Budapest, also known as the Queen of the Danube, is actually two towns in one — split in half by the river.
On one side is Buda — old, charming and hilly where you can visit the stunning Royal Palace and take the atmospheric Siklo (a funicular built in 1870) up to the neoclassical Castle Hill, which is where you’ll find the city’s most significant museums.
Pest is on the other side of Danube. To get there you can walk across the historic Chain Bridge. Pest is younger and hipper, but still boasts its fair share of great sites including the fabulous gothic-style Hungarian Parliament.
Hungary has been a centre of spa culture since Roman times and there are currently 1300 registered springs scattered across the country, with many of them used for bathing and open to the public. Budapest is a particularly good centre of thermal spa activitiy as it sits on a geographical fault and is home to 120 springs. You could also head to the Lake Balaton region of Hungary where thermal spas are one of the main curative attractions.
About two hours by car or train south west of Budapest, Lake Balaton is not only Europe’s biggest lake, but is also THE place for Hungarians to kick back and take a summer holiday. Whether it’s water sports, thermal spas, quaffing wine or horse riding, Balaton is a uniquely authentic Central European experience.
Slice of history
Smack bang in the middle of Europe, Hungary has experienced more than its far share of 20th Century vicussitudes, especially in relation to its Jewish population which was decimated by the Holocaust during World War II. Do not miss a visit to the recently refurbished Great Synagogue in Budapest, which also happens to be the world’s largest synagogue outside New York and its moving memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
If you like a little bit of something sweet, Hungary might just be your paradise. From the incredible Dobos cake (layered chocolate cream cake with a toffee top) to all manner of poppyseed and cherry strudel, Hungarians take time out in the mid-afternoon for cake hour. Eat up!