Budapest (locals say “BOO-daw-pesht”) is a unique metropolis at the heart of a unique nation. Here you’ll find experiences like nothing else in Europe: Feel your stress ebb away as you soak in hundred- degree water, surrounded by opulent Baroque domes…and by Speedo- and bikini-clad Hungarians. Ogle some of Europe’s most richly decorated interiors, which faintly echo a proud little nation’s bygone glory days. Open your ears to a first-rate performance at
one of the world’s top opera houses—at bargain prices. Ponder the region’s bleak communist era as you stroll amidst giant Soviet-style statues designed to evoke fear and obedience. Try to wrap your head around Hungary’s colorful history…and your tongue around some of its notoriously difficult words. Dive into a bowl of goulash, the famous paprika-flavored peasant soup with a kick. Go for an after-dinner stroll along the Danube, immersed in a grand city that’s bathed in floodlights.
Budapest excites good travelers…and exasperates bad ones. I love this city for its flaws as much as for its persistent personality. As a tour guide, for years I’ve introduced travelers to Budapest: walked them step-by-step through the byzantine entry procedure at the thermal baths; handed them a glass of local wine with an unpronounceable name and an unforgettable flavor; and taught
them to greet their new Hungarian friends with a robust “Jó napot kívánok!” I’ve watched them struggle to understand—and gradually succumb to the charms of—this fascinating but beguiling place. And I took careful notes. This book represents the lessons I’ve learned on my own and with them, organized to help you experience Budapest with the wisdom of a return visitor.