When I need a relaxing bath to take away the stresses of Cloud living I head straight for famous Budapest for a relaxing break!
Budapest has always been a desirable location and thus has frequently been fought over. The Romans captured the future Budapest from the Celts and named it Aquincum. In 106 AD, Aquincum became the capital of the Roman providence of Lower Pannonia. The Magyars, whose seven tribes were collective known as ‘Hungarians’ , captured the city from the Byzantine armies in the 9th Century. The Magyars first named the capital “Buda” and the city on the other side of the Danube was known as “Pest”.
From that time, Budapest was frequently in the heat of battle in turn from the Ottomans, the Hapsburgs, the Nazis and eventually ended up behind the Iron Curtain. This violent past had the fortunate outcome of making Budapest a bastion of tolerance and mixed cultures. It is one of the great cities of the world despite its violent history.
Trinity Square and the elegant Matthias Church
Here’s a pro-tip: Visit the sarcophagus of King Bela III who ruled when the Church was first made in the twelfth century. Bela was a colourful character in Byzantine politics who switched sides between the Byzantines and the Hungarians in their many battles and skirmishes. His final resting place is an impressive sight!
- Fisherman’s Bastion – an imposing tower that offers a panoramic view over the entire city
- Hungarian National Museum – holds an impressive collection of artefacts that explain the long and varied history of Budapest and the Hungarian kingdom.
Heroes’ Square is a must-see location in Budapest!
- Museum of Fine Arts – with its impressive collection of ancient artworks and old masters. The building was built in the early 20th Century in the imposing Neoclassical style and is situated on Heroes’ Square with its magnificent sculptures of the seven Magyars.
- Hall of Art – this is right across Heroes’ Square from the Museum of Fine Arts.
- Hungarian State Opera House – is an incredible venue for ballet, opera and symphony performances
For all of its museums and architectural splendour, however, I visit Budapest to soak in its eighty geothermal springs. The waters are said to have healing powers and I know, from personal experience, how relaxing they can be!
Reaching Budapest is easy with its convenient Franz Liszt International Airport, named for Hungary’s greatest composer. It is a low-cost hub for Whizz Air and Ryanair but also offers international services throughout Europe, the Middle East and even North America. The airport is located close to Pest and there are many mass-transport options including an efficient metro system, trams, buses and trains. Taxis are inexpensive and convenient. At this time, the only ride-sharing service available is Bolt and it uses licensed taxis. Still, Bolt is convenient because it is easy to track the route when you are not a native speaker.
Hotels in Budapest are a great value!
Eating out in Budapest is a culinary journey to delight any taste and dietary constraint. As a crossroads of the earth, many different styles are represented. For traditional Hungarian food, I recommend the tasting menu at Zincenco Kitchen – it’s a treat! Other good restaurants include Antre with its fresh ingredients. I also enjoy Caviar & Bull, although it is a chain restaurant. C&B always features fresh seafood in its Budapest branch!
Here’s another pro-tip: Dinner is served fairly early in Budapest between 7pm and 9pm. For the liveliest time, book for 8pm. The early meal means that you have time for some nightlife before it is too late!
Ruin Bars are great for their eclectic nightlife!
Budapest has a unique tradition of “Ruin Bars” where the nightlife is the best. Ruin Bars are sited in old retro, Soviet-era buildings and offer excellent cocktails and a vibrant music scene. One of my favourites is Mazel Tov in the Jewish section of Buda. Mazel Tov is a glass-covered courtyard with lots of plants that feels like a garden party every night. Racskert is a former car park with graffiti coated walls but world-class DJs and even live music. Instant, is the oldest of the Ruin Bars and still amongst the best!
Szechenyi Baths is good clean fun!
Here’s a final pro-tip: maybe the best exports to come out of Hungary are the delightful Royal Tokaji wines. These sweet and full-bodied white wines are excellent. Make sure to take some home as they are better priced in Budapest than anywhere in the world!