Jun 6 2008

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Budapest: The pearl of the Danube

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Budapesthungary
By Heather Leisman

Budapest has often been regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and with its breathtaking views, regal castles and varied architectural styles, it’s easy to see why.

Beauty aside, this city has an interesting and diverse history, which has shaped it into the fascinating place it is today. Evidence of this city’s historical rule by the Romans, the fiery Magars, Mongols and Turks can be seen in the various fortresses, public bath houses and even Hungarian cuisine.

Budapest is one city, occupying both sides of the Danube, with Buda on the west bank and Pest on the east. Buda is home to many popular sights such as the Royal Palace, Fisherman’s Bastion, Gellert Hill and charming Old Town. For an interesting experience, I highly recommend jumping on the funicular at the base of the Chain Bridge, which will take you to the top of Castle Hill. You’ll be rewarded with a sweeping panoramic view of Pest. Another of my favorite viewpoints is from the Citadel, which is perched high on Gellert Hill and offers a view of the entire city.

In stark contrast to hilly, residential Buda, Pest is relatively flat and is teeming with restaurants, bars and other commercial businesses. But you’ll also find a number of "must see" attractions in Pest, including the Opera House, Great Synagogue, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes Square Budapestroyalpalaceand the Museum of Fine Arts. Take a walk down the grand boulevard of Andrassy Ut, past the Opera House and stop off for a coffee in Liszt Ferenc square before you continue down to Heroes Square.
There, adjacent to the impressive monument, you’ll find the Museum of Fine Arts where you can spend a few hours exploring the Medici exhibit, while it lasts.

There is also a great variety of dining options to choose from while you’re there. One of my favorite spots was Spoon, a restaurant/café located on a boat, which you can board from the Pest side. The menu is varied, and while a bit pricey, it’s well worth it for the unobstructed views of the Royal Palace & Chain Bridge. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Hungarian wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignons from the Villany region, which were delicious and reasonably priced. And finally, stop by the fabulously gorgeous, but grossly overpriced, New York Cafe and enjoy the lavish décor.

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Heather Leisman is senior director of merchandising for Orbitz.

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