- Where the Locals Go
Gábor Dory is head of communications at the five-star Corinthia Hotel Budapest, one of the Old World grande dames that inspired Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.
In Hungary’s capital, “there is something for absolutely everyone,” Dory says. “From the historic thermal baths and museums to the modern 21st-century vibe of young Budapest, everyone who visits is guaranteed to enjoy themselves.”
Here are a few of Gábor’s favorite things about the city he’s proud to call home.
Budapest Is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them to is the Castle District to take in the beautiful panoramic view and classic old-town feeling.
Though each season has its assets, spring is the best time to visit my city because the fresh and vivid colors of reawakened nature flood Budapest. There is also a lot to do, as festival season gets under way around that time.
You can see my city best from the Citadella atop Gellért Hill. The wide-angle views of the Danube River flowing past Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica are thrilling and magnificent.
Locals know to skip shopping and dining on Váci Street and check out Belvárosi Piac (Downtown Market) instead. It provides a truly fantastic atmosphere with a wide selection of fresh regional fruit and veggies. Make sure to sample the great fried sausages served with mash and pickles on the first floor.
In the past, notable people like legendary footballer Ferenc Puskás, gastronomic genius Károly Gundel, and noted architect Miklós Ybl have called my city home.
My city’s best museum is probably the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art, which face each other on Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square). It’s difficult to pick a favorite from Budapest’s 200+ museums and galleries—life simply isn’t long enough to see and experience all of them!
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that you can choose from a wide range of options. Buses, trolleys, trams, metros, boats, funiculars, chairlifts, trains, and suburban railways make it easy to get from one side of the city to the other. But my favorite mode of transport is definitely a bicycle. Visitors can take advantage of BuBi, a bike-sharing service that can be accessed all around the city. Simply pick up a bicycle, then drop it off at another station when it’s not needed anymore.
The best places to spend time outdoors in my city are the terrace at the Akvárium Klub in Erzsébet Square, the pubs on Ráday Street, and the open-air 360 Bar on Andrássy Avenue. I wouldn’t miss Budapest’s famous thermal baths, either.
My city really knows how to celebrate the establishment of the Hungarian state. We have the National Gallop, an equestrian exhibition honoring Hungary’s military history and Hussar culture, in Heroes’ Square and family activities up and down the Danube.
You can tell that someone is from my city if they order fröccs, a wine spritzer popular among locals, at the bar.
For a fancy night out, I would definitely go to the Hungarian State Opera on Andrássy Avenue.
Just outside my city, you can visit Szentendre, a wonderful small town with lovely restaurants and a charming walkway along the Danube.
My city is known for being teeming, buzzy, and always on the move, but it’s really relaxing and calm with many places to find peace. Margaret Island and Hajógyár Island are real oases of tranquility, while City Park and the hills of Buda (on the western banks of the Danube) provide perfect opportunities for long walks and private moments.
The best outdoor market in my city can be found on Fény Street, but be sure to seek out special markets connected with festivals and holidays, such as the Christmas market in Vörösmarty Square and the Festival of Folk Art market in the Castle District.
Á Table, a delightful little French boulangerie and patisserie, is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Spíler beer garden is the spot for late-night eats.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, check out welovebudapest.com.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go to the top of János Hill and enjoy the sound and colors of nature while munching on rétes (strudel).
To escape the crowds, I like to take a long walk around Margaret Island admiring the old sycamore trees, the small zoo, and the Japanese garden. The combination of fresh air and the Danube River is an ideal way to clear your head.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The dish that represents my city best is beefsteak, Kedvessy style, and a decent bottle of Bull’s Blood red wine from Eger, Hungary, is my city’s signature drink. Sample them both at the Brasserie and Atrium restaurant in the dazzling Corinthia Hotel Budapest.
The Palace of Art is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Trafiq Club or Ötkert (near St. Stephen’s Basilica), or take your pick from the many clubs in the city’s historically Jewish quarter in District Seven.
The annual Sziget Festival, with its great performances, amazing concerts, and truly international vibe, could only happen in my city.
In the spring you should rent a bike and follow the Danube River, check out the fancy stores on Andrássy Avenue, and row a boat in City Park.
In the summer you should experience Budapest’s exceptional nightlife venues. My favorites include Romkert Budapest, Holdudvar, Raqpart, and A38. Also: Don’t miss Cafe del Rio and all the clubs on Hajógyár Island.
In the fall you should go to the Wine Festival at Buda Castle to taste wonderful wines and enjoy a breathtaking view of the city.
In the winter you should lounge in the steaming outdoor pools at the Széchenyi bathhouse while snow is falling, then enjoy the variety of on-site saunas. After that, grab family or friends and go skating on the large ice rink in City Park.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden, especially on a sunny day. I feel like a child again when I stare at the elephants, giraffes, and gorillas—time simply flies while you’re there.