Budapest is beyond. Beyond the long weekend. Beyond expectation and beyond imagination. And visitors are discovering it as it celebrates a new era in tourism centered around experiences for the senses. Long considered as a pre or post river cruise stopover, the city and its surroundings deliver an entire vacation experience that is as diverse as it is unexpected, finding that only a few days is actually not long enough so here’s a travelogue to consider that will thrill, sate, heal and reveal the hidden undiscovered sides that have to be felt to be believed.
Budapest is divided into two distinct sides, Buda and Pest, both equally as rich with elements to explore, Buda the more regal with elegant residential areas and some of the city’s most famed spas, while Pest buzzes with the more touristic must-see attractions. The center of Pest is the most authentic, natural place to begin as a home base, where a day can be spent strolling down the broad avenues, in and out of elegant coffee houses and unique shops or simply hop Tram No. 2 that rolls along parallel to the Danube for one of the best visual showcases of the city’s scenery or even consider sightseeing via private boat such as the Dunarama which can be hired out for privately guided sightseeing complete with a champagne toast. Both options deliver a stunning canvas of the city’s unique layout.
Budapest is equally as delicious as it is visually appealing and the Great Market Hall is a haven for foodies who walk among endless stalls selling traditional snacks and delights from sweets to local dishes, handicrafts to local produce and homemade specialties with plenty of spaces to stop and taste along the way.
Privately guided unique experiences for a morning or afternoon are trending high on the must-do lists for visitors to Budapest and in recent years, exceptionally immersive options have been developed that get closer to the soul of the city. Great days are spent with local artists who take visitors on a visual scope of amazement through the city’s street art and best local eateries, insider access to tiny hidden bars with custom craft cocktail lessons are a great late day stop, or perhaps even a visit to a local famed artist’s home-turned-studio to view his works of art and hear his story.
Spring and summer days give way to stops in City Park where locals relax and couples stroll hand in hand making plans for the future or curious Margaret Island smack dab in the middle of the city ideal for runners who may take a dip in the Palatinus bath and for people who simply crave the basic beauty of a walk by the river. Or, amp up your outdoor workout by heading for the Buda hills for forest-covered slopes ideal for challenging hikes with amazing rewards of beautiful views of the city at the top.
Nightlife is always part of the Budapest equation and Pest’s District VII is legendary for its evening scene from its iconic ruin pubs curated from architectural remnants to lively bars, flashy venues, and buzzing eateries. And afterward, curative mornings-after are best spent in Budapest’s world famous spas, from relaxed Turkish-style bathhouses or the eclectically beautiful more majestic complexes with a range of relaxing, revitalizing treatments.
And now, day trips are rapidly becoming part of the Budapest equation with a wealth of dynamic locations just miles from the city center. Szentendre is a quick train or boat hop from the urban vibe but a whole other world with cobblestone streets, charming cafes and wonderful souvenir and sweets shops while lunch in Esztergom is a great way to spend an afternoon with a three-course lunch at a restaurant with dazzling Danube views and a toast with a local pálinka a strong traditional local drink. Culture lovers will delight in the palaces and architectural treasures and palaces of cities like Gödöllő, Székesfehérvár, Velence and Martonvásár, all less than 50 km from the city.
Wine lovers can delight in a day trip to Etyek, home to some of Hungary’s top wineries while fitness enthusiasts can head out on a 20 minute drive to Sóstó Nature Reserve for a 7 km challenging trek with dramatic surroundings.
It’s the hotspot with benefits and with easy connections from key cities in the US, Budapest is more accessible than ever. Visit www.visithungary.com for inspirational ideas.