I am Publishing Director at Bradt Travel Guides (www.bradtguides.com) -- the last independent mainstream guidebook publisher in the UK -- and a professional travel writer, broadcaster and occasional photographer. My articles feature in a range of national newspapers and magazines (including The Independent on Sunday, The Express and Wanderlust); I recently won the award for Best Short Feature Article of the Year. I speak regularly about travel-related topics on radio/television programmes and at leading shows and exhibitions (such as the Destinations Travel Show). In addition, I teach at travel-writing seminars and I am one of the judges of the annual Bradt-Independent on Sunday Travel-Writing Competition (which launches every April).
Hungary is one of my favourite destinations. Several years ago, I spent six months exploring the country's highways and byways in preparation for writing the most comprehensive guidebooks on the market -- Budapest: The Bradt City Guide and Hungary: The Bradt Travel Guide. The latter was voted Best Guidebook of the Year by the British Guild of Travel Writers, and both are now into their second editions. I return as often as possible, and have also written guides for the AA, Michelin and Insight. If further proof was needed of my love for Hungary, I am now engaged to a Hungarian and getting married in Hungary next year!
Where I always grab a coffee - Where to start?! Budapesters love the ‘black soup’, and there are coffee houses dotted all around the city, several of them with genuine yesteryear elegance. Gerbeaud in Vörösmarty tér is the big daddy for the tourists, but I prefer to take an outdoor table at the Gerloczy, set in a quiet square beneath a shady tree.
My favourite stroll - There are some classic strolls in Budapest - including the river promenade and the broad Andrássy Boulevard, both of them UNESCO World Heritage sites. However, my rather unusual choice would be the gravelled pathways of the Kerepes Cemetery. It’s deathly peaceful!
Fiction for inspiration - The Paul Street Boys - first published in 1906 - is a coming-of-age tale of two rival gangs of children fighting for control of one of the city’s recreational areas. It’s probably the most famous novel set in Budapest.
Where to be seen - It’s got to be Liszt Ferenc tér – a square that straddles Andrássy Boulevard, and attracts the hip and trendy to the tables outside its many bars.
The most breathtaking view - It’s all about getting high! The outer walls of the Castle District offer great views over the river, while for the best of Pest you should climb up to the gallery running around the outside of St Stephen's Basilica.
The best spot for some peace and quiet - Head for the hills! If you want a few minutes of real solitude, take a seat on the chairlift (libegő) that runs up and down János Hill.
Shopaholics beware - Váci utca is the main place for the browsers of expensive boutiques. If you want some real character, though, hit the Great Market Hall. It’s an architectural wonder of metal girders and bright majolica roof tiles, and you can buy everything from intricate lacework to bags of powdered paprika at its busy stalls.
City soundtrack - Anything by Ferenc Liszt, Hungary’s most-famous musical son. If pushed to pick, it would have to be his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2!
Don’t leave without... Eating some Hortobágy pancakes - meat-filled pancakes with a paprika sauce - and taking a dip at the Széchenyi Baths. Not necessarily in that order - and certainly not at the same time...
My expert information
For a dose of culture
If you’re a culture vulture then you’ll find much to feast on in Budapest. There’s a host of museums and galleries, from the mammoth Hungarian National Museum and the rich Museum of Fine Arts to smaller exhibitions showcasing the personal effects of Liszt or items once used by medieval medical men.Read more...