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marianne Budapest - A travel report by Marianne
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Budapest,  Hungary - flag Hungary -  Budapest
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marianne's travel reports

Two Walks in Budapest

  23 votes
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Budapest brims with history and culture, it is no longer a drab East European city but a place that hurries to restore its architectural heritage.

View of Parliament from Fishermen's Bastion
View of Parliament from Fishermen's Bastion
Budapest is huge. It covers 525 square kms, has a population of 2 million and consists of 23 districts.

The good thing is that all major sights are concentrated in 4 districts, which makes the city compact and convenient for tourists to explore on foot.

The bad thing is the heavy traffic that zooms past the Danube embankment, the car-clogged streets and the zigzaging cyclist on the pavements.

One thing that struck me and had not expected were the many beggars and homeless people who bedded down in nooks and crannies. One had made an old Turkish fountain at the foot of Gellert Hill his home. Ladies past retirement age sold garden flowers, a much needed extra source of income as the state no longer looks after them as they had expected in communist days.

The free Budapest-Guide booklet is very helpful. We got it from the Tourist Information Centre at Keleti Station (in the Lotz Hall, side exit, down platform 6). Especially the info on public transport tickets is very helpful. The Tourist Information also helped us in finding and booking accommodation.

The airports Ferihegy 1 and 2 are 15 km to the south. It takes 45 mins to get there both by public transport and taxi. Terminal 1 is home to low-cost carriers: Sky Europe, Berlin Air and Wizz Air.

Public Transport to the airport:Take the metro Blue Line (M3) to Köbánya-Kispet, on leaving the station turn right to bus #200, which goes to both terminals. (Ft 320 = €1.15)

Be sure to have finished all your forints as all articles at the airport are priced in euros and three times as expensive as in town.

Hungary's currency is the Forint (Ft or HUF)
HUF 1,000 = € 3.60 or USD 4,60 (in 2006)

The obvious sights are Castle Hill, Fishermen's Bastion, craggy Gellert-hegy cliff, the Danube bridges and the Houses of Parliament, built in imitation of London Parliament.

Lonewolf and Trond described these in their excellent reports. Therefore I will suggest some other sights.

Favourite spots:
View of Elizabeth Bridge from Gellert-hegy
View of Elizabeth Bridge from Gellert-hegy

Start: Erzsébet Hid (Elizabeth Bridge), in Pest

Keep the Danube on your left and follow the pedestrian promenade and take in the magnificients views of Castle Hill crowned with the museums and Buda Palace. Don't miss the statue of the Little Jester sitting on the railings along the promenade

The next bridge is Lánchíd or Chain Bridge, guarded by 4 lions. On your right Roosevelt Ter, overlooked by two Art Nouveau buildings recently cleaned and renovated. The one on the right (your back to the river) is Gresham Palace now Hotel Four Seasons at € 310 per night the most expensive hotel in Budapest

Take Zrinyi Ut, turn right at the end and you will see metro station Bajesy Zcilinsk, the yellow M1 line and the second oldest undergound railway in Europe, only 33 years younger than London's Metropolitan Line built in 1863

The square tunnels are not deep and the platforms are short. Stations on this line have been beautifully renovated and worth a look.

What's really great:
Little Jester
Little Jester
Buy a ticket from the machine, validate it and board the metro which follows the course of Andrassy Ut. Get off at Hösök Tér, a huge open space flanked by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Arts. The centre piece of the square is the 36-m high column topped by Archangel Gabriel.

Go for a walk in Varosliget, the park behind Hösök Tér. Don't miss Vajdahunyad Castle. Admire or despise the archetectural features of this folly.

Return to the Danube via Andrassy Ut, a 2,5 km long avenue. It reminded me very much of Paris' Grands Boulevards. No wonder because its lay-out was heavily influenced by Baron Haussmann, the French city planner of the late 19th cent.

Andrassy Ut # 60 used to be the headquarters of the secret police and now contains an exhibition about the terrors of Nazi and Communist occupations.

Next you will pass the State Opera, if you want to see the interior and don't fancy a performance you can join the Tour of the Interior, daily at 3 & 4 pm.

Gerbeaud Patisserie
Gerbeaud Patisserie
Andrassy Ut # 3 is the Post Office Museum. The museum's main attraction is to see how the wealthy of Andrassy Ut lived: parquet floors, marble fireplaces, frescoed walls and ceilings. As a bonus you will see some postal related exhibits, among them world's first switchboard.

Board the metro at Bajcsy-zt Ut. It is two stops to Vörösmarty Ter, a delightful leafy square with fountains, craft stalls and cafés.

Before you sit down at the terrace of Gerbeaud Patisserie (north side of the square) admire its Art Nouveau façade. Enjoy your apple struddle and coffee and don't leave without buying dark chocolates with a cognac-soaked sour cherry in the centre, an invention of the Frenchman Gerbeaud who came to Budapest in the late 19th century.


Board tram # 19 at Batthány Tér and enjoy unrestricted views of the Parliament building, the Chain Bridge and the two big hotels on the Pest side, which are a bit of an eyesore.

Roosevelt Ter
Roosevelt Ter
Get off at Gellért Tér in front of Gellért Hotel, a beautiful Art Nouveau building. The attached Gellért Bath is fed by one of the many mineral springs of Budapest.

Take the steep path opposite the hotel and in 20 mins you get to the summit of Gellért-hegy and the Liberation Monument, a beacon that can be seen from the Pest side of the city. It is the only communist monument to be still in its original place, all other were banned to the Statue park.

Cross Szabadság Bridge on foot and board tram # 2 (north bound). It runs along the embankment and offers perfect views of the Museums, Buda Castle, Chain Bridge. It passes the front entrance of the Parliament building.

Get off at Margit Bridge and walk around the island. There is a ruined castle, an outdoor theatre, spa hotels and thermal springs feeding outdoor pools. It's a 5-km walk round the island. If pressed for time, skip the island as it is not all that interesting.

Façade of the Douglas Shop in Váci Utca
Façade of the Douglas Shop in Váci Utca
Sooner rather than later you will find yourself in Váci Utca, a pedestrianised street lined with shops: C&A, Marks & Spencer, Douglas, Zara and other Euroland favourites and in between souvenir shops all selling the same T-shirts, Russian dolls, Bohemian glass It is a bustling street, but its liveliness depends on the tourists

There is nothing special about this street as the shop fronts look like any shop in any European city. Still I loved this street because I kept looking up at the beautiful 19th century façades, still in tact from the first floor up. My favourite is the Douglas Shop, but street numbers 2-9-11 are also worth a closer look

At the southern end of the steet is the Central Market interesting because of its architecture and to a lesser extent its fruit and vegetable stalls
Stay away from the second floor with its souvenir and food stalls catering mainly for tour groups who fork out twice the going price for mediocre snacks such as goulash soup and salami.

The State Opera
The State Opera
When I looked at I saw that there was no shortage of 3-4-5 * hotels, but hardly any budget hotels. The Tourist Information Office at Keleti Station was helpful in finding accommodation for us. No hand-out list but they will ask your price range and then phone the owner to see if the place of your choice has vacancies

We wanted an apartment in the city centre and ended up close to Ersebet Bridge in Semmelweis street apartment block 4 house number 59, on the 6th floor.
It had a large sunny room, open-plan kitchen and large bathroom. Cutlery, microwave, bedlinen, towels, washing-up liquid it was all there, at € 50 per night
The owner Bianca Zsabo lives one floor down.

When booking an apartmen it is good to know that those close to the centre have high ceilings and large rooms, are soundproof and have their own front door. Those further away are in high-rise modern developments and have smaller rooms often inside the owners appartment with shared bathroom

Fészek restaurant. Not much has changed since communist days
Fészek restaurant. Not much has changed since communist days
If you want to join the tourist crowd go to one of the restaurants in Váci Utca. They all advertise 2-course tourist menus at Ft 1990 (€ 7) and very good value for money if you can go without drinks as a 33 ml of beer is a staggering Ft 700 (€ 2.50)

A much better choice is Fészek Restaurant, Dob Utca 57. It is a place where musicians meet after performances and rehearsals in the Franz Lizst Music Academy round the corner. Inside there are comfortable leather chairs and on the walls portraits of musicians. We sat in an enclosed, leafy garden away from traffic noise. They serve Hungarian dishes such as goulash soup and the bonus is that their beer has a normal price: a half liter at Ft 500 (€ 1.80).

Other recommendations:
One of the discarded statues. It's absoluely huge.
One of the discarded statues. It's absoluely huge.
There are 62 museums in Budapest, but the weather was too good to be indoors that's why we visited only one: The Szoborpark an open-air museum of communist statues

After the change of political system Soviet-inspired statues were removed from Budapest's streets and ended up in the Statue Park. There are statues of Soviet soldiers, Lenin, Marx and Soviet military chiefs whose names I don't know.

Only few statues have explanatory labels, it is therefore best to buy the small English language guidebook at the entrance.

How to get there:
Take tram # 19 from Battanye Ter to its terminus at Etele Ter. Or board on its route along the Danube embankment on the Buda side, it turns away from the river at Gellert Hotel into Bela Bartok street.

When you get off the tram at Etele Ter bear right, past the bus station with blue buses, walk on some 100m until you get to the regional yellow buses, Volanbusz. Buy your ticket at the ticket office. Board the bus from platform 7.

Published on Tuesday September 26th, 2006

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Mon, Aug 06 2007 - 02:02 AM rating by adampl

Marianne, a great report with lots of info unavailable in travel guides. I think I should print out your report and use as a guide when in Budapest next month. Thanks a lot!

Wed, Feb 21 2007 - 03:48 PM rating by travler

I enjoyed reading your report and looking at the pictures of a city I once visited.

Thu, Nov 02 2006 - 10:03 AM rating by magsalex

1st class report. Very informative and i loved the pics

Mon, Oct 02 2006 - 01:13 PM rating by madness

Wonderful report, I wish to see there asap

Fri, Sep 29 2006 - 02:56 AM rating by frenchfrog

I can see it is still as I rembember ir, very nice city, great report!

Wed, Sep 27 2006 - 08:46 PM rating by esfahani

just great! I love Budapest, have been there many time since I was 16... thanks for the report

Wed, Sep 27 2006 - 07:47 AM rating by rangutan

Another fantastic report, one seees so much on foot of a city if one has route tips like these, thanks! I like that you quote prices in euro or dollar but the current exchange rate and quotes in the local cash are pretty meaningless in a general overview, they change daily! [4.7]

Wed, Sep 27 2006 - 06:10 AM rating by gloriajames

Truly a 1st class report! I loved the details info and yes the pics! esp of little jester! Well done! 5************************

Tue, Sep 26 2006 - 01:31 PM rating by st.vincent

I'm never sure if I will be biased towards or against a report on a city
that I have visited myself. This one provides some great practical
information and also bought back some good memories for me. Your mention of the flower sellers reminded me of the elderly ladies selling lace at Fisherman's Bastion. Didn't see the little Jester though, must have missed him. Great report and deserving of 5* I think.

Tue, Sep 26 2006 - 11:41 AM rating by eirekay

Marvelous Report - i like the tips on selecting an Apartment! Really useful information!

Tue, Sep 26 2006 - 09:45 AM rating by jorgesanchez

This is another of your many first class reports

Tue, Sep 26 2006 - 09:44 AM rating by mrscanada

Fabulous report. I love the picture of the little Jester. :)

Tue, Sep 26 2006 - 08:21 AM rating by davidx

I admire the way you try to give different information from that already available to us. You succeed!

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