TWO-PART HAR­MONY

How to spend two days in two ci­ties in one

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - 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.

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.

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

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

street food carts in­clud­ing ve­gan and meat sushi burg­ers, Tran­syl­va­nian cab­bage and goulash in bread bowls, Ital­ian dishes, and chim­ney cakes.

AF­TER­NOON

En­joy some pot­ter­ing around Bu­dapest’s streets and shops, start­ing with the eclec­tic mix of bou­tiques in District VII in the Jewish Quar­ter.

If it’s Sun­day, the Sz­im­pla Farm­ers Mar­ket is an­other top pick and is where fresh pro­duce and pas­tries are ac­com­pa­nied by live mu­sic and art.

Make your way to The Great Mar­ket Hall on the Pest side of Lib­erty Bridge and take in the architecture and range of goods on of­fer in the city’s largest and old­est in­door mar­ket. The Great Mar­ket Hall has three lev­els of food, fash­ion and sou­venirs to browse through and is where lo­cals do­ing their every­day shop­ping rub shoul­ders with tourists on the hunt for me­men­tos.

For in­ter­na­tional brands on a beau­ti­ful boule­vard take a stroll along An­drassy Ave. Don’t for­get to look up in be­tween the win­dow shop­ping as this street is lined with grand build­ings with stat­ues, col­umns, and in­ter­est­ing de­sign fea­tures and is so im­por­tant to the city it’s a World Her­itage site in its own right.

Fancy a cof­fee fix? For one of Bu­dapest’s best grand cafe ex­pe­ri­ences head to New York Cafe with its high ceil­ings, mar­ble col­umns and Vene­tian glass. At the turn of the 20th cen­tury, this cafe was a hotspot for artists and writ­ers, with some of the most in­flu­en­tial news­pa­pers edited up­stairs.

Or if you’re in the mood for some­thing quirkier try The Donut Li­brary where clas­sic and unique flavours like cin­na­mon-plum are cre­ated with all nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents.

EVENING

When the sun goes down, Bu­dapest gives Paris a run for its money in the City of Lights stakes, and the best way to take it all in is from the wa­ter.

At night the dra­matic Par­lia­ment Build­ing, Buda Cas­tle and other mon­u­ments all light up with a golden glow, and the bridges come alive with twin­kling lights.

There are many river­boat cruises on of­fer, in­clud­ing some din­ner cruises, but the best op­tion is to go for a sun­set cruise so you can watch the city light up around you as the day­light fades.

PIC­TURES: ISTOCK, GE­LARTO ROSA

On top of Cas­tle Hill, Matthias Church reigns; browse the city’s largest and old­est in­door mar­ket; en­joy icy treats shaped like a rose; Chain Bridge con­nects Pest and Buda. CHAIN BRIDGE

GE­LARTO ROSA

GREAT MAR­KET HALL

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