The capital of Hungary, Budapest is two cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River but blended into one magnificent metropolis. Often referred to as “the Paris of the East,” Budapest is a treasure trove of architectural gems, picturesque bridges, pampering hot spring spas, culinary delights and many friendly faces.
Located on the western side of the Danube in Buda, Castle Hill is home to the many-times-renovated Royal Palace, which dates back to 1265. The current neo-Baroque building complex houses can’t-miss attractions like the 800-year-old Matthias Church, the National Gallery and other museums that showcase Hungary’s imperial past.
In contrast to hilly Buda, eastern Pest is flat and filled with boulevards that seem to stretch on forever. Pest contains the city’s downtown district, universities and sites like the infamous House of Terror. Now a memorial museum, the former townhouse was the headquarters of the Nazi party in World War II and the secret police when Hungary was a member of the Soviet Union.
Although the past is always present in Budapest, the city is known for its free-wheeling take on modern life too. Nowhere is this more evident than in the kerts, or “ruin pubs,” that spring up in the less developed sections of the city when the weather turns fair. Finding the open-air cafés, pubs and clubs can be challenging, but the cuisine and libations served in these makeshift establishments makes the hunt worthwhile.
Visitors looking for relaxation flock to the Budapest’s many spas, baths fed by natural hot springs that lie beneath the city’s surface. Whether in a modern health spa or an ancient Turkish bath house, “taking the waters” is a must-do Budapest experience. It’s the perfect way to relax after a day exploring one of Eastern Europe’s most popular travel destinations.