Rick Steves

The Grand Budapest Guide: 5 Fun Things to Do in Hungarian Capital

Once upon a time, two separate Hungarian cities -- Buda and Pest -- straddled the Danube River. Today, with more than a 1,000 years of history and a complex ethnic background, the two have grown together to form Hungary's cosmopolitan yet charming capital -- Budapest.

Travel guide Rick Steves visited this fascinating Eastern European destination for his show "Rick Steves' Europe." For ideas on what to see and do in Budapest, check out this roundup we put together of Steves' sightseeing adventures. You can also watch the full episode above. Between the two, you'll be ready for your trip in no time.

Want more European travel tips? Tune in every weeknight at 7:30 p.m. to watch "Rick Steves' Europe."

1. Take a dip in a hot spring
Budapest sits on a thin crust over thermal springs, and thus has about two dozen traditional, natural mineral baths around the city. What better way to relax your muscles and unwind after a ton of sightseeing than with a nice hot soak? One of the most fun and accessible spots to bathe is the Széchenyi Baths. While you're there, you'll see folks of all shapes and sizes floating around these thermal waters -- some playing chess in the water while others circle the rapids. It's all about letting loose and having a nice time.

2. Enjoy a live musical performance
Budapest offers a wide range of reasonably priced musical performances at unique venues. For opera and other classical music choices, the Hungarian State Opera House, one of Europe's finest and most opulent building, is definitely the place to go. Steves got his traditional music fix at one of the city's many concert halls, where he enjoyed a Gypsy and Hungarian folk concert. At places like these, Steves says, "nightly shows are inexpensive and high-powered."

3. Wander sights specially built for Hungary's 1000th birthday
The year 1896 was pivotal in Hungary's history, as it marked the 1000th anniversary of the year the first Hungarians (the Magyars) arrived in Europe. To celebrate this milestone, the city of Budapest sparked a construction boom in preparation for a huge birthday festival. Noteworthy sights built during this time include the Parliament building, the Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest's Great Indoor Market Hall, and Andrássy Boulevard. You can still visit these sights today.

The Parliament building

Photo: Edgar Barany/Flickr/Creative Commons License

4. Roam between the old cities of Buda and Pest
Take a stroll along Budapest city's first great bridge, the Chain Bridge, which offers a pedestrian-friendly way to connect Buda and Pest. Before it was built, people could only cross the Danube by boat or if the river was frozen solid. The bridge was completed in 1849 and has since become one of Budapest's most recognizable symbols. When you're on the Buda side, take the Buda Funicular up to Castle Hill. It shuttles visitors up and down the hill every few minutes.

5. Cruise the Danube River at night
Enjoy an evening cruise along the Danube like Steves did at the end of the episode. You'll sail along as the sun goes down, taking in the floodlit bridges and city monuments that line the riverfront -- a romantic end to a lovely trip to Budapest.

RickStevesBudapest

Photo: Pedro Szekely/Flickr/Creative Commons License

 

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