48 hours in dazzling Budapest

Kathy Carter


Hungary’s Budapest boasts a raft of memory-making experiences at every turn. The capital, which became a city in the late 19th century when the neighbouring cities of Pest, Buda and Óbuda united, is a prized jewel in Europe’s crown. Its hilly streets, and the striking, night-time lighting of its bridges and buildings, make Budapest a truly dazzling city to visit, whether you’re a solo traveller or vacationing with friends or family. If you just have forty eight hours at your disposal, basing yourself in the downtown castle area will afford you wonderful access to Budapest's most treasured buildings and monuments.

Breath-taking views and architectural excellence

Pack some comfortable walking shoes and explore Budapest on foot, as everything suggested here is within a two km square radius. The Buda or castle district boasts some striking medieval, baroque and neoclassical landmarks; the famous Buda Castle, ideally accessed after a walk to the district over the stark and swaggering Elisabeth bridge (as the famous Széchenyi chain bridge is currently closed for renovation), certainly lives up to its ‘Royal Palace’ heritage. Grab a cocktail at the bar in the castle grounds for a refreshing pitstop, but only make it an ‘emperor’ cocktail if you dare – the Zwack Unicum herbal liqueur it contains is somewhat potent. Subsequently revitalised, take a 15 minute walk through the shabby chic streets of the city towards the Fishermen’s Bastion; the landmark is currently gleaming, and cleaned to architectural perfection - its beautiful turrets are reminiscent of fairy tales and damsels in distress. (Pop into the neighbouring Ruszwurm confectioner’s for hot chocolate and poppy strudels, to refuel after your sightseeing.)

Celebrating the Danube

The famous Danube waterway stretches from Germany to the Black Sea, and formed part of the frontier of the Roman Empire in days gone by. Many songs and musical pieces have celebrated this famous river, most emphasising its blue colour. (Johann Strauss’ famous piece of music, The Blue Danube, had words added by poet Joseph Weyl describing a river ‘so blue, so bright and blue’). However, modern visitors to Budapest may notice a more green tint to the famous river. A lovely viewpoint from which to lose yourself in its bluey-emerald hues is the Gellért Hill Vista Point, situated within the Gellérthegy Jubileumi park – from here, you can take a ten minute stroll through the park, walking away from the river up the steep Gellért Hill, for a more panoramic view of the striking Danube.

Café culture in Budapest

In between cultural stops, you will undoubtedly want some more sustenance, and across the city you will find a range of foodie hotspots, offering everything from traditional Hungarian dishes to fusion food and a pleasing variety of vegan specialities. Hungary is famous for its café culture and ‘ruin bars’ - resurrected, ruined buildings-turned-bars that come alive at night. For a day-time sight-for-sore-eyes, consider Csendes Vintage Bar and Café – it is a fifteen minute walk from Elisabeth bridge, tucked away on a quiet backstreet, and has a quirky, mellow vibe. A former grand coffeehouse during the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Csendes boasts high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows; and some rather creepy dolls hanging from the walls. In all of the capital’s cafes, look out for rich, layered tortes and strudels, and in winter, the traditional Beigli sweet cake.

A luxury base

If you’re looking for a base from which to explore this iconic Hungarian city, the five star Budapest Marriott Hotel is perfectly situated, being located halfway between the Chain and Elisabeth bridges, and boasting stunning riverside views. The hotel is a thirty-minute drive from Budapest airport along the route four highway, and boasts all luxury amenities for the discerning traveller. Before turning left from the hotel to head across Elisabeth bridge to start your sight-seeing adventure in the castle district, take a three minute detour to your right, along the promenade, where you will see the quirky, Little Princess Statue; a modern-day sculpture based on creator László Marton’s daughter, which makes an unusual photo opportunity. To book your room at this beautiful hotel, click here.

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