Budapest is in every way the centre piece of Hungary, serving not only as the political and transportation hub of the country, but also as its most important nexus of commerce, culture, music and industry. Cut cleanly in half by the Danube River, this city has a storied legacy that spans the rise and fall of many empires and political agendas.
Budapest was not always the conglomerate city it is today; rather it was once two cities on either side of the Danube: eastern Pest (pronounced: Pesht) and western Buda. They converged in the late 19th century though the lines of division can still be both in architecture and terrain. The hilly region of Buda is home to Castle Hill and numerous medieval structures that attract tourists. Meanwhile, Pest has embraced modernity and the age of industry and globalisation.
Quality of life has grown dramatically in Hungary over the past decade. Once considered a tourist destination for bargain hunters and backpackers, Budapest is now much more sophisticated. This is evident across the board, from the prices of everyday goods to the lifestyles of the locals, who are able to spend increasingly more of their income on entertainment and non-essentials.
Budapest’s rich heritage has garnered a great deal of international attention, and the city’s beauty is undeniable. The UNESCO World Heritage list includes Castle Hill and Andrassy Avenue in Buda, and across the city visitors have access to a wealth of museums that chronicle the region’s history and diverse culture.
The dining scene in Budapest is gaining momentum as well. Restaurants are moving beyond mere Hungarian staples to cater for broader culinary interests. In recent years, restaurants have branched out across the city, and international fare is served alongside local favourites.
Entertainment here is a first-class affair. Prestigious operas are staged in the Opera House, with an impressive variety of classical music on the agenda throughout the year. Hungarians appreciate the formality of such affairs, and many of their festivals and public holidays draw locals and tourists alike to formal balls and lavish banquets.
Accommodation is widely available, with facilities that cater for every budget. Hotels are housed in five-star complexes, such as the Hilton, in simpler Soviet-era houses and in everything in between.
Locals claim that Budapest hasn’t changed in centuries, a fact that, amazingly, rings true despite the wars and tumultuous history that this city has lived through. Whether seeking grand architecture or a simple escape into the back country of the Danube Delta, there’s something here for every brand of traveller.
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