Budapest Mini Guide
Budapest is the capital and largest city in Hungary. It’s made up of two cities on opposite sides of the River Danube, Buda and Pest which were united in 1873. It’s been called the most beautiful city in Europe with its fine Renaissance, Baroque and medieval architecture and much of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to the second oldest underground railway in the world.
History and Background
The city began as a Celtic settlement which was soon taken over and expanded by the Romans in 89AD, becoming the city of Aquincum. It was then made the capital of the Roman province of Lower Pannonia. In the 13th century it was attacked and destroyed by the Mongols but, in being rebuilt, became one of the most important centres for Renaissance-Humanist culture. It was occupied again by the Ottomans, becoming part of their empire before becoming the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1956 the city was the scene of the Hungarian Revolution which led to the invasion by the Soviet Union.
is 10 miles from the city centre and is served by most of the major budget carriers. There’s a rail station at the airport giving quick and easy access to the city centre.
Things to See in the City
Most of the old town is truly beautiful and honoured with a UNESCO award. Of particular note is the Chain Bridge built in 1849 and so called because of the construction of its cable supports. On Buda Hill, the Royal Palace which houses the National Gallery is a must-see together with the Fishermen’s Bastion from which there is a marvellous view out over the city.
What to See Outside the City
In the hill on which Buda is built there is the Buda Hill Labyrinth, a series of tunnels into the hillside that were used over the centuries as wine storage or in World War II as a bomb shelter. For the energetic, there are many places to hire bicycles and from the city you can cycle along the beautiful banks of the Danube in either direction.
What to See and Do Around the City
Fun things to do around the city include taking the funicular railway to the top of Buda Hill. It starts at the end of the Chain Bridge. You can take a delicious picnic onto Margaret Island and enjoy the peaceful park there. Finally, dress up and parade yourself on the magnificent staircase at the State Opera House before seeing a virtuoso performance in one of Europe’s most beautiful opera houses.
Pest is famous for its linens and lace and many shops sell beautiful examples of both. Pottery is also a good buy in the city and the liqueur of ill-repute, Absinthe, is made there and sold in the city. Finally, spend some time choosing fresh spices, including paprika, at one of the many spice shops.
Eating and Drinking
Fish from Lake Balaton, including the pike-perch, are specialities in the city. Try too, the Hungarian national dish, Goulash and for breakfast or morning coffee, grab some delicious Hungarian pastries, similar to those from Vienna. To drink, try a glass of the local Traubi, grape soda or Marka, the cherry version.
Events and Festivals
Budapest holds a spring festival to banish thoughts of winter. If you’re here in March, join in the festivities. In the summer, Obudai Island hosts Sziget, a huge music festival, a little like Glastonbury in the UK