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For Central European travel, Budapest has long been in the shadow of Prague.

That is unjust, but good news for budget travellers on the lookout for cheap holidays.

Budapest - Capital of Hungary

In many ways the Hungarian capital is even more beautiful than its Czech cousin, and certainly more affordable.

Orientation

Budapest is an easy city to navigate around as it is divided by the grand sweep of the Danube river, with the West bank the Buda side and Pest on the East.

Accommodation

There is a good choice of cheap but well-equipped hostels in Budapest, most of them centrally located on the Pest side of the river, in Districts five, six or seven.

What to see in Pest

The best of Pest can be experienced by a walk along Andrassy Ut

As well as the city’s finest shops and cafes this elegant boulevard contains the neo-Renaissance City Opera House, a UNESCO world heritage site, which is as good a place as any to remind yourself that you are in a city with a nearly unmatched musical tradition.

There is a statue outside of the composer and pianist Franz Liszt, whose long-fingered hand most visitors find it impossible to resist being photographed beside.

If your curiosity about Liszt is aroused, his home has been turned into a museum with much of the original d�cor is intact. Entry costs only 1,300 forints (about $5) or 600 forints for students, but be warned – you have to take your shoes off, otherwise the lady curators turn fierce.

Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum:
The museum is a reconstruction of Liszt's last Budapest flat on the first floor of the old Academy of Music, where the composer lived between 1881 and 1886.

Before you reach Heroes’ Square at the end of the avenue, a fascinating but grim reminder of Hungary’s oppression, first under the Nazis and then under the Soviets, comes at the House of Terror (Terror Haza), the walls of which are lined with portraits of hundreds of victims, many of whom died in prison as they resisted the regime.

The River Danube and Refreshments

Though classy, the cafes and bars around Andrassy Ut are not the most economic option for eating. Better to head back towards the Danube, and a place that can’t be recommended highly enough: The Great Market Hall.

In this cavernous glass-ceilinged structure, you’ll find stalls selling some of the tastiest produce that is ideal for a picnic on the grassy bank of the nearby river. Hungarian spicy sausage is especially delicious.

Buda and The Castle

Crossing by one of the bridges, Buda is much hillier than Pest and Castle Hill rises steeply up from the bank.

The castle on the top, the site of a royal residence since King Bela made it his home in the 13th century, can be reached by a funicular railway for 1,000 forints (about $4) or for free with a bit of exertion up the switchbacks of a tree-lined footpath.

The castle complex also holds St Stephen’s Basilica, which along with the Parliament is the tallest building in the city. Climbing its dome offers the reward of unmatched views across the river to Pest and beyond.

Don't Delay, Go Today

Budapest Parliament - by Michel Guntern

There are many more reasons to recommend Budapest to the wallet-conscious traveller.

Previous visitors may be shocked I’ve not even found space here to mention the traditional baths. But perhaps the best thing to say about the city is this: you will get so much pleasure from simply walking around, that the cost of entering places will come as a bonus to an already magnificent trip.

By Simon Clark.

Related Links

Cheap Flights to Budapest:
Depending on where you're flying from, it may be cheaper to fly to Budapest than travel by train.

Hungary Travel Notes.

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