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Hungary's landscape consists of flat to rolling plains divided in two by its main waterway, the Danube. In the early Middle Ages, it was settled by the Magyar people, a race from Central Asia, but more recently it has been occupied by Ottoman, German, Austrian and Soviet forces. Throughout the country, traces remain where opulent palaces and grand thermal baths rub shoulders with communist hulks. Yet Hungary's turbulent past has failed to dampen the spirit of the people – it was the first Eastern Bloc country to embrace Western-style democracy and flourishes today as one of Europe’s most vibrant destinations.
The twin cities of Buda and Pest face each other across the Danube, one with its fortifications, the other with its broad boulevards and elegant shops; the two sides linked by the famous Chain and Elizabeth Bridges. Together they form one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, rich in monuments and historic buildings. Escape from the capital and you’ll see sweeping open spaces, punctuated with storks’ nests and old farmhouses. Travel through the Great Hungarian Plain, Szeged, and stop in the natural paradise of Lake Balaton, which is affectionately known as the ‘Hungarian Sea’, and is Europe’s largest freshwater lake. Be sure to stop off in the small yet very charming town of Szentendre too, which has become a famous artistic centre. Budapest is actually one of the few capitals where you will find an active traditional music and folk dance scene. Restaurants with folklore music and serenading musicians at your table are still widely popular.
The traffic-free idyll of Margaret Island is the summer playground of Budapest. Work up a thirst exploring the romantic walkways, scented gardens, early medieval ruins and huge fountains, before enjoying a cocktail under the stars in the beer garden or aboard a Danube River cruise, which operate at all times of the day, but are best at night when all of Budapest’s grand buildings are illuminated.
Av temp: 17˚C63˚F
Av temp: 26˚C79˚F
Av temp: 16˚C61˚F
Av temp: 4˚C39˚F
London GMT + 1hr
The Hungarian Forint (HUF)
When to go: May-September for the warmest temperatures; November-December for great Christmas markets.
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