Last time I visited Budapest was in 1994. At that time I was in a hotel called Forum and the whole city center looked to be in need of renovation. 23 years later the Forum Hotel is a luxury 5 star Hotel, owned by Intercontinental.
To be honest I cannot remember a lot from my first visit. I was on the way to Zagreb for another business meeting and met a client in Budapest. The only thing I remember was this story:
I was in a café with my client (a foreigner too) and two very good looking ladies asked if they could join us. Friendly and naive (and of course always curious) as we were, we invited them for a drink. They ordered something whose name I had never heard before. They stayed for about half an hour at our table, told a few stories and then said goodbye polite. When the waiter came in, it turned out that every drink they ordered was extremely expensive. As we started to complain, a very broad-shouldered man built himself up in front of us and asked if we ordered it or not. Well, we decided to pay ;)
Now I was back for a business meeting in Budapest and I had a day off and decide to explore the the city (without colleagues).
Many houses are now beautifully renovated, there are pedestrian zones, a Christmas market and a big ferris wheel. Even the old market hall looks pretty now. The city is full of people and they make a very, very friendly impression to me.
Budapest is known for its hot springs and I spontaneously bought a swim trunk and went swimming in the Gellért baths which were also renovated. Outside, it was about 3 degrees Celsius and it is just beautiful to lie in 40 degrees hot water from natural sources.
When two good-looking ladies in tight bikinis asked me if I could take a picture of them I hesitated a bit, but I did’t had to pay for it ;)