Orientation is not a big problem in Budapest. The river Danube splits the city into two areas: Buda and Pest. Aside from the very center, 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:
- Árpád Bridge(Árpád híd), A modern bridge linking to Northern Margaret Island. The longest bridge in Budapest at 973 meters. It was inaugurated in 1950 where already the Romans erected a bridge to connect Acquincum with another settlement on the Pest side.
- Margaret Bridge(Margit híd), Easily identified thanks to its distinctive shape: it makes an approximately 35 degree turn half way across, at the southern tip of Margaret Island. Trams 4 and 6 cross the Danube here. This bridge was built in 1901 and then destroyed during the war by an explosion. It was rebuilt in 1948. It is located at the north of the city center.
- Chain Bridge(Széchenyi lánchíd), Completed in 1849, the oldest, arguably most beautiful and certainly the most photographed of Budapest’s bridges, floodlit at night. It was the first permanent bridge across the Danube. At the time of its construction it was the second-largest suspension bridge throughout the world. Four stone lions taken their place at the edge of the bridge in 1852. They fortunately survived from the air raids of the World War II.
- Elisabeth Bridge(Erzsébet híd), Completed in 1903. Its original chain structure was destroyed in World War II, and was eventually substituted by a modern cable bridge opened in 1964. This bridge in liberty style was dedicated to the murdered Queen in 1898. It is the third newest bridge of the city.
- Liberty Bridge(Szabadság híd), Elegant but simple, opened in 1896; it connects the Gellért Baths (Gellért fürdő) in Buda with the Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) in Pest. Recently renovated. This bridge was rebuilt in Art nouveau style in the occasion of the Hungarian millenary festivities of 1989.
- Petőfi Bridge(Petőfi híd), For a long time the southernmost bridge, it links the inner ring road (Nagykörút) of Pest with Buda. It was built during the 30s, destroyed by an explosion in the World War II and then rebuilt in 1952.
- Rákóczi Bridge(Rákóczi híd), The newest bridge in Budapest, with modern architecture and a spectacular lighting system where mirrors reflect the beam of the upward facing floodlights. Built very next to a railway bridge on its southern side. Originally called Lágymányosi Bridge, it was built between 1992 and 1995, initially destined to smoothen the augmented traffic flow during the 1996 expo that finally never took place in Budapest. It is the second newest bridge of Budapest as of 2013.
Many of Budapest’s highlights are easy to approach walking, and in the center 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.
Individual listings can be found in Budapest’s district articles
Most of Budapest’s famous sights are concentrated on Castle Hill on the Buda side, in downtown Pest and along the riverside walkways.
The main sights on Castle Hill are:
- TheRoyal Palace (Királyi palota). The most popular attraction on the hill. The first known buildings here where the Royal Palace stands today, were built by Charles Robert’s eldest son, Stephan Duke of Anjou (1308-1342). It was later remodeled, but the reign of King Matthias brought about the golden age of Buda (1458-1490). Legend has it that when a Turkish ambassador came to Buda, he saw all the wealth and grandeur, forgot his greeting speech and all he could say was „The emperor sends his respects.” After several remodelings, the unique building we see today is the recreation of Alajos Hauszmann and Miklós Ybl’s1896 millennial designs. During its history the Royal Palace was destroyed and rebuilt at least 6 times. It hosted rulings but also invaders such as the Turks. Today the Palace is converted into some museums. It hosts the National Gallery. The entrance to the area is free. You can either walk or take the (expensive) funicular up, but walking will get you up MUCH faster.
- National Gallery(Nemzeti Galéria). Inside the Royal Palace wings B, C and D houses an astounding collection of paintings.
- TheFisherman’s Bastion and lookout terrace (Halászbástya). For impressive views across the Danube to Pest. This neo-Gothic construction was built in 1905 by the architect Frigyes Schulek. It is composed by seven towers that are symbolizing the seven magyar clans’ leaders that came in the Carpathian Basin at the end of the IX century.
- Matthias Church(Mátyás templom, aka Church of Our Lady). Dominant neogothic church crowning Budapest’s cityscape – nowadays is under reconstruction. The church praises a wonderful and unusual roof made of coloured shingles and elegant pinnacles. The interior worth a visit because of the frescoes and the artistic glass walls.
- Lions’ Courtyard
The courtyard got its name from the four stone lions that guard its gate. The two formidable lions at the gate try to deter one from entering, while the two on the inside roar furiously at those who dare walk past the gates. They where created by sculptor János Fadrusz in 1902. As we walk past the gate lighter stripes in the grey cube veneer show the excavated, the re-buried remains of the medieval palace walls. The 4300 m² courtyard is bordered by the building complex containing the Hungarian National Museum, the Budapest Museum of History and the National Széchenyi Library.
- Hunyadi Garden
The Hunyadi Garden was a market place during the reign of Sigismund of Luxemburg. The group of bronze statues known as the Mátyás Fountain is the work of Alajos Stróbl from 1904. The work features Matthias Corvinus in the company of his henchman, his hunter, his Italian chronicler and his hunting dogs. On the left side is Szép Ilonka, a young woman from a humble background, who knowing nothing about Matthias’s status falls in love with the king during a hunt. The busy fountain is a popular rest stop for tourists. This is Budapest’s answer to the Trevi Fountain in Rome: visitors wishing to return to the city toss shiny coins into the fountain, of which thousands shimmer under the water.
- Savoyai Terrace
One of the most representative areas of the Buda Castle, the Savoyai Terrace boasts the best view of the city. Standing on this spacious square we can see the graceful Danube dividing the two sides of the city, the limestone walls of the Parliament, the Gellért Hill, our capital’s bridges, the Monument of Liberty, and on a clear day you can see the sites of Pest. The Terrace is in front of the Hungarian National Museum and on it you will find the neo-baroque bronze statue of Austrian Prince Eugene of Savoy military strategist made by the sculptor József Róna which has been there since the beginning of the 1900s. Eugene of Savoy is an important figure in Hungarian History because he was the general who irrevocably freed Hungary from the Turkish occupation.
Other museums on the Castle Hill:
- The Historical Museum of Budapest. Exhibition of medieval Budapest and history of the Royal Palace.
- The Music Museum. Includes a collection of musical instruments and the Bartok archive.
- The Military Museum. Uniforms, weapons, maps and other Hungary-related military objects from 11th century until nowadays.
- Marzipan Museum.
- Pharmacy Museum. Collection of pharmaceutical objects from the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
- Museum of Medieval Judaism. Presents the medieval Jewish objects of Buda.
The Danube Bridges, especially the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) are really attractive and make it worthy to promenade along the river bank. Lánchíd (pronounced “laance heed”) means chain bridge and the suspension structure of the bridge is made of chains whose links are huge dog-bone shaped metal bars linked by pins at their ends. Make sure you stop by after dark to take a picture as the bridge is beautifully light up.
You can have a superb glimpse over the bridges from the Citadella on the top of Buda’s Gellert Hill (Gellérthegy).
Riding a boat is ideal as you can enjoy both riverbanks at the same time. For romantic views of the city, go at night.
Margaret Island (Margitsziget) and its large parks (see Buda) are a very pleasant place to relax and wander. Perfect for a sunny afternoon. The island can be reach by both side (Buda and Pest) by the Margaret Bridge that has a curious shape because it is connecting with the island with a 30° angle.
Downtown (Belváros) of Pest is the administrative and business centre of Budapest and the whole of Hungary. The main sights here are:
- TheParliament Building (Országház). A neogothic jewel, beautifully situated overlooking the Danube. It is very much worth going inside, but you can only do that during guided tours, which are 2000 HUF for inhabitants of European Union and 4000 HUF for others (ignore those trying to pick you up outside the Parliament). Tickets for guided tours can be obtained each day from 8AM. It is recommended to do it in advance because the tickets can be sold out quickly in the morning. You will have to go in front of the Parliament and queue at the ticket line. Again, ignore those that ask you if you want a guided tour. Just pick up your ticket inside and come back at the hour on the ticket. You can also buy in advance in the internet. Guided tours in English are held each day at different times. There are no tours during Parliamentary sessions (which are normally on Mondays and Tuesdays, sometimes on Wednesdays too). The Parliament is the biggest building in Hungary with its 268 meters . During your guided visit you will see the crown of Saint Stephen that is kept inside the gorgeous dome room.
- Stephen’s Basilica(Szent István Bazilika). The main church of Budapest is an important example of neoclassical architecture, recently renovated. The mummified right hand of Hungary first king, St Stephen is kept in the chapel. The 96 meter high dome can be seen from anywhere in the city and inside is decorated with mosaics. It is possible to climb over the dome and have a marvellous view of the cityscape.
- Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum(Dohány utcai Zsinagóga) Budapest was home to one of the largest Jewish community in Europe before the war. The Dohány street Synagogue, opened 1859, is the largest and certainly among the most beautiful ones in Europe, recently restored to its former grandeur. Next to the Synagogue is a small but impressive museum. In the rear of the Synagogue is a memorial for victims of the Shoah. A block away you’ll find a smaller, but nearly identical synagogue built long before the Great Synagogue. The plaque in front explains that this was used as an assembly ground for those persecuted during the Holocaust before they were deported. It has not been renovated, and you can see through the boards on the outside how decrepit it still is – a chilling sight. Arrive early as it is closed after 4pm.
- Jewish Quarter and Jewish Heritage Walking Tours in Budapest
The old Jewish Quarter of Budapest is the neighborhood bordered by Károly Boulevard, Erzsébet Boulevard, Király Street and Rákóczi Road. Several guided and non-guided tours are available for exploring this historic area of Budapest.
The main sites include:
The Tree of Life
The Temple of Heroes
Carl Lutz Memorial
Kazinczy Street Synagogue
- Shoes on the Danube
The memorial honors the memory of the victims who were shot into the icy Danube by the Arrow Cross army. The 60 pairs of cast iron shoes faithfully represent the attire of that age. There is a 40 meters long, 70 centimeter tall stone pew behind the shoes attached to the stone of the bank edge. This particular monument was made by Gyula Pauer in 2006 and it is placed just to the south of the Parliament building, on the Danube bank.
Eötvös Loránd University (Faculty of Humanities) is on Múzeum körút, opposite Hotel Astoria, and between the National Museum and a modern office block. It was founded in 1635 by Péter Pázmány, Cardinal Archbishop of Esztergom. The university is one of Hungary’s most widely recognized institutions of higher education. The campus of the Faculty of Humanities is situated among historic walls, and is attended by nearly 8,000 students and a vibrant international student community from all over the world. The former library and study of Loránd Eötvös, the famous Hungarian physicist and eponymous founder the university, had his library and study in Building “D”, but several other hidden treasures can be found at the Faculty. 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.
Museums in at the city centre:
- Museum of Ethnography.
- National Museum.
- Museum of Applied Arts.
- Natural History MuseumMainly minerals at display.
- Ludwig Museum of Modern Art.
- Holocaust Memorial Centre.
- Museum of Transport.
- Jewish Museumat the main synagogue.
- Bible Museum.
The Andrássy út boulevard in Pest stretches from Downtown (Belváros) to the City Park (Városliget). It is a 2.5 km long tree-lined avenue. It is listed on UNESCO World Heritage List and has some important sights along it, including:
- TheState Opera House This is one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. It was built in Renaissance style and it is also praised for its acoustic, one of the three best in Europe. The main staircase was an important element of the building in the 19th century for ladies to show off their new gowns. It was commissioned by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Joseph, to the architect Miklós Ybl.
- TheHouse of Terror (Terror Háza). Housed in the secret police headquarters of the communist era, this museum objectively documents the terror of the Nazi and Communist eras. Visiting is hard work, but essential for anyone wishing to understand Hungary’s recent past. Entrance 2000HUF.
- TheHopp Museum of East Asian Art. Collection of 20,000 pieces from China, Japan, India, Nepal, Tibet and Mongolia. Nearby is another similar collection, namely Gyorgy Museum.
- Ernst Museum. Contemporary Hungarian art.
- The Central Market Hall– this market is one of the most visited tourist attractions. It is placed in the city center just at the end of Váci Utca (do not confuse it with Váci ut which is a completely different street!). It is the largest and oldest covered market of the city. This is the right place to buy an Hungarian souvenir or to eat traditional food. Closed on Sundays.
- TheCity 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:
- Heroes’ square(Hősök tere) – with the Millennium Monument.
- Museum of Fine Arts(Szépművészeti Múzeum) has an incredible range of European artwork from Greek and Roman times to the present. Especially valuable is its collection of Spanish Baroque painting.
- Zelnik Istvan Southeast Asian Goldmuseum(Aranymúzeum) has the leading collection in Europe of southeast asian gold artifacts from the 1st millenia BC
- Vajdahunyad Várais a castle on a little island on a lake 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.
- Olof palme házis an elegant building in North italian renaissance style was erected in 1884 by the architect Pfaff Ferenc. The central wall of the building is finely decorated with some portraits of the most important italian renaissance artists: Michelangelo, Raffaello and Leonardo da Vinci.
On Buda side there are:
- Aquincumwas a city in the Roman times, its remains are turned into a great open-air museum. It’s situated in the Óbuda district of northern Buda. There are some ruins of thermal baths, made by stones and decorated with mosaics and paintings. Visiting these places was social events for Romans. Don’t miss the Aquincum museum in which it is possible to admire many finds, paintings, reconstruction of houses and a reproduction of the hydraulic system of the time. Aquincum is the biggest and the most important roman ruin in Hungary.
- The Gellért hill cave– The hill hosts a huge cave network, inside a cave is located a rock Church in which the monks of the Pauline Order are still celebrating. The plans of the Church were made by the Hungarian architect and professor Kálman Lux taking on example a similar rock construction located in Lourdes (France). In front of the entrance, on a panoramic terrace, is placed an equestrian statue of Saint Stephen.
- Gül Baba Türbéjeis the shrine where Gül Baba (literally Rose Father, from whom the Rózsadomb (Rose Hill) was named) lies.Offers a nice view and the little street which leads down the hill from there contains more houses that won the “House of the Year” award.
- Kassák Museumat the Zichy Castle shows works of the modern Hungarian artists as well as modern Hungarian art.
- Kiscelli Museum – The Budapest Picture Gallery.
- Memento Park– The open-air museum is located in South Buda. Driving takes 20 minutes, taking public transport 50 minutes to reach the spot. Main part of Memento Park is the typically Central European, yet universally unique collection of former public statues, which used to be stationed in the city’s public domains in accordance with the guidelines and the requests of the Socialist culture-politics and ideological system. In addition there is an exhibition of the 1956 revolution and 1989-90 political changes, a film showing about the political secret service, an old Trabant car to get in, and a phone-box where visitors can “call” former party leaders.
- Victor Vasarely Museumshows many works of the famous Hungarian-born post-modern painter Vásárhelyi Győző (1908-1997).
Music related Museums: Music lovers, beware that all four museums are closed in August.
- Kodály Museum.
- Liszt Museum. Home of Ferenc Liszt, most famous Hungarian composer. Collection of his personal objects and instruments can be visited.
- Bartók’s House.
- The Music Museum. Includes a collection of musical instruments and the Bartok archive.
- Fashion Museum.
- MEOBudapest’s art fair.
- House of the Future.
There are several travel agencies, tour operators offering city tours or walking tours, if you don’t have much time, you can use one of them and you can visit the main sights within 3 – 4 hours.
- The simplest (and perhaps best) of all: get a map, circle the things you want to see, divide up your time andstroll around in the city. Spend time in charming cafés or restaurants (preferably not right at the main tourist sights), look at the market stands, walk on a bridge in the evening. The lively atmosphere of this jewel of a city both by day and by night cannot be experienced via guided tours, locked into a tourist bus/boat. Locals are usually happy to help, also to tell you what they think is best to see – and what is better to stay away from, or for a little chat just to keep up their English (or German). Don’t hesitate to ask questions!
- Do it on a bike! (Rents are around 1800 HUF for half a day.) On a bike, you can ride out of the city, too. Szentendre is a 2 hours ride from the center and you get to see nice places, much of the way is at the Danube. If you prefer more organised ways, a guided bike tour gets you some exercise and introduces you to the local geography. For example, staff at Buda Bike [underground garage at the plaza in front of St. Stephan’s Basilica] are very friendly. They also rent bikes.
- Walk in the City park (Városliget) with your children. Walk around the lake and feed the ducks. See the statue of Anonymus at the Vajdahunyad Castle, a fairy-tale-like building. Széchenyi Spa, right next to the lake, is also enjoyable for kids (see also the Baths section).
- In the winter, the same lake is transformed into the largeice-skating ring with an astonishing view during winter. It is a popular place for kids, teens and young tweens.
- The nearbyCircus (Fövárosi Nagycirkusz – Great Circus of the Capital) offers performances with international artists. (The program can be seen here in Hungarian)
- Next to it, theBudapest Zoo – one of the oldest in the world – offers more than 800 animals to be seen in a historic atmosphere.
- A few steps away, theAmusement park (Vidámpark) offers a great day for kids or the young-at heart.
- Buda Hill Labyrinth. The Labyrinths are accessible by two points on the Buda hills. The caves were formed from hot water springs and then during WW2, they were linked with some of the cellars on the hill to create an air raid shelter for up to 10,000 people and a military hospital. The labyrinth is now a popular tourist attraction- This attraction is now closed.
- Experience anopera at Budapest’s beautiful State Opera House or a performance of forklore or classical music at any of Budapest’s many concert halls (s. details under Performing arts).
Budapest offers a multitude of fairs and festivals. A few of them are
- Budapest Spring FestivalA dazzling variety of cultural events mainly revolving around classical music and performing arts – including folklore.
- Jewish Summer FestivalAnother array of cultural and music events, with a Jewish touch.
- SzigetFestival on Óbudai Sziget (Óbuda Island) An institution attracting rock fans, world music hippies and the usual festival crowd every year in august. It has become one of the best-known festivals in Europe, offering a multitude of cultural, culinary and musical events. Day tickets cost €45 and festival passes, including camping privileges cost €200 if purchased before a certain date (in april or may) and €230 thereafter. Festival passes without camping privileges cost €30 less. Sleeping in a tent under the open sky instead of a hotel room gives the complete festival feeling. (Safe boxes are available for valuable personal belongings).
Performing arts – Classical music
Apart from a renowned music scene, Hungary has a surprisingly rich theatre and art scene and, not surprisingly, Budapest is the epicenter of it. 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 theaters’ official booking engine for a small (10% + HUF 50) booking fee:
- Hungarian State Opera House,Magyar Állami Operaház, 1061 Andrássy út 22, metro 1 station Opera, tickets HUF 300-10,900. One of Europe’s architecturally most breathtaking opera house’s company performs traditional opera and ballet. The quality of its huge repertoire is not always up to international standards, but if you don’t expect too much, you will spend a decent night here. Cheaper tickets offering reduced visibility are a good deal if you don’t want to pay HUF 2500 for the official guided tour to the building. The company also performs at Theatre Thália, (Thália Színház 1065 Nagymező u. 22-24, metro 1, tram 4, tram 6 station/stop Oktogon, tickets HUF 2900-4900), while Theatre Erkel, the Opera’s chamber theater is closed due to reconstruction.
- Palace of Arts,Művészetek Palotája, 1095 Komor Marcell utca 1, tram 2 stop Millenniumi Kulturális Központ, tickets HUF 700-9,800, standing tickets for students are available for HUF 200 one hour before every show, (be sure that your student card is valid, otherwise you won’t get in). This modern, power plant-looking building hides an excellent modern art museum, a festival theatre and the marvellous Béla Bartók National Concert Hall (Bartók Béla Nemzeti Hangversenyterem), which offer great concerts from classical, jazz and world music to Hungarian and international pop, special children programmes and the best opera performances in Central Europe. The annual Wagner festival in June is a must. Spectacles are held all around the year. Book your tickets at the Palace of the Arts home page without additional booking fee.
- Theatre Madách,Madách Színház, 1073 Erzsébet körút 29-33, metro 2 station Blaha Lujza tér, tram 4, tram 6 stop Wesselényi utca, tickets HUF 500-8900. If you want to see the Hungarian version of blockbuster musicals like The Phantom of the Opera or Producers, this is your place. Madách is widely popular among musical fans, and some of their recent shows have been critically acclaimed, so book well in advance.
- Budapest Operetta Theatre,Budapesti Operett Színház, 1065 Nagymezõ utca 19, metro 1, tram 4, tram 6 station/stop Oktogon, tickets HUF 950-15000. Grandmothers’ eternal favourite, the Operetta Theatre performs old-fashioned operettas for the nostalgic hearted and tries to be Madách’s main rival in musicals.
- Trafó House of Contemporary Arts,Trafó Kortárs Művészetek Háza, 1094 Liliom utca 41, metro 3 station Ferenc körút, tram 4, tram 6 stop Üllői út, tickets HUF 1000-2500, 25% discount for student card holders. In a renovated transformer building, Budapest’s most important contemporary cultural center presents Hungarian and international experimental dance, theatre and music performances. A disco hall in the cellar and a lively bar upstairs also serve your entertainment.
- Millenáris, 1024 Fény utca 20-22, metro 2 station Széll Kálmán tér, tram 4, tram 6 stop Széna tér, tickets HUF 1000-6000. This huge cultural center has been built around former factory buildings. The complex includes a park, a small artificial lake, cafés, an interactive museum called Csodák Palotája (Palace of Miracles) and a theatre which hosts music, theatre and sometimes great contemporary opera performances. You could book your ticket at their home page, which is available in Hungarian and English
- Merlin International Theatre,Merlin Nemzetközi Színház, 1052 Gerlóczy utca 4, metro 1/2/3 station Deák tér, tickets HUF 600-2000. Merlin, within stone-throwing distance of Váci street, Budapest touristy and commercial heart, is a hub for some Hungarian alternative companies and also for performances in English.
- National Dance Theatre,Nemzeti Táncszínház , 1014 Budapest, Színház utca 1-3, bus 10, bus 16, stop Dísz tér, tickets HUF 1100-3500. The main dance theatre of Hungary hosts a wide range of local and international performances. Although not always revolutionary modern, it’s always worth to check the program.
- Experidance Company. This popular company performs Hungarian popular dances in modern conception.
- MU Theatre,MU Színház, 1117 Kőrösy J. utca 17, tram 4 stop Fehérvári út, tickets HUF 1500, for student card holders HUF 1000. MU, one of the well-known Budapest dance theatres hosts contemporary dance performances.
- Central European Dance Theater,Közép-Európa Táncszínház, 1071 Bethlen Gábor tér 3, metro 2 station Keleti Pályaudvar, tickets HUF 1200, for senior citizen HUF 700, for student card holders HUF 800. CEDT’s company performs renowned contemporary dance theatre.
- Theatre Szkéné,Szkéné Színház, 1111 Műegyetem rakpart 3., Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME)’s theatre hall, bus 7, bus 73, stop Szent Gellért tér – during the construction of metro 4 station in Szent Gellért tér use temporary stairs next to the river for reaching the building. Szkéné hosts, among others, Béla Pintér and Company (Pintér Béla és Társulata, tickets HUF 1500), many alternative theater goers’ favourite. Their 2006 autumn premier, ”Korcsula” (Korčula – the name refers to a Croatian island), a Central European black commedy, is subtitled in English. Book your ticket by email.
- Danube Palace,1051 Zrínyi u. 5 (5 minutes walk from Deák Ferenc tér). Folklore perfomances every day at 20:00. 3,600-6,400 HUF, discounts available for students.
Serves as a venue for the Danube Symphony Orchestra, the Danube Folk Ensemble and the Rajko Gypsy Orchestra and Folk Ensemble.
- Budai Vigado (Hungarian Heritage House)
The HHH is the historical building also known as the “Vigadó” (Entertainment Hall) of Buda. The building is located in Fő utca (High Street), between Batthyány tér (Batthyány Square) and Clark Ádám tér (Adam Clark Circus).
The building was designed in Eclectic style by Aladár Árkay and Mór Kallina. It was constructed between 1898-1900. The relative simplicity of the façade is contrasted by the rich Art Nouveau ornamentation in the interior. The building was designed to serve the multiple cultural needs of the contemporary middle-class citizens of Buda. It was a cultural complex comprised of a theater, a library, a café and a restaurant.The most impressive parts of the interior are the hall with its columns and wide marble staircase, the ornamented lounge, and the adjacent auditorium.
Features performances by the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble.
- Saint Stephen’s Basilica
Home to organ concerts by the famous organ player Miklós Teleki accomapnied by flutist, Eleonora Krusic and opera singer Kolos Kováts.
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, Rákóczi út 21, metro 2 station Blaha Lujza tér, tickets HUF 890-990). Combines mainstream European artistic movies with new Hungarian films, the latter ones sporadically subtitled in English.
- Cinema Puskin(Puskin Mozi, Kossuth Lajos utca 18, metro 2 station Astoria, metro 3 station Ferenciek tere, tickets HUF 800-1050). “Pushkin” is the most mainstream among the art house movie theatres in Budapest, an elegant, decorated multiplex offering quality, but generally easy-to-watch Hungarian and foreign films. Its café is recommended.
- Cinema Művész(Művész Mozi, 1063 Teréz körút 30, metro 1, tram 4, tram 6 station/stop Oktogon, tickets HUF 920-1050) is probably the most popular “Art Mozi” theatre in Budapest. Many Hungarian movies are on show with English subtitles; ask for them at the desk.
- Movie Museum Örökmozgó(Örökmozgó Filmmúzeum, 1073 Erzsébet krt. 39, tram 4, tram 6, stop Király utca). “Perpetual motion” (that’s what the name means) is your best choice if you’re in mood to see a movie from the times when Leonardo DiCaprio was a child. Most of the oldies speak their 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 (Corvin köz 1., metro 3 station Ferenc körút, tram 4, tram 6 stop Üllői út). One of the oldest, although completely modernised cinema in the city–gives multiplex feeling for those tired of malls. On Corvin’s wall memorial tablets and reliefs are reminescent of the 1956 revolution’s heavy fightings around the building; the memorial itself is worth a visit. Tickets HUF 1150, before 16.00 HUF 950, on Wednesday HUF 750.
- Most centrally located mall cinemas arePalace Westend (mainstream) in Pest (in Westend City Center, Váci út 1-3, metro 3, tram 4, tram 6 station/stop Nyugati pályaudvar) and Palace Mammut in Buda (in Mammut Center, Lövőház utca 2-6, , metro 2 station Széll Kálmán tér, tram 4, tram 6 stop Széna tér); Palace MOM PARK in Buda, which is the “ORIGINAL LANGUAGE MOVIE” in Budapest, so you can watch all the foreign movies here with subtitles too. Check Palace’s web site for programme and booking. Tickets cost HUF 1250, for student card holders HUF 990, on cheap days HUF 800.
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.
As of Feb 2014 all baths in Budapest are now co-ed in all areas, and you are required to wear a swimsuit. Towel may be rented if you don’t have one, but usually costs extra.
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).
- Gellért Baths,Buda, Kelenhegyi utca 4 (Gellért Hotel at the base of Gellért Hill), ☎ (36-1) 466-6166. 00AM-7.00PM weekdays; 6.00AM-5.00PM on Sat and Sun (between Apr 30 and Sept 30).. While the Kiraly baths may be a more authentic Turkish bath experience, the famous Gellért Bath can’t be beaten in terms of style. This is among the finest Art Nouveau Bath in Europe, part of Spa Hotel Gellért. Ask the information desk to clarify if you’re not sure about how to proceed as the procedures, dignified by tradition, are not always straightforward.
- Prices:The full entrance price to both the swimming pool and the man and woman thermal facilities is 3500 HUF, which also includes a cabin rental, where you can change clothes and a towel (bed sheets style). On weekdays this ticket is 4050 HUF Ticket and 30 minute massage can be reserved in advance.
- If you rent a towel (resembling a bedsheet) or a bathrobe, you will need the original receipt ticket for getting back your deposit. You’ll need to get your receipt ticket back from the attendants inside when you return your item, otherwise you forfeit your deposit. Unfortunately, the managers are quite unforgiving in this matter and won’t believe you if you try to collect your deposit without your item or a receipt.
- The massage therapists in this touristic place are not cheap. Prices: from 2500 HUF forRefreshing, 15 min. to 3800 HUF for Powder, 30 min. They also offer a very good Thai massage. 1h is 11500 HUF and 1.5h is 15500 HUF (march 2010)
- Changing: Individual lockers, single-person cabins, and family cabins are available.
- Indoors: Common area for men and women has only a 50m(?) swimming pool and a soaking pool with massage bubbles, both with 36 – 38°C water. Wearing swimming caps is technically obligatory, but not always enforced. There are separate Turkish-style thermal baths for men and women, offering several different areas: two soaking pools (one with 36°C, another with 38°C), the showers, the dry sauna and Turkish steam bath, and the cold pool (designed to scare the living daylights out of you after a happy warm soak – it is sure healthy).
- Outdoors: A large open-air complex of pools (open only in summer time).
- Special Note: For the separate male/female baths, if you are uncomfortable sitting in a giant tub of water with other naked people of the same sex, this will not be your scene. You will notice tourists unfamiliar with this environment are a bit taken aback when they first encounter this, and either leave immediately or simply adapt to local culture. The main area requires bathing suits or a little towel that hide the front part in the pools, though nudity is common in the changing area.
- Széchenyi Spa(Széchenyi Fürdő), Pest, Állatkerti krt. 11 (right next to the Zoo; metro: Széchenyi fürdő, M1 yellow line). Indoor part open daily from 6AM to 7PM; outdoor 6AM-10PM in winter; summer-time hours may be different..Built in 1909 in the present-day City Park, this is the largest spa in Europe, and probably the nicest one in Budapest. A vast bath complex amidst beautiful architecture, it contains 3 outdoor pools including a large lap pool, at least 3 sauna rooms, and several indoor pools at different temperatures.
- Prices: 3,100 HUF entrance fee, includes rental of a locker (locked by an electronic wristband which also acts as your admission ticket) or 3,400 HUF entrance fee, includes rental of a changing cabin (locked by a key). 300 HUF refund for leaving within 2 hours. It is recommended not to store valuables in these lockers — use the safe boxes. Signs warn they are not responsible for losses except for safe boxes.
- Safe boxes are available for 500 HUF (well worth the peace of mind). The boxes are approximately 5″ high x 12″ wide x 18″ deep (13cm x 30cm x 46cm). The attendant will ask you to write a “code” word on a piece of paper; this paper is placed in the box along with your valuables, and you will be given a physical key. When retrieving your items, the attendant will ask you for the “code” and check it against the paper in the box. These safe boxes can be used if the larger locker or changing room is not required.
- Its recommended that you bring your own towel or bathrobe, as the towels available for rent are more like bedsheets.
- Outdoors: Two hot soaking pools (30 degrees C and 38 degrees C) and one swimming pool (26-28 degrees C) are all open-air (even in winter), and form the center of the baths. All facilities are shared by men and women (except shower and toilets). There’sa swimming tube (a whirling corridor): round- (outdoors) or rectangle-shaped (indoors) pool with artificial flow, a feature difficult to find elsewhere. Another specialty is a tradition to play chess while sitting in the water (chess sets are not provided so you’ll either have to pick up your own waterproof set or learn enough Hungarian to challenge a local to a match) – even in winter. One or two cafes/juice bars are available directly from the swimming deck, near the cabins, year-round.
- Indoors: Several saunas, one steam bath. Cold-water pool, hot tubs, aqua-gym pool with weights. Northern part of indoors baths is more modern and clean.
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.
- Danubius Grand Hotel/Thermal Hotel Margitsziget, (northern end of the Margaret Island (Margitsziget)),☎ +36(1)889-4700(firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +36(1)889-4939). until 9:30PM. . High-level and modern baths and spa also offers a great choice of medical treatment. Admission fee (5,700 HUF weekdays, 7,000 HUF weekends) doesn’t limit your time inside, and gives access to all spa facilities including a great gym (remember to bring your fitness suit). Solarium and medical treatments should be paid separately, remember before entering the changing rooms (1,300 HUF for 10 minutes).
- What’s inside?:Two body-temperature soaking pools and a cold-water corridor with stones on the floor; one swimming pool; separate steam baths; common sauna. There’s a drinking fountain with mineral water extremely rich in minerals–find on a way from baths to the gym.
- Changing:Towels are handed at reception–without fee or deposit. Also, there seems to be bathrobes available for rent–ask at the reception. For changing clothes, only lockers are available, without attendant–you have a key. There’s no cabins (as families typically live in the same hotel). Every shower cabin have a curtain, and there’s some liquid soap available.
- Visitors mix: Almost no locals; in New Year season (and 1-9 of May?) about 80% are Russians who are also residents of the hotel.
- Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal Spa,Erzsébet körút 43-49, ☎ +36(1)479-4000 (email@example.com, fax: +36(1)479-4333). A symbol of history, culture, architecture and the tradition of hospitality opens its doors in all its original splendour. The Royal Spa has been beautifully restored to its original splendour and now offers the latest state-of-the-art spa facilities and treatments. The Royal Spa is one of the most expensive in Budapest costing 10,000 HUF for a day pass. It is a spectacle of opulence and luxury in the amazing art deco setting. Included in the price is bath robe, towels, lockers, hydromassage, fruit juices and water. Although expensive it is a truly unforgettable experience .
- Király Baths. Buda, Fő utca 84 (metro: Batthyány tér). Old, authentic and pretty small; personnel speak limited English. The baths used to alternate between male- and female-only days, but now every day is mixed for both men and women. Király Baths have been known for some years as a meeting place for gay men. Following an expose on Hungarian TV, the management introduced a rule that swimwear has to be worn in the baths. Some gay activity may be visible, but you can enjoy this unique place without any problem if you are not gay.
The baths have a main pool with adjoining very small pools, steam room and dry sauna. The emphasis is more on relaxing and enjoying the waters rather than swimming. It’s possible to get a massage here as well. Ask the attendants in the changing room or massage room area.
- The Palatinus Outdoor Baths, on the Margaret Island (Margitsziget), have three pools filled with therapeutic water–and a total of 11 pools (totaling 17.5 acres). In front of the baths is a beautiful rose garden, and nearby, an open-air stage where opera and ballet performances are held, plus an open-air cinema used during the summer.
- Rudas, in Buda. This is where to go if you are looking for an authentic Turkish feel with its 16th century dome encrusted of colored glass. It is quite popular amongst locals. While it was a men-only bath, it now allows access to men and women. It is much more authentic than Gellert or Szechenyi. Like Király, the baths have a main pool(36C) with adjoining small pools(12C, 28C, 30C, 33C and 42C), steam room and dry sauna. Rudas has more small pools than Király and seems in better condition (renovated in 2007). There are two parts of the bath – the Turkish relaxation bath and a swimming hall. Both charge an entrance fee (as of February 2008): 2.200 HUF for the Turkish bath, 1.500 HUF for the swimming hall. Both can be booked for 3.300. Bring a towel and your swimwear and you are set for the swimming hall (but you will look like a tourist in the bath section with a swimwear – they will provide you with a very small towel). There is also a very nice rest room, where you can chill outside the water. The staff has got very limited English.
Massages are offered as oil or soap&water versions. 15 min. cost 2,500 HUF, 30 min. 3,500. Be aware that this type of massage has nothing to do with the relaxing Asian variants. Parts of Schwarzenegger movie Red Heat was shot here.
- Dagályis a large complex of baths and pools located just north of Árpad Híd Metro station on the Pest side and directly on the Danube. There is an outdoor 50m lap pool open year round and a covered-in-winter 25m lap pool. There are 2 large outdoor hot baths. One heated to 33C and the other to 36C. In summer, several huge pools are also available and plenty of open grass and trees for sunbathing or shade. The architecture is classic modern. Admission is ~1,300 HUF. One changes clothes in a small cubicle before passing through to the large unisex locker room where attendants lock your clothes in a locker. Tip HUF 100 on your way out. Be sure to bring some bath sandals to wear to the pool edge. The floors are not always clean. One sees lots of families here, elderly people and fitness swimmers. Staff do not speak English, but is helpful and patient.
- If you live a sporty life you should not have a break during your holiday. Wide variety of health clubs, yoga & pilates clubs, riding schools, swimming pools and squash and tennis courts give sporting opportunity. On Margaret Island you will find joggers, and swimming opportunity in the Hajós Olympic Pool. Practicing the mentioned sports is cheap in Budapest.
- Note that caving in Budapest ranges from well lit and renovated Szemlőhegyi cave, where you can even go to parts of the cave in a wheelchair, to some of the more extreme tours in the Pál-völgyi–Mátyás-hegyi cave system, where you have to squeeze through several meters long passages with no room to spare.
- Szemlőhegyi cave,1025 Pusztaszeri út 35 (Take the No. 29 bus from Kolosy tér, and get off at the Szemlőhegyi barlang stop.), ☎ +36 1 325 6001. Wed-Mon 10:00 AM to 4.00 PM.
- Pál-völgyi–Mátyás-hegyi cave system, (Take the No. 65 bus from Kolosy square. You have to step off at the fifth bus stop, named Pál-völgyi cave.),☎ +36-20-9284969
- There is a joint ticket for the standard tourist areas of the Pál-völgyi and the Szemlőhegyi caves. The caves are walking distance to each other – ask for a map from either cave ticket office. These areas are easily accessible and well-lit making them better for the slightly claustrophobic among us, though to enjoy the true beauty of the caves you must go on the longer more strenuous tours. Due to the times that the tours start, you’re better of starting at Szemlőhegyi then taking the 15 minute walk to Pál-völgyi. This way it is possible to not have a very long wait between your caves, and the outdoor area at Pál-völgyi is far more pleasant in nice weather than the Szemlőhegyi cave museum.
The Pál-völgyi–Mátyás-hegyi cave system is recommended for the adventurous (and non-claustrophobic) who wants a great taste of “proper caving” instead of the more “tourist friendly” alternatives. The tours lasts between 2.5-3 hours and much of the time is spent crawling or climbing, so some degree of physical shape is needed. The guided tour includes a helmet, headlamp and overall so bring good shoes! Guides are very professional. English guided tours are usually on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays late in the afternoon, but can be pre-booked by groups at other days as well. For booking you need to be with at least 4 people.
Please do not litter, write your name on the cave wall or damage the cave in any other way! Part of the experience is the feeling of being in unspoiled nature.