Help Wikitravel grow by contributing to an article! Learn how.
New users, please see Help or go to the Pub to ask questions.

Difference between revisions of "Budapest"

From Wikitravel
Central Hungary : Budapest
Jump to: navigation, search
(Buy)
(interlink)
Line 593: Line 593:
 
* A great day trip is '''Visegrád''', a town on the Danube Bend, where you find a former royal palace partially rebuilt in Renaissance style (accessible to people with physical disabilities), a medieval residential tower and an impressive citadel, which is about 30-50 minute hike up from the base. Take a train from Budapest Nyugati railway station to Nagymaros–Visegrád (cca. 40-60 minutes, runs every 60 minutes; the station will be on the opposite side of the river so you need to take a 5-minute [http://dunakanyar.hu/index.php?page=menetrend ferry] ride across; ferries are scheduled to train arrivals), or take a direct bus at Budapest, Árpád híd bus station to Visegrád (cca. 80 minutes, runs every 20-60 minutes). A more expensive (but much more picturesque) way to get to Visegrád is an excursion boat and a hydrofoil service run by [http://www.mahartpassnave.hu/ MAHART] (both daily once, only between April and late September).
 
* A great day trip is '''Visegrád''', a town on the Danube Bend, where you find a former royal palace partially rebuilt in Renaissance style (accessible to people with physical disabilities), a medieval residential tower and an impressive citadel, which is about 30-50 minute hike up from the base. Take a train from Budapest Nyugati railway station to Nagymaros–Visegrád (cca. 40-60 minutes, runs every 60 minutes; the station will be on the opposite side of the river so you need to take a 5-minute [http://dunakanyar.hu/index.php?page=menetrend ferry] ride across; ferries are scheduled to train arrivals), or take a direct bus at Budapest, Árpád híd bus station to Visegrád (cca. 80 minutes, runs every 20-60 minutes). A more expensive (but much more picturesque) way to get to Visegrád is an excursion boat and a hydrofoil service run by [http://www.mahartpassnave.hu/ MAHART] (both daily once, only between April and late September).
  
 
+
[[ca:Budapest]]
 
[[de:Budapest]]
 
[[de:Budapest]]
 
[[eo:Budapeŝto]]
 
[[eo:Budapeŝto]]

Revision as of 14:49, 30 July 2007

Budapest is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.
The Danube River and the leafy hills of Buda

Budapest [1] is the capital city of Hungary. Home to some 1.8 million inhabitants, it is the country's commercial and administrative center.

Contents

Districts

Districts of Budapest

Although Budapest is administratively divided into 23 numbered districts, always written in Roman numerals, it can most simply be divided into the two cities of which it is comprised (Buda and Pest) and one historic district:

  • Buda - the hilly west side of the Danube (Districts I-III, XI-XII)
  • Castle Hill - District I of Buda, the oldest part of the city containing the eponymous Castle and many of Budapest's best-known attractions
  • Pest - the flat east side of the Danube, covering the modern commercial core of the city (Districts IV-IX)

Understand

Regarded by many as one of world's most beautiful cities, Budapest (the "Paris of the East" and the "Queen of the Danube") is fast becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe, attracting approximately 20 million visitors per year.

Comprised of two very different cities, Buda on the west bank of the Danube River and Pest on the east bank, Budapest (pronounced "BOO-dah-pesht") offers travelers Viennese aura at roughly half the price. Still, it is unique in its own right. Hungarians are proud of what this ancient capital has to offer and its contributions to European culture, especially in the field of music -- a language one doesn't need to speak to appreciate.

History

Budapest first appeared on the world map when the Romans founded the town of Aquincum around 89 AD, in what is today Óbuda. It soon became the capital of the province of Lower Pannonia, and the Romans even founded a proto-Pest known as Contra Aquincum on the other side of the river.

The Romans were eventually driven out by the Bolgars from present-day Bulgaria, who left behind the name Peshta (today's Pest), but were replaced around 900 by the Magyars, who went on to found the kingdom of Hungary. The Mongols dropped in uninvited in 1241, but the Magyars bounced back and built the royal castle that still today dominates Buda in 1427.

In 1541, Buda and Pest fell to the Ottomans and stayed in the hands of the Turks until 1686, when the Austrian Habsburgs conquered the town. Now at peace, both sides of the river boomed, and after an abortive Hungarian revolution in 1848–49 the great Compromise of 1872 made Budapest the united capital of the Hungarian half of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

Budapest emerged from World War I battered, but now the capital of an independent Hungary, and its population reached one million by 1930. Air raids and a terrible three-month siege towards the end of World War II resulted in the death over 38,000 civilians, and 20-40% of Budapest's Jewish community of some 250,000 were murdered during the Holocaust. A total of 400 000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their Nyilas sympathizers. One man, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish embassador tried to make a difference by distributing Swedish passports to as many Jews as possible.

After the war, the city recovered and became a showcase for the more pragmatic policies of Hungary's relatively mild Communist government. Today's Budapest is by far the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan city in Hungary and increasingly popular with tourists. In 1987, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the cultural and architectural significance of the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue.

Official Tourism Information

  • Tourism Office of Budapest, 1056 Budapest, Március 15. tér 7., Phone: (+36-1) 266-0479 [2].


Quality of life

Homeless people are fairly commonly seen in some of the inner city metro stations and sleeping in doorways in both Buda and Pest.

Get in

By plane

Budapest (Ferihegy) International Airport (IATA: BUD [3], Ferihegyi Nemzetközi Repülőtér; pronounced "Ferry-hedge") is the country's largest airport, located about 16 km (10 miles) southeast of the city center. Ferihegy has two terminals, Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, often called Ferihegy-1 and Ferihegy-2, respectively. Terminal 2 is the hub of the Hungarian national carrier, Malév.

The airport’s central telephone number for information is (+36-1) 296-9696, flight information is available online or on (+36-1) 296-7000. Luggage services can be contacted on (+361) 296 5449 in connection with flights into and out Terminal 1 and (+36-1) 296 5965 for Terminal 2.

Terminals

  • The small, renovated Terminal 1 (gates 1-10; opened May 7, 1950) is used by low-cost airlines.
  • The more spacious Terminal 2 (opened November 1, 1985) is divided in two: Terminal 2A (gates 20-30) is the departure and arrival point for MALÉV Hungarian Airlines and its partner airlines (Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Carpatair, ČSA Czech Airlines and Moldavian Airlines). Terminal 2B (gates 11-19) hosts all international carriers' flights, including some of the budget airlines.

It is wise to double-check your arrival and departure terminal: while Terminal 2A is within a short walking distance from 2B, the distance between Terminal 1 and 2 is quite sizable - the trip takes 6-8 minutes by car or 12 minutes by bus.

Duty free stores are operated by Travel Value [4]. Customs authorities in German airports may not allow you to bring duty-free items purchased at the airport in Budapest through Germany. On Terminal 2, among dedicated brand shops, there are only Hugo Boss and Swarowsky. The traditional alcohol-tobacco-sweets assortment shop has a decent choice of local wines, mainly by Gundel. Several cafés also serve travellers, there are Caffè Ritazza [5] eateries on Terminal 2A. One is in a pre-checkin area; another is in the boarding area, after passport control. Terminal 2B pre-boarding area has half a dozen of cafes.


Connections

Budapest is connected with the major European cities and most of the EU countries by direct flights. There is scheduled service between Budapest and North America, operated by Malév and Delta Airlines. The city is connected with some countries of the Middle East, Asia and North Africa.

There are several low cost airlines flying to and from Budapest (using Terminal 1 unless otherwise stated):

  • AirBerlin (from Germany) - Terminal 2B;
  • Blue1 (from Finland) - Terminal 2B;
  • EasyJet (from Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland);
  • Germanwings (from Germany);
  • Jet2 (from Great Britain);
  • Meridiana (from Italy);
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle (from Norway);
  • RyanAir (from Great Britain - from November 2007);
  • SkyEurope (from Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Spain);
  • SmartWings (from Czech Republic, Spain and United Arab Emirates) - Terminal 2B;
  • Sterling (from Denmark and Sweden);
  • WizzAir (from Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden).

In winter (Dec-Mar) Malév's Budapest Winter Invasion [6] offers discounted fares for international flights to Budapest, and its 45 partner hotels provide 4 nights accommodation for the price of 3.


Airport transfer

  • Taxi In 2006, a taxi company named Zóna Taxi [7] (+36-1) 365-5555 won monopoly for the right to take passengers from Ferihegy airport. Queue at the taxi stand to receive a written quote for your fare, then pay that fare when you arrive at your destination. This system is designed to eliminate unjustified price hikes. The taxi fare will vary according to your destination, or zone. A trip to Budapest costs HUF 3000-4300 (EUR 14-20); a Terminal 1/Terminal 2 transfer is HUF 1600 (EUR 7). The fare can be paid in Euros as well as HUF, but it is a good idea to have exact change. IMPORTANT: Unless you have pre-ordered a taxi from a different company, do not accept offers from taxi drivers waiting in the terminal or near the terminal entrances. This is for your own safety. Note that if you are in the city and on your way to Ferihegy airport, Zóna Taxi tends to be the least expensive. In fact, their fares may be lower going to the airport, costing HUF 3000-3500 (EUR 14-16). If your hotel is making your taxi reservation for you, you may specifically request Zóna Taxi.
  • Minibus service If you travel alone, consider the Airport Minibus service, a shared taxi operation that collects passengers going in the same direction and will take you to or from anywhere in Budapest for HUF 2300 per person. Join the queue at the airport and you will be on your way in 15 minutes. For the trip back, call the center (+36-1) 296-8555 (at least 24 hours beforehand) and Airport Minibus will pick you up.
  • Bus From either Terminal 1 or Terminal 2, Bus 200 takes you to to Kőbánya-Kispest metro 3 station. Buses stop outside the airport terminals. The journey to the metro station takes approximately 26-30 minutes from Terminal 2 or 15-17 minutes from Terminal 1. Buses run every 8-20 minutes from 04:55 to 00:15 from Terminal 2, and from 05:05 to 00:25 from Terminal 1. There is no night bus service between the airport and the city, but the last four departures of bus 200 are connected to the night buses 914 and 950, which replace the metro. Bus tickets are available in airport terminals for HUF 230, or HUF 300 if you purchase directly from the bus driver.


  • Railway IMPORTANT: railway is an option only for those traveling from and to Terminal 1. Terminal 2 is NOT reachable by train. From 16th July 2007 commuter trains running from Monor and Szolnok stop at Ferihegy railway station in the nearby of Terminal 1, offering a fast and cheap connection between the terminal and Budapest Nyugati station in the city center. Trains run two or three times an hour from 04am to midnight; in the other direction from 03am to 00:30. Tickets cost HUF 300. Most of Budapest public transport tickets and travelcards are NOT valid on this line. The travel takes 22-26 minutes, delays may occure. Don't forget to give enough time to buy your ticket. For timetable check Hungarian Railways' page. Use the words "Ferihegy" for the airport and "Nyugati" for the city center.

By train

Due to its ideal location in Central Europe, Budapest is easily reachable by train from other European countries; there are daily connections to/from Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine; Budapest is also well connected to other Hungarian cities.

The city is also an ideal starting point to visit The Balkans, Russia or Ukraine by rail. Trains coming from Austria and Western Europe are clean and safe, the ones arriving from other countries tend to be shakier. Night trains coming from The Balkans and Romania are supposed to be less safe; take normal precautions.

Hungary’s rail system is operated almost entirely by Hungarian State Railways (Magyar Államvasutak, MÁV). If you arrive to Budapest from another Hungarian city, you can choose among a wide range of services. Travelling by Intercity is more expensive but vehicles are much cleaner and faster than regular trains (2nd class price sample as of May 2007: Győr-Budapest Intercity, 1h 26 min, HUF 2560; regular train 1h 45 min, HUF 2040). Always check if your train is subject to compulsory reservation; for prices and further information check MÁV’s timetable. It is wise to reserve your Intercity tickets for national holidays, Friday and Sunday evenings beforehand. It is still NOT possible to buy rail tickets via Internet.

Note that EU citizens under 26 years get 33% discount on trains between Friday 22.00 and Sunday 24.00; EU citizens older than 65 years travel for free on every train on second class. On Intercity trains extra fare is applicable. Discounted rates are NOT available on international rails. For your international travel plan check Deutsche Bahn's European Timetable.

Budapest has a number of railway stations (pályaudvar), the main ones being Keleti pályaudvar (Eastern Railway Station), Déli pályaudvar (Southern Railway Station) and Nyugati pályaudvar (Western Railway Station). The stations are not named for their geographic location in the city, nor for the direction of the destinations served by each; trains to Vienna, for example, leave from Keleti. The stations are well connected to each other and to the rest of the city. Keleti and Déli Railway Stations are located on metro 2; Nyugati Railway Station is on metro 3 (you can change metro lines at Deák tér station). A transfer should not take more than 15 minutes at peak hours; slightly more on weekends and evenings. During the night Keleti Railway Station is served by 907, 908 921, 931, 956 and 973 night buses; Nyugati Railway Station is covered by the service of 906, 923, 914 and 950 lines; Déli Railway Station is available by 921 and 960 buses.

Major Budapest stations are still are not up to western quality standards; they are hard to access for people with disabilities and their facilities are very limited. Do not expect luggage trolleys or clean toilets. Having food or a coffee at a Budapest railway station is unlikely to give you a gastronomic buzz; it's also difficult to find a good nearby cafe if you didn't research in advance. Be prepared for long queues at the ticket office; English is rarely spoken.

Depending on where you are coming from, some outer stations can be useful to you; trains arriving from Vienna, Bratislava, the lake Balaton or other western locations stop at Budapest Kelenföld station, which is a good public transport hub for Southern Buda. Trains arriving from Romania, Ukraine and Eastern Hungarian cities regularly stop at Kőbánya-Kispest station, a good place to get to Eastern Budapest or to Ferihegy Airport.

If you intend to use taxi on your way from the station, do not accept any offer from drivers waiting around the station entrance. For further information read also Safety section.

By bus

While many travellers leave out this possibility, arriving to Budapest by bus can be an easy and painless option. The city is connected to Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine by direct lines. Although most of connections are not as frequent as they were before the low-fare airlines revolution, they still run two or three times a week; from Austria and Slovakia daily. Prices tend to be slightly lower than train fares, but higher than a discount air ticket. Travelling by bus is a very competitive option if you catch your bus to Budapest in a city not covered by budget airlines. All the international lines are logoed by Eurolines [8], whose site offers a good way to check prices, timetables and book your ticket. Some special discounts may not be available via Internet.

How to check the domestic long-distance bus timetable
While it's still NOT possible to book or buy a domestic Hungarian coach ticket via Internet, you can plan your travel checking Volán’s online timetable [9]. It is available only in Hungarian, but easy to use: “honnan” means ‘from’, “hová” is ‘to’; write your departure date in format year/month/day after “mikor”; leave the other parameters alone and press “keresés”, ‘search’. The results appear on the next page. (“Autóbusz állomás” will mean ‘bus station’, “naponta” is ‘daily’, while “munkanapokon” is ‘on workdays’ ). Isn't it so difficult, is it?


Hungary’s national bus network is operated by 28 state run companies, united in Volán Association [10]. If you arrive to Budapest from another Hungarian city, bus is often the best option. Connections are frequent, prices are identical to those on non-Intercity trains. Long-distance buses are clean and safe, but often subject to delays. Buy your ticket at the station ticket desk before boarding; if you do not take your bus at a main station, purchase a ticket from the driver. It is a good idea to reserve your tickets for national holidays, Friday and Sunday evenings beforehand.

Budapest’s main bus stations are very well connected to the rest of the city, although they are located in outer zones. All of them are safe and (relatively) clean. Use your common sense and sit only in taxis logoed by bigger companies. Most useful bus stations for travellers are following:

  • Népliget Bus station (Népliget autóbuszállomás, metro M3, Népliget station, tram 1 and 1A). Buses from abroad and most of Western Hungarian destinations arrive (and depart) here. Fairly modern station with reliable facilities. Do not forget to check in if you travel abroad.
  • Stadion Bus Station (Stadion autóbuszállomás, formerly known as Népstadion autóbuszállomás, metro M2 Stadionok station, tram 1 and 1A). The biggest hub for Eastern Hungarian destinations, quite modern but somewhat dirty station built underground.
  • Árpád Bridge Bus Station (Árpád híd autóbuszállomás, metro M2 Árpád híd station). A smaller station for some Northern destinations and suburban traffic; it can be used by you if you intend to visit Szentendre, Esztergom or Visegrád by bus.
  • Etele tér Bus Station (Etele téri autóbuszállomás, bus 7 fast (red) , 173 fast (red)). A newly built station next to Kelenföld Railway Station, at the future terminus of metro line 4, intended mostly for agglomeration traffic. It is useful for getting to Statue Park.

By boat

There is a scheduled hydrofoil service on the Danube to and from Vienna and Bratislava daily between early April and early November operated by Mahart [11].

Get around

Public transportation in Budapest is run by BKV, which has a useful English-language site. As of 2007, single tickets cost HUF 230 (HUF 300 if you buy them on board - note that tickets are sold by the driver only on selected routes). If you intend to travel a lot, it's a better option to get a one-day travel card (HUF 1350) or a discount coupon book (10 tickets for HUF 2050, 20 tickets for HUF 3900) or a three-day (HUF 3100) or seven-day (HUF 3600) travel card. Information about tickets and prices can be found on BKV's ticket and pass information site. One ticket is good for only one journey; anytime you take a new vehicle, you should validate another ticket.

The Budapest Card is an excellent discount card for travel in the city. There are 2 and 3 day versions, and besides allowing free travel on all public transport, it gives you discounts at museums, restaurants, etc. The 2-day card costs HUF 6450, the 3-day card is HUF 7950.

You might get lost in Budapest or be unable to find a bus or tramline using the maps found in some foreign published guidebooks. Many tourists experience this problem. Buy a map of Budapest published in Hungary, which may help prevent problems. You can get them at Budapest bookshops (könyvesbolt or könyváruház in Hungarian) for about HUF 1000-1300.

By foot

Car drivers generally respect pedestrians and give advantage on a cross-walk even if there's no traffic light. However, do be a bit more wary of bicyclists, as they tend to weave around pedestrian traffic at great speeds, sometimes passing within inches of you.

Don't wear high-heeled shoes in the downtown as there's lots of stone pavements, especially in the Castle Hill.

By metro

Budapest's metro, consisting of three main lines M1 (southwest-northeast) from Mexikói road, to Vörösmarty square; M2 (east-west) from Southern railway station, to Örs vezér square and M3 (north-south) from Újpest-city center, to Kőbánya-Kispest. It's in good condition, not overcrowded and an excellent way to get around the city.

The yellow M1 line runs shorter trains and sometimes still uses old wooden metro cars--a fun change from the ordinary, Soviet-style steel metro cars seen on the red M2 line and the blue M3 line. M1 stations are also surprising, like as you find a tram in a normal pedestrian underpass.

Sometimes called the Millenium Metro, because it was built to celebrate the thousandth year of Hungarian nationhood in 1896 along with the Millenary Monument, the yellow line was recently renovated for its hundredth anniversary. The line is a historical memory of Budapest's richest period (around 1880-1910). It is the first underground in the Continental Europe (and the second in the world, after London; Paris was only the 3rd -- and Hungarians are really proud of having the oldest continental subway). The stations covered in white and dark brown-red ceramic tile signs are the originals. Be aware that your ticket is not used to allow you entry to the platform, but you must carry one if you board the metro.

Be careful of ticket inspectors who prowl the platforms and stations of Budapest's metro really frequently and seem particularly keen to target tourists. You must have a ticket for each trip or interchange on the metro; pleas of ignorance will go unheard. If you're issued with a fine by one of these blue-green arm banded officers, it is cheaper to pay on the spot (HUF 5,000) than later by mail (HUF 10,000 if paid within 30 days). The transit authorities have no power to arrest.

The ticket inspectors usually speak enough English, German or Russian to get their point across.

The city council started to build the M4 from the Kelenföldi railway station to Bosnyák Square. The Kelenföldi railway station-Eastern railway station fare stage should be done by 31 December 2009 and the Eastern railway station-Bosnyák square fare stage in one more year. The path will connect south Buda, and northeast Pest (southwest-northeast line).

All the metro lines are well represented on maps scattered on platforms. A midlet for Java enabled mobile phones is also available here.

By tram

Trams are a tourist-friendly way of getting around, slower but more scenic than the subway and particularly useful on the nearly subway-less Buda side of the river. Be careful about doors--they open on different side of the tram on different stations.

The two lines serving along the Danube (no. 19 on Buda and no. 2 on Pest) are considered a part of the cityscape. Let yourself ride the yellow trams and enjoy the view from them.

Tram lines 4 and 6 are supposed to be the most useful vehicles by many tourists. Both follow Nagykörút, Pest's inner ring road, providing access to all three metro lines at multiple stations, and crossing over to Buda on the Margaret Bridge - another beautiful view. Although technically two lines, 4 and 6 only diverge for their last two stops, which the tourist is unlikely to visit.

In 2006 the world's longest trams started their service on lines 4 and 6.

By bus

Where the trams don't go, there are buses. Budapest has a dense bus network, which also connects to the surrounding cities. (Note: you have to validate an extra ticket if you leave Budapest.) In some case there are red (rapid) and black (normal) lines; they can be hard to distinguish as red lines are sometimes only marked with a framed number. An "A" marker means a slight difference between the "black" (normal) bus path, and an "E" marker means that it has only 2 stations: the starting and final station.

If you aren't using a recently published city map, be aware that some bus lines used by travellers has been subject to number or name changes.

  • bus 10 (from Moszkva tér to the Castle District) was Várbusz until June 2007;
  • bus 200 (from Kőbánya-Kispest M3 station to Ferihegy airport) was Reptér-busz from 2000 to 2006 and red 93 until 2000;
  • a completely new night bus system has been introduced in September 2005, when every line got a new number.


By trolley-bus

There are 13 trolley bus lines in north-east and central Pest (mainly in the XIV, VI, VII districts). Some of them pass through the Városliget (City Park) and cross Andrássy Road, giving you beautiful views while using this eco-friendly mode of transport.

Nightbuses

Budapest has a good night transportation system. Night bus line numbers are triple-digit, starting with number '9'. Buses run every 15-60 minutes from around 11 p.m. until 4 a.m.; you need the same kind of ticket that you do during the daytime. You can find a night line in any touristy part of the city. The main linking points of the night bus network are Moszkva tér in Buda and Astoria in Pest. It's a good idea to buy a map of the nightbus network (available at BKV ticket offices), as there are 33 lines leaving for several districts of Budapest. Don't expect to see ticket inspectors on night buses frequently.

You can also use BKV's online map and schedule for checking the lines.

By train

HÉV suburban railways connect central Budapest to several suburbs but are of little use to most visitors, with the notable exception of the line to scenic little upriver Szentendre. The same train takes you to Sziget Fesztivál, Central Europe's biggest summer festival. Connect from Batthyány tér on the subway red line.

By car

Apart from the summer holiday Budapest has a heavy traffic with long-lasting traffic jams in the morning and in the afternoon. If you don't want to spend your visit to Budapest in a traffic jam, leave your car in the hotel's garage, and use the public transport.

If you drive across downtown, plan your journey otherwise you can get into tough situations. For example you cannot turn left in most of the crossings of the Great Boulevard (Nagykörút) or on the main avenues like Andrássy út, Váci út, Üllői út or Rákóczi út.

By taxi

Use one of the taxi companies with English speaking switchboards, e.g. City Taxi - these are efficient and reasonably priced. When you call from a telephone box, they may be able to tell your location from the number, which saves having to work out how to pronounce "Nagymezo".

Taxis hailed on the street and at taxi ranks often charge foreigners inflated prices.

See also: Hungary#By taxi.

By bicycle

Bikeways separated from automobile roads are all around the downtown and, possibly, in the outskirts as well. There are many cyclers on the streets even in winter time. Renting a bike doesn't seem a problem also, even in winter time.

Orientation

The Chain Bridge and a view of Pest

Aside from the river itself, the best reference points for orienting yourself are the bridges crossing the river. From north to south, they are:

  • Árpád Bridge (Árpád híd), a modern bridge linking to northern Margaret Island. The longest bridge in Budapest at 973 meters.
  • Margaret Bridge (Margit híd), easily identified thanks to its distinctive shape: It makes an approximately 35 degree turn half way across, at the southern tip of Margaret Island. Trams 4 and 6 cross the Danube here
  • Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchid), completed in 1849, the oldest, arguably most beautiful and certainly the most photographed of Budapest's bridges, floodlit at night
  • Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd), completed in 1903. Originally it was a chain structure bridge like the Chain Bridge. It was destroyed by the Germans in 1945, and substituted by a modern cable bridge opened in 1964.
  • Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd), elegant but simple, it opened in 1896; it connects the Gellert Baths in Buda with the Great Market Hall in Pest
  • Petőfi Bridge (Petőfi híd), for a long time, the southernmost bridge, with quite a lot of traffic, it links the Great-boulevard of Pest with Buda.
  • Lágymányosi Bridge (Lágymányosi híd), the newest bridge in Budapest, with modern architecture and a spectacular lighting system where mirrors reflect the beam of the upward facing floodlights.

See

This section only highlights the most important attractions in the city. See the Buda, Castle Hill and Pest articles for details on each of them, and for listings of local sightseeing.

Most of Budapest's famous sights are concentrated on Castle Hill on the Buda side, in downtown Pest and along the riverside walkways.

The Chain Bridge with Buda Castle Hill in the background

The main sights on Castle Hill are:

  • The Royal Palace (Királyi palota). The most popular attraction on the hill. Home to the:
  • National Gallery (Nemzeti Galéria)[12], inside the Royal Palace wings B, C and D houses an astounding collection of paintings.
  • The Fisherman's Bastion and lookout terrace (Halászbástya). For great view across the Danube to Pest.
  • Matthias Church (Mátyás templom, aka Church of Our Lady). Dominant neogothic church crowning Budapest's cityscape - nowadays is under reconstruction.

Other museums on the Castle Hill:

  • The Historical Museum of Budapest[13]
  • The Music Museum includes a collection of musical instruments and and the Bartok archive.
  • The Military Museum [14]
  • Marzipan Museum
  • Pharmacy Museum
  • Museum of Medieval Judism

The Danube bridges (see Orientation above), especially the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) are really attractive and make it worthy to promenade along the river bank. Lánchíd (pronounced “laance heed”) means chain bridge and the suspension structure of the bridge is made of chains whose links are huge dog-bone shaped metal bars linked by pins at their ends.

You can have a superb glimpse over the bridges from the Citadella on the top of Buda's Gellert Hill (Gellérthegy).

Riding a boat is very recommended since you can enjoy both riverbanks at the same time - they are very spectacular at night.

Margaret Island (Margitsziget) and its large parks (see Buda) is a very pleasant place to relax and wander. Perfect for a sunny afternoon!

The Parliament Building

Downtown (Belváros) of Pest is the administrative and business centre of Budapest and the whole of Hungary. The main sights here are:

  • The Parliament Building (Országház). A neogothic jewel, beautifully situated overlooking the Danube.
  • St. Stephen Cathedral (Szent István Bazilika). The main church of Budapest is an important example of neoclassical architecture, recently renovated.
  • Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum (Dohány utcai Zsinagóga) The biggest Synagogue in Europe, and the most impressive in the world. Next to the Synagogue is a small but impressive museum. In the rear of the Synagogue is a memorial for vitems of the Shoah. The synagogue whas recently restored to its former grandeur. check out some great photos at the link provided [15]

Museums in at the city centre:

  • Museum of Ethnography[16]
  • National Museum[17]
  • Museum of Applied Arts[18]
  • Natural History Museum[19]
  • Ludwig Museum of Modern Art[20]
  • Holocaust Memorial Centre[21]
  • Museum of Transport
  • Natural History Museum - mainly minerals on display
  • Jewish Museum at the main synagogue
  • Bible Museum

The Andrássy út boulevard in Pest stretches from Downtown (Belváros) to the City Park (Városliget). It is listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List and has some important sights along it, including:

  • The State Opera House
  • The House of Terror (Terror Háza) [22]. Housed in the secret police headquarters, this museum objectively documents the terror of the Nazi and communist eras. Visiting is hard work, but essential for anyone wishing to understand Hungary's recent past.
  • The Hopp Museum of East Asian Art [23] Nearby is another similar collection, namely Gyorgy Museum.
  • Ernst Museum Contemporary Hungarian art.
Heroes' Square
  • The City Park (Városliget) at the far end is probably the most pleasant of Pest's districts and features several interesting if low-key attractions which are often overlooked:
  • * Heroes' square (Hősök tere) - with the Millenium Monument
  • * Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum)[24] has an incredible range of European artwork from Greek and Roman times to the present. Especially valuable is its collection of Spanish Baroque painting.
  • * Vajdahunyad Vára is a castle on a little island on a lake built for the 1898 World Fair. In the winter, the lake is turned into the city's biggest ice rink.

On Buda side there are:

  • Aquincum was a city in the Roman times, it's remains are turned into a great open-air museum. It's situated in the Óbuda district of northern Buda.
  • Gül Baba Türbéje is the shrine where Gül Baba (literally Rose Father, from whom the Rózsadomb (Rose Hill) was named) lies. He was a rich turkish merchant in the Ottoman times. Offers a nice view and the little street which leads down the hill from there contains more houses that won the "House of the Year" award.
  • Victor Vasarely Museum shows many works of the famous Hungarian-born post-modern painter Vásárhelyi Győző (1908-1997).
  • Kiscelli Museum - The Budapest Picture Gallery
  • Kassák Museum at the Zichy Castle shows works of the modern Hungarian artists as well as modern Hungarian art

Music related Museums:

  • Kodály Museum
  • Liszt Museum
  • Bartók's House

Additional Museums:

  • Fashion Museum
  • MEO Budapest's art fair.
  • House of the Future Multimedia art.

Do

  • Catch an opera at Budapest's spectacular State Opera House or a performance of classical music at any of Budapest's many concert halls.
  • Cave walking in the Buda hills. Another way of passing a few hours is to visit the Caves on the Buda hills. There are 2 major caves, Pálvölgy Cave and Szemlő Hill Cave. Some of the guides do not speak any English but they give a free English pamphlet for the tour.
  • Buda Hill Labyrinth. The Labyrinths are accessible by two points on the Buda hills. Originally parts were formed from hot water springs and then during WW2, they were linked with some of the cellars on the hill to create an air raid shelter for up to 10,000 people and a military hospital. The labyrinth is now a popular tourist attraction. It is a bit cheesy, but would be good for families travelling with children.
  • The Sziget Festival at Obudai Island (=Sziget) attracts rock fans, world music hippies and the usual festival crowd every year in august. With cheap beer, great acts and a multitude of cultural, culinarian and musical offers, it's definitely a good deal. Day ticket are highly affordable, a week's ticket is about euro 100,-. More infos at http://www.sziget.hu
  • Walk around and look at the market stands and the entertainment on some of the bridges in the evening.

Theatre and opera

Hungary has a surprisingly rich theatre scene and, not surprisingly, Budapest is the epicentre of it. Season begins in mid-September and ends in June. Productions range from classic dramas and traditional operas to post-modern performances. There is much to discover around Budapest theatres, even if you don't speak Hungarian; the following venues can be particularly interesting for non-Hungarians. Tickets are bookable about one month beforehand at Interticket, the Hungarian theatres' official booking engine for a small (10% + HUF 50) booking fee.

  • Hungarian State Opera House, Magyar Állami Operaház, 1061 Andrássy út 22., metro 1 station Opera, tickets HUF 300-10900, [25]. Europe's architectonically most breathtaking opera house's company performs traditional opera and ballet. The quality of its huge repertoire is not always up to Western standards, but if you don't expect too much, you will spend a decent night here. Cheaper tickets offering reduced visibility are a good deal if you don't want to pay HUF 2500 for the official guided tour to the building. Theatre Erkel, the Opera's chamber theater is closed until 2011 due to reconstruction.
  • Palace of Arts, Művészetek Palotája, 1095 Komor Marcell utca 1., tram 2 stop Millenniumi Kulturális Központ, tickets HUF 700-9800, [26], standing tickets for students are available for HUF 200 one hour before every show, be sure that your student card is valid, otherwise you won't get in. This modern, power plant-looking building hides an excellent modern art museum, a festival theatre and the marvellous Béla Bartók National Concert Hall (Bartók Béla Nemzeti Hangversenyterem), which offer great concerts from classical, jazz and world music to Hungarian and international pop, special children programmes and the best opera performances in Central Europe. The annual Wagner festival in June is a must. Spectacles are held all around the year. Book your tickets at Palace of Arts' home page without additional booking fee.
  • Theatre Madách, Madách Színház, 1073 Erzsébet körút 29-33., metro 2 station Blaha Lujza tér, tram 4, tram 6 stop Wesselényi utca, tickets HUF 500-8900, [27]. If you want to see the Hungarian version of blockbuster musicals like The Phantom of the Opera or Producers, this is your place. Madách is widely popular among musical fans, and some of their recent shows have been critically acclaimed, so book well in advance.
  • Budapest Operetta Theatre, Budapesti Operett Színház, 1065 Nagymezõ utca 19, metro 1, tram 4, tram 6 station/stop Oktogon, tickets HUF 950-15000, [28]. Grandmothers' eternal favourite, the Operetta Theatre performs old-fashioned operettas for the nostalgic hearted and tries to be Madách's main rival in musicals.
  • Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, Trafó Kortárs Művészetek Háza, 1094 Liliom utca 41., metro 3 station Ferenc körút, tram 4, tram 6 stop Üllői út, tickets HUF 1000-2500, 25% discount for student card holders, [29]. In a renovated transformer building, Budapest's most important contemporary cultural center presents Hungarian and international experimental dance, theatre and music performances. A disco hall in the cellar and a lively bar upstairs also serve your entertainment.
  • Millenáris, 1024 Fény utca 20-22., metro 2 station Moszkva tér, tram 4, tram 6 stop Széna tér, tickets HUF 1000-6000, [30]. This huge cultural center, formerly called "Jövő Háza" (House of the Future) has been built around former factory buildings. The complex includes a park, a small artificial lake, cafés, an interactive museum and a theatre which hosts music, theatre and sometimes great contemporary opera performances. You could book your ticket at their home page, but it's available only in Hungarian.
  • Merlin International Theatre, Merlin Nemzetközi Színház, 1052 Gerlóczy utca 4, metro 1, metro 2, metro 3 station Deák tér, tickets HUF 600-2000,[31]. Merlin, within stone-throwing distance of Váci street, Budapest touristy and commercial heart, is a hub for some Hungarian alternative companies and also for performances in English.
  • National Dance Theatre, Nemzeti Táncszínház, 1014 Budapest, Színház utca 1-3., bus 10, bus 16 stop Dísz tér, tickets HUF 1100-3500,[32]. The main dance theatre of Hungary hosts a wide range of local and international performances. Although not always revolutionary modern, it's always worth to check the programme.
  • Experidance Company, [33] This popular company performs Hungarian popular dances in modern conception.
  • MU Theatre, MU Színház, 1117 Kőrösy J. utca 17., tram 4 stop Fehérvári út, tickets HUF 1500, for student card holders HUF 1000, [34]. MU, one of the well-known Budapest dance theatres hosts contemporary dance performances.
  • Central European Dance Theater, Közép-Európa Táncszínház, 1071 Bethlen Gábor tér 3., metro 2 station Keleti Pályaudvar, tickets HUF 1200, for senior citizen HUF 700, for student card holders HUF 800, [35]. CEDT's company performs renowned contemporary dance theatre.
  • Theatre Szkéné, Szkéné Színház, 1111 Műegyetem rakpart 3., Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME)'s theatre hall, bus 7, bus 73, stop Szent Gellért tér – during the construction of metro 4 station in Szent Gellért tér use temporary stairs next to the river for reaching the building, [36]. Szkéné hosts, among others, Béla Pintér and Company (Pintér Béla és Társulata, tickets HUF 1500), many alternative theater goers' favourite. Their 2006 autumn premier, ”Korcsula” (Korčula – the name refers to a Croatian island), a Central European black commedy, is subtitled in English. Book your ticket by email.

Cinema

Budapest’s cinema life has developed around malls. Since the shopping center revolution in the late 90’s, more than two third of the city’s cinema screens are run by international chains and franchises. Mainstream cinemas mainly show subtitled Hollywood films and Hungarian romantic movies. For contemporary European and Hungarian titles turn to Budapest’s excellent art house movie chain, Art mozi[37] – most of their branches are provided with a café or pub and offer pleasant atmosphere to spend your evening.

  • Most centrally located mall cinemas are Palace Westend in Pest (in Westend City Center[38], 1062 Váci út 1-3., metro 3, tram 4, tram 6 station/stop Nyugati pályaudvar) and Palace Mammut in Buda (in Mammut Center[39], 1024 Lövőház utca 2-6., metro 2 station Moszkva tér, tram 4, tram 6 stop Széna tér); check Palace’s home page for programme and booking. Tickets cost HUF 1250, for student card holders HUF 990, on cheap days HUF 800.
  • Tired of malls, but wishing multiplex feeling? Then go to cinema Corvin (1081 Corvin köz 1., metro 3 station Ferenc körút, tram 4, tram 6 stop Üllői út), one of the oldest, although completely modernised cinema in the city. On Corvin’s wall memorial tablets and reliefs are reminescent of the 1956 revolution’s heavy fightings around the building; the memorial itself is worth a visit. Tickets HUF 1150, before 16.00 HUF 950, on Wednesday HUF 750.
  • Uránia National Movie Theatre, [40] (Uránia Nemzeti Filmszínház, 1088 Rákóczi út 21, metro 2 station Blaha Lujza tér, tickets HUF 890-990) combines mainstream European artistic movies with new Hungarian films, the latter ones sporadically subtitled in English.
  • Cinema Puskin (Puskin Mozi, Kossuth Lajos utca 18., metro 2 station Astoria, metro 3 station Ferenciek tere, tickets HUF 800-1050). “Pushkin” is the most mainstream among the art house movie theatres in Budapest, an elegant, decorated multiplex offering quality, but generally easy-to-watch Hungarian and foreign films. Its café is recommended.
  • Cinema Művész (Művész Mozi, 1063 Teréz körút 30., metro 1, tram 4, tram 6 station/stop Oktogon, tickets HUF 920-1050) is probably the most popular “Art Mozi” theatre in Budapest. Many Hungarian movies are on show with English subtitles; ask for them at the desk.
  • Kultiplex, [41] (1092 Kinizsi utca 28., metro 3 station Ferenc körút, tram 4, tram 6 stop Üllői út). Kultiplex, a favourite for the young and the party goers, is more than a cinema, it is a cultural complex with a very popular bar and a concert hall (not for classical music, though).
  • Movie Museum Örökmozgó (Örökmozgó Filmmúzeum, 1073 Erzsébet krt. 39., tram 4, tram 6 stop Király utca). “Perpetual motion” (that’s what the name means) is your best choice if you’re in mood to see a movie from the times when Leonardo DiCaprio was a child. Most of the oldies speak their original language and are subtitled in Hungarian.

Baths

Budapest is a famous spa city, so go "bathing".

The baths are really the last vestige of Turkish culture in Budapest, left over from their occupation of the city. Budapest does not have a large Turkish culture the way a city like Berlin or Munich does: instead the Hungarians have modified and molded this tradition into something of their own.

All baths are built around hot springs, and their central part is one or several thermal pools. They are usually complimented with several steam baths, saunas and massage services.

Tourist mix: after locals, Russians seem to be most frequent in Budapest's baths; Italians and Americans come next (and for many Americans, baths are the main reason for visiting Budapest).

Traditional public baths

Traditional public baths (like Gellért, Széchényi) have quite complicated navigation and soviet-time service and admission system, but it's worth going through to experience authentic bathing with locals around you. At the cash desk at the entrance, you are expected to select treatments / areas to access in advance. Time to spend in baths is not restricted, but if you're finished earlier, some part of your payment may be returned. The only thing that can't be paid at the entrance is rental of towels and bathrobe (and/or deposit for it)--it should be paid inside, right where they are given. There're two types of place to change clothes: a common room with lockers is cheaper (male/female-separate, of course); cabins can be used by families and may differ in size (2 or 3 persons). For cabins, you're handed a token with a number, which is also written on a chalkboard inside as a security code; you need to remember cabin number. To open your cabin, show your cabin and a token to attendant, and s/he'll check it against the number inside. In swimming pools, swimming caps are recommended (and are available for rent), although this is not always strictly enforced.

Gellert Bath
  • Gellért Baths (Buda, Kelenhegyi utca 4; Gellért Hotel at the base of Gellért Hill). Open 6am-7pm daily. 1200 ft entry fee, therapeutic massage 450 ft extra. While the Kiraly baths may be a more authentic Turkish bath experience, those at the Gellért can't be beat for style. This is probably the finest Art Nouveau pool in Europe, and the baths are beautiful as well as relaxing.
Changing: Besides individual lockers and family cabins, there's some number of signle-person changing rooms in both men-only and women-only area.
What's inside: Common area for men and women has only a 50m(?) swimming pool and a soaking pool with massage bubbles, both with 36..38°C water. Using swimming caps in the swimming pool is prescribed by signs, but not enforced at all. There are separate Turkish-style thermal baths for men and women, which encompass several different areas: two soaking pools (one with 36°C, another with 38°C), the showers, the dry sauna and Turkish steam bath, and the cold pool (designed to scare the living daylights out of one's body after it's been happily lounging in the warmth). Besides swimming pools and separate areas, there's a large open-air complex of pools (open only in summer time). The young massage therapists mean business.
Specialities: In shower area, there're also a strange stool without a seat, with a stream of water from the bottom (bidet?)--not used by anyone, though.
Visitors mix: Many locals; among tourists, no country seem to have a majority.
Inside Szechenyi bath
  • Széchényi Spa (Széchenyi Fürdő) [42]. Pest, Állatkerti krt. 11 (right next to the Zoo). Nearest metro station has the same name: Széchenyi fürdő (M1 yellow line). Indoor part open daily from 6am to 7pm; outdoor 6-10pm in winter; summer-time hours may be different. Admission fees are complex, but basically you hand over 2400 Ft (2800 Ft for a cabin) and can get up to 400 Ft back if you leave within two hours (200 Ft if you leave withing 3 hours). Prices get cheaper after 19:00, but some facilities are closed then.
Overview: Built in 1909 in the present-day City Park, this is the largest spa in Europe and its waters are reputedly capable of healing pretty much anything, particularly gynecological, dermatological, nervous system and digestive system problems.
Outdoors: Two soaking pools and one swimming pool are all open-air (even in winter), and form the center of the baths. In the swimming pool, swimming caps are mandatory and strictly enforced. All facilities are shared by men and women (except shower and toilets, of course). There's a swimming tube (a whirling corridor): round- (outdoors) or rectangle-shaped (indoors) pool with artificial flow; a unique feature that can't be found elsewhere. Another specialty is a tradition to play chess while sitting in the water--even in winter. One or two cafes/juice bars are available directly from the swimming area, near the cabins; around the year.
Indoors: Several saunas, one steam bath. Every sauna has a small cold-water pool near it. Northern part of indoors baths is more modern and clean.
Entrance: There's a number of safe boxes available (very up-to-date, with digital codes)--they can fit a notebook bag or attache case, but hardly a notebook backpack.

Modern baths

There're also very modern baths (like Danubius Grand Thermal Hotel) which are usually called spa, although their central component are thermal pool and multitude of steam baths/saunas, which is not always typical for spas in the rest of the world.

  • Danubius Grand Hotel/Thermal Hotel Margitsziget, (northern end of the Margaret Island (Margitsziget)), +36(1)889-4700 (, fax: +36(1)889-4939), [43]. until 9:30pm(?). High-level and modern baths and spa, also offers a great choice of medical treatment. Admission fee (5700ft weekdays, 7000ft weekends--Jan 2007) doesn't limit your time inside, and gives access to all spa facilities including a great gym (remember to bring your fitness suit). Solarium should be paid separately, remember before entering the changing rooms (1300ft for 10min). Also, all medical treatments should be paid separately.
What's inside: Two body-temperature soaking pools and a cold-water corridor with stones on the floor; one swimming pool; separate steam baths; common sauna. There's a drinking fountain with mineral water extremely rich in minerals--find on a way from baths to the gym.
Changing: Towels are handed at reception--without fee or deposit. Also, there seems to be bathrobes available for rent--ask at the reception. For changing clothes, only lockers are available, without attendant--you have a key. There's no cabins (as families typically live in the same hotel). Every shower cabin have a curtain, and there's some liquid soap available.
Visitors mix: Almost no locals; in New Year season (and 1-9 of May?) about 80% are Russians who are also residents of the hotel.
  • Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal Spa, Erzsébet körút 43-49, +36(1)479-4000 (, fax: +36(1)479-4333), [44]. A symbol of history, culture, architecture and the tradition of hospitality opens its doors in all its original splendour. The Royal Spa has been beautifully restored to its original splendour and now offers the latest state-of-the-art spa facilities and treatments. The Royal Spa is one of the most expensive in Budapest costing 10,000ft for a day pass. It is a spectacle of opulence and luxury in the amazing art deco setting. Included in the price is bath robe, towels, lockers, hydromassage, fruit juices and water. Although expensive it is a truly unforgettable experience .

Others

  • Király Baths. Buda, Fő utca 84 (metro: Batthyány tér). Old, authentic and pretty small; personnel speak limited English. The baths alternate between male- and female-only days. Best to check first which they are (in May 2007 Monday, Wednesday etc. were for females, Tuesday, Thursday etc for males). Király Baths have been known for some years as a meeting place for gay men. Following an expose on Hungarian tv, the management introduced a rule that swimwear has to be worn in the baths and staff will ask you if you have brought your swimsuit. Despite this, some gay activity may be visible.
The baths have a main pool with adjoning very small pools, steam room and dry sauna. The emphasis is more on relaxing and enjoying the waters rather than swimming.
  • The Palatinus Outdoor Baths, on the Margaret Island (Margitsziget), have three pools filled with therapeutic water--and a total of 11 pools (totalling 17.5 acres). In front of the baths is a beautiful rose garden, and nearby, an open-air stage where opera and ballet performances are held, plus an open-air cinema used during the summer.
  • Rudas, in Buda. Provides an authentic Turkish feel with its 16th century dome. Recommended (as of May 2007) as a authentic men-only bath, much more authentic than Gellert or Szechenyi. Like Király, the baths have a main pool with adjoning small pools, steam room and dry sauna. Rudas has more small pools than Király and seems in better condition. Again, the emphasis is more on relaxing and enjoying the waters rather than swimming. Swimwear is not essential here. Visitors are provided with a loincloth which you tie round your waist, but which only covers your front. Unsurprisingly, Rudas also attracts gay men, but it is a lot more discreet than Király and you should be able to avoid hassle if you are a straight visitor.
Parts of Schwarzenegger movie Red Heat was shot here.

Learn

  • Budapest University of Technology and Economics, [45] B.Sc. and M.Sc. engineering courses available for foreigners in English, French and German language at the International Education Center of the university.
  • Eötvös Loránd University, [46] The oldest University in Hungary, B.A, B.Sc., M.A, M.Sc. and Ph.D level programs are available in English language.
  • Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, [47] world-famous music academy in the heart of the city.

Work

  • Teaching English is a popular profession for travellers and people moving to Budapest.

Buy

Paprika and more, Great Market Hall

Most of the visitors from far away end up shopping in Pest in the middle of the city: Váci utca and nearby. It is historically the most expensive part of the city. You'll find Hungarian linens and lace, pottery, and other items, in souvenir shops.

You definitely want to visit the Great Market Hall (Nagy Vásárcsarnok) at Fővám tér the recently renovated markethall with essential atmosphere (it's at the south end of Vaci). Prices for the same items vary a lot between sellers and aren't set in stone so be sure to compare and bargain.

Non-speciality shopping

Also, chain stores can be found along the Váci utca (C&A, H&M, Clinique, Estee Lauder, New Yorker, etc).

The "plazas" are usually good for buying clothes, but prices may vary wildly even in shops next to each other; if you are looking for international clothing shop chains like Mango or Zara, you can find them here. For electronics the cheap supermarkets like Electro World and Media Markt are good targets, but the quality is on par with the prices.

Absynthe is available for purchase at common liquor stores, a must-have purchase for the European traveler.

Eat

Local specialties include paprikás, gulyás, Lake Balaton pike-perch (fogas), pörkölt (a goulash-like stew with lots of onions), halászlé (fishermen's soup served differently by regions), stuffed cabbage, and liberal use of paprika. There is also a great variety of wonderful pastries, many of which you will recognize if you are familiar with Viennese pastries. As in other spheres, the Hungarian approach to food combines pride in their own traditions with a readiness to accept outside influences. The result is a vibrant restaurant scene where an Asian-Hungarian fusion restaurant may well be of genuine interest.

See the Buda, Castle Hill and Pest articles for detailed listings of restaurants and cafes.

Coffeehouses

Coffeehouses (kaveház) are a Budapest institution and a visit to one should be on every traveller's agenda. As the name implies, these are places for a cup of coffee and a delectable pastry, not a full meal.

Restaurants

Budapest has many great places to eat, but an unfortunate number of tourist traps as well. Avoid restaurants in touristy areas like Váci utca, especially if the customers are all foreigners, or you'll more likely than not be served mediocre food with an exorbitant bill padded with all sorts of bizarre charges. In other restaurants too, note that anything you don't explicitly ask for, but appears on your table anyway, is likely to be charged for.

Top-notch quality food (1st category restaurants) charge a wide range of prices (from starters around 1000F, main courses around 3.000ft-10.000ft, and menus from 5.000ft). Some of the most famous tourist traps are: Gundel and Mátyás Pince in Pest.

Chains

Only cross-district chains are listed here; see district articles for individual restaurants.

  • Wasabi, [48], excellent Japanese and Korean food. Lunch 3790ft (11am-5pm weekdays).
  • Pest, Podmaniczky ut 21 (close to Nyugati station) 11:30am-11pm
  • Buda, Szépvölgyi ut 15 (train station Szépvölgyi ut) 11am-11pm
  • Trófea Grill, [49]. The best among all-you-can-eat. Book a table in advance. Has 4 locations:
  • near Nyugati Train Station (Visegrádi u. 5)
  • at the final station of Metro line 1 (Erzsébet királyné út 5)
  • downtown by Margaret Bridge (Margit körút 2)
  • in the XIth district (Hauszmann Alajos / Szerémi út).

Grocery Stores

There are hypermarkets like "Auchan", "Tesco", "Cora" where daily stuff and food is cheap, and they offer an usually wide range of goods. (If you want to take some paprika as a souvenir, buy it here--it's much cheaper)

Kosher

Hanna's Kosher Kitchen Features classic Hungarian food, but Kosher. VII., Dob utca 35. Tel.:+361 342-1072

Kinor David VII. Dohany utca (next to the big Dohány Temple) Tel. (+361) 413-7304 or 5

Salamon glatt kosher restaurant (Next to King's Hotel)1072 Budapest, VII. Nagydiófa u. 27 Tel: (++36-1) 413-1487, 413-1488 Cell: (++36-30) 743-6938, (++36-20) 966-6160

Drink

Budapest offers plenty of places to drink, from cool and ultra-hip to rowdy and downmarket. One particularly Hungarian experience is to visit a borozó (wine pub), where cheap but tasty Hungarian wine is available on tap, at ridiculously low prices if you find one off the tourist circuit.

See the Buda, Castle Hill and Pest articles for detailed nightlife listings.

Be sure to try Traubi Szoda and Marka. These are unique Hungarian soft drinks avaiable only in Hungary. Traubi is a white grape soda and Marka is a sour cherry soda.

Sleep

Budapest offers a wide range of accommodation in all price classes from the small cheap pension to the luxurious 5-star hotels, although the costs of staying here are notably higher than elsewhere in Hungary.

Arriving trains are often met by touts offering free rides to hostels, as well as little old grannies offering their apartments for rent. Try to figure out exactly where you're going before you choose - or, better yet, visit any of the many travel agencies to browse the many options in a more comfortable environment.

The most expensive digs are on or near Castle Hill, while backpacker hostels are mostly across the river in the suburbs of Pest. However, Buda has better air quality due to the closeness of the hills and the forests lying to the west from the city.

See the Buda, Castle Hill and Pest articles for detailed accommodation listings.


Apartments

These are apartment providers that have multiple apartments around the town, each both in Buda and in Pest. See also Buda, Castle Hill and Pest district articles for individual apartments.

  • ApartmentsApart, [50]. +48.22.820.9229 (1-866-387-6429 Toll Free from the USA & Canada). More than 40 serviced apartments are offered within the historical part of the city. Studios, 1, 2 & 3 bedrooms for every budget. Studios start at €45 per night. All apartments have easy walking distance to city's main attractions.
  • Budapest Apartments, [51]. +36 20 4602134 - e-mail: info@ohb.hu - More than 30 fully equipped private apartments in Budapest city center.
  • Budapest Pension, [52]. +36 20 58967729 More than 40 pensions in Budapest.
  • Rent in Hungary, [53]. Tel: +36-309-547-851, email: rentinhungary@yahoo.com. "Comfortable, affordable alternative to hotels" as they say. See Buda Castle Apartment in Castle Hill, Kleopatra House Apartment in Pest for details on specific apartments.
  • Thomas Apartments, [54]. Pozsonyi street 38. 2nd floor 3. Tel: +36 309 547 851, . Prices from 12 EUR/person/night, check in anytime, flexibile check out.


Contact

Mobile phones work in the metro, even in tunnels between stations.

There are many internet cafes throughout the city. Prices usually average 100Ft/half hour. In addition, many popular bars and cafes in Budapest offer free wi-fi access.

Wifi Networks

  • T-Com Hotspot, [55]. Seems to operate only on prepaid cards. Covers many restaurants and other public places (total 87, as of Jan 2007). Prices as of Jan-2007: 0.5hrs =500ft; 1hr =1500ft; 5hrs=3900ft; 24hrs=8900ft.
  • HotSpotSystem.com, [56]. Has both Free and paid (Pro) types of service--chosen by operating (restaurant, hotel etc.). For paid access, internet time can be purchased by credit card right from your browser at the point of connection. Prices are set by operating business but can be like this (example taken from Hotel Astra [57]) 1hr =600ft, 2hrs =960ft, 24hrs =1950ft. Time can not be purchased in other slots, and should be used at once (you can't pause it, nor to use it in several intervals during several days). For Pro access, speed is: 384 / 128 kbit/s incoming/outgoing traffic, and unlimited traffic within paid time. And the time left is only shown in popup that opens right at the start of connection--if you close it, you can't check how much is left.

Stay safe

Váci utca – dos and don'ts
This narrow street begins at Fővám square (Fővám tér) in front of Central Market (Nagyvásárcsarnok) and ends at Vörösmarty square (Vörösmarty tér). Supposedly being one of the main touristic attractions of the city, Váci street is visited by all the tourists arriving to Budapest. Enjoy this lively place, shop in its fashion stores, buy Hungarian and foreign literature in its great bookshop, eat in the American fast food restaurants if you intend to, but avoid being victimized by its many tourist traps and scams:

  • Avoid its eateries and bars, mainly between Vörösmarty sq and Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd). Most of them offer mediocre food at exorbitant prices.
  • Never enter its erotic/topless bars. It would cost a hundred times more than you can imagine in your worst dreams and you will have to pay anyway.
  • Don't want to pick up girls. There are many great places to meet Hungarian women, Váci street is not one of them.
  • Change money only in exchange offices. Though not as frequent as it used to be be ten years ago, in Váci street still operate street money changers waiting for you. Don't use their service.

See details in Tourist traps section below. As a general rule, you find better quality and prices outside Váci utca.


Although petty theft is common, crime in Budapest is still low by Western European and U.S. standards [58] – you're unlikely to have any problem if you follow some basic rules you wouldn't forget in Paris, Bruxelles or Vienna. Magyars tend to be friendly with foreigners, racism or xenophobia against tourists is practically unknown.

Hungarian policemen rarely speak English or any other foreign language, and in 2007 the number of charges against policemen supposedly committing crimes has increased alarmingly. [59] Still, tourists have no reason to be afraid of them unless breaking the law. Police corruption is still widespread. [60]

Crime

Luckily, Budapest has no off-limit zones, particularly not in the touristy areas or nearby. As a traveller you should only take normal precautions; don't show off your money and don't wear flashy jewellery. Beware of pickpockets, especially at pubs, crowded restaurants, fast food eateries and on public trasportation vehicles. Petty crime is quite common, but is mainly limited to robbery and petty theft. Major railway stations (especially Keleti Pályaudvar), dark underpasses in the suburban area and some outer zones of district 8th in Pest are supposed to be the most "dangerous" zones by locals. Violent crimes are rare, and most locals live their whole life without having their purse robbed.


By night

There's no reason to have concerns about Budapest by night. In practice the whole city, including all the touristy areas, Pest within the inner ring road (the line of Szent István körút–Teréz körút–Erzsébet körút–József körút–Ferenc körút, popularly known as Nagykörút), and Buda are safe even before dawn. Most locals avoid walking alone by night in outer zones of districts 8th and 9th in Pest, as these are shady, though not particularly dangerous areas. Bigger public parks as Városliget, are surely to be avoided.

Night buses passing through the city center, mainly line 906 along the inner ring road can be very crowded at peak socialising times on Friday and Saturday nights. You may come across with agressive drunk youngsters on the vehicles or at the stops; keep low profile or avoid night public transportation system on weekends.

Tourist traps

Like in several cities of the world, in Budapest the major scams for the inexperienced tourist are taxis and restaurants.

Taxi was travellers' nightmare, mainly for those arriving from / going to the airport. Luckily the situation is slowly getting better. In 2006 Zóna Taxi, a reliable company have won monopoly for the right to take passengers from the airport; for the details read Airport transfer chapter. Unless you ordered a cab from a different company, do not accept any offer from taxi drivers waiting around the terminal entrance. Some of them may want to mislead travellers, demanding them as much as EUR 100 for a single trip. If you travel the other way around (from the city to the airport), pre-order your taxi on the chosen company's phone number.

Unfortunately situation around railway and bus stations is still not regularized. The worst is probably Keleti Pályaudvar: never trust drivers hanging around the arrival side, rather pre-order a car. Whether it's not possible, take only taxis logoed by one of the bigger companies. As a general rule, make sure the taximeter is on or bargain the price with the driver beforehand. Even in 2006 many cases have been reported when taxi drivers extorted hundreds of Euros from inexpert foreigners.

Similar abuses have happened also in restaurants and bars [61], almost all of them in the vicinity of Váci utca in the touristy heart of Pest. You should avoid the eateries and bars of the zone. However, the majority of restaurants and pubs in Budapest are reliable. In Hungary it's compulsory to put the menu card outside the entrance; if it's not the case, don't enter. Eat only where locals eat, drink where locals go.

Don't befriend with the girls hanging around Váci utca and never accept any invitation for a drink from them. Be sure that they will have fake French champagne, but you will only have the bill - it's unlikely that a small talk with them is worth hundreds of Euros. You'll find the same girls in erotic and topless bars; avoid them unless you're ready to pay your monthly salary for a glass of wine. Currently the standard trick is to produce a menu with small print at the bottom stating that the first drink costs HUF 15,000 (apx EUR 60) and consumption is compulsory. This modified menu might only be produced when the bill is presented. Most of the erotic bars in Budapest are tourist traps.

Political demonstrations

Unlike in many democratic countries of the world, violent political demonstrations have never been frequent in Hungary. In September-October 2006 [62] [63] and in March 2007 [64], however, some anti-governmental demonstrations resulted in heavy street fights and affrays. Hungarian State Television and other public buildings were besieged, police and private cars burned up. Police's rule in the demonstrations has been widely discussed [65], as obtrusive demonstrators and bystanders apparently were arrested with no distinction. Since then the situation calmed down completely. While political demonstrations are not to be avoided, never participate in violent, illegal or nocturnal demonstrations (if they occur), as your personal security can not be guaranteed.

Cope

Get out

  • The attractive towns on the Danube Bend (Dunakanyar): Szentendre for its artistic community, Visegrád for its castle and Esztergom for its cathedral, imposingly sited on a hill overlooking the Danube.
  • The Hungarian Open-Air Museum (skanzen) [66], just outside Szentendre (40 minute train ride from Budapest) is easily reached by bus from the Szentendre HÉV (communal train) station. This is a huge tract of land to which ancient buildings have been moved from all parts of the country. Small farm villages, mostly with thatched roofs, now dot the landscape, along with barns, outbuildings and even churches. Many are furnished inside. Buy the English guide book, some of the attendants are very knowledgeable (and some not so) but few speak English. You could spend a whole day there (even several) and still have things left to see. There are many ongoing events offered, especially for families with children.
  • 30 kilometers east is Gödöllő, a town full of parks and home to the former royal palace.
  • Statue Park. [67]. Located at the corner of Balatoni utca and Szabadkai utca (From the blue metro line station Ferenciek tere, take the 7-173 red-blue bus to Etele tér, then the yellow suburban bus called "Érd, Diósdon át" to Szoborpark Múzeum stop; buses run every 10-30 minutes; buy your ticket at the desk before boarding). Tel.: (36-1) 227-7446. Open 10am-16pm every day. Tickets 600 forints, for international student card holders 400.
Rather than smash the statues of the Communist era, the Hungarians arranged them with a twist of irony in a park to the south of Buda. Visitors may well interpret this as an assertion that the Hungarian spirit is stronger than communism. The Statue Park, was first conceived by the literary historian László Szörényi in 1989 when he suggested the various Lenin statues from all over Hungary could be gathered into one "Lenin garden." According to Ákos Eleőd, the architect: "This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy. After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship." Possible souvenirs are t-shirts which poke fun at communism, German Trabant car models, CDs of Hungarian communist fight songs, reproduction Hungarian Communist Party membership booklets and kitschy postcards of old communist advertisements. The park is in a badly-kept state, signs are in Hungarian only. Buy a booklet in English.
  • A great day trip is Visegrád, a town on the Danube Bend, where you find a former royal palace partially rebuilt in Renaissance style (accessible to people with physical disabilities), a medieval residential tower and an impressive citadel, which is about 30-50 minute hike up from the base. Take a train from Budapest Nyugati railway station to Nagymaros–Visegrád (cca. 40-60 minutes, runs every 60 minutes; the station will be on the opposite side of the river so you need to take a 5-minute ferry ride across; ferries are scheduled to train arrivals), or take a direct bus at Budapest, Árpád híd bus station to Visegrád (cca. 80 minutes, runs every 20-60 minutes). A more expensive (but much more picturesque) way to get to Visegrád is an excursion boat and a hydrofoil service run by MAHART (both daily once, only between April and late September).






This is a guide article. It has a variety of good, quality information including hotels, restaurants, attractions, arrival and departure info. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!






Variants

Actions

Destination Docents

In other languages

other sites