I’m only going to be in town for three days, so what should I visit? This is the million dollar question when travelling to somewhere new. And in the case of a city like Budapest, which has so much to see and do, it’s especially hard to come up with a list of the top ten sightseeing spots, although that’s precisely what we’ll try to do here for this fabulous European city. Every corner of Budapest – which is the result of the unification of Buda, Pest and Obuda in 1873-, conceals a past just waiting to be discovered. The fall of the Wall also made its mark on the city architecture. The facades reveal a tale of two cities: the ground floors show the more modern and colourful side to Budapest, housing countless stores, bars and restaurants, whilst the upper floors reflect more sober tones in shades of brown and grey.
Here are my suggestions on what not to miss if you’re planning on spending three days in the city:
1- Buda Castle. No-one should leave Budapest without visiting this World Heritage Site. Formerly the palace of the Hungarian monarchs, today it boasts the finest views of the city, including the famous Chain Bridge and Hungarian Parliament.
2- Saint Stephen’s Basilica: standing in the heart of Pest, this is an eye-catching building boasting spectacular architecture. And if you like shopping, this area is also the site of Fashion Street, guaranteed to delight shopaholics of all kinds.
3- The Grand Synagogue: situated in the centre of Pest just a short distance from Saint Stephen’s Basilica. You’ll be overawed by the Grand Synagogue, the largest in the world after the one in Jerusalem.
4- The Opera House: Andrássy Avenue is not just the site of the Opera House, but also offers a large number of bars and restaurants such as the Muvész. Looking for a great way to spend the day? Explore the Opera building and then live like a bon vivant, indulging in a glass of white wine or champagne at the Muvész.
5- City Park (Városliget Park). Here you’ll find Heroes Square, the Fine Arts Museum, the Zoo, Széchenyi Baths and a host of other attractions. On Sunday’s there is also a flea market, although it leaves much to be desired.
6- With the kids: if you’re travelling with children, then apart from a visit to the zoo mentioned in the previous point, I also strongly recommend a trip to Millenaris Park, in Buda, with its artificial lake and magnificent play areas. The cultural centre and Palace of Wonders also organise a range of activities for younger visitors.
7- Eating out: it’s worth remembering that almost all restaurants serve a set lunchtime menu that offers great value for money. Make sure you don’t miss the chance to taste Hungary’s delicious cuisine.
8- Evenings: Budapest is a lively city, but evening events and entertainment start early, so make sure you don’t miss out. There’s something for everyone, regardless of whether you prefer a delicious beer at a street café (in summer only, naturally), a few drinks in a sophisticated nightclub or a great rock or alternative music concert. Budapest’s nightlife offers countless options!
9- A visit to –at least one – spa: Budapest acquired the nickname the City of Healing Waters (or Spa City) in 1934, and the truth is that it has 118 natural and artificial springs. Scattered throughout the city, they all offer outstanding quality. The most famous of all is the Gellert Spa; featured in thousands of magazines and TV commercials, it boasts a spectacular central pool, although the facilities in general are somewhat old-fashioned. If you’re looking for some great bathing, then I recommend the Széchenyi Spa. In the hottest of the outdoor pools you’re bound to spot an elderly Hungarian or two enjoying a game of chess in the water. If you know how to play, then they’ll be delighted if you challenge them to a game.
10- Bye-bye map: that’s right; your eyes aren’t deceiving you: leave your map in the hotel room and lose yourselves in the city, albeit for just a few hours. Stroll aimlessly around the streets, explore the local stores and cafés, sit on a bench and people-watch, observing the children as they come out of school, the lady heading for the bakery or the old man walking his dog. Go up and down the hills, and learn for yourself that Budapest has more hairdressing and beauty salons and solariums that any other city. In short, allow yourself to be caught up in the true spirit of this city.
“IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts has one hotel in Budapest: the 5 star IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Budapest. It boasts a prime location, surrounded by many important buildings, embassies and shopping areas. Built in 2011, its rooms are nothing short of luxurious perfection. It also has a fully-equipped spa centre where total relaxation is the order of the day”.