Often referred to as the Pearl of the Danube, Budapest is the capital of Hungary with a history dating back to around 1st century AD. The city went through several occupations ranging from its original Celtic tribe settlement to the Romans, to Ottoman rulers until present-day independent Hungary. Split into Buda and Pest districts by the Danube River, and connected by a 19th century chain bridge, Budapest is known for its classical music, famous natural thermal baths, and its young, vibrant nightlife. As Budapest is also Hungary’s financial center, it enjoys a fast-growth rate and is said to be Europe’s ‘second fastest growing urban economy’. It has a rich, wide ranging design influence in terms of architecture, from Gothic to Renaissance, and from Ottoman and Byzantine to Baroque, Classical, Neo-Classical, Art Noveau and Contemporary. Budapest welcomes over 4.4 million foreign tourists yearly and is one of the 25 most visited cities worldwide.
1. Danube River: A Great Way to See BudapestThe beautiful Danube River, or Blue Danube as some people refer to it, has been the subject of poems and songs, including the famous Blue Danube Waltz by composer Johann Strauss. Flowing about 2,850 kilometers passing through several European countries, the Danube River in Budapest is an elegant addition to the already postcard-pretty Budapest. Visitors to Budapest will delight in the various river cruises along the Danube that ranges from day and night cruises with dinner options and live onboard music. Among famous landmarks visible from the river cruise are the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Hungarian Academy, Gresham Palace, Buda Castle Hill, and the Fisherman’s Bastion, to name a few.
2. Throbbing Nightlife and Entertainment SceneBudapest has captured the pulse of nightlife-seeking youths and revelers with its very interesting active club and dance scene. Checking out the nightlife in downtown Budapest and its surrounds, one will be greeted by numerous clubs and bars, as well as discos and other dance halls that remain open deep into the night and the early morning hours. Pub and bar crawl tours are very popular among locals and tourists. On certain occasions, some thermal baths and spas even hold fun parties featuring awesome music and shows replete with special effects. Its cultural entertainment is another option what with world-class classical music performances and opera, as well as folk shows and more evening sightseeing tours, sometimes with casino stops.
3. Amazing Natural Thermal BathsThanks to the Roman and Ottoman influence, Budapest is home to some very relaxing, healthy thermal baths where visitors can have a soothing soak and swim in both hot and cold mineral-filled waters. Quite a few of the city’s thermal baths are great historical and cultural experiences in themselves as these are situation in old buildings. Gellert Bath and Spa Centre, for instance, has an early 20th century Art Noveau architecture and is one of the most beautiful and oldest bath experience with an open air pool, a swimming pool with effervescent water, and a sauna. The Szechenyl Spa, very popular among tourists, is one of the city’s largest and oldest baths offering a variety of hot and cold pools, among others. Built in the 1500s, Turkish style bath Rudas Spa and the pricey Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal Spa are also popular choices.
Budapest Tourist Spots
1. Royal Palace: The Castle on a HillThe Royal Palace, located on Buda Castle Hill, is part of a whole complex of structures the old buildings of which were constructed in the 1300s and continued on especially leading to the marriage of King Matthias Corvinus and Beatrix of Naples in the 1400s. While there is no entrance fee, other attractions and a few museums have paid entrances. Destroyed several times in its centuries-old history, the palace complex is also home to the National Gallery, Lion’s Courtyard, Hungarian National Museum, Hunyadi Garden, Budapest Museum of History, and the National Szechenyi Library. A popular viewing place offering a beautiful vista of the twin cities of Buda and Pest are the Savoyal Terrace and Fisherman’s Bastion.
2. Elizabeth Lookout: A Peak Experience in BudapestAt 527 meters, Elizabeth Lookout, a tower on the tree-filled Janos-hegy (Janos Hill), is Budapest’s highest summit. Constructed in 1910, the tower was named after Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Visitors can take the Chairlift, which takes them on a 15-minute relaxing ride with spectacular views of the city down below and the forest canopies. After a 10-minute uphill trek, they will reach the tower and can climb up the spiraled 100-step that leads to the highest point in the tower, which offers a view of the Tatra Mountains in neighboring Slovakia about 80 kilometers away. Those who don’t mind some hour and a half walk from the city up the hill can do so and be rewarded by extra treats including passing by rustic houses and endless green spaces and a number of parks.
3. Margaret Island: Former Royal Hunting Grounds Turned OasisCalled Margitsziget by locals, Margaret Island is a beautiful green space right in the middle of the Danube River. Once referred to as the Rabbit Island and a royal hunting ground, the 2.5-kilometer long island now offers a myriad of recreational facilities that the young and old alike will enjoy. A great place to visit when traveling with kids, the parkland has a 5.5-kilometer long running track that goes around the island, rented pedal carts, a musical fountain, thermal pools and water slides, wave pools, rose gardens, aviary, and some medieval ruins, including what remained of a Dominican nunnery and a Franciscan church. It is a great place for picnics, a leisurely walk, meditation, yoga, book reading, and a bit of napping.