3 Days in Budapest

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Day 1

MORNING Spend your first day in Pest and enjoy the flat terrain as you wander it most impressive sites. Start with a hearty breakfast of apple strudel and strong coffee at Első Pesti Rétesház just steps from the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace and St. Stephen’s Basilica— two destinations at the top of your itinerary today.

MID-MORNING Wander towards the Gothic Revival style Hungarian Parliament Building near the edge of the Danuble. The red star of communism was removed from the central steeple in 1990 and today the building is a symbol of Hungary’s solidarity. It’s worth a short side trip to cross over to the edge of the Danube from the Parliament Building and locate the Shoes on the Danube Promenade.

NOON A tour of the Dohány Street Great Synagogue is a moving and sobering experience. Professional guides provide historic context and point out the area’s most moving monuments.

AFTERNOON Next, hop a street car and exit at the Great Market Hall. Surely, you’re hungry by now? Order a cold beer and sausage with sauerkraut before taking in the souvenirs on display.

EVENING Stroll along picturesque Andrássy útca en route to dinner and an opera. Café Callas neighbours the Hungarian State Opera House so you’ll have time to eat and make the 7:00 pm curtain.

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Day 2

MORNING Have an early breakfast at your hotel before heading to the Ecseri Flea Market. Hunt for vintage Herend porcelain and fine art oil paintings among rustic outdoor stands.

Dabble Savvy: Bring cash and expect to bargain.

LUNCH Ask the cab to drop you at Buda Castle and you’re steps from Alabárdos Étterem and a truly memorable meal. Authentic home cooking tastes even better served on fine Herend china.

AFTERNOON Buda Castle’s majestic Hungarian National Gallery is the premier place to appreciate Hungary’s artistic achievements. The paintings rival Europe’s finest and a knowledgeable guide brings the experience to life.

MID-AFTERNOON For culture of a different varietal, the cellars of Királyi Borok are steps from Buda Castle.

EVENING Dinner at Café Kör is simply a must.

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Day 3

MORNING Spend the morning shopping in the folksy village of Szentendre, a mere 30 minutes from the city centre. Stay for lunch and then grab a cab back into town.

AFTERNOON What trip to Budapest would be complete without a visit to the Gellért Baths? Don’t forget your bathing suit and bring a towel from your hotel.

EVENING It’s hard to resist the romantic pull of a Danube River cruise. There are dozens of boats leaving at various times, so ask your concierge for a recommendation. For those who prefer dry land, a meal at Gundel is memorable.

Budapest Experiences: Pest

Travellers keen to save some steps on the way up to Buda Castle can ride the funicular for 840 HUF (US $3.75) each way. On busy days, wait times can be up to half an hour, but it may be worthwhile if a 30-minute climb through parkland doesn’t appeal to you.

Dabble Savvy: Sit in the lowest car to enjoy the best views of Pest as you head down the hill.

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1. Spend a cultural evening at the Hungarian State Opera where the music and skill of the performers will charm even reluctant opera goers. The magnificent Neo-Renaissance style building, completed in 1884 and modeled after the Vienna Opera House, is one of the city’s most beautiful.

Dabble Savvy: Hungarians dress up to attend the opera. A simple black dress or an elegant pantsuit is a good choice. Folk Dancing is a popular Hungarian pastime and concerts are available throughout the city and even on boats which cruise the Danube. Ask your concierge for a recommendation as locations change frequently.

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2. Széchenyi Bath and Spa is one of the largest medicial baths in Budapest with18 pools in total, 3 outdoor and 15 indoor. Rain or shine, locals and visitors take to the water, enjoying the healing benefits of the thermal water and some of the city’s best people watching.

3. The lyrical Moorish Revival style architecture makes Dohány Street Synagogue one of Budapest’s most recognizable buildings. Its history makes it one of the most memorable. Built between 1854 and 1859, the fanciful decoration derived from Islamic influences. A guided tour includes the Great Synagogue, the Heroes’ Memorial Temple, the graveyard, the Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish Museum.

Dabble Savvy: Unless you wish to worship, avoid visiting on the Sabbath (Saturday) and holy days.

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ABOVE: There are no words to accurately describe the impact of the empty bronzed shoes. Echoes of the men, women and children forced to stand at the river’s edge to be shot, falling into the Danube, following World War II. Their stillness speaks volumes.