looking for a way to navigate the steep Buda hills with a difference, try a trip on the Zugliget Chairlift. It covers more than one-kilometre journey up the city’s highest peak Janos-hegy in just 12 minutes, rising 262 metres in the process. At the top sits the Erzsebet lookout tower from which you can experience an unparalleled view of the city, including the Parliament building, and the surrounding hills.

Where are the best places to stay in Budapest?

Budapest’s ‘Inner City’ is full of historic buildings and great shopping. Belvaros, or District V, lies along the east bank of the Danube in Pest and follows the old city walls. See the famous Viennese-style cafes on Vaci Utca, and take the walk from the glorious St Stephen’s Basilica to Heroes Square, via the Oktagon. At the weekend, head to Erzsebet ter (Elizabeth’s Square) to people watch, or drink and chat with the locals who show up in force.

Erzsebetvaros or Elizabeth Town, is famous for the Jewish Quarter. The Great Synagogue here is the largest functioning temple in Europe and sits amid narrow streets full of cafes and bars. The area has emerged from its dark past as a hip place to be, with design shops, restored buildings and cool ruin bars including the huge Szimpla Kert.

Leopold Town sits in the northern part of District V, and is an attractive area where remarkable 18th and 19th Century buildings exist alongside contemporary structures. Seen as the power centre of Budapest, government buildings, banks and embassies dominate the skyline, including the Hungarian Parliament which sits on the beautiful Kossuth Square. The striking Four Seasons Gresham Palace is a luxury hotel right in the centre of Leopold Town with great access to all of Budapest.

Theresa Town, or Terezvaros, is home to the beautiful Andrassy Avenue. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this wonderfully elegant boulevard has a classic fin de siecle style. Think neo-Renaissance mansions, sophisticated cafes and luxury boutiques. The Avenue rolls down through the theatre district toward Heroes’ Square and the City Park. A cultural centre, it is considered the ‘fancy part of town’. Also, in City Park you will find a brilliant spa – the first in Pest, dating back to 1881 .

The Castle District is the historic area of Buda, housing the magnificent Royal Palace and many other grand buildings. The Castle District may be small but it makes up for it with the number of sights. Alongside the Royal Palace, there is the Matthias Church, the Gothic Fisherman’s Bastion and Castle Hill – another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The steep, meandering streets of Castle Hill have a medieval atmosphere, offering spectacular views of the Danube, Margaret Island (a great place for kids) and Pest.

Take the bus or train to attractions outside the city centre. Memento Park houses the old Communist-era statues of Lenin, Marx and Bela Kun, leader of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, among many other socialist statues destined for the scrapheap. A perfect trip for kids is the Children’s Railway. The conductors, ticket office staff and porters are all aged between 10-14 years old. This is one of quaintest attractions in Budapest, and well worth the journey.

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It’s a city of two sides – the ruined past andthe dynamic present.