Go and explore | Street sketches

Rainy weekend: Budapest

October 19, 2016

Many travellers might ask the question “Why visit Budapest?”, what is so special about the capital of Hungary that one should include it in her or his travel plans.

I could tell you about how beautiful that city is, and that there are numerous historic and cultural sights, but I’m sure other travel guides have already listed these reasons countless times. So I will tell you a short story taken by my own eyes and will show you my “rainy” weekend I’ve spent there in September.

TIPS: How to get from the airport to Busapest:
  1. Public transportation is the cheapest way to get from Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport to the City Center of Budapest. The metro or trains do not run all the way to the airport so you have to hop on the city bus. From 4:00am to 11:00pm, bus number 200E runs between Terminal 2 and the Kobánya-Kispest metro terminal (Metro line 3/Blue). From this station, take the M3 towards Újpest Központ to the city center. A single ride on public transportation costs HUF 350, or about $1.50 USD.
  2. If you want to use a taxi, there is an official taxi service in Budapest calls Főtaxi budapest  and you can book it right in front of the airport door – there is a small office where managers can kindly help you to book a cab. Prices are about HUF  7000 or 25 euros from the airport to the city center. Download the official application on your phone as well, it will be helpful in case you get lost.

If you travel to Budapest on the weekend, as I did, I recommend you to stay at a hotel in downtown Budapest. Much of Europe is cost-friendly right now, but Budapest is an especially cheap spot. Hotel rates in Hungary are down 25 percent from 2014, according to booking data from travel site Booking.com. Their research also shows a 17 percent decrease in airfare to Budapest over the last year.

Begin your first day at Váci Utca, a thin street lined with mostly Western merchandise stores, each located in a different, beautiful Neo-Classical building. If you walk all the way down the Váci Utca, you’ll end up at Ferenciek Tér. There’s really nothing to see here, but there is a metro stop (Földalatti in Hungarian).

TIP: The Budapest card which is valid either for 24 hours (17 EUR) for 48 hours (27  EUR), or for 72-hours (33 EUR) provides you lots of opportunity to save on admission fees.

It also entitles you to free travel on the public transport service.

You can buy the card online here.

From Váci Utca continue north along the banks of the Danube River towards the Hungarian Parliament Building.

The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Europe. It was completed in 1904 in the Gothic Revival style with a symmetrical facade and a central dome. Make sure you take a walk around the building and see it from all angles. The building is absolutely beautiful. If you’re lucky you might even see the changing on the guards! While the outside of the Parliament Building, which is the 3rd largest in the world, is worth the view, the inside of the building is just as incredible. Tours of the Parliament Building in English happen daily at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm. Tickets must be purchased at Gate #10 and cost HUF 2,520 for an adult ticket.

After the Parliament Building tour either snag lunch at one of the local cafes near the Parliament Building or head back to Vorosmarty Square with numerous restaurant options. Make sure you try some of the traditional Hungarian dishes like the goulash (gulyás), spicy fish soup (halászlé), or pancake filled with meat (hortobágyi palacsinta). And definitely try the Hungarian wine. It is delicious and cheap! Do not forget as well to eat the Kürtőskalács –  a traditional spit cake, which is made from  sweet yeast dough of which a strip is spun and then wrapped around a truncated cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar. It is just very tasty!

After lunch head towards the Jewish Quarter (also known as Elizabethtown) to explore Budapest’s long, rich Jewish history and culture. Budapest is home to the second largest synagogue in the world. From the Great Synagogue you can walk around the neighborhood and explore the colorful street art and see the other synagogues: Rumbach Street Synagogue, Kazinczy Street Synagogue, and the Vasvári Pál Street Synagogue. Each synagogue has an unique architectural style and is a main gathering place of the Jewish community. The Jewish Quarter is home to several Kosher restaurants. I personally recommend stopping at Fröhlich Pastry Shop near the Great Synagogue to try the famous flódni, an apple-walnut-poppy-seed cake that is moist and rich in flavor.

The rest of the day you can spend at the St. Stephen’s Basilica area in Pest. This lavish neoclassical church never fails to stun. A tedious climb to the top of the northern tower offers excellent views of the city.

After visiting St. Stephen’s, make your way to the Vörösmarty Tér for lunch at one of the food stands which offer cheap but delicious and authentic Hungarian cuisine. The food in Budapest is delicious — even the traditional touristy food such as the goulash soup and paprika chicken served at practically every restaurant never fails to please one’s appetite.

There are my TOP 5 bars you have to visit for sure:

1. DiVino Wine Bar
For the wine lovers among us here is my top tip for a good glass of wine or two. Divino is situated right next to the famous Basilica in Budapest and in summer time you have the chance to sit outside, have a look at the fantastic, historical building and enjoy your glass of local or foreign wine with friends or family.

2. Urimuri
Urimuri is a fairly new place in Budapest downtown in an absolutely stunning location serving perfectly mixed drinks and of course several types of wine and beer. Later at night, around midnight, Urimuri turns into a club with decent house music and dancing masses on the dance floor. If you search for a good club in the city center have a try at Urimuri.

3. Minyon
Bar Minyon really turned out to be one of the hottest places in the city. During the evening Minyon is a fairly good restaurant with international cuisine but as of 11 o’clock it slowly turns into a massive party place. Waiters start to move away the tables, the front windows will be closed with a movable wall and the entrance is changing to the back door. When the DJ starts his, honestly not too good, sets the entire former restaurant turns into a massive club with gents and beautiful girls dancing all night long.

4. A38
In 2012 awarded “greatest bar in the world” by the Lonely Planet A38 cannot be left our of any top list when it comes to bars. Located on a boat which is laying next to Petőfi bridge on the Buda side there is surprisingly much space for a bar, a club and a restaurant. The bar plays all sorts of music throughout the week and offers drinks at fair prices. As the bar is open air you should consider going there in summer time and enjoy the great sight along the Danube.

5. Bar Instant
Bar Instant is a place which opened up not too long ago. It is much like Szimpla Kert but less known thus less foreigners coming with their Travel Books in hand to have a beer and see the place. Bar Instant also offers a cellar which is used as a club for dancing with, for my taste, not too good music. Nevertheless Bar Instant is the best place to go these days.

Next day try to explore the other side of the Danube River. Make sure you grab some breakfast before you head out for another long day of exploring the hills of Buda. If your feet are tired, take the tram over the Margit Bridge, but the walk over the famous Chain Bridge is worth it. The Szechenyi Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge built to unite Buda and Pest in 1849. The bridge was designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark.

Now that you’re on the Buda side of the city, it’s time to take the funicular or walk up to the top of Castle Hill. The walk really isn’t that bad and after all the beer you might have drunk last night, it’s totally worth the 8 minute climb!

The Castle Hill district of Budapest is right out of a fairytale with its charming cobblestone streets, colorful houses, and stunning views looking over the Danube River towards Pest. The first residents of Castle Hill moved in around the 13th century after the Mongolian Invasion. The hills of Buda offered great protection from the enemy. The 15th century was the golden era of Buda Hill with the marriage of King Matthias Corvinus and Beatrix of Naples in 1476. Today, Castle Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Start your tour of Castle Hill at Matthias Church, named after King Matthias who held two weddings in the church. The church was primarily built in the early 15th century. During the Turkish conquest, the church became a mosque and was later left in ruins. In the 17th century, repairs were made to the church in the Baroque style and towards the end of the 19th century, major restoration work was done and much of the church was restored to its former glory. Matthias Church is still an active church and also a museum. The entrance fee is HUF 1,400 for an adult. Definitely take some time to admire the beautiful and colorful diamond-shaped roof tiles.

The 100-year-old Fisherman’s Bastion provides one of the best views in the city. During the Middle Ages the fish market was located nearby and the bastion was built to commemorate the local fishermen. Tickets to the top towers are HUF 700. Personally, I don’t think it is worth the admission fee as you get a great view from the lower balconies, which are free.

Try not to hurry up but to enjoy the picturesque places and autumn.

TIPS: Top 10 Views of Budapest

  1. Take in the beautiful panorama from the top of Gellért Hill.
  2. You will love the vistas of Pest from Fishermen’s Bastion.
  3. Take a Danube cruise for beautiful panoramic views of both Buda and Pest.
  4. Climb the stairs (or take the elevator) to the Basilica’s observation deck for some of the best views of Budapest.
  5. Ride the Budapest Eye ferris wheel for a bird’s eye view of the city.
  6. Whether it’s day or night you will enjoy the views from the Danube Promenade.
  7. Walk up the spiral staircase of the historic water tower on Margaret Island for some beautiful panoramic views.
  8. For the best street views of Budapest join a unique guided tour by locals.
  9. Track to the Elisabeth Lookout on János Hill for a full view of Budapest.
  10. Magnificent sunsets are included with cocktails served on the deck of Spoon Café.

If you have time try to visit thermal bath:

  • Szechenyi furdo: Allatkeri korut 9-11, which is end of Andrassy ut., about 20 minutes by walk, but I really recommend to take out the yellow metro line leaving from Andrassy and Bajcsy-Zsilinszky utca corner, and you need to take Szechenyi stop.  Tickets and massage are avaliavle online as well.
  • Gellert furdo: Kelenhegyi ut.4. Get on 47 or 49 tram from the Basilica at the Deaak Ferenc ter.

Once you have fully enjoyed your day, it’s time to head back to the City Center for dinner. Make sure you see the Budapest lit up at night. It is truly something else!