What is your favourite thing place or too see there that anyone should not miss.
Ha! Let me see if i can write a guide book with 1000 characters per post ... :-)
Okay, my overly simplified answer.
I love the ambiance of the city, the food, the wine, the people; especially the people, the culture which is sort of 1950's USA in many ways and completely opposite in others.. Get a copy of Eyewitness Travel Budapest Top 10. Besides answering your question, it has a good map. Then realize the real beauty of this city is what happens when traveling from tourist site A to tourist site B.
Me, a trip to Budapest isn't complete without a lot of time in the Jewish Quarter. We donate the use of an apartment we own to a number of charity fundraisers. This year the Rabbi from a Jewish school that will be using it to raise money asked me if the apartment was near any of the Jewish historical sites. I responded, Budapest is a Jewish historical site. But if you have no interest there, then you can concentrate on the sheer beauty of the city, the outrageously good food and wine, the bath houses, the river, the museums, jazz clubs, opera, operett, concerts from punk to classical. It has something for almost everyone.
The Halászbástya or Fisherman's Bastion...must go up to check out the view over the Parliament.
Walking along the Danube. Don't need to take the boat, but Tram #2.
Last but not least, check out the hotsprings!!! So much fun and beautiful!
Looking down from the Fishermen's Bastion area onto the town at sunset (the sun will be at your back). Riding the trams up one side of the river, walking across Liberty Bridge, riding tram down other side to Chain Bridge, walk across bridge, repeat. Ride the metro line that is right under the street, in an iron framework. One of the oldest metros in the world. I also recommend the Gellert Baths (early in the day before it gets grungy), Memento Park (guided tour is important there), and the Terror Museum. Also, Rick's book has walking tours that are great. I like the Taverna Dionysis for Greek food, have eaten there four times and have always had good experiences. The market near Kalvin Ter is a good place to visit. Budapest is a great city to be just there, a place where your tourism need not be so goal-oriented. The Church in the Rock and the big church/cathedral whatever it's called. Never made it inside the parliament building on two visits, maybe next time. There are a few cities where I immediately felt at home, like "this is the place," and Budapest is one of them.
Oh, speaking of views. When I first arrived in Budapest it was this view that made me fall in love: https://shuttlesfrombudapest.com/wp-content/uploads/layerslider/Homepage-Slider/slider-2.jpg
On Gellert Hill, near the Citadella there is a small park where you can take this in.
wow......beautiful picture James! Can't wait!
@James, I can understand your love of Budapest after seeing that photo. Can hardly wait as well! Thanks for sharing!
I arrived late one afternoon from Vienna (yawn), I knew nothing about Budapest so I told the taxi driver to just cruise around the city. After about 30 min of driving around Pest it was dark and he headed for Buda. We ended up near the Citidel where he parked and I saw that view in the photo. Took my breath away. That was my first trip in 2002. I've returned about 35 times now.
For me, when I think of my trip there (2008), the thing I remember most fondly isn't a "sight" or place - it's the food. Hungarian cuisine is unique and delicious, and you don't have to go to "gourmet" restaurants to have great stuff - it's everywhere.
I will say that I actually found many of the designated sights a bit disappointing, but the food - wow!
If I did have to pick one sight that was quite memorable, it's the House of Terror. The name is not casually chosen; it's a rough experience, but very worthwhile.
The "points of interest" or the "tourist sights/sites" in Budapest are probably as good as those in Paris. And thats not saying a lot. What makes the sights even more culturally remote is that in the US we know so little of the history of that part of the world, so you cant say; gee, I've dreamed of seeing x or y. So what's the draw? The atmosphere for one. There are few if any so well preserved 19th century cities. Not neighborhood, but the entire city. It pretty much stands as it did in 1900. More amazing, its all still functioning pretty much as it did in 1900 with ground floor shops and apartments above and trams wizzing up and down the streets. So the different culture is really in you face. Part of that is the architecture, part the cultural norms; like the theater and performance music still being a real part of life. The other part is the architecture. Anthony Bourdain compared it to Architectural Porn, it was so beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nd9DuDGCz0 If you are interested in the history of the last 100 years, then, again, the place is unique. WWI, WII, the holocaust, the Cold War. The impact and the scars are everywhere. Being so recent, to someone of my generation at least, it is possible to touch very relevant history.
Beyond European cultural history, Budapest has one of the most remarkable and tragic Jewish cultural histories. A Rabbi in the US recently asked if my apartment was near the historic Jewish sites in Budapest; i responded that Budapest IS a historic Jewish site. The Jewish Deportation Ghetto, synagogues, cemeteries, music and cultural life is all very much out front. With all that is going on in the world right now, being able to touch the wrongs of the past might be a good reference point for how we conduct ourselves in the future.
Then there is the wine and the food. As noted above, hard to beat any place in the world. I've traveled quite a bit and no place has more good food per square foot than does Budapest ... and accessible, easy to find and inexpensive.
Because the town is fairly large, but very well connected with trams, the tourists aren't all crammed into one or two neighborhoods like Prague or Vienna. And in between sites you will find that tourists are not in the majority on the sidewalk; contrary to a place like Paris.
You can go to Rome and with a guide book check off one great sight after another. Given enough time to see 50% of them (cause there is an awful lot in Rome), you can say that you saw Rome. Budapest to be best appreciated requires that you settle in a bit, make excuses to wander the streets, stop, eat, shop, drink, go to a jazz club or the opera, and then see another magnificent building like the Parliament.
Any way, just my take on it. See if this works. If it does, turn the volume up: https://1drv.ms/v/s!Ai7Zk-szxfTJhetCm4u1a5ZUkYGBjQ
James, I read your reply here dated 3/14/19 at 12:31 . I understand and comprehend all that you said. And I looked at the video (from www.youtube.com) that you embedded a link to in your reply here. And I looked at the other video that you embedded a link to (https://1drv.ms ...). Seeing those videos of Budapest, now I think "I do not need to go to Budapest, because I saw it in the videos from internet, provided here by James".
James, do you put a high priority on riding in a big boat on the river in Budapest ? (For an American person who will be at Budapest, 4 whole days ?
Last year I had a guest that I toured around for a few days, when he arrived in Budapest we hired a driver to take us straight from the airport to Szentendre. He dropped us off there and then took my friends luggage by my apartment. We spent a few hours in Szentendre and he loved it. Then we got on the river taxi for the trip back into Budapest. Remember, my guest had not yet seen Budapest. His first impression of the city was when the boat came around Margaret Island and the Parliament began rising before us. The idea was a total hit. There is no better first impression than that which you get when entering Budapest on the river. As for big boats. I will try one when I am too old to walk.
James, I read and appreciate your reply to me here (water Taxi) that you posted here March 14 at 10:25 p.m. Today I will send a Private Message to you. I am Ron at southwest Missouri in the U.S.A.
Can anybody recommend a Budapest site done by a local (native or ex-pat) who really knows the city well?
This one is very good and available in the US.
But I think you were looking for a web site. Here are a couple I like:
There is another called Budapest By Locals, if you run across it, sure, look; but it pretty much a collection of sales pitches.
I nominate James to be the US Ambassador to Hungary.
I appreciate his appreciation of the city my parents were born.
I nominated James to be an ambassador for Budapest long time ago. I've been to Budapest several times and well before him. Budapest is an eye candy. Comparing to Prague it lacks medieval neighborhoods but it is built on grandiose scale (similar like Vienna or Paris). However Vienna is not so much eye candy because the river is not in downtown in Vienna. Budapest and Prague have stunningly beautiful views across the river. Budapest has a unique ambience. I was always puzzled why. I think it is its Orient like feeling. It was occupied by Ottoman Empire for over hundred years and it's still noticeable. And then history - which James already described. I would only add - let's not forget Budapest uprising in 1956. For those more interested I can recommend this book: Twelve Days - the Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. By Victor Sebestyen.
Yea, yea, yea.
Anyway, if you like Cold War Hungarian history there are two books worth reading. What is interesting is the first was written by the gentleman that endured the soviet occupation and the second by his daughter who went back after liberation and did her own research and wrote her own take on her parents at that time. Very revealing and facinating insight into Russian brutality.
Under communism until early eighties I lived in what was then Czechoslovakia. In 1968 there was a reform movement called Prague Spring with Dubcek as the general secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. Brezhnev did not like it. Kadar then said to Czechs - you must slow down, don't you know Russians? He got to know them in 1956. Budapest was for us Czechs and also other socialist countries (here called communist) like the West (late seventies and then eighties). We could not travel to the real West so we traveled to Budapest. Unlike other capitals of the Soviet block countries, Budapest stores were full of western goods. I still remember the joke that Hungarians are like radishes. Red on the surface only.
You said you visited Budapest a dozen years after the change. That
dark(do you mean the crime and illegal activites?) and dirty world you
saw around 2000 was not socialism itself, but an ultra-liberal free
far all capitalism built on the ruins of socialism. I can reassure you
that Budapest was a much cleaner, safer and more orderly place during
socialism. I don't what kind of apartments you toured back than, but
I'm sure you can still find many apartments exactly like that. Only 10
years ago Vienna still had old houses where apartments didn't have
their own toilet, but shared a communal toilet for every floor!
No, dark as in filthy dirty due to lacking the wealth to provide basic upkeep of the buildings in the city for some 50 years. The beautiful gleaming buildings that tourists see today were visual wrecks not many years ago. No comparison to Vienna at that time. And there are plenty of apartment blocks in VIII that still share a toilet on the floor. And yes, there are still neighborhoods in need of care, but at least now the possibility exists.... As for safety, there are few places in the world safer, now or I imagine then. But for different reasons.
Not a subject I want to argue here. But a fascinating subject to learn about if anyone is going to visit the region.
No matter your view on the subject you might find these interesting
One other part of Budapest - it is Hungarian. The Hungarians are different than other Europeans. They have an ethnic identity that stretches back to the mongol tribes of Asia. Their language is unlike either the Germanic, the Slavic, and the Romance languages of the rest of Europe. For that reason, Budapest and Hungary are a place apart.
I will be in Hungary, in Budapest and in Pecs for a few days this summer. I am getting more excited. We already have tickets to the Opera ($20/2 tickets). We will hit James E's favorite wine bar. We will go to the Church of my grandmother's family for Sunday service.
Thanks for that great article! I think it summed up quite well what goulash communism/socialist consumerism was about. I didn't know people were going to Sopron(only 80 kms from here) to watch Austrian TV programmes. :-)
I'm under 40 and have only childhood memories from the 80's, but every older Hungarian I know thinks of the Kádár regime as overall positive. Among these people are not only socialists, but fervent anti-communists, nationalists and they still have to agree with that.
Sometimes this is called "commie-stalgia" - nostalgia for the Communist times. As our good East German friends said, "you know, we actually had some good times then." In Germany, it is "ossie-stalgia" - nostalgia for the East German times. While I am not a communist, there were good things as well as bad. The man in our East German friend couple had a good job before 1989. After 1989, his company lost out to W German companies, and he never worked again. They got divorced. He's drinking himself to death. Women had good support.
Freedom is good, but having a job is good.
Paul-of-the-Frozen-North, i live in a major tourist city in Texas. I remember back in the 70's and 80's I would run into tour groups from Hungary. They enjoyed my town a lot but said it didnt compare with the advancements found in Budapest. They generally couldnt wait to return to modern Hungary. Evidence of that is that during the 60s 70s and 80s almost no Hungarians moved out of the country. Now with capitalism, the population is shrinking. To the extent tha the govenment is paying people to have children.
Okay, if you dont see the scarcasim, then you dont know history..
Okay, if you dont see the scarcasim, then you dont know history..
Okay, I do see the sarcasm, but I think it's misplaced at best.
The visitors from the Eastern block to a Western country back in the 60s, 70s, or, especially, 80s were swept off their feet primarily by the culture of (over)abundance (consumerism was already an established term, but I don't think it had a modern-day negative connotation back then).
Look, they have not just one car, but several cars per household! They can go to the nearest store and select from 15 different brands of breakfast cereal! Away with kitchen slavery, switch to fast food restaurants!
Today's visitors from ex-Eastern block countries, - such as exchange students, for instance, - are exposed to roughly the same things, but assess them somewhat differently: they realise that having multiple cars per household is pretty much a necessity driven by total lack of public transportation, the cereals are different in name only, and fast food is not the healthiest alternative to home cooking. And when, heaven forbid, they are exposed to American healthcare (even a simple visit to an urgent care facility), the comparisons drawn are rarely in favor of the US system.
On the bright side, having consumer benefits and "quality of life" considerations out of the equation is a good starting point for assessing other and perhaps more important societal values - culture of volunteerism, equality, job security, entrepreneurship, various freedoms of this, that, and the other, civil society, etc.
Different people come to different conclusions - and if anyone 50 and under all of a sudden grows nostalgic for what the socialist system had to offer - I totally understand.
scythian: I only hope the Hungarians are different, and better. My grandma was born in Budapest, although we are of German heritage. My grandma and grandpa are of the Donau Schwaben group of Germanic settlers in the Vojvodinja in N Serbia.
There was a question of a boat ride. We did the boat ride at night. It was so much fun. I'd do that.
scythian, my point, missed by some, was that those under Russian occupation didn't have the same opportunity of self determination. Not like they could drive to the border and try something different. A real philosophical question to weigh that against guaranteed employment.
But this is turning political and that's a no, no. I was just suggesting its a great topic to examine first hand. Lest we forget.
In this discussion thread, March 14, 2019, James E. said "with all that is going on in the world right now, being able to touch the wrongs of the past might be a good reference point for how we conduct ourselves in the future". Yes, I think that is true. That is one of the good reasons for reading World History. Very many people in the U.S.A. , who graduated from High School in the year 2003 or later, do not know what the government of China did to thousands of Chinese people in China at Tiananmen square in Beijing, and other parts of Beijing, in June of the year 1989. Thousands of young Chinese persons were peacefully requesting some reforms in China. The government of China killed 10,000 of those Chinese persons in Beijing that day. (That number of deaths was reported by the government of China). And, after all of China became socialist, nearly all of the persons, age 65 and older, in China, were killed. Their dead bodies were chopped into small pieces and spread on farm land, as mulch. Now, most young adult persons in the U.S.A. who have an opinion about politics, wish for the United States of America to be socialist.
Ron, I think I know your secret.
I must say I like scythian contributions. I want to add: Many Americans when they hear the word socialism they hear Soviet Union. Then I agree with them. We don't want that kind of socialism. But those politicians who talk about socialism have in mind Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, even Canada and Australia. Would that be so bad? Go and see for yourself and talk to people there. Most of them are fluent in English.
Exactly, go to as many places as you can. Not just for the monuments but to try and see as much of the whole as possible. I think what Americans don't understand is that every choice in a culture requires a tradeoff and those tradeoffs are predicated on cultural values. There is a reason the average home size in Finland is a bit over 800 sf and in the US its over 2200 sf. No value judgment there, but be astute enough to at least open your eyes to the full picture when you visit places.
"...Budapest is a historic Jewish site." Very true! Prior to WW2 in the inter-war years, Budapest was one of the three European capitals with the largest Jewish population when you look at population statistics. The other two were Warsaw and Vienna.
I don't equate socialism with the Soviet Union. That was Soviet totalitarianism, a single party police state allowing no viable loyal political opposition. What Sweden, Holland, Norway , etc has is what is called Euro-Socialism or Democratic Socialism with a viable loyal political opposition and certainly not a single party police state.
I went to two Soviet bloc countries during the cold war days, Prague in 1973 and east Berlin in '87 and '89 as a solo traveler, not part of a guided tour.
It was easy to tell, sense which place, which regime was more Stalinist, even officially both had the same rules for western visitors, both currencies were worthless outside of their respective countries, and more.
Ron, please, please don't confuse Communism with Socialism. The Chinese are Communists.
Actually the Chineese are pretend Communists much like the Soviets. Basically they used Communist idelogy to justify totalatarian governments. Neither was truly communist. I know a Hungarain woman who worked for the armed forces when the country was under Soviet (Russian) occupation. He job was to teach the Hungarian troops how to speak Russian. Her and her coworkers had been deeply brainwashed. They understood that the opressive society was only a short term necessity while true Communism was organized. When it all came crashing down her and many others came close to have a nervous breakdown because they belived the lies so deeply.
Anyway, here is a fairly good description of the differences: https://www.investopedia.com/video/play/difference-between-communism-and-socialism/
@ James...very accurate historical examples when the totalitarian system collapses and those true believers have nervous breakdown or worse, ie committing suicide.
Look at the number of German civilians who killed themselves at war's end, not only because of the crimes committed by the Nazi government, or Soviet vengeance, or that they themselves had abetted in these crimes (political, the Holocaust, etc) but also, because theycould not imagine living in a world without the "Bohemian Corporal" and the Nazi system.
..very accurate historical examples when the totalitarian system collapses and those true believers have nervous breakdown or worse
I'd change it to "when ANY system collapses". The ancient curse of "may you live in in interesting times" still rings true.