Last month we gave you Stuttgart with its famous Christmas market and botanical gardens, and this month we’re putting the magnificent Budapest under our nomadic magnifiying glass. The city has always held a certain fascination for me after I received an email from a very dear friend who had just returned from a whirlwind city break there. The email told me this:
“Budapest was just something special. It was so much younger and more cultural and exciting than I imagined any Hungarian city to be! The people were all gorgeous, the buildings full of proper romantic character, the alcohol dangerously cheap, the evenings humid and streets noisy. It was exotic and sexy and if the language wasnt finno-ugric I might try learn it.”
How could you not want to go after a glowing review like that?! Ladies and gents, I give you Budapest:
Calm down culture vultures, we’ll get to you! Now, a night of debauchery isn’t everyone’s cup of Tokaji, but for many, the new spectrum of after-dark hedonism presented by a new city is a large draw! Compared to the techno-heavy Berlin or the horticulturally relaxed Amsterdam, Budapest isn’t the most obvious choice for party people – but it should be. Gorgeous people are in abundance, alcohol is cheap and the vibe is relaxed and friendly. In the summer, indoor clubs are generally abandoned for the large outdoor clubs or smaller “kerts”. Summer in Budapest is hot and humid, making these airy clubs the perfect base for a spot of mind bending hedonism. International DJ’s regularly have sets at the clubs, so if you’re a dance music lover you’ll be spoilt for choice. There’s something to suit every taste, musically and otherwise; from Brazilian to techno, from tiny, intimate bars to huge, strobe lit clubs – whatever your poison, you’ll no doubt be able to find a den of inequity filled with noise, questionable liquids and an accompanying bevy of revellers just as willing as you to slurp absinthe off a Hungarians chest.
Places to visit
Aesthetically stunning, Budapest is an ideal choice for those whose idea of heaven is pounding the concrete, guidebook in hand and camera close by…From beautiful bridges to gorgeous architecture and panoramic views, here are just a couple of our favourite spots:
Hotel Gellért and Thermal Baths
Budapest is well known for its fantastic thermal baths, and in our opinion, the best of the bunch are those attached to the Hotel Gellert. It has stood since the 1500s, when its waters were valued for their medicinal qualities by the Turks, but the current art nouveau building dates from the turn of last century. Bathing in its tranquil waters, surrounded by lovely flower patterns and artistic wall designs is something that every visitor to Budapest should experience, but even if you don’t fancy bathing, you can have a drink in the majestic foyer. There are also massages and various other beauty treatments available so make sure you check it out! The Szechenyi Baths and the Rudas Baths are also fantastic for whiling away that hangover.
Dating from the 13th century, the Royal Palace, on Castle Hill, has outlasted many a conflict – the Turkish siege and invasion, the War of Independence and the final stages of the Second World War. Within the palace’s walls you’ll find a huge museum complex which includes the Budapest History Museum (also known as Castle Museum) and the Hungarian National Gallery. Castle Museum, in the southern part of the palace, gives an account of the city’s history from Buda’s liberation from the Turks in 1686 to the 1970s. The Hungarian National Gallery is situated in the centre and its comprehensive collection of Hungarian art-work from the 10th century to today portrays battles, romantic bucolic scenes and religious altar paintings, providing a fascinating insight into the Hungarian national identity.
Buda or Pest?
So where should you stay? Budapest is separated into two distinct parts by the River Danube – Buda and Pest – and the two parts are quite different. Buda is generally seen as the more ‘classic’ side, boasting most of the old monuments and beautiful old buildings. Pest is certainly more the centre of most of the cities business and social activity. Both sides, like any city, have dreary or less interesting areas. The Pest side is more cosmopolitan with bigger, more flashy hotels. It is also where the shopping district and most cultural sights are located – so great for those who want to be in the centre of everything. If you don’t mind a short commute, from one side of the Danube to the other, Buda has a more neighbourly and tranquil vibe, so if you prefer a quieter pace of life and don’t mind a short commute from one side of the Danube to the other, Buda might be your best bet.