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Budapest Travel Guide

About Budapest

Draped along the banks of the Danube, with the Buda Hills as a backdrop, the natural beauties of Budapest are bountiful. But crowned with grand fin-de-siècle and art nouveau architecture, it holds itself as one of Europe’s most striking cities.

Savouring caffeine and creamy kipfels in its majestic traditional coffee houses merely sets the tone for a city that revels in the high culture of world-class galleries, classical music and literary theatre.

Soak in its magnificent spas, buoyed by mineral waters from the surrounding thermal springs, unwind in its natural hot sulphur baths or relax with a massage beneath art nouveau grandeur.

What stands today as the Hungarian capital, originally rose as three separate cities: Buda and Pest, on either side of the Danube, plus Óbuda to the north. The three united in 1873, and while Óbuda may live in the shadow of its more famous neighbours, it was the site of the city’s original Roman settlement, where the ruins of an amphitheatre, tombstones and statues still sit.

Unanimity in name hasn’t meant uniformity in character, and the division of the Danube has left Buda and Pest with very different personalities.

In Buda, visitors climb winding streets up to the Castle District to enjoy a wealth of history. Little remains of Buda Castle itself, though the Renaissance-style Royal Palace, Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion all intrigue nearby.

Pest is where all the action takes place. Its impressive fin-de-siècle architecture and wide boulevards challenged Vienna as the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s key city. It is home to the parliament building, numerous art galleries and more opera, concerts and ballet performances than there are days of the week.

The best restaurants are this side of the river too and it’s here that the nightlife wrestles with until the early hours as well. For a unique drink try a Ruin Pub, Budapest’s network of bars in disused buildings that include former tenement houses, factory buildings and community centres.

Hungarian itself may be impenetrably foreign, but even if you don’t speak a word you’ll soon feel at home in Budapest.

Key facts

Population:
1,735,041
Latitude:
47.507342
Longitude:
19.057919

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Soak in soothing thermal baths or cruise under the Danube’s many magnificent bridges on a Hungarian holiday in Budapest

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Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge

With unparalleled panoramas across the mighty Danube, the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge is a hotel that's all about the details. While location may be its first selling point, through its doors it offers a terrace bar, chintzy cocktails and a tinkling pianist in the Bibliotek Lounge. The centrally-located spot also has a serene spa and gives visitors the choice of 301 soft linen sleeping chambers with marble bath tubs, flatscreen TVs and free Wi-Fi in most rooms.

Hotel Parliament

As new boutique hotels carry on cropping up around the Hungarian capital city, the minimal décor of Hotel Parliament continues to stand out. With 64 double rooms to decide on, each comes with air-conditioning, soundproof windows, Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Its lobby, wellness retreat and onsite Htel Bar are more modern in design with their sharply-coloured sofas, chandeliers and sleek simplicity, while its Parliament Suite is suited to those on longer sojourns.

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace

Many hotels use the 'palace' moniker without justification, but not the Gresham. Built in 1906, this architectural delight is a masterpiece of art nouveau design, both inside and out. Many of the fittings, including Zsolany ceramics and a stained glass window by Miksa Róth, are original, while the rest were lovingly restored in 2004 when the palace received a glorious makeover. The Gresham has all the trappings of a 5-star Budapest hotel, including a fitness and wellness centre.

Mercure Budapest Korona Hotel

A relaxed saunter from Budapest's pedestrianised shopping area between Váci and Ráday street, the 4-star Mercure Budapest Korona Hotel has all the touches of comfort and quality expected from a chain of this stature. Generous-sized rooms come with air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, satellite TV and tea and coffee making facilities, while a heated indoor swimming pool, sauna and masseuses are available too.

Continental Hotel Zara

With 272 rooms to pick from, the Continental Hotel Zara isn't shy on size. Between the tall windows and chic, chocolate-coloured design of the sleeping quarters, it doesn't lack style either. All rooms have satellite TVs, soundproof windows and air-conditioning, with Continental Suites and Executive Rooms available for the extra extravagant explorer. The hotel's lavish restaurant and cool little café are worth checking out too, or swap both for a chilled beer on its rooftop garden. Its wellness centre should help with any hangovers or well-travelled legs.

Hotel Palazzo Zichy

Originally built as the residence of Count Nándor Zichy, a 19th century nobleman, the hotel that shares his surname now has ample space for 80, well-proportioned rooms. Held in Pest's palace quarter, the modern simplistic style of the bedrooms has everything the modern traveller could desire from satellite TV and soundproof windows to internet access and large, laptop-sized safes. The hotel also has a gym, sauna and concierge service.