Budapest City Profile
Budapest is the only metropolis in Hungary. As the capital city it stands out among all of the major cities of Eastern Europe as the most cosmopolitan and the most Western in its orientation.
You won't easily forget its recent emergence from the shackles of Soviet repression, however, even though Hungary's capital suffered much less than Warsaw or Bratislava. Evidence of the old regime is less obvious here than in these other cities probably because the Kremlin gave Hungary a longer rope, allowing the local government to experiment with certain aspects of a free market economy long before the rest of Eastern Europe.
Between the metro, bus system, and tram lines, Budapest is relatively easy to navigate. And much of the city can be covered on foot. There are restaurants, pastry shops, and bars everywhere, and many of them cater to an expatriate clientele. If you want culture, there are plenty of theater and opera performances. And if you're after peace and tranquillity, you can venture over to the hilly Buda-side of the city to one of the venerated mineral baths that Budapest is famous for. For a terrific view of the city, go to the top of Castle Hill, where you will find the 13th-century Baroque Matthias Cathedral, the Royal Palace, which houses the Hungarian National Gallery, and Budapest's oldest bakery, Ruszwurm Cukraszda.
Long ago, what is now Budapest was actually two different cities divided by the Danube river. Buda lay on the north side of the river - older with more rugged, hilly terrain - while Pest extended flat and plain-like on the south shore. Today, little evidence exists of those two historical incarnations, while the atmosphere and the cityscape of Budapest has retained both its human proportions and its nostalgia.