Budapest: Rhapsody in Blue on the Danube

Often called one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, the capital of Hungary is no longer playing second fiddle to Vienna or Prague.

Modern Budapest is the result of the unification of two cities across the Danube from each other, Buda and Pest, 140 years ago. Today, Budapest ranks as the sixth most frequently visited city in Europe, according to Euromonitor International. Similarly to Prague, hidden behind the Iron Curtain for much of the 20th century, the city on the Danube can now be appreciated by international visitors.

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Budapest: Queen of the Danube

budapestAs Mr. & Mrs. Smith put it so well on their blog,”If Paris had met Berlin and had a love child, Budapest would be its name.”

Can’t quite make out Hungarian? It’s an unusual language only loosely related to Finnish and Estonian.

Among the must-do sites on the agenda, go inside St. Stephen’s Basilica to take the elevator up for the cupola views. Better yet, go for an organ concert. Take in the views from the Fisherman’s Bastion, go to Castle Hill and see the interiors at the Museum of Applied Arts, the architecture on Andrassy Street. Take a cruise on the Danube. Walk past the lion statues on the Chain Bridge.

The city’s 120 thermal baths are a Budapest fixture: 15 indoor and outdoor year-round steamy pools in a century-old building. Try it…people have been sitting here for probably six centuries.

A splendid art nouveau Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace with spa and infinity pool; an elegant downtown Méridien; a riverside Marriott, a sophisticated Kempinski housing Nobu; business-centric efficient InterContinental and Hilton are among the international hotel chains with a local presence. Add to this list the
perennial favorites: Corinthia Grand Hotel, home to the Royal Spa; Hotel Gellert, the city’s first luxury hotel with Danube views; and the Boscolo (formerly New York Palace), a renovated romantic Renaissance-style holdout.

Onyx and Costes lead Budapest’s Michelin star charge. Enjoy tea enveloped by the rococo ritz of the New York Café at the Boscolo. Among the latest news, favorite Baraka Restaurant plans a move in March 2014 to a new venture at the Dorrotya Palota, a mixed use historic building. Finding the “best” Hungarian goulash in Budapest could be as tricky as finding the best pizza in Chicago, but no less enjoyable.

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