Budapest is an Art Nouveau bohemia touched by only a few true luxury hotels and designer outposts of Western European capitalism. It's been compared to '20s Paris as well as Prague before it became pricey, a gritty version of both that still manages to be affordable.
5 p.m. -- Live Like a Habsburg
It is difficult to remember what a stay in Budapest was like before Four Seasons Gresham Palace opened.
And what a palace it is, one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Central Europe, breathtakingly restored with sweeping staircases, stained glass, mosaics and ornate ironwork. A cobblestone motor court at the face of the building offers head-on views of the Danube framed by the Chain Bridge and Buda Palace. Glass-encrusted iron gates insolate the lobby area with its towering glass-dome ceiling and palatial décor where sound is never louder than a whisper.
As the most prestigious hotel in the capital city, the crowd here includes numerous politicians and business elite, giving the hotel an upper-crust vibe.8 p.m. -- Eat With Some Fashionable Locals
A short walk from the Gresham Palace is Váci Utca, Budapest's central shopping district where small perfumeries and local fashion brands coexist with glassy outposts of H&M and Marks & Spencer. It's here that you'll find the super-stylish Cyrano Restaurant (Kristof ter 7-8) on a small side street.
In a city plagued by unsightly restaurant architecture, a smoked-glass façade reveals a glitzy dining room of baroque wallpaper and staff with chiseled features.
The dining room fills-up around 10 p.m. with Budapest trendsetters looking for gourmet-level cuisine in a stylish dining room.
10 p.m. -- Local Lounge Society
For visitors to Budapest, the best clubs are often frustratingly hard to find. Within a Spanish-style building without any remarkable numberings or signage, Szoda makes its home in a marble-tiled courtyard with three-story atrium. Guests enter through an unassuming gate on a quiet urban park off the speedy thoroughfare leading to the Chain Bridge.