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Budapest, the capital of Hungary, was named in 1873 when the towns of Buda, Obuda and Pest were united and the expansion of the city began. Buda and Obuda are mainly in the hills to the west and together make up one third of the city. Pest lies on the plains to the east. The river Danube winds its way from north to south through the city passing the islands of Csepel, Obuda and Margaret on its way.
Budapest is a beautiful, vibrant city which has numerous fine buildings many of which were restored after the Second World War.
Budapest has had a rich and fascinating history and although it has expanded into a modern twenty-first century city, it retains much of its original charm. The Danube with its romantic associations, the magnificent Varhegy towering above the river, the Gellert-Hegy, the museums and the thermal baths are just some of the reasons for taking a Budapest holiday.
A Budapest holiday attracts those interested in cultural activities and those who enjoy exploring city streets. The thermal baths offer relaxation while many claim to have health benefits. August is the time for followers of the Grand Prix circuits to take a Budapest holiday. Budapest has begun to attract groups of young men and women on so-called stag and hen weekends.
Budapest has a temperate climate with well defined seasons. The main holiday season lasts from April to September. July and August are the hottest months when temperatures reach the low thirties. Winters are cold when temperatures can be sub-zero for prolonged periods. The best time to visit is late spring or early autumn. For those who are interested, the Grand Prix takes place in August.
Budapest international airport is only ten miles south east of the city centre so transfer times are short. Beware of airport taxis as they grossly overcharge foreign visitors. Public transport is good with buses, trams, trolley buses and an underground system. Passes for varying lengths of time can be purchased quite cheaply.
There are many places of interest in Budapest so if time is short a city tour may be the answer. These will include the main attractions. Dominating Budapest is Castle Hill, Varhegy, built on top of a plateau overlooking the river it provided good defences in earlier times. Most of Varhegy was damaged in the war and reconstruction took many years. The mile long fortification encloses the Royal Palace, the Fishermen’s Bastion, the National Gallery and the Matyas Church as well as a large number of other fine buildings.
There are many thermal springs around Budapest and these supply the thermal bath houses that are so popular here. If you decide to take a bath, choose Rudas Gyogyfurdo which is one of the original baths in the city and has a beautiful interior. Another delightful place is Szechenyi Furdo which was built in the nineteenth century and has a series of pools including three outdoors where you can see people, up to their chests in water, playing chess.
Budapest nightlife provides a variety of bars, pubs, restaurants and discos including many gay venues. There are almost daily opportunities for enjoying live music from folk and jazz to classical performances.
Many shopping malls have been constructed over recent years and a good number of international names have set up shop here. The shops open Monday to Friday and half day Saturday. The main shopping area is in central Pest south of Gresham Palace. There are shops in the Varhegy where craftsmen still work producing holiday souvenirs including carved items, jewellery and embroidered cloths.
Budapest has a large number of coffee houses and restaurants serving a wide variety of dishes. As well as traditional food there are many restaurants providing international cuisine. Stewed vegetables are the mainstay of the Hungarian diet while pork and chicken are the most widely used meats. Paprika is the most common spice and soured cream is another popular ingredient both of which are used in goulash. Hungarian wines are pleasing to both palate and purse.
Tipping in the range of ten to fifteen percent is expected but check your bill, as it is sometimes added by the waiter and mistakes can be made.