Reporter Sonja Astbury waxes lyrical about beautiful Budapest

The Corinthia Hotel Budapest

The Corinthia Hotel Budapest

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If it hadn’t already been done I’d write a song about it.

Or a film. But it has, so I will just have to wax lyrical about BUDAPEST.

Modern v old - shopping in Budapest

Modern v old - shopping in Budapest

Where to start? The beginning I suppose.

The fact that I was flying with – and staying with – Jet2 was sign enough that this would be a good trip.

I’ve been a fan for years and even have my own membership. Gutted when they pulled out of Blackpool, but a private check-in and departure area at Manchester goes some way towards making up!

The flight was as expected; smooth, comfy, helpful staff and not too long.

A typical coffee shop... queuing for coffee and cakes in Budapest

A typical coffee shop... queuing for coffee and cakes in Budapest

Budapest is one of those places that’s been on my bucket list forever – but with no real expectations I was ready to be surprised. Wow, was I.

The airport – Liszt Ferenc Bud is modern and airy and a breeze to navigate for any traveller.

Luggage was retrieved from the flight in no time at all and that was it, off to see what this city ( or two – we will come to that later) had to offer.

The jaw dropping began as soon as we arrived at the doors of the Corinthia Hotel – a gorgeous old building with doormen in full regalia on hand to collect our bags.

Although not the star of the award-winning movie The Grand Budapest 
Hotel, The Corinthia actually started life as the Grand Hotel Royal back in 1896 and is certainly worthy of a feature film in itself.

There is nothing old fashioned about this place apart from the wonderful service. Five star luxury seamlessly sits alongside the very best of modernity.

This palatial hotel is so popular with movie stars, politicians and other celebs there is a long awe-inspiring list hung in the foyer. But then the wonderful staff give everyone star treatment.

So, the building and its fabulous history set the standard for the rest of the trip.

There is so much to see and do, it’s best not to waste time dallying over where to start. Arm yourself with a street map, speak to the hotel concierge or, like us, engage the services of a guide like our wonderful escort Ezther and let the adventure begin.

Budapest is split into two – either side of the Danube – Buda and Pest. One flat, one hilly. Both equally as interesting.

Getting around is easy. There are plenty of buses and a very efficient tram and metro system. Taxis are easy to come by as well. But I found my two feet and very efficient way to take of most of the sights. That is, those we managed to cram into a mini-break.

If it is culture you are after, then this city has it big style. From the exquisite Parliament building and Heroes Square to the iconic Great Market Hall, the celebrated Castle District or incredible St Stephen’s Cathedral. The view across the city from Gellert Hill is breathtaking – day or night. Throw in a palace or three and a hidden hospital in a bunker – Budapest has the lot.

For those of us who like to find their own way around I recommend throwing the guidebook away and meandering around the multi-faceted world of Downtown Budapest, packed with studios and shops from the famous Gerbaud Confectionery to the most amazing retro coffee bars and clubs. There are arty places offering unique locally-made goods.

Those in search of designer labels are also well served by the upmarket stores which fill the elegant Andrassy Avenue – a good walk even if it’s only window shopping.

Then, there are the eateries. We’ve all heard of Hungarian goulash but you don’t need to be a gourmand to appreciate the feasts on offer, from the most amazing street food to the numerous top class restaurants which abound on both sides of the Danube. And, be warned, dessert, especially of the chocolate variety – is a staple wherever you go, even if it’s just for a coffee in the market!

Even, or should I say especially, the nightlife of Pest is something definitely NOT to be missed.

While some would say my “clubbing” days, or nights, should be behind me, my trip to the Jewish Quarter and the ruin bars was something I would 
definitely like to repeat – again and again.

I won’t give too much away by describing how these ramshackle old buildings have been transformed to create a labyrinth of bars. This city is something you have to experience yourself...more than once.

Historians, culture vultures, theatre-lovers, couples, families and even movie moguls who ship casts and crews by the hundred over, can’t fail to be enthralled by this fair city.

After a hectic few days – and a walk around the zoo – I had no trouble relaxing, courtesy of what is said to be Hungary’s biggest treasure, the healing waters at the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Outdoor pool, indoor spas and sulphur water... What more is there to say but ENJOY.

I for one can’t wait to return.

Budapest Travel Facts

Jet2.com flies to Budapest from Manchester Airport four times a week between March and December 2015. Jet2.com also flies to Budapest from East Midlands, Edinburgh and Leeds Bradford Airports.

Fares start at £38 one way including taxes.

Jet2holidays city breaks at the five - star Corinthia Budapest Hotel start from £445 per person (based on four nights’ bed & breakfast accommodation).

To book flights visit www.jet2.com or for package holidays visit www.jet2holidays.com or call free on 0800 408 5599.

Part of the Jet2holidays’ Indulgent Escapes range, the five star Corinthia Budapest Hotel combines classic opulence with modern luxury.

This stunning hotel is in the heart of Budapest, close to many of the city’s main attractions and features a range of fantastic onsite facilities including the famous royal spa and swimming pool, which first opened its doors in the late 19th century, and three superb restaurants.