Sunday in Budapest
Spend the day in the park! Várolsiget Park is alsi home to one of the most famous flea markets in the Hungarian capital, Petofi Csarnok, at Zichy Michaly ut 14, and it's open on Saturdays and Sundays from eight until two in the afternoon.
A great place for Sunday brunch is Gundel, right in the park at Állatkerti út 2; (www.gundel.hu) is one of the legendary restaurants in the city for traditional Hungarian cuisine. Its beginnings date to 1894, when Károly Gundel opened his first restaurant. It bore a different name then - Wampetics. The place has an understated Art Deco interior graced with works by nineteenth-century Hungarian painters. The pianist plays quietly. In summer, the outddor terrace is a riot of greenery. Brunch is served from 11:30 to 3:00 on Sundays. The champagne is excellent, as are the snack and the sense of history.
Hungarian cuisine is heavy, so a walk after lunch or brunch is highly recommended. Until September 4th, there's an outdoor exhibit organized by the Fine Arts Museum in Városliget Park. It's called "Art on the Lake" and is actually a large-scale international art project. For three months, it offers visitors an opportunity to see work by 25 contemporary European artists. Most sculptures were created especially for this exhibit. The exhibit is enhanced by its unusual location - the surface of the lake, 35 thousand square metres in area.
The park also holds the Szechenyi thermal baths. It has three open pools. Constructed in 1913, it is Neoclassical in style. It's open every day from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM (www.spasbudapest.com). It's extremely popular with the residents of Budapest, who cultivate ritual visits here. Not a few play chess in the pools, on floating boards.
One Day in Budapest
Have breakfast at a cafe in Ferenz Liszt Square. It's a traditional place to meet for locals. The cafes are quite inexpensive and what they offer is delicious.
The market is the heart of any city, and Budapest's market is special. Opened in 1897, the Central Market (Vámház körút) was a revolutionary project when built - the market pavilion had a 120-metre tunnel linking it to the Danube and the railroad. A sign proclaimed that this was the tunnel into the market and countless barges would bring the goods to the complex. The pavilion is 150 metres long, but the most impressive feature is the roof. Unfortunately, what's on offer has lost much of its charm, but paprika, truffles, dried boletus mushrooms and other souvenirs that invoke Hungarian cuisine's specialties are certainly still available here.
It's worth continuing along Szabasag Bridge to cross the Danube and explore Buda. The legendary Gellert Spa at kelenhegyu ut. 2 (www.gellertbath.com) is one reason. It has lovely Secession style floors, galleries and columns. The water in the therapeutic pool is rich in minerals and flows in from 13 springs.
You should definitely climb the Castle Hill in Buda. On the other side of the Danube you will see the majestic, if pompous, Parliament. Have lunch at the Fisherman's Bastion, on the terrace. It's quite a touristic place, but the panorama can't be beat.
Returning to Pest, walk along Kiraly utca - it was the main artery of what was once the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish market was here in the nineteenth century. Almost everything that once was here is now lost, but some fragments remain and fascinate. There are now countless cafes, small shops and vintage stores here. It's rather chaotic.
Then there's Andrassy ut. - the most colourful and legendary boulevard in Budapest. Have a glass of local wine at Klassz, a place that's very popular with locals. (Andrassy ut. 41). The small restaurant with only a couple of tables also has a wine shop that boasts the very best selection of the very best Hungarian wines. It's also worth trying the foie gras here - instead of being served in the usual thin medallions, it is served in thick slices on brioche.
On the other side of the street, not far from Klassz, is the Opera. ( Andrássy út 22, www.opera.hu). One of the classics of Hungarian architectural history, it took nine years to build and was completed in 1884. Both the interior and the exterior feature hundreds of statues and paintings. Above the terrace on the second storey are statues of Verdi, Wagner, Mozart, Rossini, and other great composers. The director of the Opera was once Gustav Mahler, for three seasons. Though it is possible to tour the Opera, you can best savour its wonders by attending a performance.
Three days in Budapest
The royal residence of the Austria-Hungary Empire is 32 kilometres from the city - Godollo Palace is the largest Baroque palace in Hungary and one of the largest in Europe, constructed in 1735. It was the summer residence of the renowned Queen Sissi.
For a finale as refined as the palace, it's worth having supper at Babel when you return to the city (Szarka utca 1; www.babeldelicate.hu). This small gourmet restaurant doesn't yet have a Michelin star, but one can bet that it will soon get one. Babel is different from most fine restaurants in Budapest in that it has a restrained, minimalistic interior. The lighting is especially remarkable, with the lights, hidden in cubic lampshades, focused on the food in such a way as to make it far more enticing. The atmosphere at the tables is also rendered more intimate and pleasant by the lighting scheme. The culinary adventure begins with an intriguing waft of rosemary on dry ice bringing an unforgettable aroma to your table...
Keywords: Budapest, Hungary