As the post-communist generation comes of age, Eastern Europe is booming, and there's one particular city leading the charge. Welcome to Budapest, a city with a seriously split personality - part baroque reminder that this was once joint-capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire; part buzzing metropolis, reinventing itself at a blinding pace. So split is the city, in fact, that for centuries the twin cities of Buda and Pest eyed each other warily across the Danube, only forming an alliance as late as the 1870s. Arguably the most beautiful city in Middle Europe, Budapest is the perfect urban Big Short Break destination.
The two sides of Buda and Pest, although long since united, still retain very distinct feels, with the rocky promontories of the west (Buda) bank looming over the bustling flat cityscape of Pest and - in the eyes of the more earthy Pests - the residents of Buda adopting a similarly lofty opinion of themselves. This demarcation makes for a perfect city break as you criss-cross the elegant bridges straddling the Danube to enjoy boho café culture, edgy contemporary art galleries and dive bars in Pest and fine dining and high culture in Buda. One thing all residents of the city do agree on is a desire to do things in their own idiosyncratic way. After all, Hungary was the first country behind the Iron Curtain to stick two fingers up to the Soviets, and they've been ploughing their own individualistic furrow ever since. There's no better place to enjoy this sense of sheer originality than in the capital. Or capitals.
As with many great cities the best way to explore the streets is on foot, discovering plenty of evidence of former glory in the many beautiful examples of baroque and art nouveau architecture. The fortified Citadel, while not a building of particular beauty, does afford the most incredible views of the entire city, and helps calibrate ones bearings before exploring. From here it's easy to see the Danube in all its glory passing through the heart of the city, and for a close up of this most elegant river, a stroll along the Duna korzó embankment past the Palace of Westminster-alike parliament and the many bridges is highly recommended.
When all the sightseeing gets too much, we know the best of a very good bunch of bars and restaurants in which to savour the seriously under-rated Magyar cuisine and excellent wines, and the city is developing something of a reputation for nightlife as well of late.