Budapest city, capital of Hungary and spa capital of Eastern Europe, for a long weekend of detoxing, cleansing, facials and massage with Wellbeing Escapes, the British travel company specialising in finding the best therapeutic locations around the world. The city with its natural thermal pools underground, is abundant with Turkish baths left over from 150 years of Ottoman occupation. Your base is the recently refurbished Danubius Thermal Hotel, on the picturesque Margitsziget island which lies in the middle of the steel-coloured Danube between Buda and Pest.
Buda and Pest developed on opposite sides of the Danube; Buda, the green and pleasant side perched on the hill, and Pest, the busy, lively shopping zone. Buda became the seat of power in Ottoman Hungary while Pest became the commercial centre. It’s in the latter that you get a real sense of the buzz – the life and beating heart of the city with fine coffee shops and restaurants in every other street. The contrast between old and new permeates both, with ex-Government-run communist Hungary never far from view (Hungary became a satellite state of the Soviet Union after World War II).
Old-fashioned hat, shoe or umbrella shops sit around the corner from the swanky shopping malls that have sprouted up since the country’s entrance into the EU in 2004. It hasn’t yet converted to the Euro: for now it’s still the Hungarian forint (Ft). A positive hangover from communism are the efficient and perfectly preserved trams and subway system which make getting around the city a doddle.