How to Have the Perfect Day in Budapest
Photos by John Roberts
The largest city and capital of Hungary, Budapest is among the most scenic and stunning places I have seen. You can find tons to explore in Budapest, which is fitting for a place rich in history — from time as part of the Roman Empire to periods marked by centuries of occupations and monarchies (Ottoman Turks and the Habsburg Empire).
Whether you hit Budapest as part of a backpacking or biking trip through Europe or during a cruise along the Danube River, the perfect day must include these activities.
Head to the Top of Castle Hill
The city is really two distinct regions, Buda and Pest, which are divided by the Danube River. The cities long ago were united to become Budapest.
READ MORE: The Best Baths in Budapest
Buda sits on the terraces that rise from the river, and you can stroll up the hillside on winding walkways or paved roads to reach Castle Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take the routes near Chain Bridge to ascend to the cobblestone streets and find fantastic views of the Danube and Pest, which stretches out across the plains beyond the East Bank of the river.
On Castle Hill, you can visit Buda Castle, Fisherman's Bastion (a large viewing terrace) and Mattias Church (a 700-year-old Roman Catholic cathedral and site of many coronations, including that of Charles IV, the last Habsburg king).
Cross the Bridges
The two sides of the city are linked by eight bridges crossing the Danube. Nearest the city center, the Chain Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge and Liberty Bridge might be the most well known and are the closest to many of the top points of interest. I have crossed the 1,250-foot-long Chain Bridge on foot several times and find it the most interesting. It is the first permanent stone span to connect Buda and Pest, and it was blown up by retreating German troops in 1945. The bridge's reconstruction was completed in November 1949, exactly 100 years after it was initially opened.
PHOTO: Chain Bridge.
Stroll Vaci and the Public Market
In Pest, head to Vaci Street for shopping, lunch and a couple beers. The large pedestrian roadway is lined with hotels, restaurants, boutiques and vendor stalls to explore. The stretch extends about a mile from Vorosmarty Square to the Great Market Hall.
After your shopping and lunch, you'll want to wander the vast public market at Great Market Hall. The shopping venue, which opened in 1897, is indeed vast and crowded; Budapest residents file through carrying on their shopping. Stalls line the three-floor building, selling paprika, wines, salamis and dozens of other meat varieties, as well as clothing, crafts and household items.
Unwind at the Spa
Budapest is home to several spas and baths, many of which were constructed during the period of Turkish occupation in the 16th and 17th century. The most famous is Gellert Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool at Hotel Gellert. In addition to all the facility’s thermal baths, you can try the indoor and outdoor pools, wave pool, naturist sun deck (yes, nude) and massage services.
READ MORE: Luxury In The Heart Of Budapest
Light Up Your Night
The nightly illumination of Budapest is not to be missed and is a mesmerizing way to cap your perfect day. Grab your camera and take a stroll along either bank of the Danube to see the buildings and bridges come to life with light after sunset. Better yet, take a night-time cruise (if you're on a river cruise, your boat will no doubt include a night cruise for this) to get incredible 360-degree views of the city from the middle of the river as you pass Buda Castle, the Parliament Building, Chain Bridge and many other brightly illuminated points of interest.
More by John Roberts
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