Budapest: Where Luxurious Shopping and Ancient Monuments Make Common Front
Buda Castle lays on Castle Hill and it is best to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site on foot. Walking around the cobblestone streets will also bring you to Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. Climb up Fisherman’s Bastion, a terrace lookout that is only a hundred years young, for spectacular panoramas of the Danube, Margaret Island, Pest and Gellert Hill. Just next to it is Matthias Church, named after King Matthias, an Italian king who brought the renaissance with him.
Budapest is only a taster of what Hungary offers to those interested in Central European history. From here, we moved on to Godollo, a town in Pest county that was used as an escape by one of Hungary’s most beloved monarchs, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was affectionately known as Sisi. The late Princess Diana of Wales was often compared to her in terms of popularity among common folk and with international dignitaries and monarchs.
Visit Sisi’s hideaway at Gödöllo Palace where she spent her days indulging in her favourite hobby, horse-riding. The rooms are also worth a tour and audio-guides will be necessary to gain a proper understanding of the stories within the palace’s walls.
After Gödöllo, check out Hollókő, a Palóc ethnographic village in Hungary and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Comprising just 55 buildings, this small village is deliberately preserved to show the lifestyle of Palóc Hungarians in the 17th and 18th centuries. The cottage industry is what drives tourism to Hollókő. Walk around the village to discover old Hungarian women making bread in receptacles older than they are, and sample cheese and pastries made on site daily. For the adventurous, Hollókő villagers encourage travellers to experience a night’s stay at one of the cottages, replete with antique furnishings and amenities.
Otherwise, spend the night at Eger, a city that has made itself a name for its wine. The Eger region is home to the “Bull’s Blood of Eger” (Egri Bikavér), the most well-known Hungarian red wine available internationally.
Wine tourism is booming and any connoisseur or wine enthuse should visit the Eger Wine Region of Szépasszony-volgy (Valley of Beautiful Women) for a tour of its many cellars. Gal Tibor is one of Hungary’s most influential winemakers and a good place to start your wine tour. The family business owns its own vineyards and wine cellars, which store a wide variety of wine that have distinctive hints of spice in its profiles. Taste-test a few varieties along with a degustation menu available at their Füzio Wine Bar.