If you’re planning your getaways for the new year already, look no further than Hungary’s capital Budapest, a young city between cobblestone streets and club music. Yet Budapest is often overlooked on travellers’ itineraries when traversing the continent: here’s why you should buck the trend and make Hungary your destination this year.
1. Budapest is steeped in history
It’s clear when they built Buda and Pest (the two parts of the city) the planners had a city of beauty in mind. Building facades are intricately designed, with Renaissance and Classicist styles dominating the skyline. Wandering along the Danube River provides some of the best sightseeing Europe has to offer, with the brightly lit Hungarian Parliament acting as a beacon for the city. The Heroes’ Square in Budapest’s centre is unmissable – this huge square is lined with statues devoted to those who gave their lives for Hungary’s freedom and independence.
2. There’s nothing quite like relaxing in an authentic Hungarian spa
There’s nothing quite like taking a dip half-naked in front of tens of Hungarian strangers. The self-consciousness fades away once your body hits the water, which is plumbed by the thermal springs that Budapest was originally built upon during Roman occupation. The locals here won’t even glance twice at you slinking into the water, as they relax, catch up with friends and play chess in the water. Because where better to play board games than in a steaming thermal waters? The pools range from cool to hot so you can dart amongst them to pick out which is most comfortable. Travellers are more than welcome here, and if you’re up for a game of chess the locals will gladly put your skills to shame.
3. It’s Europe’s most incredible city for nightlife
Budapest is rich with dining options ranging from cheaper buffet-style meals, to upscale restaurants offering excellent food, wine and service. The bars offer a unique experience as well, commonly being small venues offering a wide range of spirits and a warm atmosphere. For a unique Budapest experience trek out to the ruin pubs that the town is known for. These bars are hidden within the shells of old buildings, where decades of decay are replaced with modern music hubs. Try Corvin Teto to get away from the Contiki tours crowding Szimpla Kert.
4. It’s changing quickly
Hungary’s Soviet Union past is quickly entering the history books as the country has changed rapidly since it in 1989. Budapest’s 8th District once held a reputation for crime, but is fast becoming one of the city’s most lively entertainment and dining districts. Leading the way is the aptly-named Lumen Cafe, which offers fresh roasted coffee throughout the day and live music by locals in the evenings. The 8th district (or Jozsefvaros) is a gritty insight into Hungarian life post-Communism, but its cobblestone streets are worth wearing your soles thin.