48 hours in Budapest

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Budapest is one of Europe’s great cities. It’s less than a three hour flight away, so easily accessible for a weekend trip. Here are five suggestions on how to fill 48 hours in the Hungarian capital.

1. Romkocsma

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Szimpla Kert is one of Budapest’s oldest romkocsma. Aija Lehtonen / Shutterstock.com

Romkocsma – literally ruin bars – began popping up in Budapest around the turn of the century and they are now a firmly established and unique part of the city’s nightlife. The trend has seen entrepreneurial Budapesters move in to dilapidated buildings and establish pop up hostelries. The city’s seventh district, and particularly the streets behind the Great Synagogue, is a great place to find these improvised bars – some of which also host live music or DJs, art exhibitions and film nights. Romkocsma tend to have a shabby chic feel, incorporating reclaimed furniture and recycled materials, and are where the city’s young, creative types hang out.

2. Thermal Baths

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Szechenyi Baths is a popular hang out spot. T photography / Shutterstock.com

Budapest is known as the City of Spas and has more thermal and medicinal water springs than any capital city in the world. Today there are 15 public thermal baths, as well as countless more private spas. The art nouveau Gellért Baths are particularly spectacular with their high arched ceilings supported by Roman columns, while the opulent Széchenyi Baths boasts 15 indoor baths and 3 grand outdoor pools. Most people visit to relax in the medicinal thermal springs, which are supposed to soothe anything from arthritis to asthma – though some spas now host regular parties on Friday and Saturday nights, with music and lights.

3. Great Market Hall

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The central hall of the Great Market Hall. Andres Garcia Martin / Shutterstock.com

Dating back to 1897, the spectacular Great Market Hall, or Nagycsarnok, should be top of your list for traditional Hungarian produce and cuisine. It might not be the oldest in the city, but it is certainly the most spectacular and its central location means it is always bustling. On the ground floor, you will see dozens of stalls piled high with local produce from peaches to paprika, as well as artisan cheeses, salamis, bread and of course the world-famous Tokaj wine. Head upstairs to find various cafes and eateries offering fresh cooked food made from the ingredients on sale below, including the traditional snack Langos – a fried flatbread topped with cheese and soured cream.

4. Funicular railway to the Buda Castle district

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The funicular railway ascends the steep slope to Buda Castle.

Buda Castle dominates the Budapest skyline, and some of the best views of the city can be had from its elevated position atop Castle Hill. It’s accessed by a cute funicular railway that has been ferrying visitors up and down the short but steep line since 1870. Once at the top, you can roam free among the courtyards of the Buda Castle district – which is also home to the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest Historical Museum, Buda Royal Palace, the Hungarian Presidential palace and the (neo)-Gothic Matthias Church.

5. Heroes’ Square

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Heroes’ Square by night is spectacular.

Another of Budapest’s nicknames is ‘the Paris of the East’. Stroll along the city’s chicest street Andrássy Avenue to Heroes’ Square and you’ll understand why. Andrássy Avenue is a World Heritage Site that was one of Europe’s most prestigious addresses. Its Neo-Renaissance palaces were once home to the city’s most noble families – though nowadays you are more likely to find them occupied by the world’s best-known brands, including Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Gucci boutiques. Heroes’ Square is the largest and most spectacular in the city, built to commemorate Hungary’s 1,000th anniversary. Visit after dark when it is illuminated beautifully to catch the monuments in their full glory.

Published 25th October 2015

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