Inhabited since the Stone Age, the Hungarian capital straddles the Danube and was only created in 1872 after the joining of Old Buda, Buda and Pest. Today, the city has a charming fin de siècle atmosphere with towering spires, magnificent architecture, and therapeutic hot springs. Culture seekers can look forward to world-class concerts, a cutting-edge art scene, and fascinating historical sites, while there are numerous ways to get around the city: by bus, tram, foot, bike, metro, the river, and even amphibious coach. Whatever your interests, package holidays in Budapest are sure to be fun-filled.
Before Visiting Budapest
The city is served by the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. There are numerous direct connections, including flights from Dublin to Budapest and flights from Cork to Budapest, for example. If you choose a package holiday to Budapest, note that British citizens don't need a visa to enter Hungary, the currency in use is the Hungarian Forint, and Hungary is one hour ahead of the United Kingdom. Hungarian is the national language, although English is widely spoken by the locals.
The Best Time To Visit Budapest
Summer is peak season so a flight and hotel combination for Budapest will need to be booked in advance. The shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are great options for a weekend break in Budapest as queues will be shorter and the weather is generally pleasant. Although chilly, Winter in the city is magical and package holidays to Budapest over the Christmas period are well worth considering.
March features Hungarian Macaron Day when visitors can savour the famous crunchy French pastry. This is followed by the Budapest Spring Festival, an extravaganza of jazz, folk, opera and classical music. April kicks off with Hungary's biggest international film festival, the Titanic Filmfest, and VinCE Budapest where over a hundred wineries showcase their finest wines across this three-day event. Budapest 100 in May pays tribute to the city's century-old buildings. Summer heats up as Hungarian folk dancers and international artists take centre stage at the highly-anticipated Danube Carnival. Finally, there are various annual Christmas Markets with glittering light displays, live entertainment, and traditional food and crafts stalls.
What To Do In Budapest?
A fantastic way to get a feel for the city is to take a river cruise along the Danube, the banks of which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll sail past the gorgeous Parliament Building and Castle Hill, not to forget the wonderfully illuminated bridges that connect the two parts of the city. Another watery adventure is the River Ride water bus tour, which will take you along the streets and in the water, via the city's top sights.
Get active by wake-boarding, canoeing, fencing or swimming at the ex-royal hunting reserve of Margaret Island, now a popular park and recreation hub. While here, climb the historic Water Tower for sweeping city views. There are also ruins of a Franciscan church and Dominican nunnery. City breaks in Budapest are not complete without a visit to one of the city's famed baths, much-loved for their healing thermal waters which emanate from the natural springs under the city. For an elegant Turkish-style interior, head to Rudas Baths, or check out the impressive art-nouveau decor of the historic Gellért Baths.
Rising over the Danube, Castle Hill is home to the fabulous 18th-century Buda Castle which can be accessed via the historic Castle Funicular Railway. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an architectural delight, with Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque elements. Be sure to visit the Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum - nestled in the caverns underneath the castle, it includes a maze of passageways in use since prehistoric times.
A stroll through the city's pedestrianised cobbled streets will bring you to the gorgeous Parliament Building (the world's third largest parliament building). Close by are the Museum of Ethnography and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Dedicated to St. Stephen, the holy king who founded the Hungarian state, St. Stephen's Basilica of Budapest contains the mummified relic of the saint's right hand. Access the cupola by lift or climb the 364 steps for superb panoramic views over the city.
City breaks in Budapest should definitely include a relaxing riverside walk, with great views from the Danube Promenade. While here, look out for the Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial which comprises 60 sculptures of pairs of shoes, installed as a poignant reminder of the Jews shot here by the Nazis.
Finally, the Museum of Fine Arts is a must due to its excellent collection of works by the Old Masters. Look out for Italian, Spanish and Dutch paintings, as well as the architecturally splendid Renaissance Hall.
What To Eat In Budapest?
Embark on a culinary voyage while in Budapest. Hungary is renowned for its hearty goulash made with meat and vegetables and seasoned with paprika and other spices. Jókai bean soup and the spicy Fisherman's soup are other popular traditional dishes. Then there are fried langos often topped with sour cream, cheese, ham, sausages and mashed potatoes. For dessert, try the dobos torta, a mouthwatering sponge cake slathered in caramel and chocolate cream.
Shopping in Budapest
Main design street Király Utca is your best bet for independent shoe shops, hip boutiques and contemporary designers. Or browse around for unique trinkets and souvenirs at Budapest's popular chain of second-hand and pawn shops, BAV. When it comes to Hungarian wines, you can't go wrong at Bortársaság in the Castle District.
Exploring Budapest's biggest market, Nagycsarnok, may well reward you with fantastic deals on painted eggs, chess sets, hunting knives, and folk costumes. Ironic t-shirts hinting at communist times are popular items here too. A wonderful reminder of your weekend in Budapest is the csíp?spaprika spice, as well as the local schnapps Pálinka which comes in plum, pear and apricot flavours. Once you've got your flight to Budapest, you can really start planning your adventure in this enchanting European capital.