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 Food: Buda

Conversation flows as easily as the local Tokaj wines and lusty European beers.

First time visitors are bound to leave with a newfound respect for hearty Hungarian food (chicken paprikás alone is worth the airfare) and the enthusiasm with which locals participate in the enjoyment of a good meal with friends.

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ABOVE: The For Sale Pub Restaurant might not actually be for sale but it does have an interesting décor. There are peanut shells on the floor and business cards, boarding passes and paper on the ceiling and walls.

1. Look past the kitschy “medieval” atmosphere at Alabárdos Étterem and focus instead on the authentic home cooking, served fetchingly on fine Herend and Zsolnay china. The setting, inside a 400 year old Gothic building and opposite Matthias Church makes it an ideal location for an evening stroll before dinner.

2. Fortuna 21 – Magyar Vendeglo (Hungarian kitchen) Stone walls and bleached oak floors provide a contemporary backdrop to this dynamic setting where visitors and locals order up traditional favourites such as the goulash soup served tableside in individual kettles. During the summer, sit on the patio and enjoy a cold glass of tokaji. Goulash, bread and wine come in under US$20, making this an affordable sit down experience.

Dabble Savvy: Gratuity may be included on your bill. If not, allow 10%-15% extra and give the waiter the money, do not leave it on the table.

3. The closest thing to a Dean & Deluca in Budapest is Baldaszti’s. The Buda location is tucked into the hillside, near the Funicular. If it’s lunchtime, sample the Hungarian platter with local meats and cheeses.

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ABOVE: Pancakes served with a trio of jams are a perfect breakfast treat. Shop for gourmet groceries in the basement.

4. Gundel is likely the city’s best-known restaurant, certainly one of its most expensive. Admired for its fine cuisine, impeccable service and the early 20th century setting. Elegant dress is recommended.

Dabble Savvy: Take time to admire the Hungarian masterpieces displayed on the walls while waiting for your meal.