Situated at the heart of Europe, Budapest is the capital of Hungary, appropriately named 'The Pearl of the Danube,' for its fixating and almost haunting beauty. Formerly two separate cities, Buda and Pest were forged into one by time, occupation, and the eight bridges that anchor them together today. The city's beauty has been pieced together by its many conquerors, each one leaving its influence on Budapest and the Hungarian people.
Before the Magyar tribes (Ancient Hungarians) made their way from the Ural mountains into Central Europe, the area around Budapest was occupied by the Romans. The Romans were the first to bring vines to the region, and the impact of this can be seen in the 22 unique wine regions Hungary has cultivated. While in Budapest, be sure to have a glass of Tokaj, what King Louis XIV of France referred to as the "Wine of Kings, King of Wines".
Soak like a sultan in one of the many Turkish thermal baths left by the Ottoman occupation. Constructed in 1550, the Rudas Baths are one of the oldest and located along the bank of the Danube. If Habsburg is more your style, head over to the neo-Baroque Széchenyi Bath complex, complete with saunas, massage parlors, and if you're lucky — an open chess table in one of the three heated outdoor pools.
If you're going to drink and soak like royalty, you may as well shake hands with them. Housed in the towering Neoclassical St. Istvan's Basilica is the mummified right hand of Hungary's first Christian king, Saint Istvan I. For only a few forints, you can view the creepy encased relic in person. Head to the top of the basilica's dome for a 360-degree view of the city.
From the Pest side to the Buda side, the Chain Bridge leads to the castle district. Glide to the top of the hill via the Castle Hill Funicular and land in the massive Baroque-style Palace complex. Finish the tour at Fisherman's Bastion, a colonnade which offers a framed panoramic view of Pest and Europe's largest Parliament building.