Budapest travel planner
Your Budapest travel planner helps you find your bearings in the mighty Hungarian capital where two million people go about their daily business, soak themselves in hot water or wind up at a ruin pub at the end of the day speaking a strange language which is not related to any that you are possibly familiar with. So get a grip... and prepare.
General

General information is plentyful on the web, I would recommend to visit the Hungarian National Tourist Office [350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 7107, New York, NY 10118 - Tel(212) 695-1221] or the official website of the Budapest Tourism Office. Once in town, Tourinform offices are a great source of information where experienced staff & good command of English is guaranteed.

For news and current events, check Hungary's premier English language newspapers, The Budapest Sun or Budapest Times. These two, along with Where are available in printed version and can be picked up at most major hotels. The Budapest Business Journal offers daily business news, with comprehensive industry and company information. Also brings an occasionally international perspective on the country.

Museums & interiors

Cosmopolitan & metropolitan Budapest sports 130 museums, many of which are worth-while attractions. Some are the must-see's, others are unique ones, but the list below includes some that your local friend would introduce as hidden treasures.

Major art galleries include the Museums of Fine Arts [with Old Spanish masters & a Dutch-Flemish collection] and the Hungarian National Gallery [with Hungarians]. Among modern & contemporary collections Ludwig Museum, the Varga Imre Permanent Exhibition and the Vasarely museum offer thought-provoking works of art. Varfok Gallery displays contemporaries [Hungarian & foreign] and so does Art Factory [with young, upcoming locals] in two studios. Works of art for sale here, too.

History buffs have two choices for serious study: The National Museum reveals Magyar history from its beginnings, whereas the Budapest History Museum has the last 2000 years of the region in its focus.The twentieth century brought many ups and downs for Hungarians, which some brand new exhibitions explore in great details. The House of Terror disects the workings of two oppressive regimes, that of the Nazis and the Communists. The Holocaust Memorial Center follows the persecution of Jews and Roma during WWII, while Statue Park on the outskirts of the city deals with the country's communist past. The Hospital in the Rock is situated in the labirinth under the Castle District and introduces a giant military hospital that was in use during WWII and preserved by the Communists just in case...

Some buildings are closely linked to the country's history, but they are also great ways to explore art & architecture through the years. Three beauties stand out: the National Opera House, the Parliament and the Great Syngogue. All three can be visited as part of an organised tours, please click on their website for details.

On a lighter note... for music lovers there is the Opera House, plus special exhibitions dedicated to Ferenc Liszt, Zoltan Kodaly & Bela Bartok. Other fun collections include the Zwack Unicum exhibition or the Semmelweis Museum. For a full list of all museums in Hungary, go to muzeumok.hu.

Cruises

With the river Danube running through the heart of the capital, Budapest if a perfect spot for a cruise. Prices & timetables vary, but itinerary generally does not.

Searching for 'cruise in Budapes' brings a lot of results, but all popular sights advertise the same companies. Legenda, the best among them, is also the most expensive [pier no. 7]; Mahart Passnave [at pier no. 6] is the Hungarian shipping company's cruise business with significantly lower prices; Hungaria Koncert runs boats with lunch or dinner [from various locations]. There is also the fun & children friendly Riverride tour where amphibian vehicles take you around on land & water.

Legenda & Mahart run cruises during the day with a stop on Margaret Island, at night only shorter ones. Cruises with dinner are also available. Hungaria Koncert offers only lunch & dinner cruises, Riverride the ride only.

Children
Budapest is a child-friendly city and truely welcoming towards families with kids. There is no shortage of play-grounds in the first place, you can find one within ten minutes anywhere in town. Fun activities include visiting the City Park where the Zoo, mini Adventure Park and Szechenyi Bath are all worth a visit. Margaret Island is sprawling park with great places for picnic, ice-cream, and a buggy ride from Bringohinto if you want to add more fun. The Palace of Miracles is entertaining and educational. Riverride offers city tours on its amphibian vehicles which cruise the river, too. Hike up Gellert hill for vistas, try the caves with a more adventureous family. Have fun!
What else?
If you missed anything in your Budapest travel planner, please let me know! Your comments are appreciated.
Transport

As with most European cities, Budapest was not designed for cars, therefore traffic can be dense. So be smart and use public transport [PT] instead. You can either choose the Budapest Card that is a full PT pass with discounts in some places or, for a better value, buy a pass from the Budapest Transportation Company [BKV] and the ignore the discounts.

The Budapest Card is available at hotels, travel agencies & at the underground. The simple PT pass is sold at most underground stations. For more details on passes & ticket prices, please visit the Budapest Transportation Company's [BKV] website.

Legenda, who are known as a crusing company, sells Legenda pass, which combines a public transportation pass and discounts for various places. Great option is you wanted to cruise with Legenda anyway!

Hop on - hop off is an alternative if you are against using public transport, but consider that a one day pass for City tour Budapest costs more than a 72 hour PT pass, which covers the whole capital. The choice is yours.

Entertainment

With two million people in twon, Budapest is hardly a place to get bored. The city host a number of festivals during the year, but even outside the festival season there are venues & programs you can count on.

For music lovers the National Opera is an obvious choice, but because ticket prices are reasonable, you might want to book yourselves in no matter what... The brand new Palace of Arts host world-class performances, while the Academy of Music is for smaller productions. Quality folklore shows can be seen in Budai Vigadó or Duna Palota, organ concerts are held at St. Ann's church or St Michaels. These two are both organised by Hungaria Koncert.

Festivals and events include the Budapest Spring Festival and the Budapest Autumn Festival, the annual Sziget festival is one of Europe's biggest rock festival. Formula 1 lovers should come mid-summer to watch the race on Hungaroring. The country's three major holidays [March 15th, August 20th, October 23rd] all offer extra opportunities for fun.

Baths, coffe houses & ruin pubs

This chapter is dedicated to three special institutions in Budapest. Baths have always enjoyed great prestiege among Romans, Turks, Hapsburgs & Hungarians and they are getting ever more popular with the wellness age. Coffee houses flourished at the turn of the century [1900] first, but a hundred years later they are still the places to enjoy good life. Ruin pubs are an altogether new phenomen, a unique way for the young & trendy to enjoy Budapest's nightlife in a fun fashion.

Hungary has more than a thousand hot springs, a number of which rise in the capital city on both sides. Traditional Turkish baths sit along the embankment on Buda, the turn-of-the-century, elegant ones are scattered around the hisotric centers of the city. New hotels often pump hot water into their pools, too. For first-timers Szechenyi or Gellert might give the best impression, regular visitors might want to try Rudas or Lukacs. For a full list of baths in Budapest visit spasbudapest.com.

Coffee houses for Budapest are what pubs would be for the Irish. With more than cake & coffee on offer, many a place have played key roles in Hungarian history. Revolutions & poems, rock concerts & spy games, coffee houses have seen them everything and are still cultural hotspots in the city. The long list of famous ones includes Gerbaud, Central, Gerloczy, Ruszwurm, Muvesz, New York, Callas, Frolich & Jegbufe... But, there is always more to try!

Ruin pubs are installed in courtyards or gardens of empty houses. Most are located in central, run-down-but-safe areas and offer endless fun. The best is Szimpla [with many small places in district VII], others include Kuplung [Clutch pedal], Potkulcs [Spare key], West Balkan & Tuzrakter.

Antique & second hand

Flee markets were always part of any decent market place in the past and Budapest fortunately does not go without them today either. Know as 'Ecseri' to the locals, the capital's main flee market is on the outskirts on Nagykorosi ut. From the apple in the pie to the apple in the sky, Ecseri has everything that attics hold these days in Hungary.

In town there are smaller, but equally interesting places to explore. Falk Miksa utca, the 'antique row', runs close to the parliament and feels like an upscale second-hand shopping street. Tiffany lamps, period furniture, turn-of-the-century paintings wait for their would-be owners in small specialised shops. At the boulevard end of the street Kieselbach Gallery is a first class institution and the city's main pawn shop chain [BAV] has a store there, too. For books, maps and old prints, you should visit the Little Boulevard where second-hand book stores cluster around the country's biggest university [ELTE] on Muzeum korut.

Email: peter at budapestyourself.com | Phone: 00 36 209 260 557