Budapest is a scenic spa city that's perfect for a weekend getaway. Renowned as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, it's famous for its healing waters, historical sites and nightlife.
From drinking in 'ruin pubs' to relaxing in thermal baths, via wine tasting and goulash guzzling, Alicia Drewnicki reveals 10 of the best things to see and do in the Hungarian capital.
1. Visit a spa
Budapest is known as the 'Spa Capital of the World', so take time to unwind in its healing thermal waters which are supposedly able to sure a number of ailments from backache to bad skin. These really are the hub of Hungarian life; important business transactions take place here, lovers meet for a spot of pampering and old men while away the afternoon with a chess board. Széchenyi Bath has indoor and outdoor natural pools, treatment rooms, steam rooms and saunas. It also hosts summer 'bath parties' for those who wish to combine pampering with partying.
Read more: 6 best baths in Budapest
2. Discover the ruin pubs
They look like abandoned buildings from the outside, but step inside a ruin pub and you'll enter a retro world of mis-matched furniture, exposed brick walls, weird artwork and fairy lights. Look out for random items hanging above you, such as trumpets, bicycles, vintage toys and plastic jellyfish! Szimpla Kert is the biggest and most popular ruin pub in Budapest. They not only pull some pretty tasty craft brews, they host a farmer's market every Sunday 9am to 2pm and during the summer months they open a 'vitamin bar' serving sunny fresh juices and milkshakes - the perfect pick-me-up if you go to hard on the booze the night before.
3. Go on a dinner cruise
Cruise along the Danube River at night whilst enjoying a Hungarian buffet (including palacsinta, sweet or savoury crépes, and pörkölt, a meat stew) listening to live music and admiring the views. A highlight is the Chain Bridge, which is lit up by hundreds of lights after sunset. Also look out for the magnificent Hungarian Parliament building, the biggest building in the country - which you can also take a guided tour of, when Parliament is not in session, every day from 8am.
4. Listen to live music
Home to the international music festival Sziget, held on Hajógyári Island in the middle on the Danube each August, Budapest has a a thriving and diverse music scene, from talented street musicians to folk bands in ruin pubs. Be a culture vulture at the lavish Budapest Opera House, where you can get seats in a Royal Box for a bargain price, or for more classical beats, tour the home of Hungary's most famous composer, Ferenc Liszt, and see his private instrument collection. For more contemporary music, head to the Millenáris centre, a huge cultural complex complete with n artificial lake, music halls and an interactive musuem, the Palace of Miracles.
Read more: 13 of the best music festivals for 2015
5. Explore Heroes' Square
One of the most photographed spots in Budapest, the impressive Heroes' Square is dedicated to the brave men and women who lost their lives fighting for Hungary's freedom, as well as the country's seven founding fathers. There are lots of great attractions surrounding this UNESCO World Hertiage site: two art museums, the Museum of Fine Arts (currently closed for renovation until 2018) the Palace of Art (open daily except Mondays, admission 1800HUF or £4) and the city park, which is home to a botanical gardens, a small amusement park and the Transport Museum of Budapest.
6. Shop and eat at the Central Market Hall
Taste local food and buy traditional Hungarian products at low prices. This huge indoor market has everything from chocolates and spices, to clothing and souvenirs. Head to the food stalls and restaurants on the second floor to sample famous local dishes such as beef gulyás (goulash) and rétes (Hungarin fruit strudel). But this picnic palace isn't just good for Hungarian eats, they host a range of themed days, focussing on one type of international cuisine, from Chinese to Greek - check their calendar when you're in town.
7. Climb Castle Hill
Take the Funicular Railway (1200 HUF or £2.70 one way) up Castle Hill for panoramic city views and access to Buda Castle. The railway itself was totally destroyed during the war and was rebuilt in 1986, whilst the castle was built in 1265 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which today houses the National Gallery - b sure to take a tour of the labyrinth beneath it. Other sites to check out include, Matthias Church and the Fisherman's Bastion.
8. Discover the Jewish Quarter
Explore the Jewish district, home to excellent cake shops such Fröhlich bakery, famous for their Star of David-shaped gingerbread and cream cakes, and historical attractions like the Hungarian Jewish Museum. A must-see sight is the Dohány Street Synagogue - the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world, seating 3,000 worshippers. Dohány Street itself is an interesting place to stroll along: a pretty tree-lined boulevard, it was also bordered the Budapest Ghetto during the Holocaust.
9. Go wine tasting
Spend a romantic evening in a wine cellar trying some of Hungary's finest tipple, including the famous Tokaji wine. Faust Wine Cellar is a great place to sip bold wines in Budapest, but it's also lovely spot to sample pálinka, a traditional Eastern European brandy – built during the middle ages, it's situated in the Hilton Hotel in Hess András square and is open 2pm - 9pm Thursdays through to Monday, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
10. Go caving
Grab your head torch and get ready to explore the underground world of Budapest. There are over 100km of caves that have been formed over millions of years by the thermal waters. Szemlohegy Cave, with it's beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, is easy to get to from the city centre and offers daily guided tours which last about half an hour to 45 minutes. If one cave isn't enough, then it's only 1km from Pálvölgy Cave, which is 19 km long - pack a hoodie, the temperature underground can get as low as 8 degrees.
Want more tips for trips to Budapest on a budget? Check this out:
Seven tips on how to see and do Budapest at its best, on a budget.