Top 10 historic things to do in Budapest

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Elaborate architecture from the city’s imperial heyday defines a Budapest holiday. Book a Budapest hotel and sip heady Tokaj wine in Art Nouveau splendour or wander the melancholy Jewish quarter. Use this guide to the top 10 historic things to do in Budapest.

Take the Chain Bridge over the Danube

The neo-classical arched buttresses of the Széchenyi chain bridge rise out of the Danube like giant stepping stones to link Buda and Pest. The first permanent link between the two parts of the city runs towards the sprawling Buda Castle with its turquoise dome towering over the Buda bank. The colorful Hungarian parliament building straddles the Danube a few hundred metres upstream in Pest.

Paying your respects in Heroes Square

Statues of the seven Magyar horsemen who conquered Hungary in AD896 look set to race off down the suave boulevard of Andrássy út. Other heroic figures from later Hungarian history up to the millennium celebrations of 1896 look on.

Hősök tere, Budapest

Soaking up history at Széchenyi thermal baths

Taking the waters at this grandiose thermal bathing complex will make any visitor feel new again. Lounging in the semi-circular pool as you catch sight of the bath’s neo-Classical structure through the steam takes you far back in time.

Állatkerti krt. 11, Budapest 1146

A night at the opera

The best way to sample the lavish neo-classical interior of Budapest’s opera house without paying for an expensive tour is to watch a performance. The royal boxes can be great value. Very steep cheap seats are a bit further from the action on the stage but closer to the 19th-century angel frescoes.

Andrássy út 22, Budapest 1061

Shop in a yesteryear atmosphere at the Great Market Hall

Painstakingly restored to its colorful, early-20th-century best, this three-floored covered market is a bustling place the size of a hangar. Pick up paprika, goose liver and embroidery.

Fővám Tér, Budapest

Off the beaten track on Castle Hill

Away from imposing Buda Castle, neo-Gothic Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Matthias Church are less-frequented streets of interest. The narrow lanes start with Tanscics Mihály utca and end at Tóth Árpád sétány. They reveal Gothic, Jewish and Turkish traces among rows of beautiful baroque buildings. Round off the walk with a coffee and a cake in the tiny Ruszwurm Cukrászda.

Szentháromság utca 7, Budapest

Traverse the Buda Hills on the Children’s Railway

Formerly run by young socialist ‘pioneers’, these little red trains wind 11km through the forested Buda Hills. The trains are still manned by children in uniform who take their job very seriously but thankfully are not doing the driving.

Face to face with socialist statues in Memento Park

The sprinting, stone superman of a communist worker and other politically charged statues dotting the park on the edge of town are solid reminders of Budapest’s turbulent past.

Corner of Balatoni út and Szabadkai utca, Budapest 1223

Fine wine and Art Nouveau at the Gresham Hotel

Sip a glass of Tokaji Aszú, Hungary’s legendary sweet wine, in the Gresham’s lobby and luxuriate in the Art Nouveau curves, ceramics and glasswork. It’s second best only to staying here, Budapest’s most luxurious hotel.

Roosevelt tér 5 – 6, Budapest 1051

Into the heart of the Jewish district

Gozsdu udvar, the series of tunnel-like courtyards linking Dob and Király utcas, are a vein to the heart of the Jewish district. This might be the last chance to see it at its best before property developers transform it.

Entrance from Dob utca 16 or Király utca 13