Top Ten Cheap Vacations

Budapest, Hungary (instead of Prague, Czech Republic)
Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary
The Hungarian Parliament Building on the bank of the Danube River in Budapest (Photodisc)

1. Budapest, Hungary (instead of Prague, Czech Republic)
Want to come home from vacation gloating about how you were reading philosophy at a Bohemian cafe, glancing up at baroque and neoclassical architecture, while sipping coffee that was way better than American coffee could ever be? Try Budapest, which has the whole expat vibe that Prague rocked a decade ago, before everyone else honed in and it got so expensive. One nice advantage of going to Budapest now is that the U.S. dollar has surged against the Forint. Currently a traveler will get about 240 Forints for a dollar, six months ago the figure was about 165.

Start with a tour of the Buda Castle Labyrinth that gives a taste of the network of caves that were formed under Castle Hill by thermal springs. They were used as a wine cellar in the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as air raid shelters during WWII. Hop on a bus and check out Szoborpark, where you can see remains of the statues erected by the former communist regime, including cubist statues of Marx and Engels. Catch a show at the Hungarian State Opera House, where standing-room tickets go for $2. Then stop by Gundel restaurant, famous for catering the Hungarian contingent in the 1939 New York World's Fair. It reopened in the early 1990s, showcasing modern and old-school Hungarian fare like goose liver made in the "traditional housewife style" and venison soup. You can get a five-course menu with wine pairings for about $120, which is a bargain considering all the heads of state and celebrities that have visited. Make sure to stop by one of the several thermal bath houses, like the Scéchenyi baths, replete with a dozen thermal baths and three swimming pools.
Budapest Travel Guide

Published: 25 Mar 2009 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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