Sitting astride the great Danube River, the iconic twin city of Budapest is a beacon of intense historical value. Wandering through the ancient streets the curious explorer will be overcome with a wealth of inspiring architecture and panoramic views that easily rival the tourist capitals of Europe, as well as an invigorating cafe culture and buzzing night life.
Budapest is no stranger to magnificence, and its leading hotels are suitably grand. The 359-room Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest (Erzsébet tér 7-8) offers five-star luxury close to the sweeping vistas of the Danube River, while the even better positioned Four Seasons Gresham Palace (Széchenyi István tér 5-6) has a location right in front of the Chain Bridge. The still-fresh, three-star Bo18 Hotel Superior (Vajdahunyad utca 18) has drawn plaudits since opening in 2011, while for those on a budget, Yep! Hostel (Wesselényi utca 13) provides simple accommodation units on the Pest side of the river.
There’s much for shoppers to enjoy in Budapest, with a surplus of folk art souvenirs (some of them of an excellent quality, others markedly less so), a good supply of market halls and some genuinely high-end outlets. For the latter, Andrássy út (avenue) and the café-thronged Váci utca are both good for big-name brands and designer labels, as is Deák Ferenc utca, often referred to as ‘Fashion Street’. There are plenty of good markets, with the fresh food and tourist souvenirs of Nagycsarnok (Fővám tér) helping to make it the largest indoor market hall in Budapest. For first-rate antiques, meanwhile, there’s no better street than Falk Mitsa utca.
Hungarian food is traditionally homely and filling rather than gourmet – think goulash, paprika stew or dumplings – but this fact doesn’t prevent Budapest from offering some excellent places to eat. Among the most notable restaurants are Onyx (Vörösmarty tér 7-8), where the stylish décor is matched by a modern menu (veal tenderloin with tuna tataki, anyone?) and the defiantly lavish Arany Kaviár (Ostrom utca 19), which specialises in, yes, caviar. For something more authentically Budapestian, the city’s best cafés are an excellent bet, with the likes of Ruszwurm (Szentháromság utca 7) serving up warming helpings of coffee and cake in old-world surrounds.
Hay Festival Budapest
The famous literary festival on the Wales-England border has held an edition in Budapest since 2012, hosting a wide range of readings and debates from an international range of writers, novelists, poets and speakers.
A 10-day-long music and dance festival with a focus on both Hungarian folk arts and Budapest’s multiculturalism, the Danube Carnival draws hundreds of artists and performers from around a dozen different countries.
Buda Castle Beer Festival
Only in existence since 2011, this four-day festival has already earned a sterling reputation among beer lovers. Visitors can choose from some 200 brews, and its grand setting in Buda Castle only adds to the occasion.
Budapest Summer Festival
Held across three months and making use of the picturesque open-air stage on Margaret Island – as well as a number of other venues – the Budapest Summer Festival combines opera, ballet, world music, exhibitions and orchestras.
Hungarian Grand Prix
The Formula One circus comes to town once a year, with the race at the Hungaroring (a short drive from Budapest) established as a mainstay of the Grand Prix Calendar since the 1980s. Qualifying takes place on the track before the day of the race itself.