Nicknamed “Paris of the East” and “City of Spas,” Budapest is the capital of Hungary. It was created in 1873 with the merger of three cities, Buda, Óbuda and Pest. With 2 million inhabitants, it is the cultural, administrative, economic and trade center of the country. It also has fascinating classical architecture, three opera houses, famous thermal baths atop the 120 geothermal springs, an amazing array of coffeehouses and it’s split by the Danube. If you’re interested in visiting this dynamic capital city, GetAway Travel is ready to help with your adventure.
Cultural influences tie the city together
` Budapest may be split by the Danube, but the city takes advantage of the river by fronting many of its buildings to the water guaranteeing fabulous views. One of the largest structures on the water is the Parliament Building complex. With the peaceful blue Danube in the front, the Parliament Building is one of the most visited and photographed destinations in the city. The neogothic spires and the 318-foot high dome make it an imposing sight at night, but the interior is just as imposing and interesting.
The eastern staircase is flanked by two lions and inside as well as outside, there are more than 240 sculptures on the walls. There are stunning frescoes on the ceilings, beautiful stained glass windows and decorative glass mosaics to admire. A guided tour will let you gawk at the crown jewels on display that belonged to the country’s first king.
The Dohány Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second-largest in the world. It is a massive structure, with a neo-oriental interior highlighted by coral reds and gold leaf. There is a huge rose window with a star of David motif. Outside, a mass grave commemorates the 2,000 Jews killed in Budapest during the Holocaust.
Mathias Church was built in the last half of the 14th century in what is now the Castle District of Budapest. It was fully restored after it was destroyed by Mongol invaders in 1241. When it was restored, the interior was done in colors inspired by oriental decor. Its stunning interior makes it a favorite site for weddings, classical music concerts and choir performances. Christmas mass as well as the Easter celebration mass are well attended by residents and tourists.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is one of the most photographed buildings in Budapest. It is easily recognized because of its two large bell towers. Inside, there are frescoes and mosaics to admire including the inside of the dome. The viewing platform offers stunning 360-degree views of the city.
Buda Castle was constructed in 1259 to be the home residence of Hungarian kings. The bulk of the building was actually added in the mid-18th century. It is a fascinating mix of Neo-classical as well as Renaissance architecture with a minimalist vibe in the interior. The building as well as much of Castle Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today it houses the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery and Széchényi Library.
The history museum chronicles the city’s past from ancient times to the rise of communism.The National Gallery has an extensive collection of Hungarian art from medieval three-panel reliefs to modern works. The library has collections of books as well as sheet music, maps, charts and a large theater collection featuring posters, prints and manuscripts.
Spas, Margaret Island, other attractions
Budapest sits on a fault line which means an influx of warm, mineral rich waters. Nicknamed the “spa capital,” Budapest was one of the first cities to take economic advantage of the mineral waters. There are numerous bath houses in Budapest and one of the most famous is the Széchenyi Baths which offers outdoor bathing at all times of the year. There is something magical about experiencing a mineral bath in 74-degree water which snow falling in your hair. There are Turkish style baths with gorgeous interior architecture and even couples’ baths that offer wine and a DJ.
Margaret Island, in the middle of the Danube, has medicinal as well as thermal baths. The island is a popular recreational spot and it plays hosts to concerts, dances, festivals and special events.
The Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden was founded in 1866 and it is home to 1,000 animals. The historical structures on the grounds have been renovated to accommodate the growing animal population which includes ring-tailed lemurs, lowland gorillas, giraffes and kangaroo.
Gellert Hill is a popular area in Budapest. A fortress sits on top of the hill and palatial embassies and ambassador homes dot the hillside.The area is a UNESCO Heritage site.
Fisherman’s Bastion was finished in 1902 and it combines Neo-gothic as well as Neo-romanesque architecture. The seven towers on the structure represent the seven Magyar tribes. You can’t beat the views of the city from the bastion.
Take time to do some shopping at the Central Market Hall. The huge red brick building has a yellow and green tiled roof. Shop for everything from fresh fish to spices to souvenirs and clothing.
Coffee and cuisine
Coffeehouses dot the area and one of Europe’s most beloved coffeehouses,Cafe Berbeaud, is in Budapest. The cafe oozes old-world elegance with warm wood paneling and sparkling chandeliers. Enjoy a fabulous cup of coffee and a tasty pastry.
Restaurants around the city usually have Dobas Torte on the menu. It is a rich cake with alternating layers of sponge and chocolate or mocha cream with a caramelized top. Lángos is a popular street food that is also served in some cafes. It is a fried flatbread toped with garlic oil, sour cream and grated cheese.
There is, of course, goulash which is a sort of stew with beef, onions, tomatoes seasoned with pepper and paprika. Chicken paprikash is vegetables and chicken simmered in a sauce with, of course paprika, served with a side of egg dumplings and topped with sour cream. Sólet is a tasty Hungarian stew with Jewish influences that contains kidney beans, barley, onion and, paprika, served with a side of hard-boiled eggs. Somlói Galuska is a version of Dobas Torte, but amped up. It is sponge cake layered with chocolate filling, dashed with rum, with walnuts, raisins, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.