The beautiful architecture, elegant cafes and stunning backdrop of the Buda Hills make Budapest one of the most spectacular cities in Europe. The metropolis is a curious mix of old and new, split in two halves by the River Danube – the traditional Buda and cosmopolitan Pest, joined by ornate bridges – with a glamorous social scene, thriving arts industry, multiple museums and thermal baths. Whilst the Hungaroring race track is located 20km from Budapest, the jet set crowd tend to stay in city bringing with them late night parties, VIP hospitality facilities and fast cars.
The Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal is at the center of it all, on Budapest’s main boulevard just a ten minute walk from the nightlife hot spot Liszt Ferenc tér. The Habsburg-era building is elegantly restored to sparkling five-star standard and houses the splendid Royal Spa that first opened in 1886. The two restaurants are excellent with a casual option serving Far East fusion dishes and a more formal seating serving classical dishes. The Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace is another top pick with the glitterati during the Grand Prix for its unbeatable views over the river and Chain bridge. The interiors are tastefully regal with the lobby as the centerpiece, filled with artwork by dozens of talented artisans. The onsite Clarins spa is popular as is the relaxed dining option, Gresham Cafe, which serves exquisite goulash, classic desserts and pastries. Else, Le Meridien Budapest is French chic with front rooms overlooking the peaceful green of Erzsébet tér (Elizabeth Square) and a fabulous Sunday champagne brunch that adds a Parisian flare to Hungarian delights.
The restaurant scene in Budapest is flourishing with almost every cuisine now readily available. Onyx is generally regarded as the best with award winning chef, Tamás Széll at the helm and one Michelin star. The menu is inventive combining fresh domestic ingredients with the newest gastronomic technologies. For more traditional dishes, Gundel comes highly recommended, (especially the pancakes) and is one of the city’s most expensive eateries, whilst Kéhli, located in the historic suburb of Obuda, is easily the most authentically Hungarian with a lively atmosphere, Gypsy music and hearty, properly cooked local cuisine. For lunch, head to Ráday street for an insight into “old Budapest” and to browse lines of informal buffet cafés. On the race side, the Formula One Paddock is the always most gourmet option with free flowing champagne. It’s here you’re likely to eat breakfast with drivers and celebrities whilst enjoying privileged views over the pit garages.
Back in the city there’s plenty of sites to see including numerous art museums, the Hungarian State Opera House and ancient bathing facilities, which deserve a day’s exploring at least. The most famous bath house is Gellert, boasting indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms, saunas and an impressive program of therapeutic treatments. The Lukacs Bath is lesser known, but also extremely pretty with a courtyard scattered with marble plaques that illustrate the healing powers of its waters.
During the summer months, parties are often held on the riverside and bars filled with locals and tourists. Located in the Jewish quarter, Doblo is a sophisticated wine bar that has a great reputation for its tasting sessions and extensive menu. The crowds are younger in the edgy ruin bars that dominate the Pest party scene, occupying formerly dilapidated buildings and courtyards. Whilst some of these can get raucous, Café Bobek is classy cool and the perfect place to enjoy a lunch time tipple, with a tree filled garden offering natural shade from the summer’s hot sun. The Grand Prix weekend closes with the annual Johnnie Walker official after party, which will once again take place at Symbol. Teams arrive in race cars, long lines of beautiful VIPs queue for entry and live DJs continue the celebrations late into the night after which crowds peel off to the even more exclusive, private parties.