TWO-PART HAR­MONY

How to spend two days in two cities in one

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - DESTINATION BUDAPEST - AMANDA WOODS

Ac­ity of two halves, the Hun­gar­ian cap­i­tal Bu­da­pest was born in 1873 when cities di­vided by the Danube known as Buda and Pest came to­gether as one. To­day Bu­da­pest is one of the high­lights of Eastern Europe, a place where beau­ti­ful boule­vards and di­lap­i­dated court­yards both play a special part in the city’s DNA.

Here’s how to make the most of two days in Europe’s other City of Lights.

DAY ONE MORN­ING

Make your way to the Cas­tle Hill Fu­nic­u­lar, which dates back to 1870, and hop in a vin­tage-style car­riage up to the Cas­tle Dis­trict in old Buda. Step back in time as you walk the cob­ble­stone streets to Buda Cas­tle, and get a cul­ture fix at the Hun­gar­ian Na­tional Gallery which is spread through sev­eral wings of the cas­tle and mixes in­ter­na­tional mas­ter­pieces with Hun­gar­ian fine arts.

Stroll along the Fish­er­man’s Bas­tion and take in the beauty of both the fairy­tale tow­ers and the views over the River Danube from the panoramic ter­race.

Af­ter tak­ing photos of the out­side of the Matthias Church with its mul­ti­coloured roof, step in­side and see its rich wall paint­ings and beau­ti­ful stained glass win­dows. Early birds can also avoid the long queues to step in­side the coro­na­tion church of Hun­gar­ian kings.

LUNCH

Walk down the hill and back across the city’s most fa­mous bridge. The first per­ma­nent stone bridge con­nect­ing Pest and Buda, the Chain Bridge was in­au­gu­rated in Novem­ber 1849 and fea­tures stone lion stat­ues that come com­plete with tongues, de­spite ur­ban le­gends to the con­trary.

Make your way to The First Strudel House (rete­s­haz.com) where you can try var­i­ous Hun­gar­ian main meals be­fore try­ing to de­cide be­tween ap­ple, apri­cot, sour cherry, cab­bage and other strudels that have been made in front of you.

AF­TER­NOON

Find out why Bu­da­pest’s ther­mal baths have been win­ning peo­ple over for hun­dreds of years with a visit to one of the city’s in­door or out­door pools. There are about 120 ther­mal springs un­der the city of Bu­da­pest and dozens of baths to choose from.

The New Baroque-style Szechenyi Baths, built in 1913, has three out­door and 18 in­door pools to choose from, and is where you might find your­self play­ing chess in your swim­suit against one of the reg­u­lars.

The Art Nou­veau Gellert Baths at the bot­tom of Gellert Hill is an­other favourite with beau­ti­ful stained glass win­dows, mo­saic floors, painted dome ceil­ings and tiled walls.

A visit to one of the baths usu­ally in­cludes saunas and steam rooms, with spa treat­ments avail­able at an ad­di­tional cost.

EVENING

Get a taste for Bu­da­pest’s ruin bars, which have taken over aban­doned build­ings and turned them into quirky places to have a drink and a bite to eat. Start at Puder Bar where sur­real col­lages and stat­ues mix with colour­ful fur­ni­ture and where the staff are re­fresh­ingly hon­est and not afraid to say “I hate it” when you ask about a cock­tail on their menu.

Walk to the For Sale Pub where the walls and ceil­ings are lined with pa­per with mes­sages from for­mer guests, and marvel at the oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety dif­fer­ences be­tween coun­tries when you no­tice the open flames of can­dles near pa­per lined walls and straw-cov­ered floors.

Then head to the ruin bar that started it all, Sz­im­pla Kert, and check out its eclec­tic nooks and cran­nies be­fore tak­ing a seat in an old Tra­bant car for a drink or three.

VIS­I­TORS CAN SEE ST STEPHEN’S MUMMIFIED RIGHT HAND COV­ERED IN RUBY AND PEARL BRACELETS

DAY TWO MORN­ING

Start the day in one of the most beau­ti­ful build­ings in the city, St Stephen’s Basil­ica. The largest church in Bu­da­pest is ded­i­cated to the first king of Hun­gary, St Stephen, and vis­i­tors can see his mummified right hand cov­ered in ruby and pearl bracelets in a glass case near the main al­tar. It’s free to visit this Baro­questyle cathe­dral but for a small fee (about $2.50) you can also walk up a spi­ral stair­case to get a bird’s eye view of Bu­da­pest.

It may be early for gelato for some but it’s also a good time to avoid the queues at Ge­larto Rosa. There are two stores just in front of the basil­ica and both de­sign your icy treat to look like the petals on a rose.

Take a 15-minute walk to the Hun­gar­ian Par­lia­ment Build­ing to see this Neo-Gothic masterpiece at close quar­ters. The third largest par­lia­ment build­ing in the world of­fers 45-minute guided tours when the Na­tional Assem­bly is not in ses­sion, and tours in­clude a visit to the Hun­gar­ian crown jew­els.

Then take a mo­ment to ap­pre­ci­ate that you’ve now vis­ited the two tallest build­ings in Bu­da­pest.

The dome of St Stephen’s and the tallest point on the Hun­gar­ian Par­lia­ment Build­ing are both 96m high, sym­bol­is­ing the bal­ance be­tween church and state, and no other struc­ture is al­lowed to be taller.

LUNCH

See what a dif­fer­ence day­light can make to Kaz­inczy St when you head back to Sz­im­pla Kert’s part of Bu­da­pest for a taste of the city’s street food scene.

Street Food Kar­a­van is a mix of

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