Tag: Budapest Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

A- Overview:Budapest is a thriving city of over two million people. Budapest and Vienna were twin capitals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, making it much easier to understand the stunning architecture that fills the city.

The numerous sights can occupy travelers for weeks. The most prominent structure on the skyline is the castle, which easily provides a full day of exploration. A trip through the district of Watertown takes one back in time to gas-lit streets and asymmetrical houses. The numerous bathhouses and natural spas soothe and relax their patrons. The National Opera house performances are sell-outs, and can be counted among the world’s best.

Budapest has a vibrancy and vitality that never slows. Café owners do everything in their power to overcome the language barrier, including parading each bottle of wine past your table. As people casually wander along the sidewalks, delightful jazz seeps forth from back alleys. Bars maintain a friendly atmosphere and nightclubs close well after sunrise.

Western fashion and brand names are attacking the main boulevards, but Budapest shopping still remains a terrific bargain and an undiscovered secret. Duck down the smaller streets to discover the numerous cafés serving exotic dishes for a few dollars. Yes, Budapest offers a fantastic deal for the foreigner.

Budapest is awaiting your discovery. Whether you plan to stay for a week or just passing through, there couldn’t be a better time to explore the Gateway to the East.

B- City Information:
Country:
Republic of Hungary

Capital:
Budapest

Time:
Hungary uses Central European Time (CET). Hence, clocks are one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Currency:
Hungary wants to adopt the European Union’s common currency, the euro, starting in 2008. Meanwhile, the unit of currency is Hungarian Forint (HUF). In Hungary the abbrevation of Forint is Ft. Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 HUF.

Weather:
Hungary has a temperate climate. Winters in Budapest can be cloudy and extremely cold with frequent snow. Summers, on the other hand, are warm and sunny. July and August are the hottest months, so be sure to pack appropriately. Allergy sufferers should bring their medication, as these hot months are marked by high pollen counts.

Customs:
Everyone needs a passport to enter the country. American and EU passport holders can stay in Hungary for 90 days without a visa. While the obvious bans on illegal narcotics and firearms are in place, Hungary also forbids the importation of paprika.

Electricity:
Hungary uses 220 volts AC and the continental-style plug. If your appliance has a 120/240-volt switch, all you will need is a plug adapter. Otherwise a current converter is required. Pay attention to sockets in bathrooms and on trains marked “Shavers Only!” While these put out 110 volts, they will burn out with a more powerful appliance.

Tipping:
Tipping, as in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, is not a common practice. Feel free to leave 10-15% in a restaurant. People generally don’t tip in bars and cafes when ordering drinks. Unless a price is agreed to beforehand, round up taxi fees.

Getting Around:

Driving:
Driving in Hungary is the same as in Europe and the United States. However, drivers require an international driver’s license, Green Card insurance, and third-party insurance. Parking can be a problem in Budapest.

Public Transportation:
Look above the streets and you will see that most are lined with cables. Budapest has a terrific system of trolley buses and trams. Budapest also has a clean, fast, and efficient subway system. Buy tickets at tourist agencies or any subway station. To avoid lines, buy tickets from street stands and newsagents. It is also possible to buy tickets from a machine. The basic ticket is good for one trip; if you transfer, you will need to punch a new ticket. Undercover controllers may ask to see your ticket, and WILL fine you for having an invalid one. These can be bought in packets of 10 and twenty. Tickets with transfers are also available. Day and tourist packages offer a good deal for the visitor, as they allow unlimited use of the public transportation system and can be packaged with free admission to many museums. If you are planning a long stay, these passes are highly recommended. Ticket vendors rarely speak anything besides Magyar, so a little provisional sign language may help. However, detailed information about tickets and transportation is usually available next to these booths in English, French, and German. Hint: Many ticket-punching machines on buses and trams are manual. Be sure to insert your ticket in the top slot and PULL the mechanism toward you.

Taxi:
In general, avoid getting a taxi at the airport. A better option is the airport minibus, which takes you to where you are staying. However, taxis can be fast and cheap in the city. They can be hailed from the street, but it is cheaper to call ahead of time. Fötaxi (1/222-2222), Teletaxi (1/555-5555), and English-speaking Citytaxi (1/211-1111) charge fair rates. Drivers are willing to negotiate a rate late at night.

Public Holidays:
January 1st,
March 15th Easter Monday
May 1st Whitsun Monday
August 20th St. Stephan’s Day, celebrating his coronation in 1000AD
October 23rd
December 25th and 26th

C-Attractions / Things To Do:
Castle Hill
This central destination is easily visible from everywhere in Budapest. Unfortunately, the hill lacks any truly historical buildings, as every structure was destroyed in the battle between the Soviets and Nazis. Nevertheless, exploring the beautifully reconstructed buildings and streets can occupy an entire day. Reach the top via bus, funicular, or one of the numerous cobblestone paths winding through lush gardens. The central Trinity Square fills daily with tourists who are eager to visit the memorable Romanesque Mátyás templom (Matthias Church).

Magyar Nemzeti Galéria (Hungarian National Gallery)
Buda Castle, The Royal Palace, Buiding B,C,D
2 Szent György square
(36-1) 1757-533
This museum displays Medieval and Renaissance stonework, Gothic wood sculptures, altars, and collections representing the past five hundred years of art. Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free on Saturdays.

Historical Museum of Budapest (Budapesti Történeti Múzeum)
Buda Castle, The Royal Palace, building E
2 Szent György square
(36-1) 757-533b (36-1) 558-894
Permanent exhibits include the history of the development of the city of Budapest and archeological items uncovered in various local excavations. Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4/6 p.m. Free on Saturdays.

Országház (Parliament Building)
V Kossuth Lajos Tér
(36-1) 319-7520
This magnificent example of architecture is just over 100 years old, but modern air pollution constantly attacks its porous limestone walls, requiring continuous restoration. Tours are available when Congress is not in session.

Szepmüveszeti Múzeum (National Museum of Fine Arts)
41 Dózsa György út
(36-1) 343-9759
This museum houses extensive exhibits of antiquities, including Greek, Roman, and Egyptian collections. The most significant exhibit introduces the development of painting in Europe, making the museum one of the best of its kind in Europe. European sculpture includes Italian works dating back to the 4th century, and French, English, German, and Dutch sculpture from the 13th. The highlight of this exhibit is the Horseman sculpture carved by Leonardo da Vinci. The museum also has extensive collections of 19th and 20th century paintings.

Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
Long a religious center, this island now serves as a recreational park in the center of the Danube River. Walking the length of the island takes 20 minutes, but most visitors spend more time in the Hajós Alfréd pool complex. There they enjoy the outdoor pool, a diving pool, children’s pool, and thermal hot baths. If it is too cool to splash around, an island tour introduces relics hailing back to the island’s religious origins, including the 12th century Premonstratensian Chapel. During summer months, it is possible to rent bicycles and hire horse-drawn buggies. Since vehicular traffic is prohibited, the island is a fantastic escape from the bustle of the big city.

Thermal Baths
Budapest is the largest spa town in Europe, boasting over 120 springs. Locals and visitors alike utilize the spas for their reputed healing properties. Prehistoric people were the first to use them and later the Romans introduced the basis of the bathing customs. Magyars elaborated upon the tradition for roughly 800 years, but the spas reached their refinement under the Ottomans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is still possible to see the original domes and pools, but most have been modified and modernized. The spas provide everything the visitor may need, including towels and swimsuits (however, it is best to bring your own). Prices are low. An hour or two is usually sufficient. Showers are provided. Massages are available.

Magyar Allami Operaház (Hungarian State Opera House)
VI Andrássy Ut 22
(36-1) 331-2550
The opera house in Budapest stands as one of the most beautiful in Europe. Consider that when it was opened in 1884, the city shared the administrative duties of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with Vienna. In fact, Emporer Franz Josef commissioned its design. Contruction includes the use of marble, guilding, and frescos by some of the best artisans of that era. World-class concerts and operas are still performed, and quickly sell out.

Széchenyi Lánchid (Chain Bridge)
Spanning the Danube between I Clark Adám Tér and V Roosevelt Tér
This bridge was the first to permanently connect Buda and Pest. The engineer Adam Clark completed the span in 1849.

Monument Museum
When Magyars chose to embrace a free market economy, the new government removed many of the statues and monuments identified with the former Communist regime. Now these formerly revered relics of an unfulfilled dream stand together in an outdoor museum just outside the city. However, anyone with even a remote interest in the country’s history will find the short trip worth it. Don’t be afraid of climbing next to Lenin for an once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. The easiest way to get there is to take a bus. As bus schedules often change, ask your hotel concierge for directions. Admission is charged.

D-Family Fun Attractions:
Castle Hill
This central destination is easily visible from everywhere in Budapest. Unfortunately, the hill lacks any truly historical buildings, as every structure was destroyed in the battle between the Soviets and Nazis. Nevertheless, the beautifully reconstructed buildings and streets can occupy an entire day. Reach the top via bus, funicular, or one of the numerous cobblestone paths winding through lush gardens. The central Trinity Square fills with tourists, who are anxious to visit the Romanesque and highly memorable Mátyás templom (Matthias Church).

Historical Museum of Budapest (Budapesti Történeti Múzeum)
Buda Castle, The Royal Palace, building E
2 Szent György square
(36-1) 757-533
(36-1) 558-894
Permanent exhibits include the history of the development of the city of Budapest and archeological items uncovered in various local excavations. Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4/6 p.m. Admission free on Saturdays.

Országház (Parliament Building)
V Kossuth Lajos Tér
(36-1) 319-7520
This magnificent example of architecture is just over 100 years old, but air pollution attacking its porous limestone walls results in the need for continuous restoration. Tours are available when Congress is not in session.

Szepmüveszeti Múzeum (National Museum of Fine Arts)
41 Dózsa György út
(36-1) 343-9759
This museum houses extensive exhibits of antiquities, including Greek, Roman, and Egyptian collections. The most significant exhibit introduces the development of painting in Europe, making the museum one of the best of its kind in Europe. European sculpture includes Italian works dating back to the 4th century, and French, English, German, and Dutch sculpture from the 13th. The highlight is the Horseman sculpture carved by Leonardo da Vinci. The museum also has extensive collections of 19th and 20th century paintings.

Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
Long a religious center, this island now serves as a recreational park in the center of the Danube River. Walking along the length of the island takes 20 minutes, but you will want to spend more time in the Hajós Alfréd pool complex. Visitors enjoy the outdoor pool, a diving pool, children’s pool, and thermal hot baths. If it is too cool to splash around, an island tour may be of interest. The tour introduces relics of the island’s religious heritage, and the 12th century Premonstratensian Chapel. During the summer months, it is possible to rent bicycles and hire horse-drawn buggies. Since vehicular traffic is prohibited, the island is a fantastic escape from the bustle of the big city.

Thermal Baths
Budapest is the largest spa town in Europe, boasting over 120 springs. Locals and visitors alike use the spas for their reputed healing properties. Prehistoric people were the first to use them and later the Romans developed basic bathing rituals. Magyars elaborated upon the tradition for roughly 800 years, but the spas reached their pinnacle under the Ottomans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is still possible to see the original domes and pools, but most have been modified and modernized. The spas have everything the visitor may need, including towels and swimsuits (however, it is best to bring your own). Prices are low. An hour or two is usually sufficient. Showers are provided. Massages are available.

Széchenyi Lánchid (Chain Bridge)
Spanning the Danube between I Clark Adám Tér and V Roosevelt Tér
This bridge was the first to permanently connect Buda and Pest. The engineer Adam Clark completed the span in 1849.

E-Events and Entertainment:Budapest Spring Festival
Second week to end of March
Pulling together the best in classical music, opera, and folk performances, this festival is the largest of its kind in Hungary. For further information contact: 1081 Budapest, Rákóczi út 65. VI. 66, Tel: (36-1) 210-2795, 133-2337

March 15 (Public Holiday)
On this day, 1848, Sándor Pétõfi recited the Nemzeti Dal (national song) in front of Budapest’s National Museum. This event is generally regarded as the spark leading to the revolution against Habsburg Austria. Flags fly throughout the country.

Easter
This holiday begins innocently enough, with eggs and traditional costumes. Things can get wild, however, when the pagan fertility custom of locsolkodas is practiced, during which men repeatedly spray women with perfume in return for a shot of apricot brandy with each application.

May Day
1 May
May Day used to mark International Labor Day in a rather stoic way. The current non-political celebrations are more festive and center upon activities in the city park of Népliget and on Margit Island.

Buda Castle Fun Day: International Children’s Day
Last weekend of May
For further information contact: the Budapest Magyar Kultúra Alapítvány, (The Hungarian Culture Foundation), 1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 6, Tel: (36-1) 355-0122.

WOMUFE (World Music Festival)
July
This ever-changing program of cultural music brings together creative and innovative artists from all over the world. The list of performers is usually released in April

Pepsi Sziget (Island) Festival
Mid August
This fesitival was first held in 1993, with over 40,000 people attending the week of music and entertainment. Pepsi and MTV teamed up to present the hottest groups of the day, such as David Bowie, the Asian Dub Foundation, Goldie, Chumbawumba and the Prodigy. In 1999, 170,000 people attended the event, and it continues to grow. For further information contact: Óbudai-sziget Sziget Kulturális Menedzseriroda Kft, (‘Island’ Cultural Management Office Co.), 1117 Budapest, Orlay u. 5-7, Tel: (36-1) 372-0650.

Budafest Summer Opera and Ballet Festival
August
Budapest traditionally holds its concert season between September and June, but August is the best time to see some world-class opera and ballet during Budafest. Both Hungarian and foreign acts converge in the Opera Houseto perform for locals and tourists holding insanely low-priced tickets. For further information contact: V.I.P. ARTS Management, 1065 Budapest, Hajós u. 13-15, Tel: (36-1) 302-4290

St.Stephen’s Day
20 August
Magyars celebrate their patron saint (Szent István), who was coronated on this day in 1000AD, thereby establishing the Magyar State. The city hosts numerous events, including folk dancing on Castle Hill, and a fireworks display on Gellért Hill.