What you need to know about Budapest
Budapest is known as the ‘Paris of Central Europe’ and with good reason. This charming gem of a city is endlessly romantic, full of grand architecture, stylish boutiques, fine dining, vibrant nightlife and a unique sense of culture and tradition.
It’s actually two cities – the leafy hills of historic Buda sit on one side of the River Danube, whilst the bustling metropolis of Pest is on the other. Soak up the baroque and art nouveau architecture, stroll around the cobbled streets of Castle Hill and the Buda Palace, enjoy the dreamy views from the bridges over the river, then take the waters in one of the city’s many bathhouses.
Food and drink
Hungary has been famous for its food for hundreds of years, and you’ll find the very best of traditional Hungarian cuisine in Budapest. The good news is that it’s not all heavy meat dishes like goulash – modern Hungarian cooking includes plenty of on-the-go snacks, lighter meal options and vegetarian cuisine, although you’ll also find plenty of sweet pastries and desserts on the menu!
Budapest’s bars and nightlife is atmospheric and fascinating – from traditional Hungarian bars serving local red wines and sweet Tokaj, to Pest’s atmospheric ruin bars and trendy clubs created from derelict buildings.
Shopping in Budapest is wonderful, whether you’re looking for designer goods, quirky fashions or traditional crafts. You’ll find huge shopping malls located alongside traditional markets, which makes for a delightfully diverse shopping expedition.
The Váci Utca area in central Pest has most of the big shops and fancy boutiques, as well as traditional Hungarian pottery and lace. At the South end of Vaci you’ll find the Great Market Hall, which is a great place for browsing local crafts, foods and clothing – bartering is expected here, so don’t feel obliged to accept their first offer!
The Castle District in Buda has lots of art boutiques and galleries, but be aware that they’re designed for tourists and priced accordingly!
Budapest is Hungary’s capital city, making it the major centre for Hungarian banking and finance, retailing, trade, transportation, fashion, arts, tourism, real estate and media.
You’ll find the headquarters of most of Hungary’s biggest companies here, as well as regional offices for global businesses like IBM, Panasonic, Allianz and General Motors.
The River Danube makes navigating Budapest easy – it carves the city in half, and is a useful tool for orientation. It’s a lovely city to discover on foot, particularly the green hills and parks of Buda. There are very few cycle lanes in Budapest, so it’s not a city for cycling unless you’re happy to run the gauntlet of busy traffic.
For travelling around the city, Budapest’s public transport is excellent, with four metro lines, charming trolley buses, trams and a comprehensive network of buses. They may not be as clean or efficient as Germany or Austria, but the network is vast and will get you from the front door of your serviced apartment to wherever you need to go.
Things to watch out for
For something a little quirky and unique, take the Railway up into the hills of Buda for a trip on the Children’s Railway. It’s a narrow gauge railway that travels through Buda’s beautiful woodlands, run entirely by children aged 10 to 14.