Travel to Budapest?
Stylish, attractive, relatively unspoilt and gateway to East Europe,
Budapest is a hot destination at the moment.
After centuries of destructive wars followed by dramatic rebuilds
this city offers an eclectic collection of architectural styles
ranging from Roman ruins to Turkish, neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau and
Stalinist block house chic. Boring it ain't.
Musical entertainment is similarly varied, from opera to garage
via salsa, and all at bargain prices.
The city's restaurants and bars follow the eclectic party line too
with quality offerings from goulash to sushi, premium lagers to
exotic cocktails and giant café lattes for your wake up call
before hitting the sensational thermal baths.
Public transport is efficient, easy and good value and the ambience
• Begging and petty thievery are not uncommon, see Hungary
Travel Guide for safety information.
• There is a lot of reconstruction going on - permanently it seems,
it's the Hungarian way of life.
Fisherman's Bastion in Buda, a tourist favourite. The Danube River is in the foreground.
Photo by Ian Pitchford
Best: April- July, Spetember, October.
Spring and Autumn arts festivals are well worth attending.
August due to heat, humidity and tourist overload, and winter - cold, grey,
wet and windy.
Current Budapest temperature and time.
Budapest is a merger of two towns, Buda on the hilly, quietly regal
west bank of the Danube river and busy Pest on the east.
Buda: Budapest - unlike Prague - is big enough to absorb the tourist
crowds except in Buda's Castle District where the stunning views
from Fisherman's Bastion are the premier attraction and night-time
floodlights turn the area into a Disney fantasy.
Among other Buda offerings are walks on the old castle ramparts,
the Royal Palace and its museums, 700 year old Matthias Church,
the underground Labyrinth, the Citadella and the thermal baths in
the superb Art Nouveau Gellert Hotel.
Don't miss Statue Park, a collection of monumental Soviet era
mega-heroes set in stone.
Pest is the place for shopping, bopping and neo-neo land, including
the neo-Renaissance State Opera House and St Stephen's Basilica,
neo-Gothic Parliament and neo-Classical National Museum.
Margaret Island is for culture day release, an oasis of trees, flowers,
swimming pools, spa hotels and a theatre with musical evenings.
Bicycles are available for rent.
The famous hot spring baths in Hotel Gellert, Pest.
The Thermal Baths of Hotel Gellert were finished in 1918 in Art Nouveau style, but the waters have been known to have healing powers since the 13th century. One bath naturally heats to about 36C and the other to 38C. Some believe the baths cure or at least relieve asthma, bronchitis, degenerative joint disease, circulation problems, gout, arthritis, and more.
Boat trips: Budapest is fairly Danube-centric so short and long
boat tours are readily available April - October.
The Danube Bend scenic hill/river region, starring Szentendre and
Visegrad towns, begins just 20km (12m) north of Budapest.
Szentendre is an attractive place to see art of all kinds, as well
as medieval buildings on steep winding streets full of tourists.
Visegrad also offers impressive sights, but is much smaller and
less busy than its big sister.
Lake Balaton. This massive lake 100km (62m) from Budapest supplies
a full range of leisure activities - swimming, sailing, biking,
walking, beaches and sunbathing.
Eger, 125km (80m) from Budapest, is a charming, pedestrian friendly,
baroque town full of interesting sights and buildings. The adjacent
Valley of Beautiful Women offers wonderful wine cellars, music and
spectacular drinking locations.
Photo by Nobli
The Aquarena water park just outside the city is a big hit with
kids, and the Tropicarium (animals, birds, fish and plants) works
City Park offers varied childish treats, from the Zoo - a popular
Art Nouveau family destination - to a circus, funfair and pond for
rowing in summer and skating in winter.
Buda's Children's Railway Line - staffed mostly by children - is
a pleasant peculiarity.
end of March: Budapest Spring Festival - a huge and well-respected
all-round arts festival.
mid July: Visegrad Palace Games. A medieval festival including arts,
archery and jousting in this pretty town near Budapest.
early August: Sziget Festival. A massive and excitable international
music event held on Margaret island, with over 1,000 performances
on 15 stages.
August 20: St Stephens Day - a nationwide celebration, especially
lively in Budapest, with parades, folk singing, fairs and fireworks.
end of October: Budapest Autumn Festival, more contemporary arts,
from music to dance to computer art
some precise dates or more information see: European
Festivals or Arts
Museums: Pest offers its national treasures in the National Museum,
Jewish artefacts in the museum in the Great Synagogue, cutting-edge
art in the Mucsarnok and foreign work in the Museum of Fine Arts.
Buda's contribution is mainly the National Gallery and Budapest
History Museum - both in the Royal Palace, and the Museum of Ecclesiastical
Museums are often closed on Mondays.
Classical and Folk Music: Music drifts everywhere, in mansions,
castles, on Margaret island (Sziget), in churches and in the streets,
particularly during the big festivals (see above), but at other
times too - it's a national obsession.
Opera: The State Opera House in Pest has good shows at great prices
or daily tours if you can't manage to attend.
Theatre: There are more than thirty theatres in the capital but
the Magyar language is incomprehensible to most visitors so alternative
theatre is the way to go, if you can find it.
Live Music & Clubs: The Inner City of Pest (Belvaros)
is the core of the capital action, a hive of buzzing cafés
There are masses of clubs with superb DJs; dancing often starts
very late, after midnight.
Local Jazz musicians are excellent though locations are limited.
Music information: For local information on events look for the
free 'Where Budapest' in hotels, or listings in 'Budapest in your
Tourinform publishes a free monthly event summaries including the
classical calendar, Koncert Kalendarium.
Budapest is a thoroughly cosmopolitan city and has embraced nouvelle
cuisine with the same verve with which it welcomes neo-everything
While traditional Magyar cuisine is rich, heavy and meaty there
is the abundance of international dishes found in most sophisticated
European cities - and at the right price. Carefully check your bill
at the end of the meal, overcharging is common.
Guide for more cuisine information.
Coffee houses are an institution here, many of them opulently furnished
and offering disastrously delicious cakes and pastries.
Wines are first rate too, with red Bull's Blood and sweet
white Tokaji being world famous.
Hardly impressive or unique but some popular souvenirs
are painted eggs, dolls in folk costume, porcelain, crystal, embroidery,
paprika and wines. Fine Bohemian crystal, ceramics, wooden toys,
Easter eggs (Kraslice) and puppets.
Psst! The Unicum liqueur is vile, take Bull's Blood instead.
Touristy: The Castle district has many small shops offering folk
art and antiques. These are also found around the Grand Market Hall.
Foods: The huge Grand Market Hall is the place to get a good
selection of nosh or edible presents in a comfortable environment.
Modern goods: Westend City Center houses 400 shops, a food court
and all the usual commercial suspects.
There are plenty of online cafés in this city, though far
fewer elsewhere in Hungary.
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