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Discovering Budapest: 7 things to do in this fantastic city


Discovering Budapest: 7 things to do in this fantastic city

Lying on both banks of the river, the city of Budapest is known as the Pearl of the Danube for good reason. Long admired as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Budapest offers visitors a treasure trove of delights just waiting to be explored. The city itself is actually two cities in one, with Buda occupying the west bank of the Danube, and Pest the east. Both sides are more than worth exploring, so take a look at our top seven things to do in this fantastic city.

1. You can’t miss the Hungarian parliament building
Quite literally, you cannot miss this building. Built in 1905, the gigantic site of the Hungarian parliament dominates the skyline on the Pest side of the river. Its mixture of Gothic and Renaissance revivalist architecture looks spectacular both during the day and when it is illuminated at night. You can also take a tour of the inside of the building, but you have to book in advance. Check the parliament’s English visitor’s page to book.

2. Take a dip
Budapest is famous for its numerous city spas, but Széchenyi Baths is the granddaddy of them all — it is also Europe’s biggest medicinal bath. Built in 1919, the baths are over 100 years old and offer 18 geothermal pools, as well as massage and sauna facilities. You can also relax poolside with a beer or a glass of wine, or even taste the natural water that supplies the pools from 1km underground. You can find full details and prices on the English-language Széchenyi baths website.

3. Take a stroll along Fisherman’s Bastion
Jutting out of the Buda hillside above the city, the terrace of Fisherman’s Bastion (or Halászbástya in Hungarian) provides travellers with a great opportunity for panoramic photos across the Danube towards Pest. The terrace’s wonderful architecture makes for a great photo itself, and you can spend a long while exploring all of the hidden corners and platforms, as well as the spectacularly spired Matthias Church nearby. It is also worth revisiting at night when the terrace is illuminated. You can book a private walking tour of the Castle district and Fisherman’s Bastion through TripAdvisor. The tour offers hotel pickup and a professional guide, with prices starting at £24.

4. Embrace your inner pinball wizard
For something that is off the traditional tourist trail, head to the Flipper Muzeum to roll back the decades at Europe’s first and largest interactive pinball exhibition. The 400-square-metre space contains over 130 pinball machines dating from the end of the 19th century to the present day. You can have a go on almost all of the machines on display, and the good news is they are completely free to play once you have paid the museum’s modest HUF 2500 (~£6) entry fee. The museum’s website can give you more details on the exhibit, as well as detailed instructions on how to get there.

5. Come face-to-face with the monuments of the past
A trip to Budapest’s Memento Park can give you a real glimpse into a bygone era of Hungary’s Communist period. Littered around the sprawling open-air museum are hundreds of displaced examples of Communist public art, placed here as a testament to the change that has taken place in Hungary since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Among the many statues are the likenesses of well-known Soviet figures such as Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, so you really can stare into the stony eyes of these 20th-century heavyweights. The park is a small distance away from Budapest’s city centre. You can get detailed travel instructions from their website.

6. Cross the Danube on Budapest’s spectacular bridges
Spanning the Danube from Buda to Pest are a number of impressive bridges, including the green, spired Liberty Bridge and elegant, white Elisabeth Bridge. However, the real standout of Budapest’s river crossings is the majestic Chain Bridge. Opened in 1849 and designed by Englishman William Tierney Clark, the bridge was Budapest’s first permanent river crossing. Since then, it has become one of Budapest’s most iconic structures, growing to symbolise the linking of east and west. As with many of Budapest’s buildings, the Chain Bridge is spectacularly lit at night and is well worth a visit after sunset.

7. Visit a ruin pub
No visit to Budapest would be complete without a visit to one of the city’s numerous ‘ruin pubs’. Roughly 10 years ago, the city underwent a movement that saw many unoccupied or abandoned buildings being converted into low-key pubs, clubs or bars. Popular with both locals and tourists, the pubs come in a range of styles — from sparse, industrial rooms to cluttered chambers full of salvaged furniture. Ruinpubs.com is a website dedicated to the movement, which keeps potential visitors up to date with the latest goings-on, including details of organised ruin-pub crawls around the city.

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