Budapest

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 modern-day Budapest results from the amalgamation of two historic cities lying right opposite each other over the Danube river. Buda is the western (left) bank side, with the high hill atop which the Buda castle sits. Pest is the relatively flat eastern (right) bank side, with the Parliament and numerous other stately buildings, as well as busy streets retaining all their 19th century architectural heritage.

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.

Districts

Although Budapest is administratively divided into 23 numbered districts (always written in Roman numerals) it is colloquially often divided into parts, roughly corresponding to the two major cities of Buda and Pest, which it comprises.

Listings of particular points of interests - museums, historic monuments, restaurants, bars, hotels, shopping opportunities and such - can be found in the following articles:

Districts of Budapest
Belbuda (Inner Buda) (District I)
This is the oldest part of the city containing the Castle and some of Budapest's best-known attractions such as Fishermen’s Bastion, the Labyrinth and Mathias Church. All area part of the UNESCO World Heritage List
Óbuda (Old Buda) (District III)
This is in the north, the third, smaller town before the unification and a great place for water sport, archaeology, caving
Hegyvidék (The Mount area) (Districts II and XII)
The greenest part of Budapest. Many hiking, trekking, mountain biking possibility
Újbuda and Tétény (New Buda) (Districts XI and XXII)
The south part has famous wine cellars. The Gellért Hill Nature Preserve Area with citadell and the beautiful Gellért Bath are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Belváros (Inner City) or the 'City' (District V)
This is the other name of Districts V. The highlight of this area is the Parlament, the Saint Stephen (István) Basilica and the Promenad (Corso) with beautiful views of the Danube and to the Castle Hill. All area is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Central Pest (Districts VI-VIII)
Historical districts full of monumental buildings, museums, luxury shops along Andrassy Avenue and the Jewish Quarter are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Most theatres and accommodation are here.
North Pest (Districts IV and XIII.)
Angyalföld is famous about lot of contemporary art galleries, Margaret Island the green oasis in the middle of the City and Újpest with a very few old building, some country town feeling, a good jumping point exploring northern Pest County and the Danube Bend by car, train or bus
East Pest (Districts X. XIV.-XVII.)
Include Rákospalota, Sashalom, Zugló districts. The last one include the Heroes Square with museums of its, the villas of outer Andrassy Avenue and the Városliget (City Park) with a 1:1 copy of a Transylvanian Castle-Palace called Vajdahunyad vára. All these are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
South Pest (Districts IX. and XIX.-XXIII.)
Csepel Island, Ferencváros, Józsefváros, Kispest, Kőbánya, Pesterzsébet

Of course, quarters often offer their own atmosphere due to their history and inhabitants. Roughly speaking, areas near to, especially inside of Nagykörút (Great Boulevard or Ringroad, served by Tram 4 and Tram 6) are considered central, even if some of these are in less than perfect condition and not typically frequented by tourists. In Pest, Kiskörút (Small Boulevard) is traditionally considered as the border of the centre proper, including some highly touristic areas.

The Hungarian national parliament

Informally, quarters are known under their own historical name which are often referred to by the locals. The names are often linked to members of the House of Hapsburg or - in fringe areas - the names of villages or towns which later became part of Budapest. Particularly interesting quarters are Belváros (Inner City) and Lipótváros (Leopold Town), together form the Belváros district (a bit confusing but usually the biggest or oldest quarter gave its name to the entire district), the heart of Pest, including a number of major sights but also beautiful squares and cafés. With the Parliament, a number of ministries and banking houses, Lipótváros is also a major political and business centre of the country. The name refers to the Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I whose coronation to the King of Hungary in 1790 gave rise to the name of the then-new quarter.

Újlipótváros (New Leopold Town) The inner part of the XIII. district (so called Angyalföld), just outside of the Great Boulevard north of Leopold Town with the marvellous Margaret Bridge at its corner, was built between the 1910s and 1930s. It is considered as one of the finest residential areas in Budapest with a relaxed, inviting atmosphere and a number of restaurants, cafés and small shops. It also comprises the Vígszínház (Comedy Theatre) and a few tiny off-mainstream cinemas. The quarter is traditionally home to a population with Jewish background as the activity of people such as Raoul Wallenberg, Giorgio Perlasca, and Carl Lutz was linked to this area (see history).

Terézváros (Theresa Town) VI. district. Among others, it contains Nyugati pu. (Western Railway Station), an architectural sight, and areas neighbouring districts V. and XIII. The then-developing quarter was named after a visit of Habsburg Empress and Queen Maria Theresa in 1777.

Erzsébetváros (Elisabeth Town) VII. District. While parts of it are not yet renovated, it contains the famous Synagogue in the Dohány street. The quarter was split off from Terézváros and asked for permission to be named after the wife of Franz-Josef I, popularly called Sisi, in 1882.

Understand

History

Ancient times

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 confederation of various nomadic nations and tribes inhabiting the Eurasian steppe, and not Magyars, but Attila, the King of the Huns, is considered a national hero and Attila is a common given name in Hungary.

Early Middle Ages

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, the erstwhile Hungarian 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 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.

The 19th-century - formation of Austria-Hungary and 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) the first electric underground railway of the World (now Metro yellow line)- 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.

In this period, the city was a couple world-famous Hungarian inventors residence as the father of the electric locomotive, Kálmán Kandó or inventor of the match, János Irinyi, and two renowned composer Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. There is no other European city which had given so many Hollywood filmmakers in the early 20th century, such as Budapest.

The World Wars

Neither the Habsburg 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 the 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.

From communism to contemporary times

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.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 2.9 5.5 10.6 16.4 21.9 24.6 26.6 26.6 21.6 15.4 7.7 4.0
Nightly lows (°C) 0.4 2.3 6.1 12.0 16.6 19.7 21.5 21.2 16.9 11.8 5.4 1.8
Precipitation (mm) 39 37 38 47 65 70 50 50 43 47 60 50

Winter (November until early March) can be cold and there is little sunshine. Snowfall is fairly frequent in most years, and nighttime temperatures of −15 °C (5 °F) are not uncommon between mid-December and mid-February.

The spring months (March and April) see variable conditions, with a rapid increase in the average temperature. The weather in late March and April is often very agreeable during the day and fresh at night.

Budapest's long summer - lasting from May until mid-September - is warm or very warm. Budapest has as much summer sunshine as many Mediterranean resorts. Sudden heavy showers also occur, particularly in May and June.

The autumn (mid-September until late October) is perhaps the best season for tourists as it has little rain and long sunny days with moderate temperatures. At the end of October the weather often turns abruptly colder.

Quality of life

For those with a reasonable budget, Budapest offers a rather high quality of life. In terms of culture, cuisine and general 'vibe', Budapest is comparable to other major European cities (see dedicated sections), while prices are lower.

It's just as well that prices are lower because local pay is significantly lower than in western Europe (for example, a recent university graduate may earn 150,000-300,000 Hungarian forint after taxes), although the living standards of the local population are somewhat lower, especially for those employed in lower paid jobs (the official minimal wage is around HUF90,000, as of 2012).

A more serious issue is unemployment, especially in the face of the recent economical problems. This is also connected to the rise in the number of homeless people seen in metro stations doorways in both Buda and Pest in recent years. While this does trouble locals who often grew up without seeing explicit homelessness (before '89), this issue usually does not present a safety risk to travellers.

Official Tourism Information

Get in

By plane

Budapest Franz Liszt International Airport (IATA: BUD) (Budapest Liszt Ferenc Nemzetközi Repülőtér pronounced "list-ferents"), formerly (and colloquially still) referred to as Ferihegy, is the country's largest airport, located about 16 km (10 mi) southeast of the city centre.

Budapest Airport is notoriously hard to get in and out of. While a train connection between the city and the terminal has been built, it only served Terminal 1, which is now defunct, and the currently used Terminal 2 is an at least 10 mins drive away, on the very other side of the airport. Public transportation between the city and airport requires changing from bus to rail or metro and takes between 40 mins to an hour. There is a single and long two-lane road connecting the city and Ferihegy, and it unsurprisingly gets congested at peak times, especially on the way to the airport, so bear this in mind and depart for the airport early (at least an hour before the boarding time to make sure you clear security).

The airport’s central telephone number for information is: +36 1 296-9696 or +36 1 296-7000. Luggage services can be contacted on +36 1 296-5449 in connection with flights to and from Terminal 1 and +36 1 296-5965 for Terminal 2.

The SkyCourt waiting area between 2A and 2B

Airport terminals

The airport has only one functional terminal, divided into two parts - Terminal 2A (gates A1-A19), serving Schengen Area destinations, and Terminal 2B (gates B1-B19) serving non-Schengen Area destinations. The number 2 is due to the former Terminal 1 which closed after the Hungarian national carrier, Malév (Hungarian Airlines) was liquidated in early 2011. Both parts are connected by "SkyCourt", a waiting area which combines retail and foodcourt. Gate numbers are only announced 30 minutes prior to boarding time to keep passengers in the SkyCourt, but in practice their allocation seems to be pretty stable. If you don't care for the SkyCourt, there are seats next to the gates as well.

Check-in desks and luggage drop-off points are distributed between 2A and 2B, but do not correspond to the gates, as security controls from both 2A and 2B converge at the SkyCourt from where passengers proceed to their gates. Check-in desks 1-30 are in 2A, and 31-60 are in 2B. The allocation of check-ins between airlines is somewhat random, but fixed, i.e. your airline will always be using the same check-in desk. If you arrive at the wrong entry (e.g. 2A instead of 2B), there is a passage between them with some impressive architecture.

Duty-free stores are operated by Travel Value. Customs authorities in German airports may not allow you to bring duty-free items purchased at the airport in Budapest through Germany. In Terminal 2, Hugo Boss and Swarowski are the only dedicated brand shops. The alcohol-tobacco-sweets assortment shop has a choice of local wines, mainly by Gundel. You can find Caffè Ritazza eateries on Terminal 2A, both in the pre-check-in area and the in the boarding area. Terminal 2B pre-boarding area offers half a dozen cafés.

Wizz Air, now Hungary's largest airline, operates a wide network of low-fare connections from their main base at Liszt Ferenc Airport

Connections

Hungarian low cost airline Wizz Air operates flights between Budapest and more than twenty European cities. Many low cost airlines also operate service to/from Budapest. London Heathrow is connected by a number of flights by American Airlines and British Airways, while discount airlines fly to London Luton, Gatwick and Stansted (2012).

As of 2015, the following low cost airlines operate to and from Budapest:

From the airport by public transit

Train and Metro service are not affected by traffic congestion in the city, but they cannot take you all the way to the Liszt Ferenc (Ferihegy) airport, you need to change to bus line 200E (or take a taxi).

Public transport costs below HUF1,000 one way, somewhat dependent on what you use and where you buy the tickets. Which combination you should chose, depends on whether your destination within Budapest is close to Budapest-Nyugati station or some other stop at Metro line M3.

There is no train station directly at Terminal 2. Trains run between a major Budapest train station, Budapest-Nyugati, and the former Airport Terminal 1 station, 'Ferihegy'. The train trip takes ca. 22min. These are trains coming from outside Budapest, running ca. 5-6 times per hour at irregular intervals.
Dedicated train tickets can be purchased from cashiers or vending machines next to the cashiers in the pedestrian underpass in Nyugati - press the button 'Ferihegy'; normally the machine can give change. At Ferihegy station there is a modern ticket vending machine at the platform towards Budapest. A single full-fare train ticket costs HUF365 for this travel, but local public transport travelcards are also valid; these can be purchased at the BKK Public Transport Customer Service Points at the airport. If you board the train without a ticket, you will pay an additional fine of approx. HUF2,500, so avoid that unless no cashier or vending machine was available at the station. You may want to ask or check (e.g. on elvira.hu) whether the long-distance trains towards Nyugati require a seat reservation (a couple of hundred HUF).
Warning: On the outbound platform there are some Intercity trains with Budapest-Keleti as destination - do not take this to get to Budapest as this is a loop route starting at Budapest-Nyugati and passing through Ferihegy and then through eastern Hungary before terminating at Budapest-Keleti - taking some 5h 45min and costing HUF6,660.
Public transport between Ferihegy train station and Airport Terminals 2A/2B is provided by the local bus 200E, running every 8–15 minutes, with travel time approx 10min. The bus stop towards the Airport is situated directly next to the train station, but you have to pass over a pedestrian bridge with elevators not always working. (Within the bus, this stop is called "Ferihegy vasútállomás" - i.e. train station - in case you want to get off there.) Single bus tickets are available in airport terminals for HUF350 at the BKK Public Transport Customer Service Points, or can be purchased from the driver for HUF450.
Alternatively you can pre-order a taxi by phone to wait in the bus-stop, to get to the airport faster or at night.
The train station at Ferihegy also serves as a connection to a number of other cities: Long-distance trains coming from Budapest Nyugati train station run to destinations such as Szeged, Kecskemét, Debrecen, Miskolc etc. also stop here.
Bus line local bus 200E runs between the Airport Terminals 2A/2B and a metro M3 station, 'Kőbánya-Kispest', a small local transport hub. The bus trip takes ~25 minutes. The bus ticket costs 350HUF, and your metro ride to/from the city centre requires another ticket (another 350HUF). The Metro ride from Kőbánya-Kispest to downtown Budapest (Deák Ferenc tér station) takes another 17-20 minutes.

It's possible to buy a transfer ticket (átszállójegy) for HUF530 which will cover both the metro and the bus, but for unknown reasons these tickets are not sold in the machines. Get a transfer ticket from the BKK kiosk at the airport. (If you are flying out from and then returning to Budapest, consider buying an extra transfer ticket in central Budapest before your departure to use for the return trip.)

Airport transfers by taxi and minibus

WARNING: unless you have pre-ordered a taxi from a different company, do not accept offers from taxi drivers waiting (illegally) inside the terminal or near the exit. Pre-ordering by phone will generally get you a somewhat better price than the Fötaxi rates. However, on your trip into town you might receive a bonus from Főtaxi quoting cheaper fares towards Liszt Ferenc airport (e.g., €16 from Pest) - reserve a car by phone and quote the offer to save some money on your way back to the airport.

By train

Keleti Pályaudvar (East Train Station)

Trains connect Budapest with almost all countries in central and eastern Europe. All trains arrive at Budapest Keleti station, unless stated otherwise.

Tickets from Germany are much cheaper if bought online, at least 3 days in advance.

There is a seasonal sleeper train from Split, departing every Wednesday and Saturday from 11 Jun to 27 Aug.

The train Avala has seasonal sleeper cars from Podgorica and Bar, departing every Monday, Thursday and Sunday from 19 Jun to 19 Sep.

Train stations

Inside the Nyugati station, opened in 1877
The platforms and tracks of Keleti station, built in the 1880s

Train stations in Budapest are not up to Western quality standards; they are hard to access for people with disabilities and their facilities are very limited. Be prepared for long queues at the ticket office. English is rarely spoken except international cash desks. Do not expect luggage trolleys or clean toilets. Food or a coffee purchased at the stations is unlikely to give you a gastronomic buzz; it is also difficult to find a good nearby cafe if you didn't research in advance. Do not accept any offers from taxi drivers waiting around the station entrance. For further information read also Stay safe section.

By bus

Hungary’s national bus network is operated by Volán Association. To get to Budapest from another Hungarian city, bus is often the best option. For services, discounts, schedules and on-line booking possibilities check Hungary#Get around.

International bus routes are operated by Eurolines +36 1 318-2122. Most connections run two or three times a week; connections to/from Austria and Slovakia run daily. Orangeways +36 30 830-9696, offer cheap tickets to and from Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Romania Slovakia, and Slovenia. Incomartour operates a connection to/from Chop in Ukraine four times a week.

Eurobusways offers direct, door to door transfers from/to any place in Central and Eastern Europe

Bus stations

Budapest’s long distance bus stations are located outside the city centre, but are very well connected to the rest of the city. The main stations are:

By boat

Get around

Orientation

The Chain Bridge and a view of Pest

Orientation is not a big problem in Budapest. The river Danube splits the city into two areas: Buda and Pest. Aside from the very centre, the city's structure is quite logical. Landmarks in Buda as the Royal Castle or Citadella Castle also help you to find your way. Besides the Danube itself, the best reference points for orienting yourself are the bridges crossing the river. From North to South, they are:

On foot

Many of Budapest's highlights are easy to approach walking, and in the centre you find more pedestrian zones from year to year. Car drivers tend to respect pedestrians and often give advantage on a cross-walk even if there is no traffic light. Due to the lack of bike lanes, cyclists have to weave around pedestrian traffic; be prepared. Don't wear high-heeled shoes in the downtown as there are lots of stone pavements, especially in the Castle Hill.

Public transport

NOTE: In mid-2008 a new bus and tram numbering system was introduced in Budapest. Various tram and bus lines were given new numbers and many routes were re-established or modified. Don't believe your guide book and map edited before September 2008 or you will inevitably get lost.
NOTE: A number of places (streets, squares, parks) were renamed mid-2011, which resulted in the renaming of a number of stops of public transport. If unsure - inquire! Most people are well aware of the changes and are pleased to help you. Also many schedules were modified, some buses circulate less frequently, while other means of transportations may have their operating time extended. Schedules are shown in every stop unless vandalised.
NOTE: After Metro Line 4 had been opened for public use on 2014 March 28, that part of the bus network and the tram network which connects to the metro stations was significantly modified. The English language webpage of the Centre for Budapest Transport (BKK) notifies visitors that modifications were made, but the details are shown only on the Hungarian version of the website.

You'll find several points of interest within walking distance, but Budapest is a sizeable city, so unless you drive your own car (or bicycle), you will inevitably use some form of public transportation. The good news is that the urban area is well covered by four metro lines, blue urban buses, yellow trams and red trolley-buses, and the whole system is fairly easy to understand. On the other hand, schedules are not quite as reliable as in, say, Vienna, vehicles are not always the cleanest, and tickets have become increasingly expensive.

Citizens of Hungary or other EU, EEA Member States or Switzerland aged 65+ can travel free. ID card or passport is sufficient to justify your age. Centre for Budapest Transport (BKK)

Public transportation in Budapest is run by Centre for Budapest Transport (BKK), which has some useful English-language pages on their site including current schedules and fares. Vehicles run from around 05:00 to 23:30 (or, on Christmas Eve, to 16:00). After that an extensive night bus network is available.

If you only visit Budapest for a few days as a tourist, you may find the following lines particularly useful:

Public transport maps are displayed in all metro stations, downtown tram stops and underpasses. A very useful free app is SmartCity Budapest which provides public transport routes without requiring an internet connection.

Tickets and passes

If you intend to travel a lot (and you probably will), travel cards are far less expensive than single tickets. As of 2013 most useful tickets and travel cards for tourists include the following:

Single ticket

To have a care-free trip throughout Budapest, you should always have a public transport ticket, pass or a Budapest Card, when using this service. The fine was recently raised to HUF8,000-16,000, depending when you pay. You may run into ticket inspectors, especially in trams and buses on Sunday, but mostly they are busy guarding the entrance and exit to some of the metro stations. They hardly speak English and some were reported to be extremely keen on checking tourists. Ticket control inspectors can ask for your ID, however they are indeed not considered peace officers under Hungarian law.

Metro

M2 Keleti Station (Railway station connection)

Budapest's underground network is an excellent way to get around, it connects the suburbs with railway and autobus stations, several centrally located hotels, museums and sights. The system consists of four lines. Line 1, 2 and 3 cross at Deák tér station (Deák square, in Pest centre), while Line 2 and 4 cross at Keleti Pályaudvar (Eastern Railway Station) and Line 3 and 4 cross at Kálvin tér (Kálvin square). Metro lines are well represented on maps scattered on platforms.

Usually ticket inspectors guard the entrances of the downward-moving escalators and they only let those passengers move further who show them their validated tickets or passes. Passengers pass by the ticket validation machines before they reach the guards and the downward-moving escalators. It is best to purchase a discount booklet of 10 tickets. Do not separate the tickets and punch one ticket prior to each boarding of a subway train. Fines for non-compliance are in the 20 to USD30 range.

Tram

In 2006 the world's longest trams started their service on lines 4 and 6

Budapest's 25 tram lines are a tourist-friendly way of getting around. They are slower, but more scenic than the subway and particularly useful on the nearly subway-less Buda side of the river. Be careful with doors, they open on different side of the tram on different stops.

Particularly useful lines for tourists are:

All these are considered a part of the cityscape. Both offer beautiful view of the opposite side.

Bus

Blue urban bus in Pest

Budapest has a dense bus network, which also connects the agglomeration and suburban zones with several metro and train stations and the city center. The numbering system is easy to understand. Numbers below 299 indicate regular bus routes. Numbers with an added 'E' (for example 7E) indicate express services that don't stop at all stops (however, lines without the letter 'E' may not stop at all stops either). Numbers with an added 'A' have shorter routes than their regular counterparts (for example bus 30 has a longer itinerary than 30A). Numbers above 900 indicate night services. (Numbers between 300 and 899 are suburban services provided by Volán company, BKK tickets and most tourist passes are not valid on them.)

Particularly useful lines for tourists include:

Be aware that in September 2008 many lines have been provided with new numbers.

Trolley-bus

Budapest's 13 trolley-bus lines run in Northeast and Central Pest. Unless you are a trolley buff, you're unlikely to use them frequently. However, some of them pass through the City Park (Városliget) and cross Andrássy avenue (Andrássy út), giving you beautiful views while using this eco-friendly mode of transport. Line 70 from Kossuth square (Kossuth tér, next to the Parliament) to City Park (Városliget) also passes through the lively Nagymező utca, Budapest's "Broadway".

Suburban rail

Green suburban railway lines (called hév) connect central Budapest with several suburbs, but most of them are of little use to visitors. Your tickets and travel passes are valid only within the city boundaries, otherwise you should purchase a supplementary ticket (kiegészítő jegy) at a ticket office.

Other

The cogwheel railway entering the terminus Széchenyi hegy

Some other means of public transport can be useful if you get tired of regular buses and trams, or if you want to escape from the hustle and bustle to the lush green hills surrounding Budapest.

Night services

Budapest is covered by 35 night bus lines and tram 6 operating non-stop. Numbers are triple-digit, starting with '9'. Buses run every 15–60 minutes from around 23:00-04:00. The main linking points of the night bus network are Széll Kálmán tér (former Moszkva tér) in Buda and Astoria (junction of Kossuth Lajos utca–Károly körút) in Pest. Daytime tickets and passes are valid.

Most useful night routes are:

On-line maps and schedules are available on BKK's home page. Real time traffic updates are posted on BKK Info There are a few Android/IOS apps for timetables, search for the word "bkk". BpMenetrend is one of them: Android, iOS.

Most night buses require front door only boarding. Security guards or the driver inspects the tickets or passes prior to boarding.

By car

Apart from the summer holiday, Budapest has heavy traffic with long-lasting traffic jams in the morning and in the afternoon. If you don't want to spend your visit to Budapest in a traffic jam, leave your car in the hotel's garage, and use the public transport.

If you drive across downtown, plan your journey, otherwise you can get into tough situations. For example you cannot turn left in most of the crossings of the inner ring road (Nagykörút) or on the main avenues like Andrássy út, Váci út, Üllői út or Rákóczi út.

By taxi

Budapest's taxi drivers mostly are not fluent in English or any other foreign language, but it does not necessarily mean that they intend to overcharge their foreigner guests – use one of the major taxi companies with English speaking switchboards to avoid problems. Most companies' websites now have pages in English.

Do not accept offers from taxi drivers waiting in the airport terminals or railway stations. Use your common sense, sit only in taxis logoed by bigger companies.

If possible, as stupid as it may sound, try to pick a taxi with the meter in a place where the driver can't fiddle with it while driving. While the fare per kilometre stays the same, apparently it's possible to "bump" the price by adding extra basic fees.

Most taxis parked in the central areas do not belong to radio taxi companies and charge much more than the usual HUF200+ per km. Ask about their price in advance or call any of the taxi companies above.

After dark it is often best to negotiate the fare at the beginning of the ride as drivers often charge exorbitant rates to unwary travellers. Be sure to make sure your change is in Hungarian forint or Euros and not in another country's currency. Most taxi drivers only take cash payments but some of the larger taxi companies now equip their cars with POS terminals (allowing you to pay by plastic).

If you would prefer to ride in a luxury taxi, like a Mercedes, they can usually be found at the upmarket hotels. Fares, of course, are higher in these cars but the drivers are more reputable and more likely to speak English or German.

Calling your own taxi will be less expensive than having one booked for you in a hotel; it's also almost always cheaper to call a taxi than to enter a waiting cab or to signal one that drives by you.

By bicycle

Budapest may be one of the most exciting places of Europe, but it's still not a cyclists' paradise. Generally, the city is not prepared for cyclists' presence, although the situation is slowly changing. Budapest has been home to Europe's biggest cycling demonstration, Critical Mass, where in 2008 more than 80 000 people participated.

Bike lanes of varying quality exist but are not universal and don't form a good network. In many places, the bike lane is a part of the pavement, with only a yellow line separating it from the pedestrian zone; in some places (e.g. on the upper quay on the Buda side of the Danube, between the Chain bridge and the Elisabeth bridge) the bike lane and the pedestrian pavement even swap sides with no warning.

In the downtown area (e.g. Andrássy út), expect cars parking on bike lanes, and drivers opening car doors recklessly; on pavements, expect pedestrians wandering into the bike lane.

Many native cyclists regard cycling not as a means of transportation but a form of extreme sport. You can see them zigzagging between pedestrians in bike lanes, ignoring red lights (but, thankfully, not traffic), cycling along one-way streets in the wrong direction, alternating between using the road and the pavement where no cycle lane exists, at speeds of 30 km/h+ (20 mph+). Quite a few cyclists don't have any lights; when cycling after dark, be prepared for surprise encounters.

If, while walking, you hear a shout, be prepared to get out of the way quickly. Many cyclists don't have bells, and pedestrians are not used to bells either; if you're cycling, expect many pedestrians to ignore your bell. Also, beware of pedestrians wandering onto marked bicycle paths, especially in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.

Large parks like the Városliget, the Margaret island and the Hajógyári (a.k.a. Óbudai) island are pleasant for cycling.

Cycling is forbidden on the lower quays on both sides, but the upper quays mostly have bike lanes; however, in many parts pedestrian traffic is so high that cyclists can't make good speed.

Cycling is typically forbidden on most hiking trails of the Buda hills, but mountain bikers tend to ignore this.

If you think you are ready, renting a bike is not a problem, but not cheap. Expect to pay around HUF 2000-3000 for a day.

Budapest has a number of bike rental companies. Some of them are:

By scooter

Although not as fancy as in Rome or Paris, scooters are becoming more common in the streets of Budapest. Inside the city scooters can be driven on the tram and bus ways, often buzzing in between traffic. Although most car drivers are quite used to the scooters around them, some can still be slight irresponsible. Ignore their pushiness and drive conservative and you should not experience any problems. The best roads are the main ring roads as these have plenty of space and good asphalt. The smaller in between roads and roads in hilly Buda can be of lesser quality with some unexpected potholes or tough to see speed bumps.

A limited number of companies offer scooter rental and scooter tours inside the city centre. Expect to pay around HUF6,000 for a day. Some companies that offer scooter rental are:

In Hungary scooters with an engine up to 50cc can be driven without license plate and only a regular car drivers license. However these 50cc scooters cannot be driven with a passenger. Helmets are compulsory. For scooters and motorcycles with an engine size above 50cc a license plate and motorcycle drivers license is required. If you are experienced with driving a scooter, it is a great way to experience the city

By skateboard

Pest is ideal for skateboarding. Sidewalks are wide and smooth without too many pedestrians to avoid. Police won't pay you any attention as long as you are using your skateboard for transport and not trying to do tricks. Longboards are ideal because of their stability and bigger wheels.

See

Individual listings can be found in Budapest's district articles
The Danube River and the leafy hills of Buda

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 Újbuda and Tétény, 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.

St. Stephen's Basilica is named after the first Hungarian king, and it's one of the highest buildings in the city

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

On Belbuda the main highlight is the Royal Palace (Királyi palota), which is the most popular attraction on the hill. It is home to the National Gallery and the Historical Museum of Budapest, with exhibits about medieval Budapest and history of the Royal Palace. To the north you can find the funicular on a big square southestern corner, while in the eastern part are some medieval excavations and castle ruins from 14-17th century. Towards the north, by the Dísz tér corner, is the Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum (Arany Sas Patikamúzeum), with a collection of pharmaceutical objects from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Near there is the Café Ruszwurm, or 'the Heaven for coffein and sweets addicts'. A hundred meters east is a local pride, the Matthias Church (Mátyás Templom), which is a neogothic church crowning Budapest's cityscape, and the 'Fisherman's bastion', (Halászbástya), a lookout terrace with impressive views across the Danube to Pest. In the next building you can find the Marzipan Museum, which is not only a 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 another important 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.

Heroes' Square
Budapest Opera

Eastwards from Downtown (Belváros) the 'Andrássy út' boulevard in Central 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 Ráth György Museum. Also here Southeast Asian Goldmuseum which 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 (Újbuda and Tétény) 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.

Do

Festivals

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

March

July

August

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

Individual listings can be found in Budapest's district articles


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

Caving

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.

Work

Generally speaking, finding a full-time job is fairly difficult unless you speak Hungarian. You should also be prepared that Western standards at job interviews regarding personal life and diversity issues do not always apply. Do not be surprised if you are asked about your smoking habits. Also, companies are not always prepared to fully understand and accept people from diverse backgrounds. You should be prepared that most places won't hire you until you speak at least a little Hungarian. Restaurants with a specific countries cuisine (such as Italian restaurants and pizzerias) tend to hire people from that country for making the food more authentic.

Buy

Money

The Hungarian forint (HUF) is the legal tender. Until 2013 it had relatively high inflation levels, but currently it has an exceptionally low inflation rate.

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).

Paprika and more, Great Market Hall

Many reliable exchange bureaux 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. If you're looking for money exchange in the Keleti station, be sure to check exchange rates at all the three money exchange shops along the platforms; they offer differential prices.

A chocolate shop in Budapest

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 market hall 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).

Eat

Individual listings can be found in Budapest's district articles


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):

From the desserts, you may not want to miss

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.

Vegetarian/Vegan

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 shops, CBA shops, (sometimes Rothschild's shops) as well as the usual European suspects Spar and Tesco Express shops.

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

Cooking Class

The best way to get to know a culture is through it's food! Join a Hungarian host in cooking a Hungarian menu in an authentic Hungarian home. Easy Cooking Budapest offers the perfect program: shopping at a local market, then cooking together in a small group at an apartment, while tasting some wine and Pálinka. www.easycookingbudapest.com

Kosher

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.

Drink

Individual listings can be found in Budapest's district articles

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).

Sleep

Individual listings can be found in Budapest's district articles

Budapest offers a wide range of accommodation in all price classes from the hostels which start at €7 per night, to small cheap pension, to the luxurious 5-star hotels, although the costs of staying here are notably higher than elsewhere in Hungary.

Arriving trains are often met by touts offering free rides to hostels, as well as little old grannies offering their apartments for rent. Try to figure out exactly where you're going before you choose - or, better yet, visit any of the many travel agencies to browse the many options in a more comfortable environment.

The most expensive digs are on or near Castle Hill, dozens of reliable backpacker hostels are mostly across the river in Pest. However, Buda has better air quality due to the closeness of the hills and the forests lying to the west from the city.

Apartments may be a cheap alternative for those making extended stays.

Learn

Budapest's universities are sufficiently well-regarded and draw exchange students from near and far. There are a number of universities and other tertiary institutions in Budapests. Many of them offer degrees or courses in English, German, or French. Particularly popular, even though not cheap, are the medical university courses offered in German and English.

Stay safe

Váci utca – dos and don'ts

This narrow street begins at Fővám square (Fővám tér) in front of Central Market (Nagyvásárcsarnok) and ends at Vörösmarty square (Vörösmarty tér). Supposedly being one of the main tourist attractions of the city, Váci Street is visited by all the tourists arriving to Budapest. Enjoy this lively place, shop in its fashion stores, buy Hungarian and foreign literature in its great bookshop, eat in the American fast food restaurants if you intend to, but avoid being victimized by its many tourist traps and scams:

  • Avoid its eateries and bars, mainly between Vörösmarty sq and Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd). Most of them offer mediocre food at exorbitant prices.
  • Whatever restaurant you go, always see the prices on the menu. Every restaurant is obliged to put its full menu with prices outside the restaurant. If you can't find this, the place is most likely to be very expensive.
  • Never enter its erotic/topless bars. It would cost a hundred times more than you can imagine in your worst dreams and you will have to pay anyway.
  • Don't try to pick up girls. There are many great places to meet Hungarian women, but Váci Street is not one of them.
  • Change money only in exchange offices. Though not as frequent as it used to be ten years ago, Váci Street still has street money changers waiting for you. Don't use their service.

See details in Tourist traps section below.

As a general rule, you find better quality and prices outside Váci utca.

Crime

Budapest is potentially one of the safest cities in the world for its size. There are no slums or districts you should avoid, particularly not in the touristy areas or nearby. As a traveller, you should take only normal precautions: don't show off your money and don't wear flashy jewellery. Magyars tend to be friendly with foreigners; racism or xenophobia against tourists is practically unknown.

As in most other big cities, pickpocketing is the most common crime against tourists. The rate of picked pockets is relatively low by Western European and U.S. standards, and you're unlikely to have any problem if you follow some basic rules you wouldn't forget in Paris, Brussels or Vienna. The most important rules are that you never wear a backpack or purse on your back in public transportation or other places with a lot of people, and make sure that you have your wallet in one of your front pockets.

Younger Hungarian policemen mostly speak some basic English. Tourists have no reason to be afraid of them unless they break the law.

During the peak tourist season, police patrolling major tourist areas are accompanied by bilingual or multi-lingual students who assist with problems or complaints. Police have also opened a 24/7 TourInform office in one of Budapest's busiest areas. It is located at Sütő Street 2, District V, and they are able to receive complaints and render assistance in English and German.

By night

Budapest's Chain Bridge and Castle Hill at night

Mostly there's no reason to have concerns about Budapest by night. In practice, the whole city, including all the touristy areas, Pest within the inner ring road (the line of Szent István körút–Teréz körút–Erzsébet körút–József körút–Ferenc körút, popularly known as Nagykörút), and Buda are safe even before dawn. Most locals avoid walking alone by night in outer zones of districts 8th and 9th in Pest, as these are shady, though not particularly dangerous areas. Areas in 8th district behind Népszinház utca - József körút can be a bit risky, although the district is CCTV monitored by the police. If you don't have special thing to do there, try not to have a walk at night at Lujza, Dankó, Magdolna Streets and their surroundings: also, it's not a very attractive area. Népszinház utca itself is not a very nice place after dark but usually not risky.

Some big panel areas on the outskirts of the city (parts of Újpest and Kőbánya, residential areas unknown by tourists) also not the best places to have a walk without knowing where to go. The area around Keleti pályaudvar is also not very friendly, but usually nothing happens. Avoid homeless people asking for money or selling something in the big underpasses. The subway at Nyugati tér collects different types of people; it is generally not risky because of heavy traffic day and night, but try not to look very "lost" there.

Beautiful during the day, bigger public parks like Városliget, are better avoided at night. Don't take a healthy walk at Népliget after dark. The famous 'chill-out' place at Római part (3th district) can be deserted especially after 1AM and in the winter season, although it's usually safe. Don't go to the dark paths alone around Citadella at night.

Night buses and the tram no.6 passing through the city centre can be very crowded at peak socialising times on Friday and Saturday nights. You may come across aggressive drunk youngsters on the vehicles or at the stops. Keep a low profile or avoid the public transportation system on weekend nights. Major night lines are now guarded by security staff.

Tourist traps

Like in several cities of the world, in Budapest the major scams for the inexperienced visitor are taxis and restaurants. Much of the following would apply to a number of highly touristed cities in Europe.

In the past the airport taxis used to be a traveller's nightmare. Now is getting better: Főtaxi - contracted partner of the airport - is so far reported to be reliable and works according to advertised prices; for details read the Airport transfer chapter. Főtaxi has a stand outside the terminal building, enjoying the exclusive right to wait there, though other companies can come to pick up passengers if called by phone. Sometimes scam taxi drivers will still solicit services inside the terminal to take you for a ride with a very hungry meter. Fixed price information on the internet.

Alternatives to Főtaxi include calling another trusted cab firm (saving €5-10), or to use the Airport Minibus service. Airport Minibus has a booth inside the terminal and they will allocate you to a minibus with several other travellers who are going to the same area of town. Depending on how lucky you are, yours may be the first destination or the last. However, it is only cheaper than a taxi if you are travelling alone. If you travel the from the city to the airport, pre-order your taxi on the chosen company's phone number or call for the Airport Minibus. The Airport Minibus is reasonably priced, reliable and an efficient way to get to the airport.

Unfortunately, the situation around railway and bus stations is still not regulated. The worst is probably Keleti Pályaudvar: never trust drivers hanging around the arrival side; rather, order a taxi by phone (Some cars display their company's number). If that's not possible, take only taxis with a logo of the bigger companies, and with a proper sign on the roof and taxi licence plate. As a general rule, make sure the taximeter is on (and not set to the special "extortionate rate for unwary tourists") or agree the price with the driver beforehand. Many cases have been reported in which taxi drivers have extorted hundreds of Euros from unwary visitors. Smaller crimes include being given change in worthless, obsolete Romanian or other currency, which is not instantly recognizable by tourists as non-Hungarian currency. Other drivers take a longer route, which means a higher price, if you don't have an agreed price. If you have an agreed price, you can be sure to arrive to your destination in the shortest route possible. A typical taxi drive within the central zones should be in the range of HUF1,200-3,000 (ca. €4-10) as of early 2014.

Similar abuses have also happened in restaurants and bars, almost all of them in the vicinity of Váci utca in the touristy heart of Pest. You should avoid the eateries and bars of the zone. However, these are not typical, the majority of restaurants and pubs in Budapest are reliable. In Hungary it's compulsory to put the menu card outside the entrance; if it's not the case, don't enter. A good strategy is to eat and drink where locals do.

Don't take any tip on the streets, especially if the person is apparently a gift from heaven and is being very, very nice to you.

Don't befriend the girls hanging around Váci utca, and never accept any invitation for a drink from them: you can be sure that they will lead you to fake Champagne, but you will be left only with the bill, and it's unlikely that a small conversation with them will be worth the hundreds of euros. You'll find the same sort of girls in erotic and topless bars; avoid them unless you're ready to pay your monthly salary for a glass of wine. Currently the standard trick is to produce a menu with small print at the bottom stating that the first drink costs HUF15,000 and consumption is compulsory. This modified menu might be produced only when the bill is presented. Most of the erotic bars in Budapest are tourist traps. As of December 2009, this scam was still happening on a daily basis.

A common scam is for attractive women to walk up to men and ask for directions to a particular bar. If you respond "I don't know", they will ask you if you have a map and say "let's go together" they commonly tell you a story such as "I just got in from Bratislava and am just looking for a good place to get a drink..."

The most popular scam involves a blond girl and a shorter girl with dark hair. They always act together and ask for a cigarette or the time. Next, they invite single men for a drink, in a bar at Váci utca only accessible by an elevator from the street. Once there, each drink costs around €50, but you only find that out at the end when you receive the €500 bill. So never go to the elevator bar (Városközpont) at Váci utca.

Travellers are cautioned to avoid any establishment offering "adult" entertainment. A common scam in these places is for an attractive woman to join you at your table and ask for a drink. The problem is that her drink will cost €250 or something similar. You will not be allowed to leave until you pay. If you threaten to call the police you will probably be informed that the bouncer is an off duty police officer.

The US Embassy maintains a list of blacklisted erotic-clubs and restaurants.

Money conversion: Like in other places, even if a restaurant or bar accepts euros, it's better to have forints since their conversion rate is usually way worse than the rate at exchange offices. It is better to avoid exchange offices inside airports and railway stations, those in the centre of the city offer a much better exchange rate.

If you see people gambling on the streets, usually in popular tourists' destinations like Buda Castle, stay away! The modus operandi usually involves a guy playing the classic game of "hiding the ball". This involves covering the ball (or small trinket) with either a bottle cap or a match box and swirling it around with two other bottle caps asking people to guess the position of the ball. The game is set in a way that you can easily see the ball's position. This is done to lure the unsuspecting person into placing a wager. There are usually two main players and, between them, they will lose and win money back and forth to give the appearance that it is a fair game: do not be tricked! They are from the same gang. Once you get greedy and get lured in, you will surely lose your money! The person in control of the bottle caps will remove the ball from their position through sleight of hand and you will never see your money back. Besides the two or three other players involved, there are usually at least two lookouts: one on each side of 'stage'.

On the other hand, Hungarian people are usually friendly, welcoming and interested towards foreigners, and nothing should happen to you unless you put yourself in harm's way. If you don't care about them they don't care about you, and nothing should get in your way of having a great holiday.

Stay healthy

Connect

Phone

Mobile phones work in the metro, even in tunnels between stations.

Some phone booths take coins (including € coins), but others only take pre-paid cards. The posted number for credit card calls will lead to unexpectedly high charges (USD1 for a one minute call to the US) and is to be avoided. Unfortunately, you cannot trust T-mobile to charge reasonable prices on their pay phones. You can make international calls from callshops and internet cafés at more reasonable prices.

Internet

Wi-Fi

Budapest is one of the most Wi-Fi enabled cities in Europe. You can find hundreds of free Wi-Fi hotspots all over the city - in cafes, restaurants, shopping malls and hotels, or even parks or busy streets.

In VII district (Erzsébetváros), which is surrounded by Károly körút, Király utca and Rákóczi út, free Wi-Fi is provided by the government all over the district - in the cafes, shops, in the streets.

However, there are still some hotels and restaurants using offering paid Wi-Fi usage, including the following:

Internet Cafes

There are many internet cafes throughout the city. Prices average HUF200/hour.

Cope

Embassies

The Consular Service site maintains a complete searchable database of Honorary Consuls in Hungary.

Go next

Day Tours

Royal Palace of Gödöllő
The "Limes Sarmatiae", "Devil's Dyke" or "Devil's Ditch" in eastern Pannonian plain, a group of lines of Roman fortifications done by Constantine I
Rám Cleft near Visegrád

All Pest County's places and many more option can read: Central Hungary.

Further away

Routes through Budapest

Mosonmagyaróvár Győr  W  E  END
Vác  N  S  END
END  W  E  Gyöngyös Debrecen
END  N  S  Kecskemét Szeged
END  N  S  Szekszárd Pécs
Siófok Székesfehérvár  W  E  END


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.