Travel

Five reasons to visit Budapest

Hungary's capital combines old-world charm with modern vibrant culture and cuisine

As Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling looks to take a crack at American Michael Phelps' 100m butterfly world record at the 2017 Fina World Championships later this month in Budapest, there's no better time to discover Hungary's capital.

It combines old-world charm with a vibrant cultural and culinary scene and offers romantic architecture, picturesque scenery and an abundance of thermal baths.

The city is divided into two - Buda and Pest - by the river Danube, and its identity has been shaped by influences from Ottoman invaders to Italian Renaissance designers.

Trafalgar's guided holidays allow you to explore Prague, Vienna and Budapest over 10 days on an "At Leisure" trip, with prices starting from US$1,575 (S$2,170). You can also enjoy savings of 7.5 per cent if you book before Aug 24.

Here are five reasons to visit Budapest:

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT

Located in the Pest district and along the Danube, this Unesco World Heritage site houses the offices of the Prime Minister, 199 members of parliament and their staff members.

Inspired by London's Houses of Parliament, this century-old structure is the world's third largest Parliament building with 691 rooms. And at 96m in height, it is the tallest building in Budapest.

The facade has a huge array of statues of royal figures and prominent personalities from the armed forces, numbering a total of 90, with another 152 statues adorning the building's interior.

Admission costs HUF6,000 (S$30) and includes a 50-minute guided tour, where you will have a chance to explore the building's Main Staircase, the Old Upper House Hall and the Lounge, as well as view the Crown Jewels of Hungary displayed in the Central Hall.


Fisherman's Bastion. PHOTOS: TRAFALGAR

FISHERMAN'S BASTION

One of Budapest's most visited attractions, it is a popular spot for panoramic views of the city. Each of its seven turrets represents the seven Hungarian tribes that founded the present-day country in 895.

Disney fans may notice how the castle looks similar to the Walt Disney movie logo.

Called Halaszbastya in Hungarian ("halasz" means fisherman), it is named after the fishermen who protected its walls during wartime.

The terraces and lookout towers are open every day. Many of its balconies and the seven towers are free to enter, while entrance to the upper towers cost HUF800.

Those visiting between Oct 15 and March 15enter free.


Matthias ChurchPHOTOS: TRAFALGAR

MATTHIAS CHURCH

One of Europe's unique churches, Matthias Church is over 700 years old and is one of Buda's oldest buildings.

The top tourist attraction is widely recognised for its ornate turrets and beautifully detailed colourful roof.

Now a Gothic-style Catholic church, it was the site for several coronations, including that of Charles IV in 1916, the last Hapsburg king.

It was also the city's main mosque for over 150 years when the Ottoman Turks ruled Hungary.

SZECHENYI BATHS

There are over 1,000 natural spring water sources in Hungary. To make the most of those therapeutic thermal waters, Hungarians built dozens of spa baths all over the country.

Budapest is known in Europe as the City of Baths, and Szechenyi Spa Baths is the largest with 15 indoor baths and three grand outdoor pools.

Located in City Park, close to other attractions, it is home to one of the biggest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe.

FEHÉRVÁRI STREET MARKET

For local souvenirs and food specialities, head to this three-storey market in Southern Buda.

It is less touristy than the Central Market in Pest, and sells everything from fresh flowers to traditional Hungarian sausages, cakes and pastries. It also has a food court on the second storey.

Those interested in local snacks can try lángos, a deep-fried Hungarian savoury pastry.

You can find the latest seasonal produce, local honey and jam, and of course, Hungarian paprika.

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