In the last 10 to 15 years, numerous Eastern European capitals have undergone drastic transformations to improve their image and boost their attractiveness, yet very few have rivalled Budapest’s unbroken rise to fame.
Few European capitals nowadays compete with Budapest in terms of popularity but then few European capitals can challenge Budapest’s stunning architectural beauty, its picturesque riverbanks and its astounding array of attractions. Here are some suggestions on how to explore this magnificent city.
History and overview:
The 1.8M inhabitants capital of Hungary has a long and impressive history. The city was originally founded as a Celtic settlement in the Roman era before the Hungarians (one of the oldest nations in Europe) claimed the area in the 9th Century.
Budapest has since been pillaged by the Mongols, risen to cultural prominence in the Renaissance and endured Ottoman rule for nearly 150 years before the Hungarians re-established the city’s independence and unified the two parts separated by the Danube river, Buda and Pest, in 1873.
The unification heralded an era of economic prosperity and global influence in the context of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Empire collapsed in 1917 and after the terrible war episodes of the mid 20th Century, Budapest fell into the hands of the communists, which led to the famous Budapest uprising in 1956.
The fall of communism in 1989 saw Hungary regain its path to economic success and provided the first steps for Budapest’s new prosperity.
Budapest is nowadays Hungary’s economic and political centre as well as one of the most flourishing cities in Central Europe. The advent of low cost airlines and the accession to the European Union has moreover boosted Budapest’s tourism industry making it one of the most visited cities in Europe, for good reason.
Bohem Art Hotel: A great hotel situated in a quiet central area and close to all the major sights. Its modern and crisp design rooms are topped only by its amazing breakfast buffet. Check it out here
Best Choice Hostel: The budget option for Budapest! Right in the centre and well equipped, this hostel will delight you with the kindness of its staff and the quality of its service while furthermore enabling solo travellers to meet other wondering souls. Check it out here
Cultural offer and activities:
Chain Bridge and Old Town: One of the landmarks that will catch your eyes is the Chain Bridge which has been recently renovated and has thereby regained its former glory. In addition to the Chain Bridge, the beautifully restored buildings in the Old Town have lost none of their charm and epitomize the architectural genius this city was based upon.
Thermal Baths: One of the most well-known particularities of Budapest is its impressive number of thermal bath complexes, some are from the 19th Century, some are from the communist era and some have been recently modernized. My suggestions would be: Széchenyi Baths (Állatkerti krt. 9-11) and Gellert Baths (Kelenhegyi út 4), the former being very crowded in high season but nonetheless an amazingly maintained historical location, especially when the odd party is organized in the baths.
Hungarian National Museum :(Múzeum krt. 14-16 ) The ideal place to learn more about Hungarian culture and the very specific place that the Hungarian nation and language occupy within Europe’s cultural landscape.
Hungarian Parliament Building: An architectural masterpiece that can be admired from the riverbanks, which are also an ideal place for a romantic walk or a casual stroll.
Gellert Hill and Buda Castle: Hiking up Gellert hill is a favourable activity and on top you will be rewarded with the breathtaking views over the city.
Buda Castle, the historical residence of Hungarian kings is another stunning feat of architecture that should absolutely not be missed during your trip to the Hungarian capital.
Danube Cruise: A cruise on the river enables you to marvel at the beautiful riverside architecture during the day or to enjoy a few drinks on one of the many partyboats.
Market Hall:(Vámház krt. 1-3) The market hall is an excellent place to shop for local delicacies and it offers a wide range of traditional goods produced in Hungary.
Hungarian National Museum
Wine & Dine:
Buddha Bar Budapest:(Váci u. 34) The legendary Buddha Bar chain also has a restaurant in Budapest which is exactly like the other establishments… amazing in every way.
Zeller Bistro:(Izabella u. 38) My favourite local restaurant in Budapest. If you are looking for authentic, priceworthy, high quality local cuisine, look no further.
El Asador de Pata Negra:(Paulay Ede u. 39) A high end Spanish restaurant with absolutely delicious meat platters and fabulous steaks.
Szimpla Kert, Ruin Pubs: (Kazinczy u. 14) The mother of all ruin pubs. The Hungarian capital has a very lively ruin pub culture and Szimpla Kert (Simple Garden) is the pioneer of this type of pub, an absolute must when in Budapest, although a bit mainstream
Akvarium:(Erzsébet tér 12) An amazing bar in the centre of the city with great cocktails and Palinka (the most famous Hungarian liquor) and a cool terrace for warm summer nights
Oetkert:(Zrínyi u. 4) A good option for pretty much everyone. Oetkert is one of the most well known clubs in Budapest and frequented by locals and tourists alike. The bottom line is business as usual, well priced drinks, great atmosphere and a mixed crowd.
Nomuri:(resuming operations shortly) One of the top electro clubs in a very cool factory like setting. The place for electro lovers in central Budapest
Ice Bar Budapest: (Váci u. 40) A bit touristy but still a unique experience in Budapest’s nightlife landscape.
Budapest is one of my favourite cities in Europe, there are very few disadvantages apart from mass tourism and its beauty sweeps most people off their feet right away. If you haven’t visited Budapest yet and live in Europe, seriously, you don’t know what you are missing.