See the best of the Pearl of the Danube
All about Budapest
Central European Time (CET)
Much of the center and historic areas are easily navigable on foot. If you’re looking for an easy way to get around, a pair of sensible walking shoes is your best bet. Should you need it, the public transport system is pretty comprehensive. Just remember that, with the exception of night buses, tickets must be bought before boarding. They’re found at Metro stations, vending machines at some bus stops, or at newsagents. Ticket inspectors can be anywhere, and they whip their red or blue armbands out of their pockets quite dramatically. Better stay on the right side of the law.
Soak away your cares
If you’re planning to come to Budapest and not splash out in a spa, you need to change your plans immediately. A visit to the ‘Pearl of the Danube’ gives you the opportunity to have some watery fun while partaking in a millennia old tradition; the locals have been soaking up the waters since Roman times. The art nouveau Gellért Baths come complete with painted pottery tiles and Roman columns. The palace-sized Széchenyi Baths have the appearance of yellow-custard royal palace. It’s the largest spa in Europe. Whichever you choose, you’ll have the most relaxing vacation of your life.
Hungary and Hunger
Goulash may be the most famous of Magyar dishes, but the beefy stew is not a great ambassador for one of Europe’s most sophisticated cooking styles. Hungarians may be exaggerating when they say that the only three essential world cuisines are Chinese, French and their own. (You may hear this more than once while here). But behind this phrase is a deep respect and love for cooking. Hearty, rich and saucy mains, and fluffy desserts. And they’ve stepped up their wine game too. Regional reds and whites are flavorful and delicious, and the sweet Tokaj is a great dessert wine.
Slip into one of Budapest’s mineral-rich spas, and steep yourself in history and invigorating waters. Take a stroll through the City Park that ends up in Széchenyi Baths, the largest thermal bath complex in Europe. Built in 1913, this neo-Baroque complex has 18 pools and 10 saunas. The Gellért Spa, in the elegant, Art Nouveau Gellért Hotel has 13 pools of different temperatures, plus wave machines, plunge pools a sauna, steam room and showers. All surrounded by epic Roman architecture. Whichever style of spa suits you, make sure you don’t miss the chance to soak up one of the finest experiences the Hungarian capital has to offer.
St Stephen's Basilica
The neo-Classical St. Stephen’s Basilica is dedicated to Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen and it's still home to his mummified right hand - the Szent Jobb (Holy Right Hand). How lovely. The 1906 inauguration ceremony was attended by Emperor Franz Joseph. The largest church in Hungary, it can hold up to 8,500 worshipers or visitors. Its beautiful cupola is 96 meters tall - the same height as Budapest Parliament Building. In fact, legislation says no building in Budapest can exceed this mark. Visitors climbing to the top get spectacular views of the city, including looking down on the cafe patrons in St. Stephen's Square.
Central Market Hall
Stuffed to the rafters with delicious artisanal foodstuffs, the 'Központi Vásárcsarnok' is the place to come and stock up on sausages, meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies, and of course, paprika. It’s not just a vibrant modern hub of Budapest life, it’s also steeped in history: the metal roof is original (from 1897), including the decorative Zsolnay tiles. When it opened ships sailed right into the building using special docks. Today, the Central Market Hall remains a wonderful food market and a must-see, even if you don’t buy anything. It’s often visited by celebrities and foreign dignitaries. As a bonus, the second floor is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs and gifts.
The Danube river runs right up the heart of the city, dividing (or uniting, if you prefer) Buda and Pest. Getting on a boat and cruising the city will really help you appreciate the city they call The Pearl of the Danube. You'll see world-class sights like the Chain Bridge, the Gellért Baths, and the Citadel. And, because normal boat rides can be a bit lacking in creature comforts, we’ve got waterbound options including a Coffee Cruise, a Wine Cruise, a Dinner Cruise and a Party Cruise. Come to think of it, you could put them one after another and have an unbeatable day, doing nothing but cruising up and down its famous waterway.