Now that Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary has settled into his new position in Brussels, stirred the controversial pot and is ready to make some changes, let’s take a look at Hungary, the land of the Magyars and its spicy culture. Budapest, the elegant capital that straddles the Danube River, satisfies the cravings of every one of your senses.Budapest remains one of the largely undiscovered capitals in Central Europe… who knows why because this Hungarian city certainly has enough going for it. With architecture from almost every possible era, divine thermal baths, beautiful women and spicy goulash, what’s not to love about Hungary?
- Full name: Republic of Hungary
- Population: 10 million
- Capital: Budapest
- Religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: men, 70 years / women, 78 years
- Currency: Forint
- Telephone code: +36
Every Budapest tour starts in Hero’s Square. It’s a massive plaza at the top of the city’s most famous boulevard, also considered a UNESCO Heritage Site, Andrassy Utca. On both sites of the iconic monument are the country’s most important art museums (one classic, the other modern). Behind is City Park, an excellent spot to ice skate in winter and lounge during the summer. Take the 2km walk down towards the Danube. Along the way you’ll pass designer boutiques, the Opera House and eventually make it to the water’s edge where Chain Bridge will be visible. Once you get the Budapest essentials out of the way, try something a little different. See Budapest like a local.
From classical rhapsodies to folk melodies… find yourself at a matinee at the Opera House or at the Palace of the Arts where the country’s most famous composers are continuously given standing ovations. If something a little more modern is your style, head down towards the Danube (on the Buda side of the river) to A38, a happening club that features the best of the city’s underground beats. For a casual night in Pest, Gödör Club in Déak Ferenc Ter hosts both local and international talent on a regular basis.
In Hungary everything comes with paprika, ground red pepper, especially the traditional goulash. Find yourself a cosy Hungarian restaurant and pull your chair up to some traditional dishes. As for drinks, Hungary is proud of its wines and beers but the king of all drinks is pálinka, a fruit brandy which comes in several flavours (cherry, apricot, plum, etc). It is distilled in the countryside and is enjoyed either alongside a pint of beer or after a meal. Dessert should never be skipped, especially if there are fresh cakes in the display case. Dobos Cake, traditional strudel pastries (called rétes) or Gundel pancakes (palacsinta) are the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
As far as clichés go, there is no better place to satisfy your sense of smell than when spring turns to summer on Margaret Island. Maybe only the locals appreciate it but when this island thaws and the warmer air rolls into the city, this island in the middle of the Danube explodes with couples, dogs, joggers, kids and expats anxious to enjoy the good weather. In the air, the scents of dozens of types of blooming trees, the first buds of the season… you know that smell. When the city stops smelling like winter decay and takes up the fresh scent of a lady’s perfume? That is Margaret Island for you.
Let yourself unwind after a day of sightseeing at one of the city’s many thermal baths and spas, a perfect evening program when the sun is setting and your feet are aching for a break. There are six main bath houses (Király Spa, Rudas, Gellert, Lukács Spa, Rac Gyogyfurdo and Szechenyi Gyogyfurdo), some with gender segregated bathing times, others with massage and additional services, some modern while others have kept their Roman appearance. The Celts discovered these medicinal waters and some they they’re the city’s hidden beauty secret. You be the judge.
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