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Help me plan a week in Hungary, please

I'll be in Hungary for the last 9 days of September, coming by bus from Poland. My interests are history, art, architecture, ethnography, exploring back streets and villages. I'm vegetarian, not a foodie, but I look forward to drinking lots of Hungarian wine. I like to go at a slow pace and I love museums, especially quirky ones.

I plan to spend the first 2 and last 2 days in Budapest. That leaves me 5 days to figure out. From the little reading I've done, I'd like to spend 2 days (or more?) in Pecs, skip Eger but drink some Bull's Blood (I hope it's available without going there). Kecskemet, Szentendre and Skanzen sound intriguing. Except for Pecs, should these be day trips from Budapest? I would consider renting a car for 4 days.

Have you been? What did you like? Driving in Hungary - good/bad idea? Also, any suggestions for things to do in Budapest (I've seen most of the major sights previously).

Posted by
73 posts

We just got back from a trip that included Budapest and had a wonderful time! It is really a beautiful city!

We only went out of town for a trip to the Hapsburg estate at Godollo (about an hour total from the city center by train) which we enjoyed but we didn't go to the places you list, we didn't drive, and I don't drink so I can't comment on any of those things!

We visited most of the well known sites (Parliament (great tour), Sts Matthias and Istvan Churches, Szechenyi Baths, Opera House) But a few things outside of that list that stood out for us are:

We started the first night with a Legenda dinner cruse and were very pleased. The food was good (my teen daughter ordered the vegetarian risotto and it was delicious) and seeing the buildings on the water at sunset was a glorious way to start a visit to Budapest.

My understanding is that the Alexandra Bookstore Café is still closed buy may reopen under new ownership? We did have a dinner at the gorgeous Belle Epoch New York Café and it was great memory. Food was fine, desserts were excellent, and to sit in the lavish building listing to alternating live piano music and a string quartet was unforgettable.

As far as history goes, Budapest has a complex history and seems to face it with fairly clear eyes. The "Shoes on the Danube" and Imre Nagy monuments, in particular were very moving. The "House of Terror" museum was not "fun" but did a very good and comprehensive job detailing the Nazi and Communist past in Hungary. My mother hated it but my daughter and I found it an important visit and well worth our time.

For architecture and somewhat quirky museum (but not that quirky) I highly recommend a visit to the Museum of Applied Arts. It's a stunning Art Deco building in a "Moorish" style. We went for the architecture but also found the permanent exhibits interesting, so it was a win on all counts.

Hopefully others will weigh in with their experiences, too. I really loved Budapest. It's a great city to just walk around in and lots of good things to do while there. We also found that just about everyone speaks English which was convenient--I never needed to use the Hungarian phrases I had memorized (good because I'm sure my pronunciation was horrific!). Also, we never had a bad meal there which what surprising but terrific--even sandwiches from the coffee shop were amazing--so that was a nice surprise.

We stayed at Hotel Moments and it was clean, central, and nice rooms, plus the staff were friendly and helpful, plus breakfast was very nice. My understanding is it's a newer hotel which may explain why it doesn't come up much yet on this forum, but I recommend it highly (dinner at their Bistro Fine was also very nice, we sat outdoors and ate a delicious meal while listening to live acoustic music).

Wishing you a wonderful time in Budapest!

Posted by
73 posts

Just reread your post and now noticed you mentioned you'd been to Budapest before! Sorry for the "first timer" info in my reply above, but hopefully the rest of the info will be helpful!

Posted by
11294 posts

I liked Pecs a lot, and saw a good amount in my overnight (so one day). Two days would allow some time for relaxing, or seeing every museum.

I found Szentendre very crowded with tour groups - too crowded to really enjoy, as it's a small place. And that was in 2008 - I don't know if it's more crowded now. My strongest positive memory is the tiny new synagogue (the first synagogue built in Hungary after the war). Yes, it's an easy day trip, although an overnight would certainly get you away from the crowds.

I really liked my day trip to Vac, particularly the mummies (found under the main square during a renovation). I also loved my smoked cheese pizza, eaten in a restaurant that was also underground, right off the square (memory is a bit fuzzy, but I think it was put there as part of the square's renovation). Like Pecs, Vac has renovated its old synagogue.

I saw Eger in the rain, which at least partly influenced my view of it (not so hot, although nothing terrible). I didn't get to Kecskemet or Skanzen.

Posted by
2632 posts

My favorite museum is the Neprajzi (Ethnography), wonderful folk art and thorough depiction of Hungarian life and customs from the past centuries, it's just across from Parliament. Also the Museum of Applied Arts on Ulloi ut.

I really enjoyed my visit by HEV train to Godollo, took about 4 hours total of my day and it was one of the better small royal residences I have toured. I love Szentendre and have visited twice now, in late May and late August, both on a Friday, easy trip by HEV. I did not find it to be crowded with tour groups either time. It's a charming little town and I love to spend an afternoon just poking around, walking by the water and having a late lunch outdoors. I love the work of ceramicist Margit Kovacs and there's a wonderful little museum just off the main square of her works.

If you haven't been to Memento Park I highly recommend that, and I just read they've added more monuments. I spent a good hour. Also an easy trip, take the M4 to Kelenfold, catch the #150 bus towards Budateteny and in about 20 minutes you exit at the park--I checked the return time as I went on a Sunday and buses ran every 30 minutes.

My personal favorite things to do in Budapest are visiting Margit sziget--serenely beautiful, gorgeous views of Buda and Pest and since I go in the spring I visit the little zoo where there's a bird sanctuary and spend time with the storks and their chicks. This year I finally made it to the Ecseri flea market--I love a good flea market or antique shop and have been collecting Hungarian pottery from the 1920s-1940s and the place was teeming with it, excellent prices and I was in a serious quandary over what I could realistically drag home. It was fabulous. Tram #2 to Haller utca, then bus #54 or 55 to Naszod utca and cross the highway bridge. Other than that I just love being in Budapest and exploring the streets outside the main tourist areas. Next year I hope to visit Pecs and maybe Debrecen, though they are in completely opposite directions from Budapest. No plans to drive, trains are cheap and efficient.

Posted by
18789 posts

I would do no less than 3 nights in Budapest, then fly to Kiev for 2 nights, then to Lviv for one or two nights, then back to Budapest for no less than 3 nights. Or if the coast interests you, spend 3 nights in Budva (fly in and out of Podgorica). Yes, I am pushing something other than Hungary. But with so many good low cost direct flights its become hard not to reach out and explore.

In Hungary I would look at Gyor for a night and a trip to the Archabbey in Pannonhalma

Also look at Lillafüred and the forest train from Miskolc, the castle, the caves, the Palota hotel.

From your list Pecs is my favorite. Its a 2 night trip if you leave early in the morning.

Posted by
152 posts

Others have done a very nice job detailing the sights/cities etc., I will not add to that. Things may have changed but Vegetarianism and Hungarian cuisine do not marry well. Most restaurants (and households) would pick the meat out of the stew to make something vegetarian! But - at least you are travelling at the height of harvest - so you should have some choices; albeit cooked in lard. If you are a Vegan, forget it!
There are many, many wines to choose from - much, much better then Bikaver (Bull's blood). I think you will be surprised by the variety and the tastes: I especially like the red wines from Villany, usually they are blends of cab franc, cab sauv, merlot, and kekfrancos (blaufrankish in Austria). Well structured and elegant they drink like Bordeaux.
The whites along the Balaton are nice, light and very drinkable. Furmints from the Tokaj region are popular in the States and if you like Austrian Gruner's, Hungary makes a terrific knock off at half the price.
The sweet dessert wines of the Tokaj region rarely disappoint.
Wines are vegetarian, so I take back everything I said above!! You will have plenty to pass the days.

Posted by
18789 posts

I don't know why people think a major world city would not have its share of vegetarian restaurants. These are located near where most people stay, but because they are not tourist destinations, they will give you a different look at Budapest.

This one isn't vegetarian but i have eaten here with a vegetarian and he found plenty on the menu

Then, a lot of Kosher restaurants have a good vegetarian selection.

Cafe Tel Aviv
VII. Kazinczy utca 28. 1075 Budapest

Hanna's Kosher Kitchen
VII., Dob utca 35.

Karmel (Carmel) Restaurant - Meat
Kazincy u. 31., Budapest, Hungary

Kosher Butcher and Sausages
Dob utca 35

Oblath Kosher Products
1072, Budapest, Dohány u. 36

Frohlich Bakery and Café
1073, Dob utca 22, Budapest

Posted by
18789 posts

There are many, many wines to choose from - much, much better then
Bikaver (Bull's blood)

Sure, but it would be like going to Italy and not having a glass of Chianti.

I was in the Kadarka wine bar about a month ago and I saw that they had set up wine flights for some tourists so they could sample a lot of Hungarian wine. Just ask the waiter.

Another interesting aspect of Kadarka, and most of the wine bars, is the staff is pretty well versed. You can describe your preference red, white, full, light, acidic, sweet, etc. and they will bring a glass and a bottle to the table, tell you about the wine and let you sample. If you like it you buy a glass. If not they try again. If you really like it, buy the bottle and take it home.

In the early days when we were still getting things built and furnished we would go to Kadarka, find a good wine, drink a glass or two, then buy a bottle to take home. For the longest time they would pull the cork before we left and lend us a couple of wine glasses to take home (returned the next evening). Kadarka is at Király utca 42 at the corner of Vasvari Pal utca (about 4 minute walk from the Opera House). This is not an elegant place. Its a corner hang out. More upscale would be Doblo Wine Bar at Dob utca 20.

Posted by
330 posts

Hi there,
If you're going south to Kecskemet (a little over an hour by car) I am going to recommend a couple of places.
1) Szeged - (under 2 hours from Budapest, and about 90 minutes from Kecskemet) Beautiful open air theatre at the main church.

2) Gyula - My favorite hot springs place in Hungary.

Both are lovely places. Szeged has the best fish soups.

Gyula has a cool little castle too.
Driving isn't bad. Certain roads have a toll, talk with rental car company about that.

Hungary is such a beautiful country. Take a look at the websites and see what you think.
Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
18789 posts

One of the problems of touring Hungary has always been that all trains return to Budapest and that tends to encourage people to drive. But if you plan it right you can visit a couple of cities on one train route.

Budapest to Kecskemét is about 1:15 on the train and costs about $9 a ticket. Then Kecskemét to Szeged is another hour on the train and about $7 a ticket. The bus from Szeged to Pécs takes about 3 hours (driving is 2.5 hours). I am going to guess the ticket would be about $5. Then train back to Budapest in about 4 hours an $18.

Rental car costs are all over the map but I will guess no less than $40 a day, then $20 minimum a day to park it, then that trip above will cost about $60 in gas and $10 for the vignette …. So …. $250.00 for three days vs $39 using trains and a bus. With the $211 savings you can hire a guide with a car and visit some vineyards. Of course if there is two of you the savings are only $172

I admit that I am spoiled and I like looking out the window and not watching the road so I hire a driver when the train isn’t the right option. A few trips have involved taking the train down, then having a driver pick us up and takes us back on a more interesting route.

Posted by
15678 posts

So much knowledge on this forum! I love all your suggestions and advice and it's helped me make a few decisions. Here's the tentative plan:

Thursday. Arrive in Budapest (4N) late afternoon.
Friday-Sunday in Budapest with day trip to Vac
Monday. Morning train 3 hours to Pecs (2N).
Tuesday. Full day in Pecs.
Wednesday. 8.10 bus arrives in Szeged at 11.25. Late afternoon train 1 hour to Kecskemet (1N)
Thursday. Morning in Kecskemet. Early afternoon train 1.33 hours to Budapest (2N)
Friday. Possible day trip to Szentendre (mostly to Skanzen)
Saturday. Budapest. 10 pm, leave for airport.

So what do you think?

Posted by
18789 posts

Thursday Bpest

Friday Bpest

Saturday Train to Pecs. Since you will be spending all day Sunday in Pecs, there is no real need to get up too early. Pecs is a full day visit but not necessarily a day and a half.

Sunday Pecs – This way you will be in Pecs on Saturday and Sunday when all is open. A lot of things are closed on Monday. Don’t forget to track down the Synagogue in Pecs. Worth the time.

Monday Morning Bus to Szeged. GREAT! Tell me what you think when you get there. Never been there. You should spend the night.

Tuesday Morning train to Kecskemet then very late train on to Budapest. I think for a first visit a long day may be enough. Its close if you want to see more on the next trip.

Wednesday Budapest to decompress for a few days. Day trips if you want, or stay in town if that’s the mood of the moment. If you go to Vac, you really might enjoy the Bears on the way back but that requires about $100 for a driver.

Thursday Budapest

Friday Budapest

Saturday Depart

Posted by
15678 posts

LOL. If I had the money, I'd buy a place in the Galilee hills and spend the rest on travel.