Budapest

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Budapest is the capital city of Hungary. With a unique, youthful atmosphere, world-class classical music scene as well as a pulsating nightlife increasingly appreciated among European youth, and last but not least, an exceptional offer of natural thermal baths, Budapest is one of Europe's most delightful and enjoyable cities. Due to the exceedingly scenic setting, and its architecture it is nicknamed "Paris of the East". The local pronunciation can be approximated by "boo-dah-pesht". In 1987 Budapest was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for the cultural and architectural significance of the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue. (less...) (more...)

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Points of Interest in Budapest

The Danube. This is what's unique about Budapest, the urban river landscape. This feature can be admired in several ways: from panoramic points, such as Fishermen's bastion or Gellért hill's Citadella in Buda, promenading along the river banks, or from the river's perspective, from a boat. For romantic views of the city, go at night. There is a number of bridges (see Orientation above) that arch over the river and define Budapest. Most famous is the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd), owing its name to the suspension structure: the bridge is made of chains whose links are huge dog-bone shaped metal bars linked by pins at their ends. And there is also the magnificent Elisabeth bridge (Erzsébet híd) and the Liberty bridge (Szabadság híd). To get away from all the hustle of the city visit Margaret Island (Margitsziget), reachable from the Margaret bridge. Its large parks (see Buda) are a very pleasant place to relax and wander, perfect for a sunny afternoon.

Most of Budapest's famous sights are concentrated on Castle Hill on the Buda side, in downtown Pest and along the riverside walkways.

On Castle Hill main higlights is the Royal Palace (Királyi palota). The most popular attraction on the hill. Home to the National Gallery and Historical Museum of Budapest exhibits about medieval Budapest and history of the Royal Palace. Northern way find the funicular on a big squre southestern corner, on the eastern part are some mediaval excavations and castle ruins from 14-17th century. Towards north is by the Dísz tér corner the Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum (Arany Sas Patikamúzeum), with the collection of pharmaceutical objects from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Near there the Café Ruszwurm, or 'the Heaven for coffein and sweets addicts'. A hundred meter east a local proudness the Matthias Church (Mátyás Templom) a neogothic church crowning Budapest's cityscape and the 'Fisherman's bastion', (Halászbástya), lookout terrace. For impressive views across the Danube to Pest. In the next buildindg find you the Marzipan Museum, not only kids favourite. On the castle northwest corner is the Military Museum if you interested for uniforms, weapons, maps and other Hungary-related military objects from 11th century until nowadays. If not you must to go there because the view from before valid a short detour. Almost all west Buda hill visible from here.

Downtown (Belváros) of Pest is the administrative and business centre of Budapest and the whole of Hungary. For the first place the Parliament Building (Országház) is good choice. A neogothic jewel, beautifully situated overlooking the Danube. It is very much worth going inside opposite there the Museum of Ethnography and just couple hundreds meter to St. Stephen's Basilica what is the main church of Budapest is an important example of neoclassical architecture. Take 2 stops by M3 to Astoria station and visit the Jewish qurter (part of Unesco World Heritage), the main hungarian jewish holy place the Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum (Dohány utcai Zsinagóga), the largest and certainly among the most beautiful ones in Europe. Take the underpass toward National Museum, on the way admire the Eötvös Loránd University on Múzeum körút. It is worth dropping by for a short visit. Visitors can rest in the lush Trefort Garden or have a refreshment in the popular Bölcsész Terasz, an open-air cultural garden that has musical performances as well as food. If you take metro Kálvin tér can visit an other imprtant museum which is the Applied Arts museum. Out of the Downtown southway take tram 2 to visit the famous Zwack Unicum,- a kind of liquor- company museum, and the new culture hub near to Lágymányosi bridge include the Ludwig Museum of Modern Art.

Eastwards from Downtown (Belváros) the 'Andrássy út' boulevard in Pest stretches to the City Park ('Városliget'). It is listed on UNESCO World Heritage List and has some important sights along it, first is the State Opera House This is one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. The main staircase was an important element of the building in the 19th century for ladies to show off their new gowns. After Oktogon (eight angled) square House of Terror, the former secret police headquarters what now is museum objectively documents the terror of the Nazi and Communist eras. The next are some eastern culture in the Hopp Museum of East Asian Art a great collection from China, Japan, India, Nepal, Tibet and Mongolia. Nearby is another similar collection, namely Gyorgy Museum. Also here Southeast Asian Goldmuseum whic has the leading collection in Europe of southeast Asian gold artifacts from the 1st millennia BC. Along the boulvard after Oktogon square many embassy in nice more than 100 year old villas will find you. At the road end is the Heroes' Square - with the Millennium Monument, the Ernst Museum where you can see lot of piece about Contemporary Hungarian art, opposite is Museum of Fine Arts an incredible range of European artwork from Greek and Roman times to the present. Especially valuable is its collection of Spanish Baroque painting. Behind it there is the ZOO and the Gundel resstaurant one of the best of the capital. Woodpark area starting from here the City Park ('Városliget') is at the far end is probably the most pleasant of Pest's districts and features several interesting if low-key attractions which are often overlooked. A castle on a little island on a lake, - Vajdahunyad Vára, - built for the 1898 World Fair. In the winter, the lake is turned into the city's biggest ice rink. Nowadays it houses an agricultural museum. Also in the park the Transport Museum.

On Buda side north from castle find you the Gül Baba Türbéje a shrine where Gül Baba (literally Rose Father, from whom the Rózsadomb (Rose Hill) was named) lies. Take H5 to Szentlélek square what is the heart of Óbuda (Old Buda) district. Near to that is Victor Vasarely Museum shows many works of the famous Hungarian-born post-modern painter Vásárhelyi Győző (1908-1997) and the Kassák Museum at the Zichy Castle shows works of the modern Hungarian artists as well as modern Hungarian art, also near here the Kiscelli Museum is the Budapest Picture Gallery. More one sop with H5 is the city biggest archeological site the Aquincum. What was a city in the Roman times and there are some ruins of thermal baths, made by stones and decorated with mosaics and paintings.

Far to west is the Memento Park, an open air museum in Budapest, dedicated to monumental statues from Hungary's Communist period (1949–1989).

Southward from the Castle is the Budai Vigadó (Hungarian Heritage House) Between 1898 and 1900 winners of an architectural competition, faced a demanding project: building a theate rand library to suit the needs of the residents of Buda on the site of a former arsenal. Aladár Árkay and Mór Kallina worked to change the pre-existing block into a cultural center. The Vigado’s outside is in constructed in relatively simple, eclectic style, but the interior boasts an impressive Art-Nouveau hall with a marble staircase and pillars and a spacious, ornate theater. Today it is also known as the Hungarian Heritage House and is the home theater of the Hungarian Folk Ensemble.

Music related Museums also find in the city the Kodály Museum, the Liszt Museum, former home of Ferenc Liszt, most famous Hungarian composer. Collection of his personal objects and instruments can be visited; the Bartók's House and the The Music Museum, Includes a collection of musical instruments and the Bartok archive.

Szechenyi Istvan Square

Szechenyi Chain Bridge

Hungarian National Gallery

Buda Castle

Vigado Concert Hall

St. Stephen\'s Basilica

Vaci Street

Trinity Square

Parliament Building

Elisabeth Bridge

Rudas Baths

Great Market Hall

City Park

Heroe\'s Square

Museum of Fine Arts

Adam Clark Square

Inner City Parish Church

Dohany Street Synagogue

Matthias Church

Andrassy Avenue

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About Budapest

History

The first settlement on the territory of Budapest is accounted to Celtic tribes. During the first century AD, the Roman fortification on the territory of present-day Óbuda (now part of Budapest) gradually developed into the town of Aquincum which became the capital city of the province of Lower Pannonia in 106CE. The Romans even founded a fortress known as Contra Aquincum on the other side of the river which is assumed to have developed into the later town of Pest. This was part of the Limes, marking the eastern border of the empire, and was gradually given up by Rome during the early fourth century, becoming part of the Hun empire for a few decades. The Huns were a Germanic tribe, unlike the Magyars, but Attila, the King of the Huns, is considered a national hero and Attila is a common given name in Hungary.

Once the horse-riding Magyar (Hungarian) tribes arrived in the Carpathian Basin in 896CE, Óbuda served as the seat of the Magyar high-chieftain (or prince) Árpád. After a century marked by frequent raids on Christian western Europe, (prince) Géza realised that converting to Christianity was the key to survival in Europe. The Christian Kingdom of Hungary was founded by the crowning of his son, Szt. István (Saint Stephen) on the 1 January 1001 (or possibly Christmas Day of 1000). As visitors will quickly realise, Saint Stephen became an omnipresent national symbol, as did the artefact known as Saint Stephen's Crown (the Holy Crown of Hungary) which was regarded as a legal entity de jure equivalent to the country itself during medieval times. It is still unclear whether the millennium-old crown used in this function for many centuries and shown in the Parliament today, was already used by Saint Stephen.

In the following centuries, Buda emerged as the most important royal seat. In 1241/42 the Mongol Empire conquered the territory along with large parts of Europe - this short but devastating conquest of the country is still remembered as Tatárjárás - the name reflecting the erroneous confusion of Mongols and Tatars at the time. Medieval Hungary reached its zenith under King Matthias (Matthias Corvinus), the vividly remembered renaissance ruler whose patronage of arts and sciences made Hungary, a notable power at the time, the first European country which adopted the renaissance from Italy. However, after residing in Buda for decades, he moved his seat to Vienna in 1485 for the last five years of his life after defeating the Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III.

In 1541, Buda and Pest fell to the Ottoman Empire and were taken back 1686, when the Hapsburg Empire centred in Austria conquered the country on its way to becoming a major European power. Marks of these two cultures are still part of everyday life in Budapest.

After the anti-Hapsburg revolution in 1848–49 (defeated through the decisive help of the Russian Czar) the 1867 Compromise (Kiegyezés) with a weakened Vienna made Buda the capital of a near-autonomous Hungary, a large, multi-ethnic Kingdom comprising half of the newly created Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. In this peculiar double-state the Monarch was emperor and king, respectively, of these two rather autonomous realms.

The following half century marked by peaceful development counts among the most successful times in the history of the country as well as its capital. With the 1873 unification of Buda, Pest, and Óbuda, the city of Budapest was officially created. It saw a leap in terms of industrialisation, urbanisation, and the development of a capitalistic society as well as population. It even aimed at rivalling with Vienna - the Millennium in 1896, marking a thousand year of Hungary, offered the perfect excuse for large-scale projects such as the Parliament, Vajdahunyad Castle, or the Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút) - Budapest transformed to a world city during these decades, enriched by Austrian, Jewish, Slovakian, Serbian, Croatian, Roma and other cultural influence. This age is remembered as the 'Monarchia' (or as 'K. u. K.' - abbreviation for Imperial-Royal - in Austria, and other parts of the Empire) and associated with the rule of Franz Joseph I. (I. Ferenc József) who died in 1916 after 68 years on the throne.

Neither the Hapsburg empire nor Hungary survived World War I in their previous form - leaving Budapest as the capital of a now formally independent Hungary which lost two thirds of its territory and most of its non-Magyar population, as well as a few million Hungarian speakers, to neighbouring countries. The city`s population reached one million around 1930. During the interwar years under the rule of regent Miklós Horthy, a former Admiral of the Austro-Hungarian fleet, Hungary became an ally of Germany. Near the end of World War II, Nazi Germany occupied Hungary after it attempted to negotiate separate peace with the Allies, and eventually installed a bloody dictatorship putting the hitherto fairly unimportant Nazi Nyilaskeresztes (Arrowcross) party in charge. While practically all of 400,000 Jews in the countryside were murdered by German Nazis and their Hungarian nyilas sympathizers, roughly 60% of Budapest's Jewish community was saved during the Holocaust. People who are remembered for helping the local Jewish community include Raoul Wallenberg, the famous Swedish diplomat, who organised the distribution of Swedish passports by his embassy to as many Jews as possible, and the Italian Giorgio Perlasca, who - pretending to be a Spanish diplomat - rescued many thousands of Jews, but there were many other foreigners and Hungarians who participated in this effort. Air raids and a terrible three-month siege towards the end of World War II resulted in the death of over 38,000 civilians and the destruction of much of the once so lively city.

After the war, Budapest slowly recovered and became a showcase for the more pragmatic policies of Hungary's hard-line Communist government under the dictatorial rule of Mátyás Rákosi. The city was, however, also the main site of the 1956 uprising which was successful in installing a reform-oriented (albeit communist) government of Imre Nagy. This was swept away before long, after the Soviet leader Khrushchev decided to send in the tanks feeling that Hungary was slipping away from under Moscow's control. The Soviets installed János Kádár as the leader of the communist state who, after over thirty years of controversial rule, was voted out of leadership 1988 by the central committee due to health issues, and died in 1989.

Since the peaceful 1989 'system change' (Rendszerváltás) which was achieved as a compromise between reformist party forces and the opposition (notably including a younger self of the current PM, Viktor Orbán), Budapest transformed in appearance and atmosphere, a process further accelerated by the country's long-awaited joining with the European Union in 2004.

Activities

  • The simplest (and perhaps best) of all: get a map, circle the things you want to see, divide up your time and stroll around in the city. Spend time in charming cafés or restaurants (preferably not right at the main tourist sights), look at the market stands, walk on a bridge in the evening. The lively atmosphere of this jewel of a city both by day and by night cannot be experienced via guided tours, locked into a tourist bus/boat. Locals are usually happy to help, also to tell you what they think is best to see - and what is better to stay away from, or for a little chat just to keep up their English (or German). Don't hesitate to ask questions!
    • Hungaria Koncert +36 1 317-1377 hunkonc@ticket.info.hu, operates cruises with lunch or dinner daily at 14:00, 19:00 and 20:00. This service is 90 minutes with hot buffet lunch or dinner. During the cruise, the Parliament, Chain Bridge, Royal Castle, Palace of Arts etc. can be seen.
  • Do it on a bike! (Rents are around 1800 HUF for half a day.) On a bike, you can ride out of the city, too. Szentendre is a 2 hours ride from the center and you get to see nice places, much of the way is at the Danube. If you prefer more organised ways, a guided bike tour gets you some exercise and introduces you to the local geography. For example, staff at Buda Bike [underground garage at the plaza in front of St. Stephan's Basilica] are very friendly. They also rent bikes.
  • Walk in the City park (Városliget) with your children. Walk around the lake and feed the ducks. See the statue of Anonymus at the Vajdahunyad Castle, a fairy-tale-like building. Széchenyi Spa, right next to the lake, is also enjoyable for kids (see also the Baths section).
  • In the winter, the same lake is transformed into the large ice-skating rink with an astonishing view during winter. It is a popular place for kids, teens and young tweens.
  • The nearby Circus (Fövárosi Nagycirkusz - Great Circus of the Capital) offers performances with international artists. (The program can be seen here [4] in Hungarian)
  • Next to it, the Budapest Zoo - one of the oldest in the world - offers more than 800 animals to be seen in a historic atmosphere.
  • Buda Hill Labyrinth. The Labyrinths are accessible by two points on the Buda hills. The caves were formed from hot water springs and then during WW2, they were linked with some of the cellars on the hill to create an air raid shelter for up to 10,000 people and a military hospital. The labyrinth is now a popular tourist attraction
  • Experience an opera at Budapest's beautiful State Opera House (its a real hidden gem) or a performance of folklore or classical music at any of Budapest's many concert halls (s. details under Performing arts).

Festivals

Budapest offers a multitude of fairs and festivals. A few of them are

March

  • Budapest Spring Festival. A dazzling variety of cultural events mainly revolving around classical music and performing arts - including folklore.

August

  • Jewish Summer Festival. Another array of cultural and music events, with a Jewish touch.
  • Sziget. Festival on Óbudai Sziget (Óbuda Island) An institution attracting rock fans, world music hippies and the usual festival crowd every year in august. It has become one of the best-known festivals in Europe, offering a multitude of cultural, culinary and musical events. Day tickets cost €45 and festival passes, including camping privileges cost €170 if purchased before April 15 and €200 thereafter. Festival passes without camping privileges cost €30 less. Sleeping in a tent under the open sky instead of a hotel room gives the complete festival feeling. (Safe boxes are available for valuable personal belongings).

Performing arts and classical music

Apart from a renowned music scene, Hungary has a surprisingly rich theatre and art scene and, not surprisingly, Budapest is the epicentre of it. The season begins in mid-September and ends in June. Productions range from classic dramas and traditional operas to post-modern dance performances. The following venues can be particularly interesting for non-Hungarians. Tickets are bookable about one month beforehand at Interticket, the Hungarian theatres' official booking engine for a small (10% + HUF50) booking fee.

Cinema

In spite of increasing funding difficulties, quality cinema has remained alive in Budapest. For contemporary non-mainstream European and Hungarian titles turn to Budapest’s excellent art house movie chain, Art mozi, most of their branches are provided with a café or pub and offer pleasant atmosphere to spend your evening. A few selected cinemas of this chain: Uránia National Movie Theatre | Uránia Nemzeti Filmszínház where you can see the mainstream European artistic movies with new Hungarian films, the latter ones sporadically subtitled in English; Cinema Puskin (Puskin Mozi) an elegant, decorated multiplex offering quality, but generally easy-to-watch Hungarian and foreign films; Cinema Művész (Művész Mozi) is probably the most popular “Art Mozi” theatre in Budapest; Movie Museum Örökmozgó (Örökmozgó Filmmúzeum) is your best choice if you’re in mood to see a movie from the times when Leonardo DiCaprio was a child, mostly film in original language and are subtitled in Hungarian. - Mainstream cinemas mainly show subtitled (or dubbed) Hollywood films and Hungarian romantic movies. After the shopping center revolution in the late 90s, more than two thirds of the city’s cinema screens are run by international chains and franchises. Two examples are: Corvin, one of the oldest, although completely modernised cinema in the city—gives multiplex feeling for those tired of malls. The most centrally located mall cinemas the Palace Westend in Pest.

Thermal baths


Budapest offers a truly exceptional density of thermal springs and its fame is still rising as a major European Spa location - so go "bathing". The baths are among last vestige of Turkish culture in Budapest; some baths indeed date back to Turkish times. However, Hungarians have modified and moulded this tradition into something of their own during the last four centuries.

Thermal baths contain several thermal pools. They are usually complemented with multiple steam baths (in later decades also denoted by the Finnish word 'sauna'), massage services and other therapies including drinking cures. Unlike in some Scandinavian or German baths, Budapest baths mostly require you to wear your bathing suit! Among foreigners, Russians seem to be most frequent visitors to Budapest's baths, followed by Italians and Americans.

In recent decades a tradition of night bath parties has evolved, often revolving around various branches of electronic music, see e.g..

Traditional public baths

Traditional public baths used to have a slightly outdated but nowadays improving service and admission system and allow an authentic bathing experience with locals around you. At the cash desk, you sometimes have to select treatments in advance (often they are offered in distinct places of the building). Bathing time is not restricted, and, depending on the system, if you're finished earlier, part of your fee is repaid. Towels and sometimes bathrobe can be rented either at the entrance or inside. Changing clothes can be done either in a common area with lockers (gender segregated) or in cabins (kabinok) which may come in different size and is highly useful for families. While newer systems may be introduced, according to the proper ancient ritual you're handed a token with a number, which is also written on a chalkboard inside(!) the cabin door as a security code - you must remember cabin number. To access your cabin again, show your cabin and a token to attendant, and s/he'll open the door and check the number inside. Note that in swimming pools, swimming caps are sometimes obligatory (and often available for sale or rent).

Modern baths

There are also very modern baths (like Danubius Grand Thermal Hotel) which are usually called spas, although their central component are thermal pool and multitude of steam baths/saunas, which is not always typical for spas in the rest of the world.

Active Leisure

  • If you live a sporty life you should not have a break during your holiday. Wide variety of health clubs, yoga & pilates clubs, riding schools, swimming pools and squash and tennis courts give sporting opportunity. On Margaret Island you will find joggers, and swimming opportunity in the Hajós Olympic Pool. Practicing the mentioned sports is cheap in Budapest.

Caving

  • Note that caving in Budapest ranges from well lit and renovated Szemlőhegyi cave, where you can even go to parts of the cave in a wheelchair, to some of the more extreme tours in the Pál-völgyi–Mátyás-hegyi cave system, where you have to squeeze through several meters long passages with no room to spare. - The Pál-völgyi–Mátyás-hegyi cave system is recommended for the adventurous (and non-claustrophobic) who wants a great taste of "proper caving" instead of the more "tourist friendly" alternatives. The tours lasts between 2.5–3 hours and much of the time is spent crawling or climbing, so some degree of physical shape is needed. The guided tour includes a helmet, headlamp and overall so bring good shoes! Guides are very professional. English guided tours are usually on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays late in the afternoon, but can be pre-booked by groups at other days as well. For booking you need to be with at least 4 people.

Please do not litter, write your name on the cave wall or damage the cave in any other way! Part of the experience is the feeling of being in unspoiled nature.

Food


Hungarian food deserves to be (and often is) mentioned among the country's main sites. As in other cultures, the Hungarian approach to food combines pride in their own traditions with a readiness to accept outside influences. The result is a vibrant restaurant scene where an Asian-Hungarian fusion restaurant may well be of genuine interest. Luckily, prices are significantly below western Europe's with around 4 EUR for a budget lunch, and around 8-14 EUR for a nice evening meal in a mid-range restaurant, depending on place and appetite. Above 20 EUR per person is definitely considered expensive, but there are enough lavish places above this price range for those looking for something special.

Local specialities often revolve around meat (pork, beef, veal, or poultry), often involve liberal use of paprika, however not necessary of the hot kind. Note that - due to a historical translation error - "goulash soup" is indeed a soup, not the "goulash" that visitors may be familiar with from home which is known as "pörkölt".

Major specialities include (google image search can aid your imagination):

  • gulyás(leves) usually translated as 'goulash soup' - a filling meat soup (usually beef) with potatoes and paprika, among other ingredients. Served as main dish or as a (heavy) starter. The name refers to the Hungarian version of a cowboy taking care of a 'gulya' (cattleherd).
  • paprikás veal or chicken cooked in delicious creamy paprika sauce (not spicy)
  • pörkölt a stew with of sautéed onions and - paprika. Similar to what is served as 'goulash' abroad.
  • halászlé - fishermen's soup served differently depending on region
  • töltött káposzta - stuffed cabbage, the cooked cabbage leafs are filled with meat and in a paprika sauce, served with sour cream (similar to crème fraîche or crème acidulée)
  • Balaton pike-perch (fogas)
  • gyümölcsleves - fruit soup - cold, creamy and sweet, consumed as a starter.

From the desserts, you may not want to miss

  • Somlói galuska, a poem on biscuit dough, cream and chocolate sauce, invented by Károly Gollerits at Gundel
  • Gundel palacsinta - Gundel pancake (crepe) - with a filling prepared with rum, raisin, walnuts, and lemon zest, served with a chocolate sauce, and the careful reader may guess its birthplace.
  • There is also a great variety of wonderful pastries/cakes (Torta), some of which you will recognize if you are familiar with Viennese pastries. You may want to try Dobos torta (Dobos cake, named after József Dobos), and Rigó Jancsi a light chocolate-cream cake.

In addition to traditional Hungarian fare, which is recommended, there are numerous other cuisines available in Budapest. The adventurous gourmand can enjoy a different cuisine each meal for a week. Restaurant prices in Budapest are very reasonable by American and Western European standards with a general rule being that you would pay twice as much for a similar meal in New York, London or Paris.

Coffeehouses

Coffeehouses (kávéház) were a traditional Budapest institution, somewhat resembling Viennese lifestyle. Visit to one should be on every traveller's agenda. These are places are great to spend some time at a cup of coffee and a delicious cake, but some of them (especially in the higher price range) offer meals as well. With dozens of places in the city, the best-known, landmark coffeehouses (and among priciest) are: Gerbeaud (Vörösmarty tér 7-9), Művész Kávéház (Andrássy út 29), New York Kávéház (Erzsébet krt. 9-11). - Other Kávéházs worth visiting include the cafe at the Hotel Astoria, Cafe Central, the Cafe Mozart, Wall Street and the oldest in Budapest, the Ruszwurm in Buda castle.

Restaurants

Hungarian cuisine and restaurant experiences are happily remembered by visitors, even if the Hungarian diet may seem rather meat-based to many western visitors. The city has large variety of great places to eat at prices quite reasonable for western-Europeans. Like in some other cities, a number of restaurants see tourists as scapegoats. It is a good idea to avoid restaurants in the heart of the most touristic areas like Váci utca, especially if all customers seem foreigners - here you'll more likely than not be served mediocre food with a high bill padded with number of bizarre charges. In some restaurants anything you don't explicitly ask for, but appears on your table, is likely to be charged for. Don't take restaurant tips from suspicious individuals on the streets, ask at your hotel or local friends.

A wide variety of decent food for not reasonable prices can be found at the lively Ráday utca, venue of a number of cultural events, near Kálvin tér. But simply strolling the more central areas - e.g. near the Great Ringroad (Nagykörút), or the Pozsonyi út - will be enough to bump into nice places to test local cooking skill (though not necessarily with a menu available in English). Top-notch quality food (1st category restaurants) charge a wide range of prices (from starters around 1000 HUF, main courses around 3,000-10,000 HUF, and menus from 5,000 HUF). Perhaps the most reputed among top restaurants is the Gundel near Városliget - check the prices before you decide to go, but it offers a good value Sunday brunch for some 5000 HUF.

Walking along the Danube on the Pest side, you see a lot of restaurant and bar boats. Most of them serve traditional Hungarian and international dishes, some of them are function more as bars. Thanks to the beautiful panorama across the Danube and the castle, these places provide an unforgettable experience.

Chains

Only cross-district chains are listed here; see district articles for individual restaurants.

  • Wasabi, Podmaniczky ut 21 (close to Nyugati station). 11AM-5PM weekdays. Excellent Japanese and Korean food. Lunch 3790 HUF. The Buda unit: Szépvölgyi ut 15 (train station Szépvölgyi ut) 11AM-11PM.
  • Trófea Grill. The best among all-you-can-eat (buffet) and all the alcohol you can drink. Best to book a table in advance. Has 4 locations. 1 on Buda downtown by Margaret Bridge (Margit körút 2)
  • Leroy Cafe, Pest (5 locations), Buda (3 locations). (See district article Pest for details) Mid to high-priced restaurant chain that offers Hungarian classics with other Italian and European cuisine. Very fashionable interiors and popular with the well-paid white collar crowd. Reservations are recommended during traditional peak times. When eating here, always make sure that you won't be slapped on an extra 100% service charge. Read the menu before entering the restaurant carefully and insist on talking to someone who speaks English.

Vegetarian/Vegan

  • Govinda. M–F 11:30–20:00, Sa 12:00–21:00. Great vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Budapest. You can choose from different menus everyday or just order separate dishes; moderately priced. Be aware or the stairs, especially if you are really hungry and in a hurry.Govinda has two restaurants. see maps, Vigyázó Ferenc utca 4
  • Edeni Vegan, Iskola Utca 31 (1 block from Batthány tér metro station),  +36 6203 0775 75. Mo-Thu 8-21, Fri 8-18, Sun 11-19. Cafeteria style restaurant, large portions, relatively cheap. Food may vary depending on day, time, and dishes chosen. Tofu goulash recommended. Staff is very helpful at explaining the dishes so ask what they are if you don't know. Note: CASH ONLY. There is an ATM at the bank across the street

Grocery shopping

Needless to say, if you want to take home some Hungarian paprika, Pick szalámi, or Tokaji wine, grocery shops are naturally cheaper than specialised souvenir kiosks. In the central areas, you will find smaller grocery shops such as the Hungarian chains GRoby, CBA, (sometimes Rotschild's) as well as the usual European suspects Spar, Kaiser's, Plus, and Tesco Express.

Further from the centre, you can find foreign-owned hypermarkets like Auchan, Tesco and Cora with the usual range of goods.

As a good tourist, you should buy local products.

Kosher

  • Hanna's Kosher Kitchen Features classic Hungarian food, but Kosher. VII., Dob utca 35. Tel.:+361 342-1072.
  • Kinor David VII. Dohany utca (next to the big Dohány Temple) Tel. (+361) 413-7304 or 5.
  • Salamon glatt kosher restaurant (Next to King's Hotel)1072 Budapest, VII. Nagydiófa u. 27 Tel: (++36-1) 413-1487, 413-1488 Cell: (++36-30) 743-6938, (++36-20) 966-6160.
  • Rotschild Supermarkets (located throughout the downtown) offer Kosher goods too.

Others

Halal food is not traditional for Budapest but a number of places are available recently. Check this Muslim site for Meat shops (húsboltok) and restaurants (Éttermek).

A version of Döner Kebab (as known e.g. in Germany) is sold under the Greek name Gyros (often by Turks!). Translated from Turkish Döner, Gyros means "rotate" or "spintop" in Greek - a reference to the meat being rotated on a stake. One good moderately priced Turkish Halal place is Szeráj on Szt. István körút opposite to the theatre building of "Vígszínház", between Nyugati tér Margaret Bridge.

Drinks


Budapest offers plenty of places to drink, from cool and ultra-hip to rowdy and down-market. If you are in the mood for a particularly Hungarian experience, visit a so-called borozó (wine pub). These offer cheap yet tasty Hungarian wine on tap at outright hilariously low prices if you manage to find one outside the tourist circuit.

Hungary is famous for its wines produced at Balaton area and Eger. Among red wines the best are Kékfrankos, Egri Bikavér „Bulls Blood” and white wines the Szürkebarát and Chardonnay are popular. One of the most favorite is the Tokaji, a sweet white wine. You should try not to miss out on the Hungarian spirit, palinka, made from fruits such as, plum, apricot, cherry or williams pears.

Unique Hungarian soft drinks to try are Traubi Szoda (a white grape soda) and Márka (a sour cherry soda).

Shopping

Money

The Hungarian forint (HUF) has a relatively high rate of inflation for Europe.

Currently used coins: HUF5, 10, 20, 50, 100 (two colored, similar to €2) and 200 (two colored, similar to €1), plus bills: HUF500 (orange and brown), 1,000 (blue), 2,000 (brown), 5,000 (violet and green), 10,000 (red and blue), 20,000 (grey and reddish).

Be sure when receiving change that all HUF1,000 notes contain a vertical silver strip. Older notes without the strip are no longer valid. HUF200 banknotes are also no longer valid, look out for these too!

Also, when receiving change from a taxi journey, make sure that the money is actually Hungarian. Some taxi drivers have been known to give unsuspecting passengers obsolete Romanian banknotes (lei).

Many reliable exchange bueaux can be found in the city centre near Deák Ferenc tér metro station. For example, there are two shops next two the tourist information. These shops as well as other shops in the area offer a better rate than other banks at tourist spots such as international bus stations and the castle hill. The rate might be even better than getting cash from ATMs. For example, in May 2012, you can get HUF295/Euro from these shops while you will get HUF275/Euro at international bus stations and HUF285/Euro from ATMs. There is also no extra charge.

Most of the visitors from far away end up shopping in Pest in the middle of the city: Váci utca and nearby. It is historically the most expensive part of the city. You'll find Hungarian linens and lace, pottery, and other items, in souvenir shops.

You definitely want to visit the Great Market Hall (Nagy Vásárcsarnok) at Fővám tér the recently renovated markethall with essential atmosphere (it's at the south end of Vaci). Prices for the same items vary a lot between sellers and aren't set in stone so be sure to compare and bargain.

Non-speciality shopping

Also, chain stores can be found along the Váci utca (C&A, H&M, Clinique, Estee Lauder, New Yorker, etc.).

The shopping malls locally known as "Plazas" are usually good for buying clothes, but prices may vary wildly even in shops next to each other. For electronics, the cheap supermarkets like Electro World and Media Markt are good targets, but the quality is on par with the prices. Due to the low cost of labour, a tradition in repairing mobile phones and other appliances exists, and buying second hand electronics is normal. This service is usually offered in smaller private shops.

Absinthe is available for purchase at common liquor stores, a must-have purchase for the European traveller. Many brands available in the Market Hall and liquor stores are of poor quality (or not even "real" Absinthe).

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Budapest on Wikivoyage.

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