Situated on the banks of the Danube river, Budapest is one of the most beautiful and historical capitals in Europe. Óbuda is the oldest section, with Celtic and Roman ruins. Then there is Buda in the hills on the western bank, famous for its historic Castle Hill and beautiful residential area. Finally there is bustling Pest with its shopping, government and commercial districts on the flat plain of the east bank.
Hungary’s history is tied up with the spectre of Communism. In 1989, the Hungarian communist party moved quietly aside as a tide of democracy swept across Eastern Europe. In the years since, Budapest has slowly regained its reputation as the Paris of the east. With its enchanting mix of old and new, and many reminders of its turbulent past, it is not a city which can be appreciated on a day trip. So if you can spare the time, linger for a few days and soak up everything Budapest has to offer.
Budapest (Ferihegy) International Airport is the country's largest airport, located about 16km southeast of the city centre. Budapest airport connects to all major European cities and some countries in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. To fly to Budapest, you can choose from an array of low-cost airlines, or the national carrier, MALÉV.
Budapest has three main international railway stations: Eastern (Keleti), Western (Nyugati) and Southern (Déli). More than fifty trains a day provide direct links between Budapest and 25 other European capital cities. There is also a network of Inter City trains linking Budapest with the main Hungarian towns.
A hydrofoil service, run by Mahart Passnave, operates from April to November, linking the heart of Budapest with Vienna and Bratislava. This is an extremely scenic way to travel to Budapest, as the hydrofoil takes you through most beautiful areas of Hungary before you arrive in the heart of the capital.
You can visit Budapest throughout the year, and if your main purpose for coming is the city’s numerous museums and other indoor attractions, then the changeable weather does not have to affect your stay.
However, if you’re planning to spend time out and about in the elements, then climate wise the best time to visit is either July, or September and October. Be warned that July can get very hot, though generally you will enjoy warm and pleasant temperatures during these months.
August tends to be rather a low period for tourism in the city, although in the surrounding areas you will find plenty to do. Winter, while uncomfortably cold, is a great time to visit, not only for the traditional Christmas markets, but also for the picturesque sight of a snow-bound Budapest.
Budapest is a sight-seeing paradise. Teeming with historical monuments and cobbled streets, you could spend your entire time in the city just strolling around taking in the urban landscape. The Castle District, near the western side of the river bank, is one of the most romantic pedestrian sections in Buda. The winding streets of this medieval town date back to the Middle Ages and make for a wonderful day-time amble.
The Royal Palace, at the top of Castle Hill, erected in the 14th century and rebuilt in Baroque style 400 years later, was the residence of Hungarian kings for 700 years. Today it contains the most popular museums and galleries in Budapest, including the Budapest Historical Museum, Hungarian National Gallery and National Library.
The 700-year old Matthias Church, with its Gothic spire and multi-coloured tiled roof, is now the site of organ and choir performances. Try to catch the sunset at Fisherman's Bastion, with its view of the river.
The Dohány Street Synagogue, with 3,000 seats, is Europe's largest synagogue and the world's second largest after New York's Temple Emanu-El. Its excellent acoustics also make it suitable for concerts. The Jewish Museum, set up in its courtyard, has one of the most outstanding Judaic collections of Central Europe.
Andrássy Boulvard is lined on both sides by eclectic 19th and 20th century mansions and one of the most beautiful and renowned opera houses in the world, the Budapest Opera House.
For relaxation, the city is also famous for its thermal baths. The Széchenyi Spa, situated in the middle of the City Park, is the largest thermal bath in Budapest and boasts the deepest and warmest wells in Budapest.
For nightlife, both downtown Budapest and the outskirts have plenty of bars and clubs, dance halls, discos. Many stay open until the early hours.