Why go: Technically two cities bisected by the Danube, Buda and Pest add up to one of Europe's most vibrant and scenic capitals. Awakened from its dour Communist past, Budapest offers eclectic architecture, thermal baths, nightlife, and Old World cuisine.
Where to stay: Located in Pest, the Hotel Palazzo Zichy is housed in a meticulously restored neo-Baroque mansion that was originally built for a 19th century nobleman. Rooms from around $80; hotel-palazzo-zichy.hu.
Where to eat: Though a list of about 200 domestic wines dominates the menu at Borkonyha ("wine kitchen"), the bistro also does justice to local ingredients like Mangalitsa hog, braised and served with roasted carrots.