The capital city of Hungary, Budapest is one of Europe’s most attractive cities and arguably Europe’s best thermal spa city, with more than 15 thermal baths to choose from.
The most popular of these is there Szechenyi baths (Szechenyi Gyorgy furdo es Strandfurdo) set in the pleasant city park. With two large outdoor thermal Bath’s and huge number of smaller indoor Bath’s ranging from cold to scorching, it claims to be Europe’s largest health spa. The Gellert baths (the Gellert Gyogyfurdo) a popular alternative for architecture lovers. The ornate décor bath are joining the grand Gellert Hotel gives you the authentic Hungarian spa experience. The separate men’s and women’s hot baths are extremely hot at around 44°C and nudity is quite common so be prepared. Other historic Bath’s houses include the Kiraly and the Rudas (men’s only), Lukacs and the Rac Gyogyfurdo which currently closed for renovation and the addition of a boutique hotel. It was due to reopen in summer 2004 but it is now pencilled in for some time in 2009, but when it does reopen it may well be one of the city’s top spas.
In the meantime, if you want a more modern spa experience then you can stay at one of Budapest’s thermal spa Hotel’s such as Helia, or the Danubius thermal Hotel on the beautiful Margit Island from where you can easily access all that the city has to offer.
The wonderful thing about Budapest is that in addition to our fantastic selection of thermal baths, you also have everything that you expect from a historic capital city, but without the crowds that you will find in the cities like London and Paris.
The city is split by the River Danube into two distinct halves. The main city centre in Pest is almost completely flat and has a fantastic range of shops and restaurants. It is also home to the city park and its Art Deco Zoo, as well as a wide range of museums and galleries that can all be accessed easily by tram or Metro. On the other side of the river are the hills of Buda, where you will find a spectacular of Royal Palace towers over the city from chapter. The castle area is one of the oldest and the most beautiful parts of Budapest, listed by UNESCO as a world Heritage site. From here you can visit the famous fisherman’ Bastien where you will get stunning views over River Danube, Parliament and the city beyond.
The unusual thing about Budapest is that despite being a thriving, vibrant city, on the Buda of side you have lush countryside on your doorstep with the Buda hills just a short bus ride away. Here you can go hiking, take a trip on the children straight away and climbed to the top of Erzsabet lookout tower from where you can see the entire city.
Where to stay
There is no shortage of places to stay in Budapest. For a real luxury try thermal spa hotels on Margitsziget and the Helia Hotel, or try the historic Kempinski or four seasons Gresham Palace in the city centre, both of which are absolutely stunning.
If you are on tight budget apartment hotels are now common in the city and as well as being good value, they also allow you to self cater. Check out Aboriginal Budapest Apartments or Dunaflat, who have a collection of real apartments in the city centre.
Where to eat and drink
Hungarian food is not for the health-conscious, with almost everything being deep-fried, but some of their specialties such as Chicken Paprika, Goulash soup and Langos can be quite delicious. For an excellent taste of Hungarian Ford try cafe Kor on Sas Utca.
If deep-fried meat isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Budapest is full of restaurants with international cuisines including Italian Indian Chinese and Japanese easily available.
The best Italian food can be found at Arany Janos Utca at Tratoria Pomo’doro. Advanced bookings is often required but it’s well worth it and very good value for a restaurant of its standard. There are also a two branches of Okay Italia near the Nyugati station, which serve very good Italian food.
As a general rule, keep away from overpriced tourist traps along Vaci Utca and instead look in the side street near St Stephen’s Basilica and around Liszt Ferenc Ter, for really good restaurants.
The city is full of good coffee houses, and you will find good bars on every street where you can try the rather revolting national drink of Hungary, is Zwack’s Unicom.
How to get there:
By Plane: Budapest’s International airport is well connected with flight around the world, and low-cost airlines within Europe such as easyJet and the Hungarian Malev.
By train: Budapest is just a few hours by train from the Austrian capital Vienna, and it’s also connected with other major cities such as Bratislava, Warsaw and Bucharest.
Visit www.mav.hu for train information.
By coach: the international carrier of Eurolines run coaches to Budapest from major cities all over Europe.
By car: as with any major city, it can be that the intense driving experience within the city boundaries, but parking is easily available in the city and at most hotels. It depends where you are coming from, but the easiest way to drive into Budapest is downed and M7 motorways from Vienna.
You will need to buy motorway tax before you get on the motorway. Look for the signs at petrol stations that say Matrica/Vignette.
By boat: from April to October, you can travel to Budapest by hydrofoil from Vienna bound the River Danube.