Budapest is a city of contrast. From the gently sloping hills of ancient Buda to the flat terrain of Pest. With a history of Celtic, Roman and Ottoman occupation, and pivotal during both of the World Wars, Budapest has something for everyone. Here are the top 7 things to do when you visit Budapest
1. Take In The Architecture Of The Parliament Building
The outstanding Gothic building on the banks of the Danube is one of the largest buildings in Hungary. Still, a fully functional parliamentary office, stunning from virtually every angle, forming part of the UNESCO site as a central element in the Danube panorama.
Tickets are available daily to tour certain parts of the building and can be purchased via the official website.
2. Soothe Your Aching Bones at a World Class Thermal Bath
Budapest has one of the most unrivalled thermal spring networks in the world, with 125 connected pools, and a number of world-class pools and spas to appreciate them at. The healing waters of these mineral-rich hot springs have been celebrated for centuries.
Bring your swimsuit and pick one of Gellert, Széchenyi, Lukacs, Rudas, Kiraly or Veli Bej baths. Each of the baths has their own charm and quirks and all completely different.
3. Try the local cuisine of Goulash and Chimney Cake
The hearty meat stew of Goulash is a traditional dish originating from Hungary and eaten across many central European countries since medieval times. With a mixture of beef, vegetables, paprika and other spices, this warming dish is served pretty much anywhere and is delicious.
Chimney cake is a type of spit cake native to Hungary. Layers of dough are wrapped about a wooden log or spit and then ‘baked’ on a rotisserie. Covered in sugar, cinnamon or Nutella, it’s difficult to describe, almost like a sweet Yorkshire pudding, definitely a local treat.
4. Drink Palinka in the Jewish Ruin Bars
The Jewish Quarter of Budapest is home to some pop-up bars and pubs, that have grown from the abandoned properties in the area. This hipster nightlife is a bohemian mecca, full of a buzzing and creative young crowd, bringing life and rebirth to the city.
Szimpla Kert has the proud honour of being the first ruin bar. With indoor courtyards, artistic graffiti and ‘shabby chic’, it is a must when visiting Budapest. Palinka is the local liquor, a clear fruit brandy native to Hungary. Egeszsegere! (Cheers!)
5. Discover Ancient Buda
The hilly west of Budapest is the ancient capital to the Kingdom of Hungary. Buda is home to a vast array of historical buildings and monuments, including Buda Castle, Citadel, Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church.
Walking up from Gellert’s Hill to the Citadel gives you gorgeous panoramic views over Budapest, before heading towards the Castle. You can take the Funicular Cable Car back down to the river, which has been meticulously restored after it was destroyed during the second world war.
6. See The Spiritual Side of Budapest By Visiting Dohany Street Synagogue and St Stephen’s Basilica
Dohany Street Synagogue in the heart of the Jewish Quarter is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. Although closed on Saturdays, the temple is open to the public and is home to the Jewish Museum. This synagogue was a cornerstone of the ghetto formed during World War II and has a Holocaust memorial park within its grounds.
St Stephen’s Basilica is a large Roman Catholic church not far from Dohany Street. One of the largest churches in Hungary, with a stunning and ornate ceiling (Cupola). This church does have mass services, and a small monetary donation is required before entering.
7. Be Moved By the History on the Danube Promenade
The bronze shoes on the banks of the river Danube are a memorial to those people who were horrifically shot into the river during World War II. These shoes represent what was left behind. Over 3,500 people were shot into the river by Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944-1945.
With candles and flowers still resting in the shoes as tributes, it is hard not to feel a sense of remembrance at this monument.
There is so much to enjoy in Budapest, with history and architecture around every corner. This list could have gone on and on… what would be your recommendations?