$ PENNY PINCH
On yer bike (budapestbike.hu; $12) and pedal along the Danube to admire river views, monuments and flower-filled Margaret Island. Don't miss Memento Park (mementopark.hu; $7), a quirky repository of colossal Soviet-era statues. A couple of palacsinta (savoury, paprika-sprinkled pancakes; $8) from a street vendor will keep you in energy. For a quintessential Budapest experience, Szechenyi Baths (szechenyibath.hu; $20) is a huge thermal complex complete with ornate architecture and vast outdoor pools where locals spend hours chatting, playing chess and soaking. For dinner, the all-you-can-eat Hungarian buffet at Trofea Grill (trofeagrill.com; $16) features more than 100 Hungarian dishes. Buda B&B (budabab.com; $65 for two, $21 supplement for one-night stays) spruiks itself as "The Best in Pest"; the owners have an incredible knowledge of the city.
$$ EASY DOES IT
Explore Pest city centre on foot; its boulevard architecture is fabulous. The huge Hungarian National Museum (hnm.hu; $13) has particularly interesting exhibits on communist days. Then stroll shopping streets before a stickybeak inside the splendid Parliament (parlament.hu; tour $16, half-price for EU citizens). Have a light bite on nearby Szabadsag Square at Cafe Farger (farger.hu; $20) before heading up splendid Andrassy Boulevard to Heroes' Square and City Park for an afternoon eyeful of Budapest beauty. You could call in at the Museum of Fine Arts (szepmuveszeti.hu; $13) for its important collection of Eastern European art. Have a fish dinner at elegant Kogart Haz (kogarthaz.hu; $50 for two including wine). Stay at Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge (sofitel-budapest.com; from $162) for its central location and views of the Danube.
$$$ SPLASH OUT
Cross the iconic Chain Bridge and take the funicular (bkv.hu; $8 return) for an exploration of hilly, World Heritage Buda. Start with the royal palace and Hungarian National Gallery (mng.hu; $6), particularly fine for mediaeval art. Fabulous views from terraces lead you towards the pseudo-mediaeval Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church (matyas-templom.hu; $5). Lunch on contemporary fare at Rivalda Restaurant (rivalda.net; mains $20) before an Underguide Tour (underguide.com; $70) tailored to your particular interests. Have a light meal at Muvesz traditional coffeehouse (muveszkavehaz.hu; $15) and a night at the gilded Hungarian State Opera (opera.hu; best seats $90). Enjoy the sumptuous art-nouveau wonder of the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace (fourseasons.com/budapest/; from $A330), and a nightcap ($20) in the piano bar.