What I loved most about Budapest (pronounced Buda-Pesht) was seeing an old friend of mine that lives here. We met 5 years ago and have seen each a couple times since then. She's one of my favorite people and she knows Hungary's history & culture inside and out. This is very helpful as I'm working on some stories! A word of advice: She also taught me what "cookie" means in Hungarian slang - let's just say I learned it's not a good thing to go around saying you love cookies.
You cannot miss the Alexandra Cafe while in the city. It's right near the opera house on Andrassy Street. You walk into a very modern bookstore and see a set of escalators and discount book bins. But two flights up is a gorgeous old-world style cafe, with great coffee and Hungarian treats. Go!
Budapest has a fascinating, complicated, often sad history with WWII, Russian occupation, uprisings, and the subsequent fall of Communism, also known as The Revolution of 1989. However, Hungary was less restricted than other countries. I visited The House of Terror museum, in the former Nazi and Communist headquarters, on a previous trip and it affected me for days. Some of the architecture is as gorgeous as what is on Paris' wealthiest boulevards but further outside the center, there are ugly block-style buildings. Hungary is in the European Union but not on the Euro yet because it hasn't met the financial requirements.
The city is best viewed from atop St. Stephan's Basilica - walk the 300+ steps to the top - or Castle Hill.
We had two days in Budapest before embarking on our river cruise on the Viking Embla. Here's what I loved, starting with treats & Hungarian food from the just-opened Christmas market.