Budapest

Overview

From Andrew Harper

Budapest has a spectacular setting where the Danube narrows to flow beneath the steep escarpment of the Buda Hills. Until 1840, when the first permanent bridge was constructed, the city was made up of two distinct towns: “Buda,” built atop a fortified ridge, and “Pest,” laid out on the floodplain opposite. Nowadays, the banks are intimately linked, and the metropolis is both divided and united by the great river that flows through its heart. Buda is home to the Royal Palace and the Castle District, plus a variety of well-preserved Renaissance and Gothic dwellings, many converted into distinctive restaurants and boutiques. Pest, on the other hand, impresses visitors with its neo-Gothic Parliament Building, ornate Opera House, palace-like National Museum and colossal St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Hotels

All recommended hotels in Budapest

Budapest, Hungary
Four Seasons Gresham Palace © Jaime Ardiles-Acre
Four Seasons Gresham Palace

Wonderful art nouveau hotel in a lavishly restored 100-year-old landmark palace, perfectly located at the foot of the Chain Bridge on the banks of the Danube River, with spectacular views of the Royal Palace, Matthias Church and Buda Hills.

Dining

All recommended restaurants in Budapest

Alabárdos

Budapest’s touristy Castle District has only recently acquired restaurants of note, including Pierrot (Fortuna utca 14, tel. 1-375-6971), which has an excellent wine list and an enchanting garden, and Alabárdos, which has a stronger menu. There, favorite dishes include white asparagus soup with tiny cheese dumplings and rhubarb, Danube carp and local crayfish in a cucumber broth, and tender Mangalica pork tenderloin accompanied by falafellike blood pudding and a fresh pea purée. Closed Sunday.

Országház utca 2
Budapest 1014
Hungary
US$65
Bock Bisztró

This centrally located wine bistro is perfect for lunch during a day of sightseeing, and is also ideal for a casual dinner. It serves excellent Hungarian wines by the glass, and the cheerful English-speaking waiters are happy to guide you through the menu of delicious Hungarian comfort food, including venison ragout soup, a first-rate pork schnitzel, and delicious veal paprikash with small galuska dumplings. Closed Sunday.

Erzsébet körút 43-49
Budapest 1073
Hungary
US$35
Kacsa

Located between Castle Hill and the Danube, this charming traditional restaurant specializes in duck (kacsa means “duck” in Hungarian), the signature style being crispy roast duck with sour morello cherries. Other Hungarian/Continental dishes include saddle of lamb with walnuts, and heirloom beef steak in a red-wine sauce with pearl onions. The ambience is hospitable and the service attentive.

Fő utca 75
Budapest 1027
Hungary
US$55
Onyx

Everything at Onyx is over the top, from its silvery Cubist-meets-Versailles décor to its all-too-tempting bread cart, with more than 20 varieties of baked goods. The “Hungarian Evolution” tasting menu seeks to elevate traditional recipes to the level of haute cuisine, and it never falters. The foie gras encased in rhubarb gelée was among the silkiest I have ever sampled; the veal tartare topped with a crispy ribbon of green apple had marvelous textural interplay; and the goulash soup tasted exceptionally rich and beefy. Generously poured Hungarian wine pairings rise to the occasion. Vegetarian menu available. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Vörösmarty tér 7-8
Budapest 1051
Hungary
US$110
Remíz

Expect authentic Hungarian cookery at this handsome brasserie, which opens onto a wonderful garden patio. Specialties include crispy goose garnished with slivers of red onion, and venison ragout with porcini mushrooms and potato croquettes.

Budakeszi útca 5
Budapest 1021
Hungary
US$45