With its proliferation of castles and geothermal baths, the fairy-tale like Budapest is one of Eastern Europe's most charming cities. But it captures much more than the old-world spirit it displays; modern buildings have come in the form of shopping centers, theaters and restaurants.
Take a winding walk along the Danube and through the city's easy-to-navigate districts and create your own $200-a-day exploration of Budapest.
The Best Things to Do
A visit to Budapest would be incomplete without walking through the doors of Buda Castle. Among the many things you can do at this complex of World Heritage sites is tour the castle via Segway ($46.63 adults), take a wine tasting tour (from $26.63) and visit a museum of antique telephones ($2).
Budapest is known for the proliferation of its thermal baths—there are some two dozen—and Széchenyi is the largest, with 21 pools. In addition to the thermal pools, visitors can have a massage, pedicure or take a sauna. Prices from $17.55.
One of Budapest's most popular attractions is the House of Terror Museum where visitors can explore the history of Hungary's two terror regimes and pay reverence to their victims. $7.64 adults.
The Bálna marketplace—or Whale, as it is lovingly referred to—is considered Budapest's modern architectural jewel. Here, you can bring back some traditional Hungarian goods at the Hungarium, visit one of the many galleries and eat at a cafe that overlooks the Danube.
While the Hungarian State Opera House is currently undergoing renovations—you should still walk past to see its grand façade—the Erkel Theatre has taken over its programming. Operas, musical and children's shows are performed here. Tickets start at $5.73.
The Best Restaurants and Bars in Budapest
Wine is celebrated in Budapest, and oenophiles delight in the Divino Wine Bar. The modern and old-world aesthetic comes together seamlessly here. Enjoy wines from the world's best wine regions and expand your knowledge at its wine school. Bar food—burgers, ham and cheese plates and bruschetta—is also available (from $4.59).
Always ensconced on the "best-of" lists, the Michelin-starred Onyx is exquisite in both its cuisine and its design. This splurge-worthy restaurant offers two different multicourse menus at both lunch ($68.40-$114.25) and dinner ($114.25-$133.35).
Where to Stay
Fans of Wes Anderson's films will recognize the art nouveau Hotel Gellért as the one that inspired "The Grand Budapest Hotel." When it opened in 1918, it was one of Hungary's most opulent hotels and is still a stunner today. While there, take a dip in the famous Gellért Baths with a $20 day pass. Rates from $105 a night.