Take in city icons such as the Opera House by bike / Alamy

New flights and a cultural festival make the Hungarian capital a top destination, writes Trisha Andres

Budapest is one of Europe's most captivating cities, with World Heritage Sites, fine concert halls, first-rate galleries, Michelin-starred restaurants and a buzzing nightlife. Add to that the Danube river, perfect for cruising and a natural dividing line between the leafy Buda area and trendy Pest.

The city is now even easier to access, thanks to Wizz Air's new route from Glasgow, which launched last month (0907 292 0102; wizzair.com). And with the Budapest Summer Festival (szabadter.hu) under way, it's a great time to visit the Hungarian capital. Concerts, operas and theatre productions from Tosca to Jesus Christ Superstar are being staged on Margaret Island and in Varosmajor park until 31 August, but there are plenty of other ways to spend a break in the city.

Paint the town red

Get the inside track on Budapest's contemporary art scene. An expert from Underguide (00 36 30 908 1597; underguide.com) can help you to navigate some of the city's hard-to-find galleries and artists' studios on an Art Pulse tour.

Make your way to Balna, a spectacular building designed by the Dutch architect Kas Oosterhuis where you'll find the New Budapest Gallery as well as quirky design shops. Then wend your way to more galleries, a silkscreen studio and a fruit shop-cum-art space. From €99pp (£70) for a private tour for two, including a guide, a drink and a surprise.

budapest-music.jpg
Stage set: the Music Academy

Hit the right notes

Classical music lovers can trace the haunts of the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt on Curious Miles' Lisztomania tour (00 36 20 574 7815; curiousmiles.com). It starts at the Opera House and takes in the Music Academy as well as the Liszt Memorial Museum, a reconstruction of the composer's flat, which houses his original furniture, personal effects, scores and instruments. End the day at the newly built Mupa Budapest, home to one of the world's finest concert halls. From €50pp (£35) for a private tour for two, including a guide, entrance fees and concerts.

Tuck in

You might think of Hungarian cuisine as an acquired taste, but there's more to it than hearty goulash. On a Culinary Walk with Taste Hungary (00 36 30 298 0076; tastehungary.com) you'll start at the Central Market Hall, where you'll spy local favourites such as paprika, pork fat and goose liver, before exploring further.

En route there are plenty of opportunities for tastings: sample horse sausage at a butcher's shop; dobos torte at a traditional pâtisserie; and parenica (smoked cow's cheese) at a deli. End the day with a wine tasting, which includes tokaji, a sweet wine. From €80pp (£57), including a guide and food and wine tastings.

budapest-szinpad.jpg
Margaret Island's open-air venue

Building works

For an insight into some of the city's most imaginative buildings, sign up to Context Travel's Belle Époque Walk (020 3514 1780; contexttravel.com). Led by an art historian, the tour takes in an eclectic mix of Neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau buildings.

Take a leisurely stroll along Andrassy Avenue, a Unesco World Heritage Site lined with grand mansions and town houses. Then wander down to the Opera House and the Academy of Music before making a pit stop at the Paris Department Store, an Art Nouveau masterpiece famous for its decorated café. From HUF15,000pp (£34), including a guide but not admission fees.

Bike in time

Take a retro ride with BudaBike (00 36 70 242 5736; budabike.com). As you skirt along the Danube river, you'll learn more about the city's past from the Roman era through to Communist rule. Whizz past Margaret Island, across the Arpad bridge, before stopping at a baroque square in Obuda.

After a break at the Roman banks, a promenade along the river, you'll spot socialist-style buildings, Roman ruins and an old gas power plant. From €30pp (£21), including bikes and a guide.

Comments