It’s one of the largest cities in Central Europe and the capital of Hungary. Before combining in 1873, Buda was the city of the west bank of the Danube and Pest was on the eastern bank. Although the city functions as a unit, the two halves have unique personalities that provide visitors with a two-for-one experience when touring Budapest.
Il Bacio di Stile is a luxury department store that carries more than forty high-fashion brands such as Armani, Oscar de la Renta and Yves Saint Laurent. Goods are delightfully displayed in the five-story Neo-Renaissance palace that features clothing, accessories and a few swanky places to get your hair and nails done. Throughout the stores you can find art pieces that highlight the modern interior and add visual interest to what might otherwise be just another place to shop. Once decked out to your satisfaction, show off your new duds in the rooftop bar or have a meal in the fine-dining restaurant.
A few blocks away, Capsula is another trendy store with high-end brands hanging on the racks – very elegant racks, of course. Designers of all types are available in this ultra-modern-looking shop that mixes futuristic detailing and bright lights with the bones of an aging townhouse that houses the store.
Walk down Vaci Utca to pass by a number of luxury shops. It’s the main pedestrian thoroughfare in Budapest and has a variety of restaurants in addition to retailers like Swarovski, Hugo Boss and ESPRIT. Explore the side streets for hidden gems before taking a break at an outdoor cafe for some coffee and people-watching.
Andrassy Ut is a visual feast, lined with Neo-renaissance mansions and fine townhouses. It’s also a great street to browse through luxury boutiques and hang with the high-brow theatre crowd. Shop here for Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Louis Vuitton in addition to local name brands.
Gundel prides itself on serving traditional dishes while providing an elegant and exceptional experience. Don’t be deceived by the word “traditional”; this is gourmet food in a gorgeous setting. They offer several three to five course meals with paired wine that take the guesswork out of ordering and will only set you back $100 to $200. Even if you’ve just stopped in for lunch, you’ll leave feeling as though you’ve been celebrating – and shouldn’t every meal feel like a celebration?
Gresham Cafe in the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace has one of the best views in the city with large windows that overlook the Danube and Castle Hill. It’s a fine spot for breakfast or an afternoon pastry and coffee. Although dinner is also excellent, you’ll want to fully enjoy your cup of espresso made with freshly roasted Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans. It’s some of the best – and most expensive coffee available.
Arany Kaviar serves French, Hungarian and Russian dishes in an elegant setting. As the name suggests, many of the best meals are made with caviar and the fish dishes are highly imaginative. They also offer some basic, but not really less-expensive, standbys such as borsch and stroganoff. The tasting menus are the best way to sample a variety of foods and start at a somewhat reasonable cost of around $50 per person. Without the wine.
The Gellert Bath and Spa is the best way to experience one of Hungary’s great traditions, the bath. Gellert has 12 separate pools kept at temperatures that range from 21C to 40C and are both indoor and outdoor. The water is mineral-rich and many claim that regular soaking has kept their illnesses at bay for many years. In addition to just relaxing in the water, you can add on massage, herbal baths, mud treatments and other ‘healing’ therapies. A mere $50 will get you something mysteriously labeled a “chocolate spa”.
Several wine tasting events are available including a trip to a nearby wine-making village or an afternoon spent in the cellar of Budapest Castle sampling the wines and enjoying a lesson on Hungarian wine-making.
The Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace is the height of modern luxury in a gloriously ornate, century-old palace. Everything is highlighted in red and gold with an elegant Asian theme running through it all.
You, of course, will want the Grand Suite that features separate conference rooms and a balcony that overlooks the Elisabeth Bridge. The bathroom has a huge soaking tub in case you miss the baths and the hotel amenities include a laptop safe with a charger and access to their extensive music collection for your listening pleasure. If the three floors of the Buddha Suite are too much for you, the Sauna Suite is just that – your own private sauna in a two-floor, three-bathroom suite with a private balcony and enough space to stretch out in.