By Suzanne Bopp
The city is an architectural wonderland. It’s home to gems such as St. Stephen’s Basilica, one of the city’s tallest buildings, filled with frescoes and mosaics (climb to the dome for a spectacular view) and the Hungarian Parliament building, which combines Gothic Revival, Baroque and neo-Byzantine elements. Start exploring in the Castle Quarter, which includes the enormous Buda Castle, perched on a hill above the city, as well as Fisherman’s Bastion, seven towers resembling something from a fairy tale, all surrounded by charming old streets lined with colorful buildings.
Food & Drink
Goulash remains a staple dish, though there’s far more to Hungary’s sophisticated dining scene. Real goulash is a soup filled with beef, vegetables and potatoes. It’s flavored with paprika and onions, maybe simmered in a cauldron over a fire — just as the cowherders who invented the dish did — and served with hearty slices of bread to soak up every drop.
Try some local wine with it. A new generation of winemakers is revitalizing Hungary’s centuries-old winemaking traditions. After dinner, be sure to sample one of the country’s most treasured drinks, made from a secret recipe: Unicum, an herb- and spice-infused liqueur from the 18th century.
Hot Springs & Spas
Thanks to its location atop a fault line, Budapest offers an abundance of hot springs. The region has been a destination to “take the waters” since the time of the Romans. Today you’ll find soaking opportunities to suit any preference — from sleek, modern spas to Turkish-style bathhouses. Most have similar offerings: multiple indoor thermal pools ranging from warm to very hot, as well as steam rooms and freezing-cold plunge pools. Some also offer outdoor pools, open all year — slip into one on a cold winter day and feel like a local.
(Traveler Spring 2020)