Hungary’s capital city Budapest—which is actually made up of three unified cities, with Buda and Óbuda on the west bank of the Danube and Pest on the east bank—is among the most beautiful cities in Europe. Fascinating history, graceful artistry and an endless array of tourist attractions make it an irresistible stop on any European itinerary. Here are a few of the highlights.

• Parliament Building: The Hungarian Parliament Building, which was designed and built in the Gothic Revival style, is one of the largest buildings in Hungary, and is home to hundreds of parliamentary offices. Although the impressive building looks fantastic from every angle, to see the whole building in its full glory, it is worth viewing it from the other side of the Danube. Tours of certain areas of the building are available daily, and run in different languages. Identification is needed to get in, and bags may be searched on entry.

• Gellért Baths: One of the grandest spas in the city is the Gellert Bath and Spa center, which includes an open-air pool (which turns into a wave pool), an effervescent swimming pool, a Finnish sauna and a range of other saunas and plunge pools. Massages and other spa treatments are also available at an extra fee. The complex was originally built between 1912 and 1918 in an Art Nouveau style, but it sustained serious damage during World War II. The whole spa was extensively renovated in 2008 to bring the baths back to their former glory. The baths are open all week for mixed bathing.

• Heroes’ Square: Heroes’ Square (Hosök tere), which marks the end of Andrássy Avenue, is home to an iconic monument which features depictions of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, who are believed to have led the Hungarian people from central Asia to the Carpathian basin. Atop the central pillar is the Archangel Gabriel, who is holding the Hungarian crown. At either side of the central column are two matching colonnades, which depict a variety of other historical Hungarian figures. The impressive buildings at either side of the square are art galleries.

• Margaret Island: Margaret Island is a 2.5-km-long island that sits in the middle of the Danube, which is covered in parkland and recreational facilities. There are a number of companies that rent pedal carts, golf carts and other self-powered vehicles, so that visitors can explore the island properly. A rubber-coated 5.5-km running track encircles the island, and is a popular jogging spot for runners who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. One of the most famous features of the island is the “music fountain,” from which water regularly “dances” in time to classical music.

• Danube Promenade: This stretch of the Danube walkway goes from the Elizabeth Bridge to the Chain Bridge, and is perfect for those who want a short but interesting walk. Promenading along the Danube is a great way to see many of the most famous sights in the capital. Looking over toward the Buda side of the river, the Buda Castle, the Liberty Statue on Gellert Hill and the Fisherman’s Bastion can be seen. On the Promenade side of the river, restaurants, cafes, Szechenyi Istvan Square and a range of different sculptures can be enjoyed, including the Little Princess.

• House of Terror: This site holds exhibitions about the successive Fascist and Communist regimes that ruled Hungary during the 20th century. The building itself was the former headquarters of the Fascist Arrow Cross party, and the building was subsequently used as a prison and torture venue by the State Security services of Hungary. There is the opportunity to tour some of the prison area in the basement. The exhibition includes information about both regimes, as well as testimonials from some of the victims.

• St. Stephen’s Basilica: This basilica is one of the most important religious buildings in Hungary, and visitors to the reliquary can see the (reported) right hand of Stephen, first King of Hungary. As this is a holy site, visitors who plan on entering the church are asked to keep their knees and shoulders covered. Those with a head for heights can travel up to the base of the dome and look out over the city. On a clear day, this is a great vantage point from which to survey Budapest from the air. Classical music concerts and organ concerts regularly take place inside the Basilica, and sometime spill outside.

Rich in historical treasures and filled with beauty, Budapest is a must for anyone with a yearning to travel the capitals of Europe.

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