It is home to the biggest thermal bath in Europe, was the childhood home of Harry Houdini and counts Elvis Presley as an honourary citizen.
With a vibrant nightlife that attracts people from across the continent and a burgeoning gastro scene, Budapest is a city of many faces.
Hungary’s capital might be a trap for stag and hen parties looking for cheap beer and all-night drinking. But it the imposing gothic and baroque architecture that has left an impression on centuries of visitors.
With Jet2.com now offering twice-a-week flights to Budapest from East Midlands Airport, travellers can experience the Pearl of the Danube from only £35 one way.
Our afternoon flight touched down in Budapest just after dark, but with the grandiose Hungarian parliament lit up against the city’s unforgettable skyline, not even a rainy evening could spoil the majesty. The centre comes to life at night, with sparkling lights of the myriad pubs and bars reflecting off the mighty Danube.
It is a city of two halves, with Buda set on rolling hills cut off from the plains of Pest by the river.
Just across the river from the parliament building, our Buda hotel – the Novotel Danube – allowed us to relax away from the noise of the busy Pest nightlife.
This four star hotel is the newest riverside hotel in the city centre and has a great location on the banks of the river. With the nearest bus and tram stops being 200 metres from the hotel it is perfectly positioned to explore the sights.
Just up the hill from our hotel, the view from Buda Castle is so breathtaking it has been designated a World Heritage Site, and the city itself is recognised by UNESCO as one of the world’s outstanding urban landscapes.
Everything about Budapest makes you want to stop and take pictures, from the awe-inspiring panoramas to the ramshackle charm of the trams and the crumbling facades of the forgotten high-rises.
We spent our first day roaming the streets and taking in the sights up and down Andrássy Avenue and around the world-famous Széchenyi baths. The slightly jaded Budapest Zoo proved popular with our toddler, and we wiled away an afternoon gawking at brown bears and camels while eating stove cake, or kürtőskalács. The sweet tubular bread – Hungary’s oldest pastry – can be found on every street in the capital, and is part of its culinary heritage along with goulash and egg dumplings – a suspect sounding scrambled egg dish with gnocchi that is surprisingly inoffensive on the palate.
Beyond the insipid offering of the tourist menu, Budapest has an array of high-end dining options, including the first branch of Japanese eatery, Nobu. If gilt chairs and chandeliers are your thing, Michelin-starred Onyx on Vörösmarty tér serves some of the best Hungarian cuisine in the world. For a more laid-back dining experience that wont leave such a dint in your Forint, Robinson Restaurant, on its own island on Városligeti Tó, is a popular choice.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the best that Budapest has to offer. Museum entrance fees are typically cheaper than in the UK, with entrance to the spectacular Hungarian National Gallery costing 1400ft, or just under £4 per adult. Simply walking by some of the key sights – the opera house, St Stephen’s Basilica and Heroes Square to name a few – is enough to soak up the spectacle of this historic city.
Three nights in the four star Novotel Danube with bed and breakfast departing from East Midlands on April 4 2014 costs from £248 per person based on 2 adults sharing with Jet2holidays.
For more information on Jet2, www.Jet2holidays.com or call 0333 300 0042.