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 Architecture: Buda

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Architecture buffs may find Budapest’s range of styles somewhat head-spinning.

Roman amphitheatres, Gothic and Neo-Gothic styled cathedrals, Turkish baths and Secessionist (Art Nouveau) buildings give the city an architectural ambiguity that only underscores its many charms.

1. Though the original Royal Palace with its Gothic and Renaissance foundations was destroyed and rebuilt many times, the Habsburgs built a completely new, small Baroque palace in the beginning of the 18th century. Today, Buda Castle (Kiralyi Palota) houses the largest collection of Hungarian fine art at its Hungarian National Gallery. Explore the gardens and nearby restaurants and make a half day of the visit.

Dabble Savvy: Had history been different, we might know the names of Hungarian artists as well as we know Monet, VanGogh and Picasso. Hire a guide to enjoy the impressive collections.

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ABOVE: Ernst Galeria owner Eleni Koranis strikes a pose beside a 1920s iron rocking chair from Vienna. Her Pest gallery specializes in furniture, paintings and ceramics from the turn of the 20th century.

2. A visit to the lobby of the Hilton Budapest Hotel nets a surprising glimpse into antiquity, as it’s built on top of the ruins of a medieval monastery. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is in the heart of the Buda Castle district, beside Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. If it’s time for lunch, the Icon Restaurant offers spectacular views of the Danube River, Chain Bridge and Hungarian Parliament building.

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ABOVE: Zsolnay ceramic vase.

3. Like so much of Hungary’s finest architecture, Matthias Church (Mátyástemplom) is a victim of various invasions. Perhaps the most devastating, a century and a half of Turkish occupation, resulted in the whitewashing of ornate frescoes and confiscation of the church’s ecclesiastical treasures. One of the most striking features from the 19th century restoration is the church’s ornamental roof, covered in pyrogranite ceramic tiles developed by Zsolnay.

Dabble Savvy: Father and son, Hungarian natives Miklós and Vilmos Zsolnay, received worldwide recognition for their porcelain and ceramics. The iridescent, frost-resistant tiles were a popular building material during the city’s prolific Art Nouveau period.