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How Much Can I realistically do?

Hi All - Lot's of great infor here and yet I need more : ) !

We are a group of 4 adults coming into Budapest on a Viking Cruise mid September of 2022. We are staying 2 additional Nights and staying at the Marriott Budapest on points. The other couple are staying at the Matild Palace.
I have a few questions and hoping you all can offer guidance.

  1. Does anyone have opinions on the included Viking Shore Excurison tour of Budapest? Are we better off grabbing a guide and/or going it on our own. I have gone on some guided tours with them and regretted giving the little amount of time I had to it. (Not for the city - but for the lack of really seeing it).

  2. Guides - Does anyone have any idea of a price per hour? I have no gauge and just wondering what one might cost.

  3. I want to see everything, experience a bath house ( leaning towards Gellert ) and learn about what I am seeing. I just am having a hard time figuring out timing with transportation , and not rushing rushing rushing. A highlight will be sitting and watching the world go by sipping a coffee and eating a pastry. (each day we are here) and having a cocktail and reapeating each evening.

3.5. Which of the attractions should we take the tour inside of vs. which ones to just opt into vs which too just look from the outside.
We did the Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris and loved it. I would imagine this would be different in it's own right?

  1. Do I have time to do a trip to the countryside? I saw two different options that I thougt interesting but not sure if with the amount of time we have wether to wander our. One is the town RS suggests Eger ( 2 hours just to get there) and the other Puszta Tour with a horse show and lunch with gipsy music ( looks to be 5-6 hours) also had a crazy looking white dog.

  2. Not interested in the House of Terror ( we went to the one in Rottenburg and loved it, but think it won't be too different).

  3. Eatting and drinking - Seems like Kadarka Wine Bar is a must do from all the forum chatter but how are these restaurants bars? Jardin Cocktail bar, Meatology, Parisig? Any suggestions?

Thank you for any thoughts you might have, I do appreciate it.

Posted by
4267 posts

We did the Rhine river cruise, we thought all the included excursions were excellent. I'm not sure there will be many on the forum that will have done a Viking Cruise.

If Viking does not do an included tour of Parlament, I would do that. There are English Language tours. We did not tour the opera house, but wished we had time to. We were able to go in and see the lobby. It was wonderful. I would go to both of the Budapest markets.

Posted by
423 posts

Leave at least a few hours for Gellart. The baths are unique and well worth it. Check Tours by Locals to get an idea of the types of tours and costs. If you do decide to go to the country, going with a guide would help you with transportation and maximize your time. Have you checked the Cruise Critic boards to get some comments on the shore excursions?

Posted by
14 posts

I'll be able to comment next month when I'm home from my Viking Amsterdam to Budapest. We're a party of 4 doing the 2 day Viking extension. Since I've never been to Budapest before we might do the Viking overview the first day if we're not tired of being on a tour. We are staying at the InterContinental on Viking conveniently on the Pest side. You can research James E comments for his many recommendations on Budapest. In general I think the Viking tours are overpriced and we've only signed up for one during our 14 day cruise. They want $119 to do the Optional Budapest Highlights during the extension which includes the Parliament but you might be able to book that on your own for far less.

Posted by
4267 posts

I would agree with the above commenter that Viking can be a little pricey, but for what they are, they do a nice job. However, it would have to be a very special situation for me to ever pay for their optional excursions. Those, to me, seem to be exceptionally high priced and most often, it is something you could do one your own for MUCH less money. I also would be unlikely to pay for their extensions which also seem to be very high priced.

Posted by
21086 posts

English-language tours of the Hungarian Parliament sold out early in the pre-COVID era, so I'd check right away to see whether you can snag one.

I took a couple of walking tours (one in Buda, one in Pest) back in 2018. They were offered by Cityrama. I believe they lasted either 90 minutes or 2 hours. I though they were a good value at only about the equivalent of 15 euros each. (They were covered by my Budapest Card, but I checked on the cash price.) They both involved a good bit of walking, though.

I thought the House of Terror was very well-done, but it is time-consuming and you don't have much time. I haven't been to the House of Terror in Rothenburg but I doubt that it's as comprehensive as the one in Budapest. For one thing, Rothenburg wasn't behind the Iron Curtain, so it didn't suffer through decades of repression after WWII.

Posted by
13564 posts

I am not good on wide open questions. Narrow down your free time and your interests a bit and I can be of more help. I suggest the Eyewitness Guide to Budapest (Amazon). Even the Top Ten version is enough.

First, figure out what time you may have. Something like this:
Wednesday (first extended night): Flight arrives at 3:00pm, figure 1:15 to get from you seat on the plane to hour hotel room. So you have Wednesday late afternoon and evening.

Thursday (second extended night): Free all day

Friday: Board Boat. I believe other boarding you are on your own or you buy a tour from them

Saturday: You have the morning and afternoon free (or you buy one of their tours or maybe one is included). But you sail that evening (I think, you can confirm)

So, its not a lot of time.

Posted by
13564 posts

Guides - Does anyone have any idea of a price per hour? ….

Look at https://bestbudapesttourguides.com/en/choose_a_guide-page-3/andras_i_-guide-14/ I have know Andrew for almost 20 years. Good guy.

I want to see everything, experience a bath house ( leaning towards
Gellert ) and learn about what I am seeing. I just am having a hard
time figuring out timing with transportation

From your hotel Gellert is a snap. A couple stops down river on the 2 Tram and then cross the bridge on the 47/49 tram and you will be in front of it.

… A highlight will be sitting and watching the world go by sipping a
coffee and eating a pastry. (each day we are here) and having a
cocktail and reapeating each evening.

If you go to the Gellert there are places for that. Actually, there are places all over town. Right next to your hotel for instance with spectacular views across the river.

3.5. Which of the attractions should we take the tour inside of vs. which ones to just opt into vs which too just look from the outside.

Inside: Parliament and Opera House and Great Market Hall and Great Synagogue.
Outside: With a TravelCard you hop on a tram and when you see something interesting you hop off. The trams go through great areas of town with lots of things of interest. Learn the routes (before you go) of the M1 Metro line, the 2 Tram, the 4/6 Tram. With those you get to see most of what is interesting. And the M1 and Trams are easy to enjoy on their own

We did the Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris and loved it. I would
imagine this would be different in it's own right?

The Hungarian State Opera just reopened after a complete renovation. You can find tours on the website. But I suggest you see a performance if it works with your schedule, if you have a sports coat and if you book really soon to get good seats. I recommend a box as close to center as you can get. https://www.opera.hu/en/programme/ I like this photo because I am in it if you look close https://1drv.ms/u/s!Ai7Zk-szxfTJioZCn4nG5jVJQlbSNg?e=pgI1qC

Do I have time to do a trip to the countryside? I saw two different
options that I thougt interesting but not sure if with the amount of
time we have wether to wander our. One is the town RS suggests Eger (
2 hours just to get there) and the other Puszta Tour with a horse show
and lunch with gipsy music ( looks to be 5-6 hours) also had a crazy
looking white dog.

You can if you want. Its all about how you want to spend your time. Personally, I think you will find enough in town to keep you busy.

For dinner and gypsy music try https://www.rezkakasbistro.hu/ good food, good service, gypsy music.

Not interested in the House of Terror ( we went to the one in
Rottenburg and loved it, but think it won't be too different).

I would suggest that it will be completely different because it is about the Nazi and Arrow Cross Fascist occupation at the end of the war. Pure Hungarian terror. The building was used by both as their headquarters and I belive the Russians as well until they pulled out in 1991

Eatting and drinking - Seems like Kadarka Wine Bar is a must do from
all the forum chatter but how are these restaurants bars? Jardin
Cocktail bar, Meatology, Parisig? Any suggestions?

I have an old post with some restaurants I like . https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/hungary/where-to-eat-in-budapest-785435ae-4359-4197-8399-0e8f250f64b2 Check each one because the post is a few years old and COVID did a number on Budapest.

Oh, and Kadarka gets a lot of comment here because its a popular hangout. Very Hungarian, very community, but not fancy by any means. Upscale version might be Dobolo Wine Bar a few blocks away on Dob utca.

Posted by
21 posts

Great Information all - Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

Clarification, not sure it makes a ton of difference! We arrive to Budapest off the boat, so including the night we arrive into town ( not sure what that will be as I have not seen a time line from Viking ), We have one full day in Budapest with our heads resting back on the boat that night,( we can take the morning tour with Viking or strike out on our own) plus the following two full days we are in town and the last day will be grabbing breakfast and heading to the airport for a noon flight. So three full days with the possibility of one additional night.

Parliament is something we are wanting to do, but I think the tickets for our dates haven't been posted as yet, I have visited the site a couple of times and can't seem to be able to buy them.

For the Opera House on 9/24/22 is Tosca which would work into schedule, but again I can't seem to be able to purchase tickets unless it is for the season? Do you think individual tickets have not as yet come on sale?

I will rethink the House of Terror...

When I say I want to see everything it is within reason, why I was trying to figure out the timing of gettting there plus the time to do the tour. This is what the Viking tour says it will do in 4 hours ( adding the queing time and all else prolly 5 hours and doesn't incl lunch - which is weird as the tour goes from 0915-1315) :
Meet your guide for a panoramic tour, beginning in modern Pest. Along the elegant Andrássy Avenue, the Champs-Élysées of Budapest, admire the Hungarian State Opera House. Drive through Heroes’ Square, a wide-open plaza of monuments and statues commemorating the Magyar state. Across the river, explore the more traditional Buda side of the city. Here you will visit the Castle District with its massive hilltop castle complex, the turreted Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church, named for the country’s most popular medieval king. From the heights of Buda Hill, enjoy fantastic views of the famous Chain Bridge, the first span to ever connect the two halves of the city when it opened in 1849.
I feel like they are covering a lot of ground via a motorcoach and might be better seen in a different way? Or perhaps it is a good way to get an overview of Budapest?

They also offer the Hungarian Horseman trip to visit the Lázár Equestrian Park as an afternoon tour 1400- 1730 which might be a good way to see the countryside.

So roughly I am thinking:

Day 1 - Viking Tour of the City ( or half day on our own with a guide tour) plus Viking Countryside Tour
Day 2 Half Day Pest + (Parliament tour / House of terror) plus Baths ( plus lunch, dinner, coffee, ruin bar)
Day 3 Half Day Buda + ( Buda Castle / Fisherman's Bastion) / plus Opera

Can I fit in Matthias Church, Hero's Square, The Great Synagogue, Great Market Hall, Andtassy Ave, and the Cave Hospital into any of these days? If we forgo the Viking tour what would be the easiest places to visit to get back to the boat in time for the 2PM tour?

What am I missing?

I'm already annoyed with myself - so thank you for yout patience in helping me. And it is not the sports coat for the opera it is the additional pair of shoes I'd have to bring! Oh and talking of shoes - what does one wear into the baths on their feet?

Posted by
2320 posts

I will comment on day 3 in Buda--some things there you can just observe--Matthias church, Fishermen's bastion--spectacular views--Buda castle (unless you decide to tour the wonderful art museum, too), but if you get a chance to tour the Hospital in the Rock don't miss it--I must say it's one of the more fascinating places in Budapest, and the guided tour takes about 1.5 hrs. Maybe try to allot at least 3, 4 is better, hours for Castle Hill exploring.

Posted by
13564 posts

The Viking Tour I have been advised not to be so negative. So I tried. This sounds absolutely horrible. Might as well buy the movie.

Meet your guide for a panoramic tour, beginning in modern Pest. Along
the elegant Andrássy Avenue, the Champs-Élysées of Budapest, admire
the Hungarian State Opera House. Drive through Heroes’ Square, a
wide-open plaza of monuments and statues commemorating the Magyar
state. Across the river, explore the more traditional Buda side of the
city. Here you will visit the Castle District with its massive hilltop
castle complex, the turreted Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church,
named for the country’s most popular medieval king. From the heights
of Buda Hill, enjoy fantastic views of the famous Chain Bridge, the
first span to ever connect the two halves of the city when it opened
in 1849.

The Opera. Not on sale yet. That would be the 2022 / 2023 Season. Should be on sale by June, but doesnt hurt to check from time to time. This is still very much a local venue and the good seats go quick.

Posted by
13564 posts

Day 1 - Viking Tour of the City ( or half day on our own with a guide
tour) plus Viking Countryside Tour

The Viking City Tour drives you past all of the things you will be walking back to on your own. You only need to do it once (for a first visit). Skip it.

Suggested Day 1 – Assuming its not Saturday: Tram to Great Market Hall in the morning (or walk up Vaci utca to the market). From the market take the 47/49 Tram to the Great Synagogue and take the basic tour (less than an hour). Short walk back to your boat for the “countryside tour”.

Day 2 Half Day Pest + (Parliament tour / House of terror) plus Baths (
plus lunch, dinner, coffee, ruin bar)

Suggested Day 2: Take 2 Tram to the Parliament for the first tour of the morning (watch for tickets going on sale). Then walk up Falk Miska utca for the antique shops. At the end you will find the 4/6 Tram. Take it to the Oktogon and walk up Andrasy ut to The House of Terror. Then continue up Andrassy ut to Heroes Square to City Park a. Maybe have lunch at Robinson Restaurant in City Park for lunch or Bográcsgulyás terasz / Kessel Gulyás Garden nearby the park. Then get on the M1 Metro line to the Opera and do the Opera House tour.

At this point you are a pleasant walk to District VII where most of the Ruin Pubs are located. Close to Kadarka and Dobolo too.

Day 3 Half Day Buda + ( Buda Castle / Fisherman's Bastion) / plus
Opera

Suggestesd Day 3
Hire a guide for a proper tour of Buda. You will get more out of it that way. Andrew is good. Do the castle and the Hospital in the Rock and the Fisherman’s Bastion. Then Have your guide show you the famous old Gellert Hotel and since he got you there, pay him, send him on his way and do the baths.

After, you cross back to Pest on the 47/49 Tram, Connect to the 2 Tram and you are home.

Posted by
78 posts

Liz,

Whatever you do, you will love it!

Restaurants: One restaurant that is close to your location is: https://retekbisztro.hu/
It is teeny tiny and reservations are required. It is a delightful restaurant with lovely service and food. I've been for both lunch and dinner and am never disappointed.
My other favorite restuarant in the area is: https://porcesprezli.hu/en/
They often have live music and the food, service, and atmosphere are wonderful. We go for dinner every time. We were there in the fall and took our Hungarian relatives for dinner and they enjoyed it too.

Cocktails: A great place for drinks is https://075bistro.hu/ in the square by the Baszilica. You just can't beat the view and the people watching.

Spas: I would vote for Széchenyi over Gellert, only becaused it's my favorite spa. :) You can take the M1, enjoy the baths, and then walk to Heroes Square, check that out, and get back on the M1.

Coffee and pastry: I love the Művész Kávéház on Andrássy in Pest and Ruszwurm Cukraszda in Buda. Both are perfect for relaxing and enjoying the view. Ruszwurm has THE BEST krémes. I would also recommend Auguszt Cukrászda. You won't sit outside, but the inside is lovely. (full disclosure: owned by friends of the family) We usually get a little bag of treats to put in our backpack as we wander around the city.

Posted by
21 posts

Love all these replies - You all are really the best.
I had the feeling that the included Viking bus tour would be a bad allocation of time! thank you for that confirmation!

I have noted all the restaurants and made a reservation at the one - plan is to see many of those cafes and bars!

I also agree the Hospital in the Rocks looks amazing and will schedule that, the Parliament and the Opera House ( if we can not get tickets to a concert while we are in town) Again if you are ever in Paris anyone, the Opera House tour there is not to miss! I also want to see the Hungarian Art inside the Buda, while not staying an incredible amount of time would like to see a tour of some of the highlights ( if they offer in english tours or I can create a self guided one of some of the art). Half our group is leaning to one of the spas the other half to the other - what did you like more about the one you choose?

Wondering - not at all sure when the boat docks on the first night if we are able to get off an wander about and see the city awash in lights? I did read that we come into the city in the evening and get to take all that in.

I agree, once we are there whatever we end up experencing will be wonderful. Not having done a river cruise before and reading the descriptions ( and some of the cost of excursions!) was trying to figure out where to spend the time we are there. Our most favorites times on vacations are when we are just wandering about taking in the city and food and drink of the area. ( Mind you we do like seeing the buildings inside too - just like the time and walks between them all as much.

Again, thank you for all your thoughts - and the trams lines - great info!! I can not wait to be there!

Posted by
13564 posts

Mind you we do like seeing the buildings inside too - just like the
time and walks between them all as much.

Your friends Matild Palace I suspect will be awe inspiring on the inside. The Four Seasons equally and the New York Palace exceeds both of those (great for coffee and still attracts locals as it has for over 100 years). Also, as you walk down the street if you see the main House door open on any of the buildings, walk in; or at least look in. The courtyards can be anything from ruins to majestic and each is different.

If budget isn't a huge issue and you want to do very Hungarian restaurant that for over 100 years has been serving everyone from Nazi elite to Soviet elite and now Hungarian upper middle class with few if any tourists then send me a PM or if you want to try a cukrászda (Hungarian pastry shop) also very much a local but very, very beautiful inside (and the courtyard) and wonderful pastries PM me for that.

Oh, and the Matild Palace has one of the best roof top bars in town. Fantastic views in the evening.

Posted by
14 posts

I returned home from Viking's Amsterdam to Budapest on May 7th having done the 2 day extension in Budapest. I must be getting old as by the time we got to Budapest we were tired and didn't do that much inspite of having so many great suggestions from James E. (I'll just have to go back sometime).
Our Viking TIR hit a sand bar the morning of our arrival so our city tour in Budapest was shorted by several hours. Luckily they flagged down a tour boat and we got to the shore where the Viking buses were waiting. If we had arrived on time we probably would have bailed from the tour early, but it did help us get oriented. Plus there was a bicycle race the weekend we got there so the area by Heroes Square was a mess.
The tour took us to Fishermen's Bastion and the Church nearby but by then all the tour buses had arrived and it was very crowded. (be sure to bring your Euros' for the toilet) We went back on our own the next day early and the church was almost empty and we looked thru their museum which we hadn't even noticed the day before.
The only Viking optional tour we took in Budapest was the Thermal Baths - from our ship of 127 passengers 6 people signed up - they took us to Szechenyi baths which is HUGE! (bring flip flops not slippers).

We did get to the food Caravan for lunch and the Ferris wheel at night. Also I purchased tickets for the Parliament tour on my own (approx 20USD) and that was worthwhile, but tours are in many languages so getting one in English on the days your there might be difficult. Keep checking their website as they open their calendar for the dates you need - you might have to wait until August to purchase.

We bought the transit pass after we found a machine to purchase it but it takes several changes to get over the river from the Pest side with the Chain bridge closed even to pedestrians.

I had purchased 63,000 forints in the US which we used all of and charged our dinners over the 2 1/2 days in Budapest.

Hope this helps!

Posted by
8 posts

We were there 5 nights ( 4 and half days to sightsee) recently, and still I would have liked longer. We did not take an excursion out of the city.

My opinion: don't miss the Great Synagogue and its courtyard. We didn't take a tour, but there are good signs in English, and right now, there is an exhibit that I will never forget about what happened right in that neighborhood.

We took one of the free walking tours- tip at the end - and it was excellent! You can make a reservation but it didn't seem necessary. https://www.triptobudapest.hu/ We want on the Communism walk which ended at the Parliament building. I'm glad the guide pointed out the monument+exhibit to the heroes of 1956 uprising which we might have missed. It's a small underground area, with an entrance on the plaza (free). This was another highlight of Budapest for me.

My daughter didn't want to go into the House of Terror. I'm glad I bought a ticket to support, but I couldn't give it the time it deserves. It's a difficult experience - as it should be. Even if you don't go in, I recommend reading the exhibit out front.

We did pop into the Opera to see just the lobby (free) while strolling up Andrassy Ut. Gorgeous! Got coffee at Callas next door (I'm an art nouveau fan)

I loved the inside of the Matthias church up by the castle- it's different from anything else I've seen. We almost missed it because we went up there late afternoon - but I'm so glad we made it.

One place slightly off the beaten track is visit the Zwack factory museum. We really enjoyed this - so interesting and told the story of modern Hungarian history through the lens of the the Zwack family and their Unicum liquor comany. Fun tram ride to get there. When I got home I was watching news and ret Brig General Zwack comes on to comment. With a name like that - had to check - sure enough, he is a son of the family.

Posted by
2271 posts

The House of Terror is a uniquely Hungarian examination of the police states of both Nazi Hungary during WWII, and the communist era of 1945-1991. We visited in 2011, on exactly the 20 year anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Budapest. The time of police states is not behind us.

One thing that we have not done in our 5 trips to Budapest is to go to one of the old, traditional coffee houses. That's high on my list for the next trip. We went to Kadarka, which was fun.

If you like opera, attending a performance is also a possibility. But tickets go fast. So, pick a date and see what is available. We have seen 3 performances there.

One other fun "commie-time" excursion is to Monument Park. Some enterprising guy bought all the Commie-time statues and put them in a park where Stalin and Lenin push each other around, in statutory form. Another fun visit.

Posted by
24 posts

While I am always happy to recommend anybody visit Eger, with your limited time there, I would skip the countryside. There's just too much to do and see in Budapest itself. It will take at least 2 hours to get there - if the trains aren't running the whole way, you're going to have to do bus-train transfers which will add even more time to the already 2-hour trip.

As far as eating, I love to recommend Lado Cafe. It's traditional Hungarian food with a large wine and cocktail selection. There is usually live music during dinner as well.