Forever characterised as two towns dramatically divided by the Danube, Budapest is back at the heart of Europe. This metropolis of ornate spas, opulent hotels and elegant coffeehouses is reliving its glory days as a Habsburg hub. Now, after a century of wars, uprisings and Socialist stasis, the Hungarian capital is gleaming again with luxury options.
Away from the five-star hotels along the river and city ring, Budapest is also a-buzz with cultural firepower and underground energy. While inner-city courtyards bloom as bohemian nightspots for DJs (the same DJs who spin at foam parties in all-night Turkish baths), a high-brow arts agenda thrives in a sumptuous opera house and the prestigious contemporary National Theatre. Gypsy, folk and Balkan styles are regular features on the concert programme.
New downtown shopping hubs display the best of today's Hungarian art, fashion and design, distinct from the time-warp tourist traps of yesterday.