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A river runs through it


Budapest, the starting point for the Danube

Budapest, the starting point for the Danube

Budapest, the starting point for the Danube

Anyone thinking of travelling to the Hungarian capital Budapest this summer will find themselves spoiled for choice with Hungarian carrier Malev being the latest airline to fly the route, returning after a short time out from the Irish market.

With Aer Lingus and Ryanair also offering services on the route, Malev is targeting the business market by offering connecting flights to otherwise difficult-to-get-to destinations throughout central and eastern Europe. It's also a full-frills airline -- so you get a proper baggage allowance and free food and drinks onboard.

The re-emergence of the acclaimed Malev makes Budapest a very attractive destination for a short city break. The twin city of Budapest straddles the Danube with Buda's picturesque mediaeval and renaissance city overlooking the river's west bank, while Pest's 19th-century squares and boulevards are on the east bank.

With its wide, tree-lined avenues and elegant public buildings, Pest has a distinct Parisian feel. Throw in the abundant cafes, restaurants and bars and one could be forgiven for thinking that one was in the French capital.

But Budapest also has its own unique charms. For anyone with creaking joints, a visit to one of the city's many thermal baths is highly recommended where you can enjoy soothing warm waters, and even play chess like the locals while you're taking a dip. Those in need of retail therapy should visit the city's markets, particularly the stunning Central Market, while those intent on parting with serious money should makes tracks to the Design District, which features several outlets selling the best of Hungarian design.

With a total population of more than three million, Budapest is a big city. However, there is a great public transport system, which includes underground, trams and buses.

The Budapest Card entitles the holder to unlimited use of the city's public transport as well as discounted entry to most of its museums. A three-day card will set you back 7,500HUF, about €27 at the current exchange rate. Well worth it.

There are a wide range of accommodation choices available in Budapest. Most of the international hotel chains are represented in the city.

There is also a wide choice of less-expensive hotels. However, for a group of people travelling together to Budapest, I'd recommend a self-catering apartment.

If money's no object, the Four Seasons (which has Irish links and our tricolour flying overhead) has one of the best vistas in Europe -- overlooking the famous chain link bridge over the Danute, with the city's historic castle in the background.