There’s much to see and do on either side of the Hungarian capital, which is split in half by the expansive bend of the Danube river.
On the west bank is medieval Buda, hilly and full of history, and on the east is Pest, modern and bohemian. The two were first linked in 1849 by the iconic Szechenyi Chain Bridge and together they now offer an alluring whole that ranks #31and #39 in two categories—Programming, which measures the experiential pillars of a great visit: food, shows, shopping, and nightlife; and Product, which looks at key institutions of higher learning, museums, convention centers and airports.
Ornate baths, old-fashioned cafes, lively markets, art nouveau splendors, and a fascinating history sweep visitors off their feet. Start your visit with a hike to Gellert hills, which rise 770 feet above the city and offer sweeping views of the river below, the Buda hills, Pest and the mountain ranges in the distance. Nearby is the Gellert baths, and a well-deserved soak in one of the city’s prettiest thermal complexes. Don’t miss the Royal Palace, rebuilt in the 18th century by the Habsburgs and today the home of the Hungarian National Gallery.
You’ve likely worked up an appetite by now, so head over to Pest Buda, an inn with a sidewalk bistro that serves Hungarian comfort food (goulash, anyone?). The Jewish quarter is the place to go for flea market finds, eclectic art galleries, and boho chic bars. Over on the Pest side, there’s the stunning St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian State Opera. Don’t leave Budapest without visiting a cafe— try the high-ceilinged Central Coffee House, which dates back to 1887 and serves a delicious sour cherry dessert.