Over 15 million gallons of water bubble daily into the 118 Budapest springs and boreholes. The City of Baths offers an amazing variety of baths, from the sparkling Gellert baths to the huge neo-baroque Szechenyi Spa from 1913 to Rudas Spa, a dramatic 16th century Turkish pool with original Turkish architecture. The “Queen of the Danube” is also marked by history, culture and natural beauty. Get your camera ready for the Roman ruins of the Aquincum Museum, Heroes’ Square and Statue Park and the 300-foot dome of St Stephen’s Basilica.
Budapest is an easy-to-navigate city with the river in its heart. Cross a bridge to the west and you are in Buda, the green hills that hide natural hot springs and are crowned by a palace overlooking the scenic Gothic Parliament building on the other bank. Behind it is Pest, the eastern city united with Buda in 1873, where you will find attractive boulevards and the Jewish Quarter, where a Bohemian drinking scene has developed around dilapidated courtyards decorated with eclectic art and flea market furniture.
The human touch
The beauty of Budapest is not all that God gives; mankind has contributed to the creation of this p.Retty face too. Architecturally, the city is a treasure trove, with enough baroque, neoclassical, eclectic and art nouveau buildings to satisfy everyone. But all in all Budapest has a fin de siècle feeling, because then, during the “golden age” of the capital in the late 19th century, most of what you see today was built.
The past at a glance
It is said that the past is another country, but it has always been just around the corner in Budapest. Experience the bullet holes and shrapnel traces on buildings from the Second World War and the 1956 uprising. There are sad memories such as the moving shoes on the Danube Monument, but also of hope and reconciliation – like the “sword” of the former secret police building on Andrássy út, which has now been struck in the “ploughshare”, the house of terror, telling both sides of the story – left and right.
District V / downtown, Budapest
Discover the city centre along the banks of the Danube with its fashionable shops and iconic buildings. The inner-city parish church and Stephanskirche church are two of the most beautiful examples of architecture in the region. If you are still looking for more historical delicacies, the ruins of the medieval city walls on Kecskeméti Utca are a must, while the Soviet War Memorial also deserves attention and is important for Hungary’s more recent history. If you go shopping, be prepared: The market squares in this area are an absolute delight, especially during the Christmas season, but also throughout the year you will find the latest trends in the shops on Vaci Utca.
District I / Buda, Budapest
Buda is the historical centre of a city with a diverse and complex past, with some of the most outstanding buildings in Europe and an enviable natural landscape with a magnificent view of the Danube. Around the Royal Palace there is an insight into the golden years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the life of the nobility of that time. The Matthias church next to the castle hosted many events of the royal family and was the favourite place for the coronation of Franz Josef, one of the Hungarian Habsburg kings. Once you have admired the palace and the church, a visit to Buda will be unforgettable, as the breathtaking and unforgettable panorama over Pest that the seven towering fisherman’s bastions offer.
Built in 1566, these renovated baths are the most Turkish in Budapest, with an octagonal pool, dome-shaped dome dome with colored glass and massive columns. It is a real zoo on mixed weekend evenings, when swimwear (1500Ft rental) is required. You can enter the beautiful swimming pool (with locker weekdays/weeks 2200/2500Ft, with thermal bath 4200/4700Ft, open daily from 6.00 to 20.00, plus 10.00 to 4.00 on Friday and Saturday) separately if you are more interested in swimming than weeks. There is also a flashing wellness center with massage and a shopping list with treatments, and a beautiful restaurant / bar above it on the south side of the complex.
The former Royal Palace has been demolished and rebuilt at least half a dozen times in the last seven centuries. In the middle of the 13th century, Béla IV established a royal residence here and the subsequent kings joined the complex. The palace was levelled out in the battle to drive out the Turks in 1686; the Habsburgs rebuilt it, but spent little time here. Today, the Royal Palace houses the Hungarian National Gallery, the Castle Museum and the National Széchenyi Library.
The Eclectic Parliament, designed by Imre Steindl and completed in 1902, has 691 richly decorated rooms, but you will only get to see some of these and other functions during a tour of the North Wing: the Golden Staircase; the Dome Room, where you can see the Crown of St Stephanus, the country’s most important national icon; the Great Staircase and the beautiful landing; Loge Hall; and Congress Hall, where the Upper House of the one-off two-chamber meeting until 1944 was located. The building is a mix of architectural styles – neo-Gothic, neo-Gothic, Neo-Romanesque, Neo-Baroque – and overall it works very well. Guided tours in eight languages last 45 minutes; to avoid disappointment there is a book through Jegymester (www.jegymester.hu). The English-language tours are usually at 10.00, 12.00 and then every half hour until 16.30, although there may be additional rooms depending on demand.
Food, drink & be Magyar
Hungarian food is much more than goulash, and it remains one of the most sophisticated cooking styles in Eastern and Central Europe. Magyars can exaggerate when they say there are three essential world cuisines – French, Chinese and their own. But Budapest’s reputation as a food capital dates largely from the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th century and despite a period of communism, the city is once again attracting attention. The same goes for the excellent Hungarian wines – from Eger’s complex red wines and Somló’s large white wines to honey-sweet Tokaj.
In the Soak
Budapest is blessed with an abundance of hot springs. As a result, ‘taking the water’ here has been an experience since the time of the Romans. The range of baths is generous – you can choose from Turkish-era, art nouveau and modern establishments. Some people come looking for a remedy for whatever they are, but the majority are there for fun and relaxation – although we are still the best remedy in the world for what the Hungarians call a macskajaj (cat jam) – a hangover.
With art nouveau splendours along a bend of the Danube, Budapest promises an ingenious romanticism. While the fin-de-siècle facades, old-fashioned cafés and sophisticated baths politely wipe you off your feet, the traces of Goulash’s communism and the fascinating modern history of the city add spices.