Written by Agnes
Agnes Molnar guides free walks around Budapest, and has given WR a virtual reality digital version with all the highlights of her city - and none of the walking.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary is a vibrant metropolis. The Danube river – which is unfortunately not blue anymore contrary to the name of the famous waltz, but polluted- runs through the center and dividing the city into two parts. Broadly speaking, Buda – the predominantly residential area is hilly, and Pest - the administration business and shopping centre, is flat.
Budapest is one of the cheapest places in Central Europe if you know where to go, what to do and what to avoid.
There are at least three must-see places you have to visit during your stay in Budapest.
The Castle District is made up of two main parts. The Royal part with the Royal Palace and the civil part with Matthias Church, Fisherman Bastion and its baroque houses. The whole Castle district area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Royal Palace had been the seat of the Hungarian kings for centuries. The Neo-Baroque version built in the 1700s was burnt down in the WWII. then rebuilt in a simplified form with a dome. Don't have high expectation of grandeur inside though, there are only two museums and the biggest library in Hungary. Don’t expect a gold-plated interior, there's only whitewashed walls and nice exhibitions.
The two museums in the palace are the National Gallery, which has an exhibition showing some of the best known Hungarian painters including Mihaly Munkacsy, Pal Szinyei-Merse and many more, and the Budapest History Museum, which holds and exhibition of Budapest that shows the Hungarian culture with great details starting from the medieval times though to the modern age. Tickets are reasonable. (3 Euro/adult 1.5 Euro for students and pensioners. )
The most prominent building of the civil part of the Castle district is the Matthias Church. The church is 700 years old but had been rebuilt several times. Its style is Neo–Gothic, and only the core of the walls are of medieval origin. It was the city's largest mosque during the 150 years of Turkish occupation. The rich music life of several centuries had made this church a special music centre of Hungary. The church Choir and Orchestra regularly participates on the Sunday high masses (held in Latin) at 10 a.m. If you like the organ music you can attend service at 8.30 a.m, midday or 6.p.m. Tickets to visit both the church and the museum are valid for the guided tours starting at scheduled hours. The sacred chapel is free of charge for visitors.
Almost every postcard shows a part of the romantic Fisherman Bastion. It is rather a funny name for some fairy tale-esque white look-out towers that were built in the XIX century on a former fisherman's market place. To fully enjoy the view from the first floor you are encouraged to buy a ticket. The most beautiful free photo-stop view from the Castle hill is unfortunately hidden, but if you look for a grey old building with bullet holes on its facade you will certainly find it.
If you get hungry, look for the state run shop just few meters south from the Holy Trinity square, right on the corner, where you can buy sandwiches, salads and soft drinks then walk to the Toth Arpad promenade to find a bench and have a beautiful picnic, while enjoying the amazing view of the Buda hills.
Heroes Square presents Hungary's history. A semicircle colonnade displays statues of the most significant Hungarian kings and heroes, symmetrically organized on tall stone columns. The outstanding column in the middle of the square has Archangel Gabriel on the top, holding the double cross and the Hungarian crown, which is the oldest one in Europe. Statues of seven Hungarian chieftains guard the bottom of Gabriel's column.
The Museum of Fine Arts can be found on the left of the square with the second biggest Spanish exhibition after Madrid. They provide free guided tours in English on the Collection of Old Master Paintings from Tue to Fri at 11am & 2pm, on Sat at 11am.
The Museum of Temporary Art is on the right of the square with its fabulous modern exhibitions. The full entrance fee for both museums is about 6 Euro.
City Park is located right behind Heroes Square, within it's boundaries are the Castle of Vajdahunyad, which has the replicas of the four most outstanding buildings in Hungary. These are the Roman chapel of Jak, the Neo-Gothic castle of Vajdahunyad, the Renaissance palace of Visegrad and the Baroque Palace of Godollo.
There is a very mysterious statue nearby showing a man in hood that is holding a shiny magic pen. It is recommended to touch that pen for developing writing skills.
The beautiful Neo-Baroque Szechenyi spa, one of Europe's greatest spa complexes, is not far from the historical buildings. It has two parts: the indoor thermal bath and the open-air swimming pool along with hot tub and Jacuzzi. The spring is 75 degrees hot, but the water in the pools feels nice. It is open all year round. The full ticket is 10 Euros but you have a repayment of 4 Euros if you spend less than two hours.
Hungary has the second largest Jewish population in Central Eastern Europe with about 100.000 Hungarian Jews- and the second largest synagogue in the world as well. There are three big synagogues that are the geographical and spiritual cornerstones of the Jewish Quarter, but hidden Jewish symbols, late Art Nouveau and Neo-Classical residential houses, long arcades and romantic courtyards can also be found here. The area is famous for the run-down ecclectic pubs that have the best crowds and the coolest DJ-s every night.
Few people know that the courtyard of the Great Synagogue is free of charge. There is a security check at the gate. You can see a piece of the former ghetto wall, the cemetery and the Wallenberg Memorial Park with the weeping willow tree on whose leaves are engraved the names of holocaust victims. If you are lucky enough the side entrance of the synagogue will be open, so you can have a look at the amazing interior. The entrance fee for the synagogue and Jewish Museum is 6 Euro.
Andrassy Avenue is also called the Hungarian Champs-Elysee as it is very similar to the one in Paris. It connects the inner city and the City Park area. The avenue is lined with beautiful Neo-Renaissance palaces and houses featuring fine facades, staircases and interiors, exclusive shops and atmospheric café hosues. You can also find here one of the best sounding Opera houses of Europe, the birth-house of the famous composer Franz Liszt and the the Budapest Soho area is also located here. This healthy 40 minute walk from start to the end is highly recommended. On the way back the Millenium Underground (the second oldest in Europe) can be used for your convenience.
Budapest has plenty of bath houses. The 150 years of Ottoman Turkish empire had left a significant bathing culture for us. The best Turkish bath in Budapest are the Rudas and the Kiraly baths. Both were built int he XVIth century and they only have interior parts since there are scheduled days separated for males and females. There are mixed baths such as Szecheny, Gellert and Lukacs that are also recommended.
Make sure you spend enough time to relax your muscles and refresh yourself. The best treatment is to shower then go to the warm pool for 20 minutes up to your heart level. After that dry yourself and go to the chilling room to relax for 50 minutes. Then you can go to a cold pool for a short time then to the steam bath for about 10 minutes. You will certainly enjoy the ice cold pool afterwards. Make sure that you go gradually inside. After the ice cold pool try to relax for about 20 minutes and repeat the last 3 steps. At the end of the "Ritual” you can enjoy the pools with different temperatures and relax, wrapped up in your beach towel. The full entrance fee is about 10 Euros that covers everything but the massages and beauty treatments.
Budapest has lots of food markets where you can see strings of red paprika and garlic, the famous Hungarian salami, sausage, ham and other meat products, along with fresh pastry, frisbee-size salty doughnuts, cheap and delicious Hungarian wine and fruit brandies.
The Great Market is the most touristy yet the most beautiful market hall in Budapest. You can go to the strudel stall on the first floor and taste the typical Hungarian poppy-seed and cabbage strudels. You can also go to the Langos stall (fried salty dough topped by cheese, sour cream, ham etc) on the second floor where you can also sample wine and spirits for a reasonable price.
The Jewish Quarter has lots of abandoned buildings with nice courtyards where you can find the best pubs in Budapest. Actually these places are so hidden, that they are pretty hard to find. The courtyards have random objects (Trabant, bath tub, grandma’s old retro furniture, cool chairs and tables, manga or art tapestry on their walls.) The best Hungarian DJ-s are playing every night at these hidden locations. Drinks are priced reasonably. One of the most popular Hungarian drinks is red wine with coke. Branded beer and wine, Palinka (distilled from 100% fruit) and Unicum (blend of 40 herbs) cost around 2 Euros. Night life usually starts after 9 p.m. After midnight Hungarians go dancing!
There are no posts. Why not be the first to have your say?