Ten times larger than any other Hungarian city, Budapest (pop. 1,900,000) is reassuming its place as a major European capital. Originally two separate cities, Budapest was created in 1872 with the joining of Buda and Pest, soon becoming the most important Habsburg city after Vienna. World War II ravaged the city, but the Hungarians rebuilt it from rubble with the same pride they retained while weathering the Soviet occupation. Neon lights and legions of tourists may draw attention away from the city’s cultural and architectural gems but beneath it all beats a truly Hungarian heart.
Flights: Ferihegy Airport (BUD; 296 9696). Malev (Hungarian Airlines; reservations 235 3888). From the airport, the cheapest way to reach the city center is to take bus #93 (20min. every 15min. 4:55am-l 1:20pm, 106Ft), and then take the M3 to Kobanya-Kispest (15min. to Deak ter in downtown Pest).
HEADING EAST: HUNGARY
Trains: There are three main stations: Keleti pu. Nyugati pu. and Deli pu. (International 461 5500, domestic 461 5400; www.mav.hu). Most international trains arrive at Keleti Palyaudvar, but some from Prague go to Nyugati pu. Each station has schedules for the others; for a complete listing of Hungarian rail schedules, see Swww.bahn.de. To: Berlin (12hr. daily, 22,900Ft); Bucharest (14hrž 4 per day, 17,400Ft); Prague (8hr. 5 per day, 14,000Ft); Vienna (3hrž 17 per day, 7000Ft); Warsaw (llhr. 2 per day, 13,950Ft). Reservation fees 700-2000Ft. The daily Orient Express stops on its way from Paris to Istanbul. Purchase tickets at the International Ticket Office, Keleti pu. (Open daily 8am-6pm.) Or, try MAV Hungarian Railways, VI, Andrassy ut 35 and at all stations, (s 461 5500. Open M-F 9am-5pm. For student or under-26 discount on tickets, say, udi k’.)
Buses: Most buses to Western Europe leave from Volanbusz main station, V, Erzsebet ter (s 117 2966; international tickets 485 2162, ext. 211). Ml, 2, or 3: Deak ter. Open M-F 6am-6pm, Sa-Su 6am-4pm. Buses to much of Eastern Europe depart from Nepstadion, Hungaria korut 4852 (252 1896). M2: Nepstadion. To: Berlin (14V4hr. 5 per week, 19,900Ft); Prague (8hr. 4 per week, 6990Ft); Vienna (3-3V2hr. 5 per day, 5790Ft).
Commuter Trains: The HEV commuter railway station is at Batthyany ter, across the river from the Parliament, 1 Metro stop past the Danube in Buda. Trains head to Szentendre (45min. every 15min. 5am-9pm, 268Ft). Purchase tickets at the station for transport beyond the city limits.
Public Transportation: Subways, buses, and trams are cheap, convenient, and easy to navigate. The Metro has three lines: yellow (Ml), red (M2), and blue (M3). Pick up free route maps from hostels, tourist offices, and train stations. Night transit (E) runs midnight-5am along major routes; buses #7E and 78E follow the M2 route, #6E follows the 46 tram line, and #14E and 50E follow the M3 route. Single-fare tickets for all public transport (one-way on one line 120Ft) are sold in Metro stations, in Trafik shops, and by sidewalk vendors. Punch them in the orange boxes at the gate of the Metro or on buses and trams; punch a new ticket when you change lines, or face a 1500-3000Ft fine. Day pass 925Ft, 3-day 1850Ft, 1-week 2250Ft.
Taxis: Beware of scams; check that the meter is on, and inquire about the rates. Budataxi (233 3333) charges 135Ft per km if you call. Fotaxi (222 2222), 6×6 Taxi (266 6666), and Tele 5 Taxi (355 5555) are also reliable.
Originally Buda and Pest, two cities separated by the Danube River (Duna), modern Budapest preserves the distinctive character of each. On the west bank, Buda has winding streets, breathtaking vistas, a hilltop citadel, and the Castle District. On the east bank is the city’s bustling commercial center, Pest, home to shopping boulevards, theaters, Parliament (Orszaghaz), and the Opera House. Three main bridges join the two halves: Szechenyi Lanchi’d, slender Erzsebet hid, and green Szabadsag hid. Just down the north slope of Varhegy (Castle Hill) is Moszkva ter, the tram and local bus hub. Batthyany ter, opposite Parliament in Buda, is the starting point of the HEV commuter railway. The city’s Metro lines converge at Deak ter, next to the main international bus terminal at Erzsebet ter. Two blocks west toward the river lies Vorosmarty ter and the main pedestrian shopping zone Vaci utca.
Addresses in Budapest begin with a Roman numeral representing one of the city’s 23 districts. Central Buda is I; central Pest is V. To navigate Budapest’s often-confusing streets, a map is essential; pick one up at any tourist office or hostel.
TOURIST AND FINANCIAL SERVICES
Tourist Offices: All sell the Budapest Card (Budapest Kartya), which provides discounts, unlimited public transport, and museum admission (2-day 3950Ft, 3-day 4950Ft). Your first stop should be Tourinform, V, Vigado u. 6 (235 4481; www.hungarytourism.hu). Ml: Vorosmarty ter. Walk toward the river from the Metro. Open 24hr. Vista Travel Center, Paulay Ede 7 (429 9950; www.vista.hu), arranges tours and accommodations. Open M-F 9am-8pm, Sa 10am-4pm. Budapest in Your Pocket (www.inyour-pocket.com; 750Ft) is an up-to-date guide of the city.
Embassies: Australia, XII, Kiralyhago ter 89 (457 9777; www.ausembbp.hu). M2: Deli pu. then bus #21 or tram #59 to Kiralyhago ter. Open M-F 9am-noon. Canada, XII, Budakeszi ut 32 (392 3360; www.canadaeuropa.gc.cahungary). Entrance at Zugligeti ut. 51-53. Take bus #158 from Moszkva ter to the last stop. Open M-F 8:30-11am and 2-3:30pm. South Africa, II, Gardonyi Geza ut 17 (392 0999; emergency (0620) 955 8046; www.sa-embassy.hu). UK, V, Harmincad u. 6 (266 2888), near the intersection with Vorosmarty ter. Ml: Vorosmarty ter. Open M-F 9:30am-12:30pm and 2:30-4:30pm. US, V, Szabadsagter 12 (475 4400; emergency266 28 88 93 31; www.usis.hu). M2: Kossuth ter. Walk 2 blocks down Akademia and turn on Zoltan. Open M-F 8:15am-5pm. New Zealand and Irish nationals contact the UK embassy.
Currency Exchange: The best rates are at banks. Citibank, V, Vorosmarty ter 4 (374 5000). Ml: Vorosmarty ter. Cashes traveler’s checks for no commission and provides MCV cash advances (passport required).
American Express: V, Deak Ferenc u. 10 (235 4330; email@example.com). M2 or 3: Deak ter. Open M-F 9am-5:30pm, Sa 9am-2pm. Cardholders can have mail delivered here.
Luggage Storage: Lockers at all three train stations. 150-300Ft.
English-Language Bookstore: Librl Konyvpalota, VII, Rakoczi u. 12 (267 6258), is probably the best choice. Open M-F 10am-7:30pm, Sa 10am-3pm. M2: Astoria. MCV.
Bi-Gay-Lesbian Resources: GayGuide.net Budapest ((0630) 932 3334; www.budap-est.gayguide.net), maintains a comprehensive website and runs a hotline (daily 4-8pm) with info for gay tourists and gay-friendly accommodations lists.
EMERGENCY AND COMMUNICATIONS
Emergency: 112 connects to all. Police: 107. Ambulance: 104. Fire: 105.
Tourist Police: V, Vigado u. 6 ( 235 4479). Ml: Vorosmarty ter. Walk toward the river from the Metro to reach the station, just inside Tourinform. Open 24hr.
24hr. Pharmacies: II, Frankel Leo ut 22 (212 4406); III, Szentendrei ut 2a (388 6528); IV, Pozsonyi u. 19 (389 4079); VI, Terez krt. 41 (311 4439); VII, Rakoczi lit 39 ( 314 3695). At night, call the number on door or ring the bell.
Medical Assistance: Falck (SOS) KFT, II, Kapy ut 49b (200 0100 and 275 1535). Open 24hr. The US embassy (see Embassies, above) lists English-speaking doctors.
Telephones: Most phones require phone cards, available at newsstands, post offices, and Metro stations. 50-unit card 800Ft, 120-unit card 1800Ft. Domestic operator 191; info 198; international operator 190; info s 199.
HEADING EAST: HUNGARY
Internet Access: Cybercafes are everywhere, but access can get expensive and long waits are common. Try a wired hostel. Ami Internet Coffee, V, Vaci u. 40 (267 1644; www.amicoffee.hu). M3: Ferenciek ter. 200Ft per lOmin. 400Ft per 30minž 700Ft per hr. Open daily 9am-2am. Eckermann, VI, Andrassy ut 24 (269 2542). Ml: Opera. Free. Open M-F 8am-10pm, Sa 9am-10pm.
Post Office: V, Varoshaz u. 18 (318 4811). Open M-F 8am-9pm, Sa 8am-2pm. Address mail to be held: SURNAME Firstname, Poste Restante, V, Varoshaz u. 18, 1052 Budapest, HUNGARY. Branches include: Nyugati pu.; VI,Terez krt. 105107 and Keleti pu.; VIII, Baross ter 11c. Open M-F 8am-9pm, Sa 8am-2pm.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND CAMPING
Call ahead in summer. Travelers arriving at Keleti pu. will be swarmed with hawkers; be cautious and don’t believe all promises of special discounts, but keep an open mind if you need a place to stay.
Private rooms, slightly more expensive than hostels (2000-5000Ft per person; less with longer stays), usually offer what hostels can’t: Peace, quiet, and private showers. Arrive early, bring cash, and haggle.
IBUSZ, V, Ferenciek ter (485 2767; firstname.lastname@example.org). M3: Ferenciek ter. Doubles 5000Ft; triples 5000-6000Ft. 1800Ft surcharge if staying fewer than 4 nights. Open M-Th 8:15am-4pm, F 8:15am-3pm.
Non-Stop Hotel Service, V, SiitS u. 2 (318 3925). Ml, 2, or 3; Deak ter. Bus #7 from Keleti pu. Rooms in Pest from 6000Ft. Open 24hr.
Budapest’s hostels are backpacker social centers, each with its own quirks. You may find some hostel common rooms as exciting as the city’s expat bars and clubs, and especially if you’re traveling alone, they’re a great place to whip up instant friends. Many hostels are now run by the Hungarian Youth Hostels Association, which operates from an office in Keleti pu. Their representatives wear Hostelling International T-shirts and will along with legions of competitors accost you as you get off the train. Take the free transport; it doesn’t commit you.
Backpack Guesthouse, XI, Takacs Menyhert u. 33 (209 8406; email@example.com), in Buda, 12min. from central Pest. From Keleti pu. take bus #7 or 7a toward Buda; get off atTetenyi u. and walk back under the railway bridge to a sharp left turn. Take the 3rd right at Hamzsabegi ut. With a common room full of movies, music, and cheap beer, hostel life doesn’t get much better. Internet 15Ft per min. Reception 24hr. Reserve ahead. Dorms 2800Ft; doubles 6600Ft.
G! Red Bus Hostel, V, Semmelweis u. 14 (266 0136; www.redbusbudapest.hu), in Pest. New spacious dorms in the heart of downtown Pest. Free luggage storage. Internet 12Ft per min. Breakfast included. Laundry lOOOFt. Reception 24hr. Check-out 10am. 10-bed dorms 2700Ft; singles 6000Ft; doubles 7000Ft; triples 10,000Ft.
Hostel Martos, XI, Stoczek u. 57 (209 4883; firstname.lastname@example.org), in Buda. From Keleti pu. take bus #7 to Moricz Zsigmond Korter and walk 300m toward the river on Bartok Bela ut. Turn right on Bertalan Lajos and take the 3rd right on Stoczek u.; the hostel is on the corner. A short walk to the outdoor clubs along the river. Free Internet and satellite TV. Reserve ahead. Singles 4000Ft; doubles 5000Ft, with shower 8000Ft; triples 7500Ft; 2- to 4-bed apartments with bath 15,000Ft.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND CAMPING
Aquarium Youth Hostel, VII, Alsoerdosor u. 12 (322 0502; email@example.com), in Pest. A hidden gem-there are no signs outside. Ring buzzer. Close to Keleti pu. and the Metro. Free Internet and kitchen. Laundry 1200Ft. Reception 24hr. 4- to 5-bed dorms 2500Ft; doubles 8000Ft.
Station Guest House (HI), XIV, Mexikoi ut 36b (-as-221 8864; www.stationguest-house.hu), in Pest. From Keleti pu. take bus #7 or night bus #78E 4 stops to Hungaria korut, walk under the railway pass, and take an immediate right on Mexikoi ut. Free billiards, live music, and a friendly staff. Internet 20Ft per min. Reserve ahead. Attic 1900Ft; dorms 2400Ft; quads 2700Ft. All prices drop lOOFt with each night you stay, up to 5 nights. O
Hotel Marco Polo, VII, Nyar u. 6 (413 2555; www.marcopolohostel.com), in Pest. M2: Astoria or M2: Blaha Lujza ter. Newly renovated, luxurious, and spotless. Internet 500Ft per 30min. Reception 24hr. Book 1-2 days ahead in summer. Dorms 5000Ft; singles 13,900Ft; doubles 17,OOOFt. 10% HI and ISIC discount.
Many university dorms moonlight as hostels during July and August. The majority are clustered around Moricz Zsigmond Korter in district XI.
Hostel Bakfark, II, Bakfark u. 13 (413 2062), in Buda. M2: Moszkva ter. Comfortable dorms with lofts instead of bunks. Check-out 10am. Call ahead. Open mid-June to late-Aug. Dorms 3300Ft. 10% HI discount.
Apaczal Hostel, V, Papnovelde 46 (267 0311), in Pest. Great location, clean rooms, and a friendly staff. Open late-June to late-Aug. Dorms 2700Ft; doubles 4300Ft. 10% HI discount.
Hostel Landler, XI, Bartok Bela ut 17 (463 3621), in Buda. Take bus #7 or 7A across the river and get off at Gellert; take Bartok Bela ut away from the river. Comfy dorms. Check-out 9am. Open July 5-Sept. 5. Singles 5850Ft; triples ll,700Ft; quads 15,600Ft. 10% HI discount.
Guesthouses and private rooms add a personal touch for about the same price as hostels. Owners will usually pick travelers up from the train station or airport.
Garibaldi Guesthouse, V, Garibaldi u. 5 (302 3456; firstname.lastname@example.org). M2: Kossuth ter. Charming Ena lets spacious rooms in her apartment and other suites in the building. Some have kitchenette, TV, and shower. Rooms from 3500Ft per person; apartments 6000-10,OOOFt. Reduced prices for longer stays.
Caterina Guesthouse and Hostel, VI, Andrassy ut 47, 3rd fl. apt. #18; ring bell #11 (342 0804; www.extra.hucaterin), in Pest. Ml: Oktogon, or trams #4 and 6. Spotless rooms with fresh linens. Reception 24hr. Check-out 9am. Lockout 10am-2pm. Reserve by email. Dorms 2800Ft; doubles 9000Ft; triples ll,400Ft.
Romal Camping, III, Szentendrei ut 189 (368 6260). M2: Batthyany ter. Take HEV to Romai furdS; walk 100m toward river. Communal showers and kitchen. Breakfast 880Ft. Laundry 800Ft. Electricity 600Ft. Tents 1950Ft per person; bungalows 1690-15,OOOFt. Each person must also pay a personal fee (990Ft, children 590Ft). Tourist tax 3%. 10% HI discount. MCV.
Zugligeti Niche Camping, XII, Zugligeti ut 101 (fax 200 8346; www.camping-niche.hu). Take bus #158 from Moszkva ter to Laszllohely, the last stop. Restaurant. Communal showers. Electricity 450Ft. 850Ft per person. Tents 500Ft, large tents 900Ft. Cars 700Ft, caravans 1800Ft. MCV.
Explore the cafeterias beneath Onkiszolgalo Etterem signs for something cheap (meat dishes 300-500Ft) or seek out a neighborhood kifozes (kiosk) or vendeglo (vendor) for a real taste of Hungary. Comer markets, many of which have 24hr. windows, stock basics. The king of them all, the BGrand Market Hall, IX, Fovam ter 13, next to Szabadsag hid (M3: Kalvin ter), was built in 1897; it now boasts 10,000 square meters of stalls, making it a tourist attraction in itself. For a wide array of ethnic restaurants, try the upper floors of Mammut Plaza, just outside of the Moszkva ter Metro stop in Buda, or the West End Plaza, accessible from the Nyugati Metro stop in Pest.
Columbus Pub and Restaurant, V, Danube prominade below the chain bridge (266 9013). If you feel you’ve neglected the beautiful Danube, enjoy a meal on this moored ship. Open daily noon-lam. AmExMCV.
Govinda, V, Vigyazo Ferenc u. 4 (269 1625), An Indian vegetarian restaurant, complete with yoga classes. The best deals are the meal plates (big plate 1450Ft, small plate 1150Ft, student plate 520Ft). Yoga classes Sept.-June M 5-6:30pm (500Ft). Open M-Sa noon-9pm. AmExMCV.
if Gundel, XIV, Allatkerti ut 2 ( 468 4040). The most famous restaurant in Hungary. Many think the 7-course meal is worth the splurge (13,000-17,500Ft), but there are also delicious sandwiches outside for 400-600Ft. Su brunch buffet ll:30am-3pm (400Ft). Open daily noon-4pm and 6:30pm-midnight. AmExMCV. 0
Falafel Faloda, VI, Pauley Ede u. 53 (351 1243; www.falafel.hu). Ml: Opera. From the Metro, cross Andrassy, head straight on Hajos u. and turn left on Pauley Ede. Make-your-own falafel with tons of ingredients. Falafel 490Ft. Salad 480-580Ft. Open M-F 10am-8pm, Sa 10am-6pm.
Robinson Medlterranean-style Restaurant and Cafe, Varosligeti ter ( 422 0222). This spectacularly scenic restaurant overlooking the lake in City Park is infused with charm. Serves favorites like pan-roasted goose liver (2lOOFt) and paprika veal (2200Ft). Vegetarian options available. Entrees 1200-5800Ft. Open daily noon-midnight.
Marquis de Salade, VI, Hajos u. 43 ( 302 4086). M3: Arany Janos. At the corner of Bajcsy-Zsilinszky tit, 2 blocks from the Metro. Huge menu with dishes from Azerbaijan, France, India, Italy, Japan, and Hungary. Entrees 1200-2500Ft. Open daily noon-midnight. Cash only.
Once the haunts of the literary, intellectual, and cultural elite as well as political dissidents the city’s cafes boast histories as rich as the pastries they serve.
Dorn Cafe, I, Szentharomsag ter. Atop Castle Hill, with astonishing views of the Danube and Pest. Beer and coffee start at 350Ft. Pastries and sandwiches also served. Open daily 10am-7pm.
Gerbeaud, V, Vdrosmarty ter 7 (429 9000). Ml: Vorosmarty ter. Perhaps Budapest’s largest and most famous cafe, this institution has been serving its layer cakes (590Ft) and homemade ice cream (75Ft) since 1858. Open daily 9am-9pm.
Muvesz Kavehaz, VI, Andrassy ut 29 (352 1337). Ml: Opera. Diagonally across from the Opera. Before or after a show, stop in for a slice of rich cake (290Ft) and a cup of cappuccino (260Ft) at the polished stone tables. Open daily 9am-ll:45pm.
In 1896, Hungary’s 1000th birthday bash prompted the construction of what are today Budapest’s most prominent sights. Among the works commissioned by the Habsburgs were Heroes’ Square (Hosok ter), Liberty Bridge (Szbadsag hid), Vajdahunyad Castle (Vajdahunyad var), and continental Europe’s first Metro system. Slightly grayer for wear, war, and Communist occupation, these monuments attest to the optimism of a capital on the verge of its Golden Age. See the sights, learn your way around the city, and meet other travelers with Absolute Walking & Biking Tours. Their basic tour (3V hr.; 4000Ft, under-27 3500Ft) meets May 16-Sept. 30 daily at 9:30am and 1:30pm on the steps of the yellow church in Deak ter and at 10am and 2pm in Heroes’ Sq. They also hold off-season tours Oct.-Jan. 6 and Feb.-May 15 that leave at 10:30am from Deak ter and at 11am from Heroes’ Sq. You can also choose from a range of specialized tours that focus on everything from communist Hungary to pub-crawling Budapest. ( 211 8861; www.budapesttours.com. Specialized tours 24-5V hr. 4000-5000Ft.) Boat tours of Budapest can also be taken from Vigado ter piers 6-7. The Danube Legend, which runs in the evening, costs 4200Ft (950Ft with Budapest Card). The Duna Bella, the daytime boat, costs 3600Ft (850Ft with Budapest Card).
On the east bank of the Danube, Buda sprawls between the base of Castle Hill and southern Gellert Hill, rambling into Budapest’s main residential areas. Older than Pest, Buda is filled with parks, lush hills, and islands.
CASTLE DISTRICT. Towering above the Danube on Castle Hill, the Castle District has been razed three times in its 800-year history, most recently in 1945. With its winding, statue-filled streets, breathtaking views, and hodge-podge of architectural styles, the UNESCO-protected district now appears much as it did in Habsburg times. Although the reconstructed Buda Castle (Var) now houses a number of fine museums (1023), bullet holes in the palace facade recall the 1956 Uprising. (Ml, 2, or 3: Deak ter. From the Metro, take bus #16 across the Danube and up to the castle. Alternatively, take the Metro to M2: Moszkva ter and walk up to the hill on Varfok u. Vienna Gate, or hop on bus #16. Secs kapu marks the castle entrance.) Beneath Buda castle are the Castle Labyrinths (Budvari Labirinths), caverns that allow for spooky trips through the subterranean world of the city. (Uri u. 9. s212 0207. Open daily 9:30am-7:30pm. 900Ft, students 700FI.)
MATTHIAS CHURCH. The multi-colored roof of Matthias Church (Matyas tem-plom) is one of Budapest’s most popular sights. The church was converted into a mosque in 1541, then reconverted 145 years later when the Habsburgs defeated the Turks. Ascend the spiral staircase to reach the gold-heavy exhibits of the Museum of Ecclesiastical Art. (On Castle Hill. High mass 7, 8:30am, 6pm; Su also 10am and noon. Open M-Sa 9am-5pm, Su lpm-5pm. Museum 400Ft, students 200Ft. Free.)
GELLERT HILL. When King Stephen, the first Christian Hungarian monarch, was coronated, the Pope sent Bishop Gellert to convert the Magyars. The hill got its name (Gellert-hegy) when those unconvinced by his message hurled the good bishop to his death from the top. The Liberation Monument (Szabadsag Szobor), created to honor Soviet soldiers who died liberating Hungary, looks over Budapest from atop the hill. The view from the adjoining Citadel, built as a symbol of Habsburg power after the foiled 1848 revolution, is especially spectacular at night. At the base of the hill sits Budapest’s most famous Turk-
HEADING EAST: HUNGARY Gellert Hotel and Baths. (Take tram #18 or 19, or bus #7, to Hotel Gellert; follow Szabo Verjtek u. to Jubileumi Park, continuing on the marked paths to the summit Or, take bus #27 to the top; get off at Busuio Juhasz and walk 5 min. to the peak.)
Constructed in the 19th century, the winding streets of Pest now host cafes, corporations, and monuments. The crowded Belvaros (Inner City) is based around the swarming pedestrian boulevards Vaci utca and Vorosmarty ter.
PARLIAMENT. Standing 96m tall, a number that symbolizes the date of Hungary’s millennial anniversary, the palatial Gothic Parliament (Orszaghaz) was modeled after the UK’s, right down to the riverside location and churchly facade. The Hungarian crown jewels, housed here since 1999, were moved from the National Museum to the center of the Cupola Room amidst national controversy because of the cost of the security required to move them. (M2: Kossuth Lajos ter. English tours M-F 10am, noon, 2, 2:30, 5, and 6pm; Sa-Su 10am only-come early. 2000Ft, students 1000FL Purchase tickets at gate #10 and enter at gate #12.)
GREAT SYNAGOGUE. The largest synagogue in Europe and the second-largest in the world after Temple Emmanuel in New York City, Pest’s Great Synagogue (Zsinagoga) was designed to hold 3000 worshippers. The Moorish building has been under renovation since 1988, and much of its artwork is blocked from view. In the garden is a Holocaust Memorial that sits above a mass grave for thousands of Jews killed near the end of the war. The Hebrew inscription reads: Whose pain can be greater than mine? with the Hungarian words Let us Remember beneath. Each leaf of this enormous metal tree bears the name of a family that perished, but the memorial represents only a fraction of the sufferers. Next door, the Jewish Museum (Zsido Muzeum) documents Hungary’s rich Jewish past. (M2: Astoria. At the comer of Dohany u. and Wesseienyi u. Open May-Oct. M-Th 10am-5pm, F lOam-lpm, Su 10am-2pm; Nov.-Apr. M-F 10am-3pm, Su lOam-lpm. Synagogue and museum 600Ft, students with ISIC 200Ft.)
ST. STEPHEN’S BASILICA. The city’s largest church (Sz. Istvan Bazilika) was decimated by Allied bombs in World War II. Its neo-Renaissance facade is still undergoing reconstruction, but the ornate interior attracts both tourists and worshippers. The Panorama Tower offers an amazing 360° view. The oddest attraction is St. Stephen’s mummified right hand, one of Hungary’s most revered religious relics; a lOOFt donation dropped in the box will light up the hand. (Ml-3: Deak ter. Mass M-Sa 7, 8am, 6pm; Su 8:30,10am, noon, 6pm. Basilica and museum open May-Oct. M-Sa 9am-5pm; Nov.-Apr. M-Sa 10am-4pm. Tower open June-Aug. daily 9:30am-6pm; Sept.-Oct. 10am-5:30pm; Apr May 10am~4:30pm. Basilica and museum free. Tower 500Ft, students 400Ft.)
ANDRASSY UT AND HEROES’ SQUARE. Hungary’s grandest boulevard, Andrassy ut, extends from Erzsebet ter in downtown Pest to Heroes’ Square (Hosok tere) to the northeast. The Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Allami Operahaz), whose gilded interior glows on performance nights, is a vivid reminder of Budapest’s Golden Age. If you can’t see an opera, take a tour. (Andrassy ut 22. Ml: Opera. Daily English-language tours 3 and 4pm; 2000Ft, students lOOOFt. 20% Budapest Card discount.) At the Heroes’ Sq. end of Andrassy ut, the Millenium Monument (Millenniumi emlekmu) commemorates the nation’s most prominent leaders. Also right off Heroes’ Sq. is the Museum of Fine Arts (see below).
CITY PARK. The City Park (Varosliget) is home to a zoo, a circus, a run-down amusement park, and the lakeside Vajdahunyad Castle, whose collage of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles is intended to chronicle the history of Hungarian architecture. Outside the castle broods the hooded statue of King Bela IV’s anonymous scribe, to whom we owe much of our knowledge of medieval Hungary. Rent a rowboat or ice skates on the lake next to the castle, or a bike-trolley to navigate the shaded paths. The main road through the park is closed to automobiles on weekends, making the park especially peaceful. (Ml: SzechenyiFiirdS. Park open Apr.-Aug. daily 9am-6pm; Sept.-Mar. 9am-3pm. Pedal boat rentals May-Aug. daily lOam-lOpm. Rowboat rental May-Aug. daily 10am-9:30pm. Ice skate rental 0ct.-Feb. daily 10am-2pm and 48pm.)
HI MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS. A spectacular collection of European art is housed in the magnificent Museum of Fine Arts (Szepmuveszeti Muzeum). These are paintings you’ve never seen in books but should not miss, especially those in the El Greco room. (XIV, Heroes’ Sq. Ml: Hdsok tere. Open Su and Tu-Sa 10am-5:30pm; last entrance 5pm. 500Ft, students 200Ft. Free English tours Tu-F Ham. Camera 300Ft, video 1500Ft.)
NATIONAL MUSEUM. At the National Museum (Nemzeti Muzeum), a well laid-out, extensive exhibition on the second floor chronicles the history of Hungary, extending from the founding of the state through the 20th century. The first floor is reserved for temporary exhibits. (VIII, Muzeum krt. 1416. M3: Kalvin ter. a 338 2122; www.origo.hnm.hu. Open Mar. 15-0ct. 15 Su and Tu-Sa 10am-6pm; Oct. 16-Mar. 14 Su and Tu-Sa 10am-5pm; last admission 30min. before closing. 800Ft, students 400Ft.)
STATUE PARK. After the collapse of Soviet rule, the open-air Statue Park museum (Szoborpark Muzeum) was created from statues removed from Budapest’s parks and squares. The indispensable English guidebook (lOOOFt) explains the statues’ past and present locations. (XXII, on the comer ofBalatoni ut and Szabadkai ut. Take express bus #7 from Keleti pu. to Etele ter and then take the Volin bus from terminal #2 to Diosd (15min. every lOmin.). Open in good weather Mar.-Nov. daily lOam-dusk; Dec.-Feb. weekends and holidays only. 600Ft, students 400Ft.)
MUSEUM OF APPLIED ARTS. (Iparmuveszeti Muzeum). The Art Nouveau building of the Museum of Applied Arts was designed for Hungary’s 1896 millenium celebration. Inside is an eclectic collection of impressive hand-crafted objects, including Tiffany glass and furniture, as well as excellent temporary exhibits highlighting specific crafts. (IX, Ulldi ut 33-37. M3: Ferenc kordt. Open Mar. 15-0ct. Su and Tu-Sa 10am-6pm; Nov.-Mar. 14 Su and Tu-Sa 10am-4pm. 600Ft, students 300Ft.)
BUDA CASTLE. Leveled by the Nazis and later by the Soviets, the reconstructed Buda Castle (see Castle District, 1021) now houses several museums. Wing A contains the Museum of Contemporary Art (Kortars Muveszeti Muzeum), as well as the smaller Ludwig Museum upstairs, which is devoted to Warhol, Lichtenstein, and other masters of modem art. Wings B-D hold the Hungarian National Gallery (Magyar Nemzeti Galeria), a collection of the best in Hungarian painting and sculpture. (Wings A-D open Su and Tu-Sa 10am-6pm, Th open until 8pm. Wing A 800Ft, students 400Ft. Wings B-D 600300Ft.) Artifacts from the 1242 castle are in the Budapest History Museum (Budapesti Torteneti Muzeum) in Wing E. (I, Szent Gydrgy ter 2. Ml-3: Deak t&. Take bus #16 across the Danube to the top of Castle Hill. Wing E open mid-May to mid-Sept. daily lOamSpm; mid-Sept. to Oct. and Mar. to mid-May M and W-Su 10am-6pm; Nov.-Feb. M and W-Su 10am~4pm. 600Ft, students 300Ft.)
BUCK-NAKED IN BUDAPEST
The city’s baths were first built in 1565 by a Turkish ruler who feared that a siege would prevent the population from bathing. Thanks to his anxiety, there’s nothing to keep budget travelers from bathing, either: The range of ser-vices-from mud baths to mas-sage-is cheap enough to warrant indulgence without guilt.
Although first-time bathers may be intimidated at first, guests at Budapest’s baths always receive the royal treatment. Upon arrival, you will probably be handed a bizarre apron no bigger than a dish-rag, which modesty requires that you tie around your waist. In general, women set the apron aside as a towel, while men keep theirs on; bring a bathing suit just in case. Customs vary greatly by establishment, so just do as the locals do-nothing is more conspicuous than a Speedo-clad tourist among naked natives.
Cycle through the sauna and thermal baths a couple times, then enter the massage area. For a good scrubbing, try the sanitary massage (vizi); if you’re a traditionalist, stick to the medical massage (orvosi). Most baths provide a much-needed rest area once the process is complete. Refreshed, smiling, and somewhat sleepy, tip the attendant, lounge over mint tea, and savor your afternoon of guilt-free pampering. (Baths and pools 700-2000Ft, massages 1000-7500Ft.)
Budapest Program, Budapest Panorama, Pesti Est and the essential Budapest in Your Pocket (750Ft) are the best English-language entertainment guides, listing everything from festivals to cinemas to art showings. All are available at most tourist offices and hotels. The Style section of the Budapest Sun (www.budapestsun.com; 300Ft) has a comprehensive 10-day calendar and film reviews. (Tickets 550-1000Ft; cinema schedules change on Th.) Many of the world’s biggest shows pass through Budapest. Prices are reasonable; check the Music Mix 33 Ticket Service, V, Vaci u. 33. (s317 77 36. Open M-F 10am-6pm, Sa lOam-lpm.)
THEATER, MUSIC, AND DANCE. The liState Opera House (Magyar Allami Operahaz), VI, Andrassy ut 22, one of Europe’s leading performance centers, epitomizes the splendor of Budapest’s Golden Age. (Ml: Opera. 332 8197, box office s 353 0170. Tickets 800-8700Ft. Box office open M-Sa llam-7pm, Su
4-7pm; cashier closes at 5pm on non-performance days.) The National Dance Theatre (Nemzeti Tancszm-haz), Szinhaz u. 1-3, hosts a variety of shows modern, alternative, Latin, ballet but the Hungarian folklore is the most popular. (On Castle Hill. fax 201 4407, box office 375 8649; www.nemzetitancsz-inhaz.hu. Most shows 7pm.) Performances in the lovely Varosmajor Open-Air Theater, XII, Varosmajor, include musicals, operas, and ballets. Walk up the big stairs, turn right on Varfok u. and left on Csaba u. then right on Maros u. and left on Szamos u. (Ml: Moszkva ter. 375 5933. Open June 27-Aug. 18. Box office open Su-M and Th-Sa 3-6pm.) For an eclectic line up of music, go to Buda Park Stage, XI, Kosztola-nyi Dezsfi ter. (466 9894. Tickets 90-350Ft. Box office at V, Vorosmarty ter 1. Open M-F llam-6pm.)
THERMAL BATHS. To soak away the city grime, sink into a hot, relaxing thermal bath. First built in 1565, their services from mud baths to massages are quite cheap. Szechenyi, XIV, Allatkerti is a welcoming bath with beautiful pools. (Ml: Hosok ter. Open May-Sept. daily 6am-7pm; Oct.-Apr. M-F 6am-7pm, Sa-Su 6am-5pm. 1700Ft. to enter, 900Ft returned if you leave within 2hr. 600Ft within 3hr. and 300Ft within 4hr.; keep your original receipt. 15min. massage 1200Ft.) Famous Gellert, XI, Kelenhegyi ut 46, one of the most elegant baths, has a rooftop sundeck and an outdoor wave pool. Take bus #7 or tram #47 or 49 to Hotel
Gellert, at the base of Gellert-hegy. (Thermal bath and pool 2000Ft. Pools open daily 6am-7pm, Sa-Su 6am-5pm. 15min. massage 1500Ft. pedicure 1200Ft, foot massage 700Ft. Open M-F 6am-7pm, Sa-Su 6am-5pm.)
All-night outdoor parties, elegant after-hours clubs, the nightly thump and grind Budapest has it all. Pubs and bars bustle until 4am, but the streets themselves are empty and poorly lit. Upscale cafes and restaurants in VI, Ferencz Liszt ter (M2: Oktogon) attract Budapest’s hip youth.
II Undergrass, VI, Ferencz Liszt ter 10. Ml: Oktogon. The hottest spot in Pest’s trendiest area. A soundproof glass door divides a hip bar from a packed disco. Cover F 300Ft, Sa lOOOFt. Open F-Sa 10pm-4am.
Piaf, VI, NagymezS u. 25. A much-loved lounge, and a good place to meet fellow travelers. Knock on the door to await the approval of the club’s matron. Cover 600Ft, includes 1 beer. Open Su-Th 10pm-6am, F-Sa 10pm-7am, but don’t come before lam.
Capella, V, Belgrad rakpart 23 (www.extra.hucapellacafe). With glow-in-the-dark graffiti and an underground atmosphere, this spot draws a mixed gay and straight crowd. Cover 1000-1500Ft. Open Su and Tu-Sa 9pm-5am. The owners also run the three-level Limo Cafe down the street. Open daily noon-5am.
Club Seven, Akacfa u. 7. M2: Blaha Lajos ter. This upscale underground music club is a local favorite and features a casino. Cover for men Sa-Su 2000Ft, women free.
Old Man’s Music Pub, VII, Akacfa u. 13. M2: Blaha Lujza ter. Arrive early for nightly blues and jazz from 9-llpm, then relax in the restaurant (open 3pm-3am) or hit the dance floor (llpm-late). Open M-Sa 3pm-4:30am.
Jazz Garden, V, Veres Paine u. 44a. Although the garden is actually a vaulted cellar with Christmas lights, the effect works well. Beer 420-670Ft. Live jazz daily at 9pm. Open Su-F noon-lam, Sa noon-2am.
Fat Mo’s Speakeasy, V, Nyari Pal u. 11. M3: Kalvin ter. 14 varieties of draft beer (350-750Ft). Live jazz Su-W 9-llpm. W-Sa DJ after midnight. Open M-F noon-2am, Sa noon-4am, Su 6pm-2am.
NIGHTLIFE SCAM. There have been reports of a mafia-organized scam – involving English-speaking Hungarian women who approach foreign men and suggest that they buy her a drink. The bill, accompanied by imposing men, can be US$1000 for a single drink. If he claims not to have money, they conveniently have an ATM inside the bar. The US Embassy (see Embassies, 1015) has advised against patronizing a number of establishments in the Vaci u. area. More importantly, if a women asks you to come to a bar with her in that area, politely refuse, or take her to a bar of your choice-not the one she suggests. Always check drink prices before ordering at places you are not sure about. The names of these establishments change faster than a two-bit hustle. For the most current list of establishments about which complaints have been received, check with the US Embassy in Budapest or view their list on the web at www.usembassy.huconsengannouncements.html. If you are taken in, call the police. You’ll probably still have to pay, but get a receipt to issue a complaint at the Consumer Bureau.
DAYTRIPS FROM BUDAPEST: THE DANUBE BEND
North of Budapest, the Danube sweeps in a dramatic arc called the Danube Bend (Dunakanyar), deservedly one of the most beloved tourist attractions in Hungary.
SZENTENDRE. Narrow cobblestone streets in Szentendre (pop. 23,000) brim with upscale art galleries and pricey restaurants. Head up Church Hill (Templomdomb) in Fo ter, above the town center, for an amazing view from the 13th-century Roman Catholic church. The Czobel Museum, to the left of the church at Templom ter 1, exhibits the work of Bela Czobel, Hungary’s foremost post-impressionist painter, including his bikini-clad Venus of Szentendre. Some English info is provided. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 10am-6pm. 350Ft, students 150Ft.) The popular Margit Kovacs Museum, Vastagh Gyorgy u. 1, off Gorog u. which branches from Fo ter, displays whimsical ceramic sculptures and tiles by the 20th-century Hungarian artist. (Open Mar.-Oct. daily 10am-6pm; Nov. daily 9am-5pm; Dec.-Feb. Su and Tu-Sa 10am-5pm. 550Ft, students 250Ft.) The real thriller at the Szabo Marzipan Museum and Confectionery, Dumtsa Jeno u. 12, is the 80kg white chocolate statue of Michael Jackson. (Open daily 10am-6pm. Desserts 120-1000Ft. 300Ft) The National Wine Museum (Nemzeti Bormuzuem), Bogdanyi u. 10, is a cellar exhibit of wines from all the wine-making regions in Hungary. (Open daily lOam-lOpm. Wine tasting 1500Ft for 8 samples and admission to the exhibition. Exhibition lOOFt.)
HEV commuter trains travel to Szentendre from Budapest’s Batthyany ter (45min. every 10-lBmin. 335Ft). Buses run to: Budapest’s Arpad hid Metro station (30min. every 20-40min. 220Ft); Esztergom (lVihr. 476Ft); and Visegrad (45min. 246Ft). The HEV and bus stations are lOmin. from Fo ter; descend the stairs past the end of the HEV tracks, go through the underpass, and head up Kossuth u. At the fork, bear right onto Dumtsa Jeno u. which leads to the town center. MAHART boats leave from a pier 20min. north of the town center. With the river on the right, walk along the water to the sign. Tourinform, Dumtsa Jeno u. 22, between the town center and the station, has free maps. ( (026) 31 79 65; www.szentendre.hu. Open Mar. 16-Oct. 15 M-F 9am-4:30pm, Sa-Su 10am-2pm; Oct. 16-Mar. 15 M-F 9:30am-4:30pm.) Restaurants are expensive; it’s often cheaper to dine in Budapest or Visegrad. Enjoy a pastry (from 350Ft) and cappuccino (from 350Ft) while being serenaded by the opera-singing owners of llNostalgia Cafe , Bogdanyi u. 2. (Open Su and Th-Sa lOam-lOpm.) Kedvenc Kifozde O, Biikkospart 21, is a tiny diner with incredible food. (Entrees 300-460Ft. Open M-F noon-5pm, Sa noon-3pm.)
VISEGRAD. Host to the royal court in medieval times, Visegrad was devastated when the Habsburgs destroyed its 13th-century citadel in a struggle against the freedom fighters. This former Roman outpost gives a dramatic view of the Danube and surrounding hills. Hike a strenuous 30min. up Kalvaria ut, or take the local bus (10-15min.; 9:30am, 12:30, and 3:30pm; lOOFt). Sprawling across the foothills above Fo ut are the ruins of King Matthias’s Royal Palace (Kiralyi Palota); impressive exhibits inside include a computerized reconstruction of the original castle. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 9am-5pm. 500Ft, students 250Ft.) The palace grounds relive their glory days of parades, jousting, and music during the Visegrad Palace Games ( (026) 209 34 59) in the mid-July. At the end of Sala-montorony u. the King Matthias Museum, inside Solomon’s Tower (Alsovar Sala-mon Torony), displays artifacts from the palace ruins. (Open Apr.-Oct. Su and Tu-Sa 9am-5pm. 460Ft, students 230Ft. Su students free.)
Buses run to Budapest’s Arpad hid Metro station (l’ahr. 30 per day, 421Ft). The tourist office, Visegrad Tours, Rev ut 15, has maps (300Ft) for sale, ( (026) 39 81 60. Open Apr.-Oct. daily 8am-7pm; Nov.-Mar. M-F 10am-4pm.) Pick up the
DAYTRIPS FROM BUDAPEST: THE DANUBE BEND
basics across the street at CBA Elelmiszer supermarket. (Open M 7am-6pm, Tu-F 7am-7pm, Sa 7am-3pm, Su 7am-noon.) Gulas Csarda , Nagy Lajos u. 4, is a cozy family restaurant. (Entrees 950-1990Ft. Open daily noon-lOpm.)
ESZTERGOM. In Esztergom, a millennium of religious history revolves around a solemn hilltop cathedral, whose crypt holds the remains of Hungary’s archbishops. The Ucupola (200Ft) offers the best view of the Danube Bend. The Cathedral Treasury (Kincstav) to the right of the main altar has Hungary’s most extensive collection of ecclesiastical treasures. To the left of the altar is the red marble Bakocz Chapel, a masterwork of Renaissance Tuscan craftsmanship. (Open Mar.-Oct. daily 9am-4pm; Nov.-Dee. M-F llam-3:30pm, Sa-Su 10am-3:30pm. English-language guidebook lOOFt. Cathedral free.)
Trains go to Budapest (lHhr. 22 per day, 436Ft). From the station, turn left on the main street, Baross Gabor ut, and make a right onto Kiss Janos Altabomagy ut, which becomes Kossuth Lajos u. to reach the square. Buses run to Szentendre (l’ahr. 1 per hr. 476Ft) and Visegrad (45min. 1 per hr. 316Ft). From the bus station, walk up Simor Janos u. toward the street market to reach Rakoczi ter. MAHART boats depart from the pier at Gozhajo u. on Primas Sziget Island for: Budapest (4hr.; 3 per day; 1200Ft, students 600Ft.); Szentendre (2%hr.; 1 per hr.; 980Ft, students 490Ft.); and Visegrad (lVfchr.; 1 per hr.; 700Ft, students 350Ft). Grantours, Szechenyi ter 25, at the edge of Rakoczi ter, sells maps (200Ft-500Ft) and arranges accom-modations. ((033) 41 70 52; email@example.com. Open July-Aug. M-F 8am-6pm, Sa 9am-noon; Sept.-June M-F 8am-4pm, Sa 9am-noon.) Csiilok Csarda 0, Batthany lit 9, offers fine Hungarian cuisine. (Entrees 480-1800Ft. Open daily noon-midnight.)
BUDAPEST Photo Gallery
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