| Budapest is one of those under-the-radar destinations that's been growing more popular — through word of mouth and the increasing number of river cruises along the Danube exposing passengers to its many charms.
Hungary’s capital gets its name from its two main districts, Buda on the west side of the Danube River, and Pest on the east, where you’ll want to stay because it’s closer to the city’s main attractions. Check into Moments Hotel, housed in an artfully restored 19th-century building along Andrassy Avenue, a World Heritage Site and one of Budapest's most popular streets for shopping and dining. (Note that even a four-star hotel like Moments can be surprisingly affordable, sometimes even less than $150 a night.) From there you can wander over to the nearby St. Stephen’s Basilica, honoring two people crucial to the city’s history: Stephen I, Hungary’s first king, and Ferenc Puskás, a soccer star who led Hungary to Olympic gold in 1952 and acclaimed wins over England in 1953 and 1954. Take a peek at the equally elegant Parliament Building, and then head down to the Danube for a dinner cruise (there are many to choose from, but there's a lovely candlelit cruise if you're feeling romantic). For dessert, savor one of the most romantic skylines in Europe — then get a real sweet at the Artist Cafe on Andrassy Avenue.
After the Berlin Wall fell, Hungarians tore down statues of their former Soviet occupiers. But instead of trashing them, they’re now displayed at the kitschy, yet moving, Memento Park, where sculptures of Marx, Stalin, and Russian soldiers now preside. Back in town, the aptly named House of Terror shows the horror behind Soviet rule as well as fascist rule. Located in the former secret police headquarters, the museum preserves cells where the dictatorship imprisoned enemies of the state. After the Russians left, entrepreneurs transformed dilapidated Soviet-era buildings into “Ruins Pubs,” a combination of nightclub, restaurant and community center, welcoming visitors of all ages. Try Szimpla Kert — one of the oldest and most popular.