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Holidays to Budapest
Budapest - a tale of two cities
Bisected by the river Danube, modern Budapest is the official pairing of Buda and Pest on November 17 1873. What really matters to you though, dear traveller, is you can enjoy historic Buda and cultural Pest without fear or favour!
There's so much to see and do in this city it's hard to know where to begin. It's perfect for new year breaks, romantic weekend breaks, whatever you need. The real drawcard is history. Budapest has witnessed the worst and the best of times. From magnificent infrastructure under the mediaeval kings, to destructive occupying forces throughout the centuries, Budapest has managed to survive into the 21st century as a modern city with a historical heart of gold. As far as city breaks go, there's plenty for the casual visitor to see and do and the longer term traveller won't have much free time either!
Food is excellent and of high quality - albeit on the heavy side and the local wines are surprisingly good. Anyone with a liking for beer will be in seventh heaven and the locals are justifiably proud of the micro-breweries and not-so-microbreweries that abound. Overall Hungary and Budapest is very safe. At most you should watch out for the tiresome nightclub scam where a friendly local invites you to drink in a bar, with what turns out to be a prohibitively expensive tab at the end. Be on guard. You might also ask the likely price of a taxi ride before hopping in.
Sightseeing is easily done on foot and you can safely just wander to your heart's content and see plenty or plan a more structured itinerary if you've a mind to do it.
Eating out in Budapest
Cheap, expensive and everything in between.
Two things spring to mind when thinking of Hungarian food - paprika and pork, and while you'll find plenty of the that, a million other choices are there for the taking.
You might start your Hungarian food odyssey in Raday and Liszt Ferenc. The large square off Liszt is awash in cafes, restaurants and food stalls. You'll find excellent tapas-style foods with a Hungarian twist. Think matzo-ball soup, pork, rabbit and vegetable ragout. The street is traffic-free so is a delightful place to stroll as you select your restaurant for the evening. If it's warm, try to sit outside and watch young Budapest at play.
Most of the meal choices are in Pest, so do your day's sightseeing in Buda and cross one of the bridges for a leisurely stroll to a cafe for the evening.
Koleves on Kazinczy and Dob is fun and caters to the young, hip crowd with it's moderate prices and quick menu choices.
Klassz on Andrassy features a classic Hungarian menu. Definitely a treat night, but stylish, fresh and very good food that will convince you to never look at rabbit or vegetables the same way again.
If it's nothing but the best for you; then Gundel on Allatkerti is your restaurant. An international destination with prices to match, you'll love the wine list and the traditional food with a innovative twist. Want to stay up to date with the latest in Hungarian food trends? Then head to Buena Vista on Liszt Ferenc. A large terrace means you can people watch as you devour fresh, light meals all the way up to excellent fish and meat choices.
What to wear, when to go
Budapest enjoys a moderate climate; somewhere in between the colder extremes of northern Europe and the sunnier Mediterranean climate of the south. Wettest months are May and June while the driest months are January and February. Summer runs from June to August with average daily temps around the 20C mark. Winter is cool, with January hovering below zero. Winter runs from December to February. Spring is delightful - still cool enough to spend the day walking, but not in exhausting heat. Average day time temps are around 11-15C. Autumn is crisp with daily temps around 15C dropping sharply in November.
Budapest - history and European Spa culture
The first thing to do with Budapest is to split it in two. Buda is historic and encapsulates the Castle district. Pest is where the people live and where you'll find the spas, restaurants and cafe society. There are also plenty of galleries and other attractions on the Pest side of the river.
Let's start with historic Budapest. Begin with the Church of Our Lady. The imposing facade belies the schizophrenic history. Originally built in Buda as a Catholic Church in the 4th century, the building was turned into a Mosque during the Turkish occupation and was then restored as a church in the 1600s. The stunning cupola, the richly painted arches and frescos that adorn the walls are worthy of the one of the grandest Cathedrals outside Rome. The nearby streets are charming - the parliament is close by and is well worth a visit, given it's the third-largest in the world.
Streets - there are many famous streets in Europe but Andrassy St is as grand as the best of them. Renamed Stalin St during the communist era, Andrassy is lined with neo-gothic mansions, it's home to famous shopping boutiques and dozens of restaurants. You don't have to spend money - it's well worth a visit just to ogle the wonderful buildings, including the Hungarian State Opera
Castles - Buda is home to the Castle District and contains three churches, six museums and the former Royal Palace of Hungary. The Sandor Palace is home to the President of Hungary and the seven-year old St Matthias Church is a magnificent monument to artisans, stonemasons and money.
Synagogue - the second largest in the world is in the Jewish Quarter and takes up several blocks.
Spas - we had to give you the low down. The largest medicinal baths in Europe await your aches and pains. They might not cure traveller's foot, but it's a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Full of minerals, the baths are fed by two thermal wells and stay at a constant 75C or so. The buildings are rather grand and the whole experience is ... soothing!