Budapest has long lived in the shadows of Europe’s better known cities like Paris or Prague. But, today, the capital of Hungary is starting to emerge as an up-and-coming hot spot.
The New York Times, for example, included Budapest in its list of “52 Places to Go in 2017,” citing its “youthful energy” and its many stylish and new accommodations and restaurants as reasons why you should visit this city. And a December 2016 Vogue article proclaimed Eastern European cities — such as Budapest — as the new choices for trendsetting travelers who are tired of fighting the crowds at more touristy destinations.
Another reason for Budapest’s growing popularity? It’s popular port of call for many Viking Danube River cruises, introducing it to many for the first time. Budapest, which is bisected by the beautiful Danube River, is rich in history and a feast for the senses.
If you only have a limited amount of time in Budapest, make sure to clear a spot on your itinerary for Castle Hill, which contains a large number of the city’s most famous and beautiful medieval landmarks.
Here you’ll find Buda Castle, the royal historic palace, as well as Baroque houses that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries and quaint cobblestone streets. Castle Hill is also home to an interesting network of caves and tunnels, some of which are open to the public for tours. If you love all things spooky, you’ll definitely want to check these out. One of the caves was even used as a prison for Vlad the Impaler, who is better known, today, as Count Dracula.
Budapest, referred to as the Paris of the East, is also known for its gorgeous architecture. The Parliament Building, for example, is a stunning Neo-Gothic building that sits on the banks of the Danube River. A British broadcaster once described the Parliament Building as “one of the most beautiful legislatures in the world, a cathedral of democracy.”
If you’re lucky and have a chance to catch a performance in this stunning Neo-Renaissance building, don’t hesitate. This intimate facility, which holds a little more than 1,200 people, boasts some of the best opera house acoustics in Europe. Ticket prices are also very reasonable for this venue.
Even if a performance is not in the cards for you, consider taking a tour of this lovely facility. You can even choose a tour option that includes a mini concert. Just be forewarned that this performance does not occur in the main opera hall.
Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hungarian cuisine is goulash. But Budapest actually offers foodies so much more.
In fact, National Geographic recently included Budapest on its “6 Unexpected Cities for the Food Lover.” It especially recommends that foodies check out the Seventh District, which is also known as the Jewish Quarter, where you’ll find a slew of amazing restaurants as well as trendy “ruin” pubs that are set in abandoned buildings.
Budapest has a complicated and, often, sad past. During World War II three-quarters of the city’s homes and historic buildings were either destroyed or severely damaged, along with every bridge over the Danube River. So as you walk through the city, don’t be surprised if you stumble upon tributes and memorials that recall the city’s past.
And if you take a stroll along the Danube Promenade, you may come upon 60 pairs of steel sculpted shoes. Called the Shoes on the Danube Bank, this is a memorial to the 3,500 people — 800 of them Jews — who were killed and then pushed into the Danube during World War II. It’s fascinating to see how this town has embraced their history and created a beautiful path forward.
In need of a little pampering? Then make sure to take advantage of the thermal baths for which Budapest is famous. Enjoying a hot soak at a bath house is one of the best ways to mingle and relax with the locals.
This city boasts approximately 125 natural springs; some of which feed Budapest’s numerous private and public thermal baths with water that is about 100 degrees. So finding a bath house should not be a problem. But if you’d like to try one of the better known bath houses, consider stopping at either Szechenyi or Gellert.