Budapest - Spring 2008
Trip Start Apr 08, 2008
1Trip End Apr 20, 2008
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The Castle District, the River Danube embankments and the whole of Andrássy út (Ut or Utca means street or avenue) have been officially recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it would indeed be a shame to miss them out
In Pest, arguably the most important sight is Andrássy út. As far as Kodály Körönd both sides are lined with large shops and flats built close together. Between there and Heroes' Square the houses are detached and altogether grander. Under the whole runs continental Europe's oldest Underground railway, most of whose stations retain their original appearance
Visitors who have at least three days at their disposal, after having seen the sights in the Castle District and along the Danube embankments and Andrássy út, might like to take their pick from the following. The neo-Gothic Parliament has a beautiful interior, containing amongst other things the Hungarian Crown Jewels. It's not far from there to Saint Stephen's Basilica, where the Holy Right Hand of the founder of Hungary, King Saint Stephen is on display. It's also well worth taking the stair (or the lift if your less adventurous) top of the tower for 1500 HUF, from where there is a superb view over the rooftops. One of the jewels of Andrássy út is the Opera House.
The imposing Dohány utca Synagogue is as outstanding a building as its small garden, including metallic weeping willow tree dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, is moving. In between the sightseeing, but in truth an integral part of the Budapest scene, you cannot leave out the various bastions to Hungarian cuisine and café culture: for example, Gerbeaud Café (The BEST coffee, cakes, and pastries), and the Százéves, Biarritz, Fortuna, Alabárdos, Arany Szarvas, Kárpátia and the world famous Mátyás Pince Restaurants.
Between the wars Budapest's coffee houses were famous. Taking on some of the functions of English clubs each had its own loyal clientele
Nowadays Budapest is once again becoming known to visitors as much for being a mecca for shoppers - a reputation which last held true a century ago - as for being a country that for half of that century had been held in the ruthless grip of Communism. Whilst from the 1950's onwards there was never any shortage of basic foods, generations of locals and visitors alike were denied the finer things in life. Nowadays there are two trends discernable amongst retailers in Budapest: "big is beautiful" and "small is beautiful." Which is to say that there are now a host of huge shopping malls which have revolutionized people's approach to shopping. The biggest, and from an architectural point of view perhaps the most interesting, is the West End City Centre situated between Nyugati tér and Lehel tér in Pest. But perhaps surprisingly, the number of smaller outlets offering "luxury" goods and services has also mushroomed - especially Fashion Street - a city block of high end clothing stores. Vaci Utca is one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares and perhaps the most famous street of central Budapest. It features a large number of restaurants and fashion outlets catering primarily to the tourist market. The line of cafés and shops are worth seeing - at least once.