Budapest is the postcard perfect city. From every vantage point a stunning shot, a breathtaking view, an incredible monument, sites steeped in fascinating yet complex history.
Few European cities can rival its glorious setting along the Danube River and it is little wonder it is high on the wanderlust list of those trying to tick off the list of city destinations.
Wrapped up against the chill at this time of year, a tour around the linked cities of Buda and Pest, is beautiful; with the added bonus of a mulled wine (or two) and plenty of heartening fare to warm you through.
It was beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas stepping into the centrally located Vörösmarty Square for the celebrated Christmas markets, flanked by artisan stalls – a treasure trove of crafts, decorations, traditional and charming gifts, accessories and toys.
Not to mention the pop-up food stalls rich in Hungarian cuisine Goulash aplenty served in a huge, hollowed-out bread roll’s dumplings and sauerkraut, or fresh flat bread lathered in garlic sauce, sour cream and grated cheese.
The stuffed cabbages and a glass of palinka come recommended too.
For many of us the markets have become a ‘must’ on the season’s social calendar but they are bettered here with the smaller Christmas fair at the nearby St Stephen’s Basilica, which opened the weekend of November 27 and runs until the end of the month.
A visit is a magical affair with a classic festive setting. An ice rink set around the tree, the grandeur of the Basilica as a backdrop and a spectacular light and laser show beamed across its facade.
For this trip, a Jet2 destination package, I was based western side of the Danube in the pretty and ancient Castle district of Buda, at the Hilton hotel, from which the best views of the Hungarian capital can truly be appreciated.
Over a four-night break, I enjoyed a room with the view. Nothing could beat waking up with a sidewards gaze across the river and the Hungarian Parliament Building beyond.
A recent refurbishment has been designed to make the most of every viewpoint and it does not disappoint.
Much of the city’s beauty can be captured in a walk, it is approximately 17 minutes from Buda to Pest, though a regular bus service can save the steep return trek.
A Cityrama private tour was a great way to see and learn a lot about the history and sites in the short space of a morning; Part drive and walk the tour included Castle Hill, Fisherman’s Bastion, Heroes Square and City Park
But Budapest is perhaps also best viewed from the water, with boat trips and dinner cruises running all year, day and night.
The city by night is enchanting in winter and a night cruise, allowed us to take in the illuminated sights.
It was also an opportunity to enjoy the food and some traditional music.
For those who like to make the most of the night spots the ruin bars in District Seven, the Jewish quarter on the Pest side are the place to soak up the Hungarian vibes.
Out-of-use buildings left neglected post war transformed into quirky watering holes. It’s a strange concept but visitors love them –it’s easy to see why.
Sipping on an amaretto and ginger in a one-time block of flats now named ‘Instant’, I found myself sat in an “enchanted forest”, surrounded by sculptures of rabbits, winged owls, forgotten objects and a boar-shaped disco ball. The bars provide an eclectic night out.
But for a true winter feel of Budapest nothing is more unique than venturing to the palace-like Szechenyi Baths . A definite when in this city of spas, whatever the weather.
Stepping outside in your swimwear late November would not come recommended anywhere else but the month, time and season are quickly forgotten shoulders dipped in the hot springs.
An hour of the biting chill against the warm water on a crisp morning provided a refreshing start to the day.
And to further unwind, Hungarian wine is just the tonic and the best way to sample this is a tour and stop-off at trendy wine gallery Culti Vini, where a choice of 56 wines from Hungary’s main wine regions are available to try in three sample sizes.
Destination Fact Box – – Budapest:
Leading leisure airline Jet2.com offers friendly low fares and great flight times to Budapest from Manchester Airport, with flights operating four times a week throughout the year. Jet2.com also flies to Budapest from East Midlands, Edinburgh and Leeds Bradford Airports.
Fares with Jet2.com start at £34 one way including taxes. Jet2CityBreaks at the 5 star Hilton Budapest start from £339 per person (based on 3 nights’ bed & breakfast accommodation, flights departing from Manchester on 16th December 2016 and includes 10kg of hand luggage). To book flights visit www.jet2.com or for package holidays visit www.jet2holidays.com/city-breaks or call free on 0800 408 5599.
Jet2.com and Jet2CityBreaks offer a range of flight-only and flight and hotel options to a host of wonderful Christmas market destinations. This includes over thousands of seats to stunning festive locations including Budapest, Barcelona, Prague, Krakow and, of course, the famous festive shopping trips to New York. For more information, visit http://www.jet2.com/christmas-markets