A true jewel of eastern Europe is the Hungarian capital Budapest. Dubbed the 'Paris of the East', the city is one of great beauty and has plenty to see and do. Sitting on the banks of the Danube, Budapest has become the starting point of many Iglu river cruises voyaging through Hungary onto Slovakia, Austria and Germany. The vast majority of these itineraries include a night or two stay in Budapest, so you should take full advantage of this and spend at least a day exploring this glorious city. Here is our guide to spending 24 hours in the Hungarian capital.
When Budapest was formed it brought together the separate cities Buda and Pest, which were split by the Danube. It is now divided into 23 numbered districts, which are still classed in one of the two, Buda covers the west area of the Danube while Pest covers the east. Such is the majesty of Budapest is that it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987. It prides itself on having a unique atmosphere and a growing nightlife, not to mention its rich history of classical music. The architecture in the city is truly breathtaking and none more so than the Hungarian National Parliament building, making this the perfect place to start your tour of the city.
The largest building in Europe, this Neo-Gothic structure has stood in the heart of Budapest since the 1880s. With a startling 691 rooms, all more decadent than the last, it is hard not to be overawed by this magnificent structure. It stands in the Lajos Kossuth Square, named after a Hungarian lawyer, politician and Governor-President of the country in 1849, widely respected as a freedom fighter during his life. Guided tours of the parliament building are available, where you will be able to see the old House of Lords and the Hungarian Crown Jewels. The latter were lost and stolen many times and it wasn't until the end of World War II that they were handed over to the US Army, and did not return to Hungary until 1978. Another reminder of the scars of the war is much more sombre. On the banks of the Danube, between Kossuth ter and Szechenyi ter, is the Shoes on the Danube memorial. This collection of bronzed shoes has been placed here to honour the Jews who were shot by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during the war. There are plenty of free activities across the city and not many are better than a walk across Chain Bridge. The first bridge to connect the Buda and Pest sides of the capital, it was considered to be a wonder of the world when it was completed in 1849 and is often referred to as the 'Pearl of the Danube'.
It was damaged during the war, resulting in a complete rebuild in 1949. It has a connection to the UK, as chief engineer Adam Clark was a master builder hailing from Scotland. If you are visiting Budapest for the first time then you need to experience just one of the city's many baths. The traditional Turkish baths draw off Budapest's rich thermal waters and some can trace their history back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Take a dip in Rudas, Kiraly or Veli Bej for the ultimate in relaxation.
Budapest is hugely proud of its arts and culture scene, making a trip to the famous Opera House an absolute must while in the city. This beautiful Neo-Renaissance building has been in Budapest since opening its doors in 1884. It has featured the work of esteemed composers such as Ferenc Liszt and director Gustav Mahler. See a performance here and enjoy a truly immersive experience. It is not just music where Budapest reigns supreme in the cultural stakes. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Ludwig Museum are two absolute musts when it comes to art. The former is dedicated to paintings, drawings and sculptures of European origin and even features the horseman sculpture carved by Leonardo da Vinci.
The Ludwig Museum is a homage to contemporary art of Hungarian and European origin. It displays artworks from the past 50 years, which have been collected by Peter and Irene Ludwig. The pair believe that the museum helps to bring the east and west closer together and features works from the likes of Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Jasper Johns, among others.
If you want to experience some delicious Hungarian cuisine then there is only one place to head to - the Central Market Hall. Officially called Kozponti Vasarcsarnok, it is the largest indoor market in the city and has been here since the 19th century. Selling a large selection of sausages, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables it will provide a great insight into day-to-day Hungarian life. You will be able to sample some traditional goulash, which is a meat soup with potatoes and paprika that is normally served as a main dish. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous then sample the toltott kaposzta, a stuffed cabbage filled with meat in a paprika sauce and served with sour cream. If you have a sweet tooth then why not try a somloi galuska, a poem on biscuit dough, cream and chocolate sauce. A trip to the Central Market will be able to perfectly top off a day in Budapest.
The Danube river is a hugely popular route for top river cruise lines, with Budapest being a must-visit destination along the way. With lines such as AmaWaterways, Saga River Cruises, Avalon Waterways and more visiting this fantastic city, be sure to browse our Danube River cruise deals and be on your way to your Budapest adventure!
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