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Getting Started in Budapest this September

We are 3 adults (late 50s/early 60s) flying into Budapest at about 6pm Saturday, 19 September. We will be in Budapest (Erzsebet ter 5) for 4 nights. Although we will have slept on plane (starting in Seattle the night before), I imagine we will be somewhat acclimated, but expect a relaxed first day, and then two more full days. We are open to suggestions (we are active folks, so like walking and would even rent bicycles) for our itinerary in Budapest (and even one day trip out of town). We will be leaving on 23 September, taking a morning train to Bratislava for one night before heading off to Austria (will be renting a car in Vienna and day hiking in the Alps for 4 days before heading off to Prague (4 nights) and heading home. We've ready plenty of guidebooks, but would love to hear from you as to your suggestions. Many thanks, Sandy

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10894 posts

I don't come from the West Coast and I am still pooped when I arrive and I am at the lower end of your age range. You choice of accommodations is interesting and puts you right on the edge of the Disney Zone. For night one, I suggest you walk towards the river and spend the evening wining and dining and enjoying the lights.....https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=C9F4C533EB93D92E!16634&authkey=!AMMQL9A5eXrASZc&v=3&ithint=photo%2cJPG. If you need more, then ride the Number 2 Tram along the embankment. You can buy metro tickets or cards at the M1 Metro Station that you will pass along the way to the embankment (look for the stairs going down in the middle of the square). https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=C9F4C533EB93D92E!16621&authkey=!AE_3J8JJDfV0LxI&v=3&ithint=photo%2cJPG

As for what to do on Sunday, that's easy: The National Gallop (Nemzeti Vágta) at Hero's Square and the Fair on Andrassy ut (I am not entirely certain if the Fair is Saturday and Sunday or just one or the other): We went about 2 years ago and had a blast. We will be back this year. So wave if you see us.

Explanation from their website: Seven tribal chieftains galloped gallantly into this neck of the European woods back in the 9th century and claimed it. So begins the history of Hungary, and the chieftains stand proudly on horse- back, larger than life at the center of Heroes' Square.

They're the inspiration for the National Gallop, when this stunning symbol of the nation is transformed into a racetrack and modern-day heroes on horse- back will gallop around it, grandstands will encircle it, and the crowds will encounter and enjoy every aspect of Hungarian history around the square and on impressive Andrássy Avenue. On Heroes' Square, the seven chieftains are gathered around an obelisk topped by Archangel Gabriel, who appeared in a dream to István and offered him the crown. Sure enough, he became Hungary's first king – and later a saint! Behind the chieftains is a pantheon of Hungarian kings and freedom-fighting leaders (the Habsburgs used to be there but they got kicked out after WWII), with allegorical sculptures on top (more horses, yay!). At one point the socialist dictatorship wanted to tear everything down. All they destroyed was the already-damaged memorial stone to the national heroes, which was returned to its place in front of the chieftains in 1956, phew! The square and the statues got a major cleanup in 2001 and the museums flanking it have also been spruced up, making Heroes' Square a must-see, even when it's not a racetrack!

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10894 posts

Four nights is just three full days in town. I wouldn't take a day trip out of town. If you do anything I suggest maybe the train up to Szentendre (about 30 minutes) around noon, then the boat back to Budapest. Its a sort of river taxi and Budapest is pretty spectacular when you enter it on the water.

Since you like to walk this is a great town for you. But you might buy a book or two of metro tickets so if you do want to make a little better time or rest you have an easy option. There are a few routes where the underground is sort of advantageous but for the most part you can get everywhere by foot and on the trams. The trams are great because you aren't buried underground.

Because of your age Cold War or WWII history might interest you. But give me some clues and I will see what I can dream up.

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10894 posts

Finally, for now. The government recently introduced Hungary to Blue Laws (or that's what we called them in Texas in the 60's and 70's). So a vast majority of the native stores will be closed on Sunday. Restaurants no, museums no, but grocery stores and drug stores yes. Very inconvenient.

Posted by
77 posts

Listen to James E .....definitely the National Gallop. My husband and I didn't go in 2011 but spent the day in 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed it. The people are wonderful, races colorful, Andrassy Avenue is beautiful, beer and food great.....have Chimney Cake!, take in some of the performance in front of the Opera House. Hope you enjoy Budapest its an incredible city and we love it.

Posted by
8 posts

Great ideas! Will definitely check out the National Gallop on the Sunday we are there (if it is on Saturday we will have just missed it...). And many thanks for letting us know about groceries being closed on Sundays. We are arriving 6pm on Saturday, what time do you figure we might be arriving at our place (Erzsebet ter 5) and will groceries still be open so that we buy some food?

Also like the idea of a train to Szentendre and the boat back to Budapest. Seems a very relaxing way to get out of the city and have a river trip on the Danube...

James, while the Cold War and WWII are of some interest, not our primary motivation for experiencing a city. (Although we will explore the Jewish quarter, but must do that on Monday as Tuesday night is Yom Kippur, and I imagine it will be "closed up" until after the holiday. )

Would like to experience people, appreciate sights and architecture (at least I do, not so much my companions), emjoy he performing arts, enjoy eating (although we are definitely not foodies, nor do we drink - can't drink for health reasons), and we like moderate exercise so walking and even bicycling would be enjoyable. So would love to hear your suggestions!

Posted by
10894 posts

The National Gallop runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I am certain that they didn't shut down Andrassy ut on Friday, but I am not certain if the street events go on Saturday and Sunday or just Saturday. Either way, go up to Hero's square and see the event.

If you are flying in then I would figure about an hour to an hour and a quarter to get from the gate to your address …. If you take a taxi. Taxi is the only thing that ever made much sense to me. Relatively cheap and easy. From Keleti train station maybe 30 to 45 minutes. From the boat docks also 30 to 45 minutes.

Spar is the major grocery chain in the town center. I googled and there aren’t any near your address. Problem is that you are sort of in the thick of tourism so property prices are high. There are a few mom and pop places that cater to tourists but I can’t tell you exactly where. Just keep your eyes open.

To get to Szentendre you will take the M2 from Deák Ferenc tér to Batthyány tér where you will board the Suburban Rail (HEV) train designated H5. Its about a 30 minute trip. The return trip is via the river taxi http://www.hajoallomas.hu/webset32.cgi?MAHART@@EN@@115@@500590616

The Jewish Deportation Ghetto never really closes. It’s an interesting neighborhood full of restaurants and clubs and history under your feet. But yes, I imagine that the Synagogue tours will be closed for Kol Nidrei and prayer services. The smaller synagogues and shuls are generally welcoming to guests.

For performing arts check out these:
http://opusjazzclub.hu/concerts (Casual and one of my favorite venues. all the Sept concerts are not listed yet. Wait about a week. Your best chance to meet and mix with locals)
http://www.opera.hu/ (sports coat and tie. Mostly locals if you buy the good seats. Mostly tourists in the balcony)
http://www.operettszinhaz.hu/operett.php (more locals than tourists. Most have English subtitles. Another of my favorites in town)
http://zeneakademia.hu/en/all-programs (just reopened after a stunning renovation. The tourists haven found it yet in any great numbers)

Of the WWII and Cold War things that might interest you would be the Hospital in the Rock. At least the first half of the tour, then it gets a little strange.

To get the best feel for the culture and the people you need to put your back to the river and begin walking. Districts VI, VII and VIII are where you want to be.

Visit the Grand Market (make sure you follow your nose to the fish and pickled veggies in the basement; but also go t a few of the smaller more local markets: http://welovebudapest.com/shops.and.services.1/budapest.s.best.markets

Sneak into a few apartment block courtyards and look around. They can be fascinating.

As for food, this town has more good food per square foot than most in the world. Look up Lugas for at least one casual meal. Get the stuffed cabbage. Not like mama made……………better.

And visit a bath house.

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10894 posts

Oh, did you realize this when you booked your accommodations? http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/x/construction-ferris-wheel-downtown-budapest-hungary-m-high-being-installed-elisabeth-park-city-center-as-seen-roof-40953273.jpg

"Once again, one of the world's largest mobile Ferris wheels comes to Budapest. After a week of assembly work, the giant wheel located in Erzsébet tér opened to the public on April 16th, 2015. It offers fantastic views over Budapest day and night. Standing 65 meters tall, the wheel with its 42 cars is Europe's largest mobile Ferris wheel. It has a capacity of 332 people and at night it will light up the evening sky with over 10,000 colored lights." http://visitbudapest.travel/articles/budapest-eye/