Budapest: the jewel of the Danube

Classy, sophisticated, reserved – think Grace Kelly or Catherine Deneuve. Aside from the dismal, dreary ride past the ugly Communist-era tenement housing on our way from the airport, Budapest proved to be a city of impeccable service, beauty and cultural delight!

Originally two separate cities, Budapest is now comprised of two distinct sections. Buda – the World Heritage Unesco site and Pest (pronounced “pesh-t”) the modern, cosmopolitan side of the Danube. Each side deserves a full day’s worth of exploration and that alone will not allow you the time to experience all the museums and world-class thermal spas that are offered.

The Buda section is reached by crossing any of the four main bridges spanning the Danube River. It is an area of hilly, medieval streets interspersed with beautiful green parks , expensive villas and home to the scenic Fisherman’s Bastion, majestic Buda Palace and the sublime beauty of Matthias Church.

Pest on the other hand is a city of wide avenues and large, impressive architecture. Here is where you will find the shops, restaurants, boutique hotels and bars. Be prepared to walk! Historic sites such as Hero’s Square, the Parliament Buildings, St. Stephan’s Cathedral blend with the bustling energy of the pedestrian only Vaci shopping district which sells everything from Prada to paprika!

Must Sees:


  • Make time to experience one of the city’s Thermal Spa Baths. The oldest (1879) and hottest (165F) is Th Szechenyi Spa Bath located behind Hero’s Square.
  • Central Market – located at the end of Vaci Street and at the foot of the Liberty Bridge. A bustling local market dating back to 1896 is home to literally hundreds of stalls selling a remarkable variety of meats, spices, fruits, linens, leathers and tourist kitsch!
  • Budapest’s House of Terror. A sad monument to the 50 years of repression suffered at the hands of both the Nazi’s and Communists. The museum is housed in the former HQ’s of the secret police.


Accommodations are plentiful on both sides of the Danube and range from inexpensive pension-style lodging to the 5* luxury of the Four Season Resort. The Hungarian people are wonderful. Polite, reserved, they nonetheless eagerly share their wonderful city with you. English is widely spoken. Beer and wine was varied and relatively inexpensive. The Hungarian cuisine is heavy and prone to deep frying!! Hard to stay on a diet in this town!! Fabulous local bars and restaurants serving authentic local drafts and dishes are found in and around the Central Market area.

One major issue in visiting any European country however is the prevalence of smoking. It is commonplace and accepted in all public areas, bars and restaurants. For those with smoke allergies it is a difficult issue to overcome and will require some toleration. Most hotel-style accommodations can guarantee non-smoking rooms or floors.

Notwithstanding that one issue however I can heartily recommend Budapest as a wonderful city to visit if you appreciate, history, culture, nightlife and value for your money. She will not disappoint!

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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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