Budapest ()

As the crowds of tourists fade into the horizon with the ever-shrinking daylight, fall is a great time to start planning trips to places that may have fallen by the wayside on your travel bucket list. Why not leave the crowded shores of last-minute beachgoers in the Mediterranean behind and head in the opposite direction? With impressive architecture, an often harrowing history, warm and friendly locals and delicious eats, Budapest is as magical as it is regal. Take a moment or two to meander through this fantastic Hungarian city.

A Little History

Budapest, as it’s known today, was once three separate cities — Buda, Óbuda and Pest. Buda and Óbuda often outshone their quieter neighbor across the Danube with established trade ports and businesses in the early centuries. However, during the 18th century, when Pest became a highly desirable city, the population exploded, eclipsing Buda and Óbuda. In 1873, the three towns were unified under the Austro-Hungarian Empire as "Budapest" and became a co-capital with Vienna. It suffered significant damage during both World Wars and fell beneath the shadow of Communism during the Cold War. Budapest reclaimed its rightful place among spectacular European capitals as it emerged from the Iron Curtain.


When you head toward the Danube River, It’s hard to miss the mammoth building along the riverbank. This immense structure is home to the Hungarian Parliament. Completed in 1902, the Hungarian Parliament Building is the second largest in Europe. Visitors can take a 45-minute guided tour in English and marvel at the impressive frescoes found throughout. Admission is 6,700 forints, or about 20 euros.

Walking along the river, you may see bronzed shoes on the concrete near the water. Commissioned in 2005, the “Cipők a Duna-Parton” honors the Jews who were ordered to remove their shoes before being shot and thrown into the river. These shoes serve as a haunting reminder of World War II.

On a lighter note, take in the changing leaves and crisp fall air a few blocks away at City Park. The entrance is marked by Heroes’ Square, a large area flanked by columns and statues of Hungarian heroes, as well as fine art museums and galleries. Be on the lookout for the statue of an anonymous hooded figure. It’s said to be the harbinger of good luck to aspiring writers.

For good (and inexpensive) eats on this side of the city, warm up with a delicious cup of Hungarian soup or stew at the local fast-food spot, LEVES. For a fancier sit-down option, head to New York Café. This restaurant opened in 1894 and is adjacent to the New York Palace Hotel. The jaw-dropping surroundings are worth the hassle of trying to get a reservation.


Meandering in Buda (the western side of the Danube) has a slightly different vibe than Pest. Buda is older and quieter. You can’t miss the spectacular Buda Castle and Castle Hill on the riverbank. The stately grounds were once home to Hungarian royalty and now house the Budapest History Museum and the National Gallery. The Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the city's most iconic (and Instagrammed) spots. The daily tours of the castle are available in English from 2 - 4 p.m. for 12 euros per person.

Want a little more adventure at the castle? Head underground to the Buda Castle Labyrinth. Budapest has more than 200 caverns and tunnels beneath the city; the ones below the fortress are part of this network. Head to the Rock Hospital Atombunker Museum, a section used as a field hospital in WWII and a potential fallout shelter during the Cold War. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., only closing on Nov. 1, Dec. 24, 25, 31 and Jan. 1.

After working up a serious appetite from the underground shenanigans, head to Ildikó Konyhája for traditional Hungarian fare. Complete with the red and white checkered tablecloths, fill up on roasted chicken, goulash and stew with dumplings. KEG Sörművház offers a delightful, modern twist on Hungarian dishes and a vast array of brews on tap to sample.

Budapest is the perfect mixture of history, elegance, opulence and mystery. You'll want to keep meandering through this incredible city for the spectacular sights, inexpensive and tasty places to try out, and its inarguable beauty.

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