Budapest

Budapest is a bit of classic old Europe situated on the Danube. Consisting of two formerly separate cities “Buda” (the hilly west side of the river) and “Pest” (the flat east side of the river) Budapest is a thriving centre of commerce with more than enough to keep visitors interested.

Weather

Winters can get cool but not cold with lows generally above -10° C with only occasional snow. Summers can get quite warm.

Things to See and Do

Like many European cities just walking around aimlessly will reward many surprises but there are a few things to look out for.

Buda Castle/The Royal Palace (Királyi palota)

Buda Castle District

A World Heritage site, you cannot miss the iconic Buda Castle perched on a hill dominating the Buda side of the city. Much of the site is open to visitors with the exception of the Presidential Palace. There are a number of small cafés and small streets that are worth a wander. The area is much quieter than other tourist attractions in the city and with strict limitations on traffic, much more peaceful.

Sandor Palace

The grounds offer fantastic views of the surrounding city.

Getting up to the palace area can be a bit of a trick (see “Fisherman's Bastion” below for a spectacular way to do so) with many tourists taking the famous “Buda Castle Funicular” though this is expensive, often has massive queues, and in the end only offers a trip of a few seconds. Better is to either take a city bus to the top or just do the walk…it is not that far up.

Buda Castle Funicular

For further information please see http://budacastlebudapest.com/.

Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd)

Address: BPMLOGO Vörösmarty tér

The oldest and, arguably, the prettiest of the bridges across the Danube, this suspension bridge is very pretty, particularly at night, with Buda Castle nearby.

Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya)

Address: Szentháromság tér (BPMLOGO Batthyány tér)

An amazing, quirky structure near Buda Castle that, when climbed, offers great views of the surrounding city. There is no entry charge to the site though there is a charge to the top turrets of the site. Getting here is a bit of a hassle as buses/vehicles cannot park anywhere near the site and so you must, generally, walk up.

For further information please see http://www.fishermansbastion.com/.

Great Market Hall (Nagycsarnok/Vasarcsarnok)

Address: Vámház krt. 1-3 (BPMLOGO Fővám tér)

An amazing market with a tremendous massive cavern of an interior with wonderful steel-work. The ground floor features food stalls while the first floor has places to eat including a few restaurants (the basement is dominated, sadly, by a Lidl supermarket).

If you are seriously interested in buying produce/groceries avoid the tourist stalls near to the main entrance and seek out the stalls in the far reaches of the building. If you want paprika, cured meats or honey, this is the place for you…but they do also have fresh meat, vegetables and fruit at reasonable prices.

Market Stalls

Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum

Address: Dohány ut. 2-8 (BPMLOGO Astoria)

One of the most unusual synagogue's in the world looking more like a cathedral than anything else. An entrance fee includes access to the synagogue, museum as well as an English language tour (there are separate tours for other languages). The synagogue is amazing and much more ornate than most others in the world. The museum is small offering a good overview of Judaism and of the Jewish community in Hungary.

Be sure to also see the “Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park” near the exit at the back featuring an amazing stainless steel weeping willow tree.

The cemetery to the young victims of the final months of the second world war as the Nazis faced defeat is particularly poignant particularly when you consider how many children are buried here.

Heroes' Square (Hősök tere)

Address: BPMLOGO Hősök Tere

Heroes' Square is the most spectacular square in the city featuring the magnificent Millennium Monument in the middle and two semi-circular colonnades on the north. There are two museums on either side of the square, The Museum of Fine Arts (recently renovated) and Kunsthalle (contemporary art).

City Park (Városliget)

To the north of Heroes' Square is a quite large park with the unusual Vajdahunyad Castle which was originally a temporary structure demonstrating various architectural elements created for an exhibition that was so loved it was rebuilt in stone.

Vajdahunyad Castle

Vajdahunyad Castle

Entrance to the grounds is free though a fee is charged for entrance into the “Museum and Library of Hungarian Culture” and the tower. A rather large ice skating rink is available on the lake in the winter.

Skating

The park is also home to the oldest thermal bath in Budapest, the huge Széchenyi Thermal Bath.

Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Parliament (Országház)

Address: Kossuth Lajos tér (BPMLOGO Kossuth Lajos Tér)

The heart of the Hungarian government, the distinctive parliament building looks for all the world like a fairy-tale castle. The building can be visited with ticket prices including a tour.

For further information please see http://parlamentobudapest.com/en/.

St. Stephen (István) Cathedral (the Basilica)

Address: Szent István tér (BPMLOGO Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út)

The wonderful basilica can be entered free of charge though with a recommended donation. Perhaps not as big as other European cathedrals it is quite ornate and has great acoustics.

Christmas Markets

On the Christmas season there are two main markets held in Vorosmarty Square and in front of the basilica that operate from November through to January 1st. In both cases the stalls extend out into the surrounding streets and can get quite crowded particularly on Saturday and Sunday nights where the local and foreign visitors both visit. Expect equal measures of food, drink and craft stalls. In recent years the market area is completely blocked to traffic with massive concrete barriers.

For further information, please see http://budapestchristmas.com/.

Christmas Market on Vorosmarty Square

The trees of the square offer an interesting setting for the market. Live music features along with light shows on the surrounding buildings in the evenings. You can get a good overview of the market by climbing a small monument on the north corner of the square (near the bandshell). Be sure to also visit “Fashion Street” leading out north east from the square which has the best lights.

Christmas Fair at Basilica

The setting of this market in front of the Basilica which also serves as a screen for nightly video displays is quite spectacular. It also features a small skating rink around a tall Christmas tree in the middle of the square. Stalls extend down towards the Danube on Zrínyi u.

Restaurants

Exterior

Obviously the ubiquitous dish in Hungary is goulash and there are plenty of places offering this dish at various degrees of ridiculous prices. The tour guide I had in Hungary pointed us to her favourite place to eat, if in the heart of tourist-land, which is Boom & Brass on the west side of “Vörösmarty tér” in Pest that serves very traditional Hungarian meals in large portions (you have been warned – I would skip a starter if I were you).

Goulash Starter

Ox Goulash with Red Wine

Hungarian Meat Skewer

Though not cheap, Boom & Brass (don't let the name fool you, the music is subdued and pleasant) does have very good service, a clean interior with great views of the surrounding (pedestrian) streets and quite tasty food.

Seating

Getting Around

Trams

The streets can be a bit tricky to figure out but when walking a good point of reference is the river as when you are alongside you can easily orient yourself. The city center is easy enough to walk around (with the exception of further areas of interest such as Heroes' Square - quite a long walk) but there is a good transport network of trams, buses and metro (subway) lines. All public transport (see https://www.bkv.hu/en/) is accessed with a ticket good for a single trip (no transfers) but there are passes available and seniors travel for free (ostensibly having obtained the free senior pass). Buses and trams are regular, frequent and easy to use offering quick access to the city.

The route number and destination of each tram is given on the front of the vehicle. If you are using a timed ticket use the cancellation machines on each tram. Many trams have a map on-board showing the route and the newer trams have an electronic one that shows you where you are on the route. There are a number of old, very noisy trams in operation in the city as well as some very modern ones.

There are four subway routes (imaginatively numbered 1-4 each with a different colour). When entering a station if you have to validate your timed ticket (if it has not already been validated) then use the machines indicated and note inspectors are often present in stations. Most stations have an electronic machine from which tickets can be purchased (including service in English).

The best way to see the city is to take a boat trip on the Danube, particularly at night. There are a large number of companies offering such trips and often they will be included in things like hop-on hop-off bus tours (there are several such groups operating in the city).

Further Information

For further information, please see: