Have only one day in Budapest? Orient yourself with a walking tour of a city cleft in half by the mighty River Danube. Start in Pest, the left-bank city of wide boulevards and Jugendstil architecture. Váci utca is the main shopping street and the place to buy Hungarian crafts such as embroidered tablecloths and fine porcelain vases. From there, stroll down to the massive mock-Gothic Hungarian Parliament, which sits by the side of the Danube. A side-trip inside this ornate government building – second in size only to the Houses of Parliament in London – to see the Magyar Crown Jewels, takes 45 minutes.
From there walk across the famous Chain Bridge, opened in 1849 as the first permanent crossing of the river, to Buda, and take the funicular up to Castle Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising a romantic tangle of narrow cobbled streets, galleries, museums, castles, and palaces high above the river. There are plenty of cafés for a lunchtime pitstop before exploring Buda Royal Palace, which is a mish-mash of architectural styles with medieval origins plus 15th- and 18th-century extensions. Pop into the Hungarian National Gallery to see the exquisite wooden Gothic sculptures or book ahead to sample excellent Hungarian Eger and Tokaj wines and local pálinka fruit brandies in the castle’s Faust Wine Cellars after exploring your surrounds.
Afterwards catch your breath in the bubbling waters of one of Budapest’s famous thermals bath to rejuvenate after the day’s sightseeing. The Gellért, Király, Rudas, Széchenyi, and Lukács baths are all open for mixed and single sex bathing, saunas, and spa treatments daily.
To wind up your whistle-stop tour of Budapest, enjoy an evening of typical Hungarian entertainment on a River Danube cruise for dinner and to see Buda Castle twinkling on top of its hill. Boats sail underneath the Chain Bridge and pass the vast Baroque bulk of the Hungarian Parliament, magically floodlit at night. Folk dancers and gypsy bands provide the swirling musical entertainment.
Contributed by Sasha Heseltine