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Budapest in September-5 nights - Itinerary help needed- too much to do

Trip to Budapest in September. Arrive late afternoon 7th, leave on the 12th early morning. Hotel near St. Stephens/Opera area.

Help!

Wish Lists A and B are below. I need help organizing the itinerary, allowing for some relaxation time. We already have two reservations for dinner but can possibly alter them as there should still be time - Hungarikum on the 8th, Zeller Bistro on 9th, both at 8:00 p.m. The items we want to do in evening which are a river cruise with the city lights and if possible a Danube Bend trip returning by boat. Not sure about the Folklore Shows. I have heard there is a wine festival in town and a Jewish festival neither of which is an A list item but if there are any activities that would be influenced by these festivals it would be good to know.

A LIST: Funicular and Buda Castle, Fisherman's Bastion, St. Mattias, 1 or 2 of the Baths (not sure which two - definitely Sechenyi plus either Gellert or a Turkish one, Veli Bej), Jewish Quarter Synogogue(s), Great Market Hall, Ruin pubs (Szimpla Kert or other?), night cruise on Danube, Danube Bend visit ( need to know exactly how far to travel to enjoy the best scenery without sacrificing too much time - we thought a river trip for the return) , 360 Rooftop Bar, Hungarian folk performance (?)

B LIST: Short tour of Opera and Parliament, rooftop bar at Aria, Cave Hospital, third Bath, climb to top of St. Stephens tower, Falk Miska Street shops, wineries.

Proposed Itinerary = I can't get past days one and two because I want to squeeze in; the evening lights Danube Cruise and possibly the Danube Bend trip. I know the Synagogue is closed Friday pm through Saturday pm and the Market is closed on Sunday.

Day 1 - Arrive midday, transport to hotel near St. Stephens/Opera area. Use rest of afternoon to walk off jeg lag. Walk down Andrassy to Chain Bridge, view river, back up go to Miniversum, go back and find a restaurant nearby, to bed early.

Day 2 - Up early to Buda side. Funicular up to Castle, St. Mattias, Fisherman's Bastion. Lunch in Buda or return to Pest? After lunch in Buda either bath at Gellert or Veli Bej OR return to Pest for lunch and try Secheyni Bath. We have dinner reservations at 8:00 at Hungarikum.

From this point, I am having a really hard time. Any help and comments are appreciated. The more I read, the more I want to do and don't want to miss out yet don't want to burn out.

Thanks!

Posted by
2041 posts

Short answers:
went to the folklore dance, my husband and I enjoyed the performance, my sister was so-so, BIL walked out at intermission, said he got a headache. No a/c and seats a bit uncomfortable.
Great market hall - was very disappointed, ate lunch there. Would have been better to get food from downstairs stalls for a picnic.
Secheyni baths were highlight of trip, splurge for the rooftop lounge, private tour, robe, lockerroom, etc.
Opera house tour was fabulous, worth time and money.

Posted by
12367 posts

Day 1 - Arrive midday, transport to hotel near St. Stephens/Opera
area. Use rest of afternoon to walk off jeg lag. Walk down Andrassy to
Chain Bridge, view river, back up go to Miniversum, go back and find a
restaurant nearby, to bed early.

Good idea. If you want to see the miniversum then see it first and get it out of the way, then walk up to the Opera House and take the M1 metro line up to Hero's square. You can purchase tickets or a Travel Card from the machine in the metro station (or at the window if it is open). Spend some time looking around Hero's square then begin walking back down Andrassy ut to see the mansions, embassies, grand old apartment houses. If you get tired you can always hop on the metro for a stop or two as it runs directly under Andrassy ut (also the oldest metro line on the continent). Get off at Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út metro stop. Wave at the young lady and her dog entertaining drivers for $$, look at the restaurant called Hachapuri as you may want to give Georgian food a try. Now, its late enough to eat. Go around the corner and across the street from the back side of the Cathedral is Belvárosi Lugas Vendéglő. Ask for Eva. Some of the best traditional Hungarian food in town. If you are lucky you can nab one of the 4 outside tables. Now walk slowly towards Vorsomarty ter, Vaci utca and when the sun has finally set go to the river and take in the lights. The night time river cruises are amazing, but you can see 75% of it from the banks. I suggested this long path to get you there in time for the lights. Walk or take the M1 metro line home.

Posted by
12367 posts

My short answers:
Folklore show: About 45 minutes too long for my taste
Hospital in the Rock: If you are into Cold War and WWII History its a must. Gets a little wacky towards the end of the tour, but the first 75% was worth my time.
Buda in general: Worth no more than a half day for my taste
Great Market Hall: I could spend a half day there if I had the time..... actually I have....
Jewish Quarter: The heart and soul of Budapest in my mind.
Jewish Festival: A must see for a minimum of 3 hours
Wine Festival: Good for a few hours. I have been a few times. Prefer sitting in a wine bar. My favorite is near your hotel and is called Kadarkas. Corner of Vasvari Pal utca and Kiraly utca. Tell the owner, Arpie (short for Arpad) you heard from some Texans that live in the yellow building down the street that its the best in town.

Danube Bend, not much scenery; you go for other reasons. Szentendre is definitely worth a few hours. Take the commuter train up and the boat back. Taking the boat back is a must. Entering Budapest on the water is magic.
I've only been to the Sechenyi baths and I enjoy it. Open late and beautiful

Posted by
12367 posts

From this point, I am having a really hard time. Any help and comments
are appreciated. The more I read, the more I want to do and don't want
to miss out yet don't want to burn out.

This is one of those towns that you don't "visit" so much as you "wear it" like a comfortable old sweatshirt. A lot like Paris in that regard. I would concentrate on riding the trams (make a day of it) and wandering the streets and not worry if you check all the boxes.

A fun route is the #47/49 from Deak Ferenc ter to the #2 at the Market Hall to the #4/6 very near Falk Miska and the Nyugati Train Station to the Oktogon (very near the Liszt Academy of Music - another must if you can make time for the tour) then home by foot.

Posted by
2156 posts

I'm not much for sorting out itineraries for others, but James, as always, offers the best advice and his comment below really sums up how to do Budapest:

"This is one of those towns that you don't "visit" so much as you "wear it" like a comfortable old sweatshirt. A lot like Paris in that regard. I would concentrate on riding the trams (make a day of it) and wandering the streets and not worry if you check all the boxes."

I've now made 2 trips to Budapest--when there are so many other cities I want to see--and a large part of my return this May was about seeing a few must-sees I missed previously and just wandering the streets, I fear I will never get enough of that. It's a great city to relax in and just being able to bask in its beauty will keep me coming back. You have plenty of time to do it justice.

Posted by
32 posts

That is all great information. I thank all of you, especially James...he is amazing. I tend to want to try and do everything but then exhaust myself planning and trying. I really appreciate all the good advice.

Posted by
1878 posts

I have been to Budapest twice with my wife. Once for five nights, and once just for a couple of nights on the front end of a river cruise. I second the idea of not fixating too much on checking the boxes. The Terror Museum is worthwhile—sure it's kind of commericalized but very well done. Also Memento park (take the guided tour to bring it to life) are worthwhile. I have been to the Gellert Baths twice and I advise going in the morning on a weekday when it's not crowded. If the outdoor section is open, on a sunny day it's spectacular. After working hours the first time we went it was extremely crowded and grungy. We did not do Schenzi Baths because by the time we got there my wife was tired and wanted to go home, maybe next time (plus it was a local holiday and it was so crowded it just did not look very appealing). I enjoy both sides, sunset looking down from castle hill with the sun at your back is great. Get a day transit pass and ride the tram up one side of the river, walk across the Chain Bridge, catch the tram on the other side and walk across the Liberty bridge. Repeat as many times as you want, for me it was quite a few. The underground that runs right under the street is extremely cool too. I think they said it's the oldest metro in Europe. Rick's Leopold Town walk is very worthwhile too. Budapest is a great place to just enjoy being there. There is very little that if you missed seeing it, it would be a terrible loss. That can be very liberating.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank you for the back up VS - I do get hung up on FOMO (Fear of missing out)! I really want to see the important things but not be exhausted and need another vacation once I am done. I like the idea of going to the Baths early on a weekday instead of after work! All of you have been great and I thank you lots! This forum has been very helpful and I am so glad I decided to seek help this way.

Posted by
12367 posts

I second the House of Terror. The absolute fastest you will get through it is 2 hours. Sure wish they would change the name. If you are interested in the subject (WWII and Cold War) then I suggest your read The Forbidden Sky: Inside the Hungarian Revolution by Endre Marton. Its out of print, but you can find it on Ebay. If you enjoy that then you have to read the book by Endre's daughter who returned to Hungary after the fall of the Soviet Union and did her own research and book on her parents: Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America by Kati Marton. The day to day man on the street history in Budapest is much more tactile and extant than in the other places you are visiting so a little background reading can make a significant difference.

Something poignant and relevant that you can do is: At the end of Andrassy ut, near where I understand your hotel is located, there a small flower vendor in a hut on the sidewalk. You cant miss her. Purchase something small. Might cost 850 forints. Now cross the street in the same direction that Andrassy ut was leading. ON the other side of the large loop road its not called Andrassy, it is called József Attila utca and it will take you to the river very near the Chain Bridge. Note the old Bus Station turned restaurant on the left on your way. Okay, when you get to the river, cross the road and go under the Chain Bridge. This is the safest (because of traffic) way to the Shoes on the Danube. Walk about 150 yards up the river to the Shoes on the Danube monument and leave your flowers. Make sure you read the history first, so you will know why.

On the same subject: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=10iI5XWjOFgiEHDfgYc1qt--IMmE&hl=en
This explains it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolperstein

If this sort of thing moves you I have more.

Posted by
12367 posts

Okay Falk Miska utca does have some great antique shops. My two favorite are Pintér Antik at #10 (wander the maze of interconnecting basements. for that purpose alone its interesting) and a place I don't remember the name of that is catty corner across the street. Number 9 Falk Miska I think. Next to Pinter is a nice place for lunch or to rest your feet and have a drink. Its called Cafe Picard.

THEN, if you want some fine pieces and if you like jewelry you need to go a bit further. From Falk Miska go to the 4/6 tram stop on Szent István krt about 3 blocks from Pintér Antik; or get on the 4/6 tram at any point in Pest (the Oktogon for instance) and take it across the river and get off at the first stop. Across the street from the tram stop you will see Buday Hand Made Hungarian Shoes; in the same building to the right of the shoe store is a very nice antique shop with a separate room full of jewelry. You would think with the thousands of dollars I have spent there I would remember the name, or maybe that precisely why I don't remember the name.

Now if you read the books I suggested, and since you are in the right part of town, I can tell you where "the" prison is and maybe, just maybe, how to get in.

Posted by
12367 posts

Andddddddddddddddddddd, since I saw that elsewhere you were looking for a smaller town to spend some time in the middle of your scehedule I wonder if you knew about Gyor and the Archabbey at Pannonhalma? Exactly half way between Vienna and Budapest on the rail line. http://bences.hu/lang/en/ Magnificent Abbey and lovely town center. https://www.google.com/search?q=gyor+hungary&safe=off&rls=com.microsoft:en-US:IE-Address&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjdlqLviMfNAhUF9YMKHbgADb8Q_AUICSgC&biw=1094&bih=620 for some photos of Gyor.

No side trips required, no special transportation, its in the path of travel. Great for an overnight stay in a converted old monastery.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks for the additional information regarding Gyor but we had hoped to go to the Austrian lake/mountain region and see Hallstatt. Since it appears Hallstatt is pretty full we have found a place near Gmunden. It sounds very relaxing and beautiful as well. Any comments on the Gmunden/Lake Traunsee area are welcomed.

Posted by
6 posts

Just returned from 3 nights in Budapest (part of a larger trip). James E captured it really well: you simply 'experience' Budapest. Everyone has their own style of travel but I'd suggest keeping some flexibility in your planning. You may not hit everything you planned for the day, you may stumble into something else appealing, and if you're traveling with several people, they may not be able to keep the pace, any of which will cause you to reshuffle the itinerary. Five days is a lot to work with to nail most of your A List.

Although the subway is excellent (trains seemed to run every 4-5 min daytime, 7-8 min nights) I'd suggest focusing each day on a neighborhood to avoid trekking back-and-forth. Plus you can use the RS self-guided walking tours. So each of the following could be one day (more-or-less):
- Parliament to Castle Hill
- Andrassy to Heroes Square, City Park and/or Szechenyi Baths (or start at baths)
- Great Synagogue and Jewish Quarter to Great Market Hall
- open day, or Gellert Hill and Citadella
If you wish to do a night cruise then you might check when the sun sets in Sept but really it will be determined by when the cruises run. Now in the summer it doesn't feel dark until almost nine and the lights weren't very distinctive until after that.

Castle Hill (Buda Castle, Bastion, St. Matthias) is a half-day activity, unless you wish to be very thorough. Others have described it in different ways, but the vibrancy and pace of life (restaurants, street activity, people watching) on the hill is noticeably sleepier than Pest. I skipped the castle having the impression it's better admired from a far and don't miss it (granted I don't know what I missed)! But the view from the Bastion is hard to beat.

Great Market Hall is a must-do, but I almost want to say I wouldn't eat there other than maybe for the langos (fry bread) when there's lots of more appealing restaurants in town. Or better yet build-your-own picnic from the ground floor vendors. If you're shopping oriented then 2-4 hours, if not then 1-2 for a quick bite and some wandering.

Baths: only had time for one, and we were pretty run-down on our last day so we spent almost the entire day at Szechenyi. I think it's the most 'accessible' for first-timers to the whole public bath experience and it's a big place with lots of variety (something for everybody). The RS guidebook was helpful in navigating the entrance procedure. It's accused of being touristy, and yes you will see tourists there, but I think the better description is 'popular' - it's fun and it's a huge maze-like complex and that's appealing to tourists and locals alike. The people-watching is great and I got a chuckle out of seeing how many people got flagged for not wearing a swim cap (only required in the outdoor middle lap pool, otherwise don't worry about it).

Posted by
32 posts

These are great confirmations and suggestions and I appreciate the time and details provided. We may skip the Danube Bend outing and save the day to cover any exciting things we may have not had time for during the first few days or that we may have discovered during our stay.

Posted by
32 posts

James,

You posted the following suggestion which sounds like a heart warming feel-good idea:

Posted by James E.
USA
06/26/16 08:55 PM
4821 posts

"....Something poignant and relevant that you can do is: At the end of Andrassy ut, near where I understand your hotel is located, there a small flower vendor in a hut on the sidewalk. You cant miss her. Purchase something small. Might cost 850 forints. Now cross the street in the same direction that Andrassy ut was leading. ON the other side of the large loop road its not called Andrassy, it is called József Attila utca and it will take you to the river very near the Chain Bridge. Note the old Bus Station turned restaurant on the left on your way. Okay, when you get to the river, cross the road and go under the Chain Bridge. This is the safest (because of traffic) way to the Shoes on the Danube. Walk about 150 yards up the river to the Shoes on the Danube monument and leave your flowers. Make sure you read the history first, so you will know why.
On the same subject: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=10iI5XWjOFgiEHDfgYc1qt--IMmE&hl=en
This explains it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolperstein
If this sort of thing moves you I have more.
"

So, thank you and if you "have more" ideas in a similar vein, as mentioned in your last sentence, I would be interested in hearing them.

Your wonderful advice and guidance has been extremely helpful so far and I greatly appreciate all of it.

Posted by
12367 posts

Its fun. I like showing Budapest

But I don't want to burry in sad Jewish history. Budapest is very much alive and maybe the contrast makes both extremes so interesting. Budapest's most profound history was from about 1880 to 1990 and so much of that period exists pretty much untouched in Budapest. Any topics interest you?

Another rarely visited structure with fascinating history is the Glass House, but it only has meaning if you do a little reading. It still stands and can be found at Vadász u. 29, 1054 Hungary. Its a most unremarkable structure and there is no great fanfare about it even now. But if the topic touches you then its can be moving. http://carllutz.freeservers.com/custom2.html

Just tonight watched: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perlasca_%E2%80%93_Un_eroe_Italiano on Amazon Prime movies. Amazing story filmed on location in Budapest in 2002. They didn't have to do much to make the buildings look correct for the movie as very little has changed; especially in 2002 when much of the city was still covered with communist grime (for that matter there is still much to see).

When you get off the main streets where the buildings are still fairly soiled, always look up around the windows. Even today it is still common to see pock marked plaster. Possibly from WWII, but most likely from the 1956 revolution. So just how many towns can you visit where the history sill lives like this.

I love the Jewish bakery at 22 Dob utca: Fröhlich Kóser Cukrászda  Its like stepping back to 1936.

A very good BBC article: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20141212-a-rare-look-inside-budapests-yellow-star-houses

Posted by
12367 posts

I received this from someone who just returned from Budapest.

Budapest was ... even more beautiful than I was expecting. What a glorious elegant city! I ... hit most of my must-see sites, but already want to return and just soak in the atmosphere.

Walked EVERYWHERE ... strolled Buda hill ..., wandered the Jewish neighborhood, strolled Andrassy up to Hero's Square, used the tram and M-1 extensively.

I had a very good experience with K & K Opera hotel -- my room was like a classy ship's stateroom (polished wood and a Bauhaus style bath). I am still thinking about the city -- yes, it worked its magic on me, too

(bold is my emphasis)

Posted by
32 posts

I am counting down the days and can't wait. I am already loving Budapest and am sure all of my research, thanks to all the good advice on this forum, (major kudos to James) will allow me to share my experiences.

I am still trying to work out the perfect scenario where I can do everything and not be too exhausted to enjoy my time. There really is just so much I want to do and see.

My newest focus is how to have dinner reservations at a recommended restaurant and still make a river cruise, concert, or capture the night vista from the Citadella! How many thermal baths to visit and for how long, ...the list goes on!