The visually striking and historically fascinating Budapest is split down the middle by the Danube River to form Buda and Pest. Buda and Pest, were until 1873 separate cities and to this day retain their own identities best characterised as ‘new’ and ‘old’ Budapest.
The more reserved Buda is home to royal palaces, Ottoman-era spas and forested hills. Pest on the other hand reflects the country’s more energetic face, housing the atmospheric ruin pubs, fabulous art nouveau buildings and the celebrated Jewish Quarter home to the biggest synagogue in Europe.
Recent years have seen Hungarian capital become increasingly popular with European 20 somethings, eager to take advantage of the cheap beer and vibrant nightlife. Still, this has not seen Budapest lose any of its old-world charm. Home to a myriad of museums and monuments and a host of opulent properties that hark back to a bygone era – think old school grandeur with a modern twist. Beyond the hotel, fine dining and wines are well-priced in comparison to other European capitals, as are private city tours.
Start the day early ( make sure you have your swimming costume in your bag) and head over to Buda for a hearty breakfast at the iconic Déryné. The former traditional Hungarian café was established the year WW1 broke and is still reminiscent of Budapest’s 20th century coffee houses. Depending on how energetic you are feeling, either take the cable car or stroll up to the Buda Castle District. Home to Budapest’s most important medieval monuments and museums, it sits 170m above the Danube and boasts the best views of the city. After a morning spent exploring the UNESCO site stop for lunch at the incredible Halaszbastya Restaurant. Here you can enjoy panoramic views of Budapest while sampling typically Hungarian flavours with a modern European twist.
Start walking downhill towards Pest via one of the staircases by Fishermen’s Bastion or the Royal Palace. Walk through the iconic Chain Bridge, straight to the Basilica, and jump on the metro to Heroes’ Square, a must-visit that showcases the city’s history from the arrival of the first tribes in 896, through the Hungarian rulers, to the mid-19th century. Right next to this is a beautiful city park, you will find the quaint Vajdahunyad Castle.
From here you can walk to one of the largest spa complex in Europe, Széchenyi Baths. Spend a couple of hours here relaxing in the Neo-Baroque indoor or outdoor pools. During the summer months bath houses across the city throw SPArties, usually on a Saturday evening that start early evening and go on throughout the night.
Jump on the metro and head over to the Jewish Quarter, (Budapest’s 7th District) home to The Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum. This is also the home to an outstanding culinary scene, catering to a range of budgets and palates. It is here that you will find the popular ruin pubs, shabby art cafés and Michelin-starred restaurants.
The only way to end a day in Budapest is in an awesome ruin bar. Home to a number of hipster watering holes otherwise known as “kerts”, the city makes great use of derelict industrial spaces with these atmospheric drinking spaces where you can still get a large beer for less than £2. If you have any energy left, Buda is simply magnificent at night when lit up. For those who are still raring to go, a trip back to a bath houses for a SPArty will no doubt provide a story to talk about long after the holiday is over.