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Itinerary for short Budapest visit the end of December

We (myself, my 26 yo son and 14 yo daughter) will be making a short trip to Budapest from Vienna on December 29th and 30th. We will arrive around 4:00 in the afternoon on the 29th and will leave around 9:30 p.m. on the 30th. We are staying at the K & K Hotel Opera. I know this is much too short a time to truly experience Budapest I really want to get a taste of it for a future trip. We would like to see the following: State Opera House, St. Stephen's Basilica, House of Terror and the Great market Hall. I've chosen these both because they are of interest and because they can be fairly quick to see (except House of Terror which I have read will take 2-3 hours). We would also like to visit Szechenyi Bath which I am thinking we will visit on Tuesday night before we leave as I've read it is fun to visit at night (I realize inside closes at 7:00 so I was thinking 5:30 - 8:00 giving us an hour to get to the train). I am seeking help on creating the most efficient itinerary and for suggestions for Monday night. I am thinking it would be nice to simply see the lights and have a nice dinner. Would walking be a sufficient way to see the city lights or would a nighttime cruise be better (They seem to start at 6:30 and take one hour so would we have time to get to our hotel and then to cruise and plan dinner after?). I am also wondering if a visit to the Holiday market would be much different than that we would have seen in Vienna (I am trying to eliminate sites to see!). Is there a particular site (such as the Parliament) that you would substitute for something I've listed. Also, any suggestions for a family type restaurant for dinner on MOnday night. Thanks for your help.

Posted by
535 posts

I went a few weeks ago and decided to nix my plans for the cruise. I felt that I wanted to explore more on foot and I also figured that a walk along the Danube would provide me the same night views as those on the cruise; free in this case. In your case if you decide to skip the cruise and you don't want to walk, there are two trams that run along either side of the river providing you with the same view.

I much rather preferred visiting St. Matthias church on Buda hill. The interior is more sumptuous than St. Istvan's. But that's just me.

You should be able to tackle all of those sights if you plan efficiently and utilize the public transport as much as possible. Although most of the sights you want to tackle are fairly close to one another. Metro Line 1 will provide you easy access to the Opera, House of Terror, St. Istvan's, and Szechenyi. The only outlier is the Great Market Hall, but it shouldn't take very long to get there from the Opera area (~20 minutes or so).

Posted by
9305 posts

December 29 the sun sets about 4 pm so by the time you get to the K&K and get checked in it will be quite dark. That’s a good thing. In the winter Budapest is fairly alive in the evenings. So walk out to Andrassy ut from the K&K (about 150 feet) and then cross Andrassy ut for a better view of the Opera all lit up. Now cross back to the Opera House side and go down to the metro. This is the M1, the oldest on the continent. Take it to the last stop. This is Tourism Central, but it’s pretty in the evening. The river is about 150 feet away. From this vantage point you can see Castle Hill and the Chain Bridge all lit up.

Now, map in hand walk to the Chain Bridge and cross it on foot. This is a pretty special walk. You will enjoy it. At the far end you will see some yellow trams parked off to the left. Get on one of the trams heading from left to right while you face the Castle Hill. Sit on the right hand side of the tram for the most interesting view. You will go two stops to Batthyány tér; this will give you a pretty spectacular view of the Pest water front and the Parliament. At Batthyány tér go down the stairs and the incredible escalator to the M2 Metro Station. The metro direction is designated by the name of the end stop. You want to go in the direction of Örs vezér tere. Get off at the second stop; Deák Ferenc tér.

Now get out your trusty map and walk to the Dohány utca Synagogue (aka Great Synagogue). Maybe a 5 minute walk. Sorry, but you will only get an exterior view but it’s still worth the walk. Now go up Wesselényi utca and you will see the tree of life on the right. Make the first left (Rumbach Sebestyén utca) and you will be in the heart of the old Jewish Deportation Ghetto. The next right is Dohany utca. About 100 feet up on the left at the corner of Kazinczy utca is Macesz Huszar Bistro http://maceszhuszar.hu/menu.html . Did I mention to make reservations for 7:30pm? This is traditional Hungarian food done pretty well, much of it based on Jewish tradition. But in Budapest the line between “Hungarian” and “Jewish” is pretty blurred.

Now you will walk down Kazinczy utca to Kiraly utca and turn right. Kiraly utca is sort of a typical “Budapest” street restaurants, shops, bullet holes, you know; typical. Next left is Vasvari Pal utca. There is a decent wine bar on the corner called Kadarka but I don’t guess that’s a good idea for a 14 year old? As you continue up Vasvari Pal utca you will see an old Synagogue on the right and a yellow apartment block on the left. Just after passing the center door of the yellow building shout “Howdy Damn it!” a good Aggie “Whoop” also might work; but really loud and maybe I can come out and greet you. With a small offset Vasvari Pal utca ends at the Opera House.

But wait, it’s early (and colder than all get out). Get on the M1 metro again. This time from the entrance on the same side of Andrassy ut as my street. Go up 5 stops to Hősök tere which is Hero’s Square. Also pretty memorable when all lit up. So far each of you has used 4 metro tickets. Now, the choice is yours. There are 5 stops between you and your hotel at the Opera metro stop. If you aren’t worried about the $1.35 per ticket then then I would hop on and off at every other stop so you can see some of Andrassy ut all lit up.

Oh!! Where did all of those metro tickets come from? There are machines in the Train Station (or so I am told), the new metro station under the train station probably has a window (haven’t been there since the renovation), the M1 Stop at the Opera House may have a window open (look at both sides of the tracks) or the guards at the M1 may sell you some tickets, the desk at the hotel may try and sell you three 24 hour Budapest cards (not a horrible solution) or you can order 3 on line in advance. Better solution for you guys might be to purchase 3 books of 10 tickets for 3,000 ft each (about $13).

Posted by
9305 posts

Good morning.

The K&K has a pretty decent breakfast and it will be the quickest and easiest; but you are in Budapest so you want to go to Két Szerecsen http://ketszerecsen.hu/?lang=en about 2 blocks away. Go across Andrassy ut and up my street to the first intersection then turn left and the road will pretty much run right into the place. Less than a 5 minute walk. Let’s assume you finished breakfast by 9:30. Don’t forget to check out before you leave the hotel. The desk will hold your bags.

Now continue up Andrassy ut to an intersection called the Oktogon (towards Hero’s Square). Get on the 4/6 tram going right to left with your back to the Opera House (whence you came). You will go two stops and see Eiffel’s Train Station on the way (Nyugati Station). Sit on the right for the most interesting views. When you get off, facing the river look towards your left and you will see another tram line. This is the number 2 tram. If you would rather just walk, follow the tram a few blocks to the Parliament. Oh, you did buy tickets? Right? http://hungarianparliament.com/tours/ . It’s about 10 am and the entire tour and wait shouldn’t take more than an hour. So you will be done maybe 11 or 11:30.

Now you are going to get on that Number 2 tram to the stop just before the Chain Bridge. From that point using your trusty map you will work your way inland and up the Pedestrian Street and plaza that leads to St. Stephens. At the Basilica steps look to the front of the basilica and to your immediate right and you will find a few sort of high end, sort of better quality souvenir shops. Oh, and you passed one on the pedestrian road that has a great music theme. So much of Budapest is about the music. Tour the Basilica and go the top and see the hand. Travel, Shopping and seeing the basilica is maybe 2 hours. So maybe 1:30 (please tell me when you get back if I am anywhere close to being correct).

Might be lunch time by now? Behind the Basilica and across the street is a place called Belvárosi Lugas Vendéglő. Excellent Hungarian stuffed cabbage and menu in general.

Make your way further south to the end of Andrassy ut and get on the M1 and take it three stops to Vörösmarty utca station. House of Terror is here. Yes, excellent idea. 2 hours minimum. Now it’s maybe 4:30 so head for the bath house. Back on the M1 to the stop just after Hero’s Square. After the bath house hop on the M1 back to the hotel, pick up your bags and head for the train station.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you Gabriel for your suggestions - I will definitely check out St. Matthias church.

James...join us for dinner ok? I'll make the reservation for 4 at 7:30! What a fabulous walk and evening you have laid out for us. Thank you so much!! The restaurant looks amazing - it will be hard to choose what to eat. I am sure we can stop into the wine bar too - juice w/fizzy water will make my daughter happy! Oh my gosh - so excited!

Posted by
9305 posts

I have been advised to inform you that there are wine bars with better ambiance; true. But I have never met better folks then the ownership and staff of this place; also true.

Have a blast and let me know if I can help.

Oh, dinner reservations? Would have to be my wife, my sons 26 and 23 and my daughter 21. Don't think you want to deal with that.

Posted by
13 posts

James...more amazing plans for us. Thank you once more! I see the Parliament is on our itinerary so I will order tickets! And I will let you know how all the timing worked out. I have read on other posts that you recommend City Taxi? Would this be a good choice for us as well? Many thanks!

Posted by
535 posts

I'll second the use of City Taxi. Call them about 5-10 minutes before you intend to be picked up. If you're out of cash, the cabbies accept credit card payments free of charge.

I also second the Parliament tour. Such a beautiful interior. Don't attempt to take pictures of the well guarded crown :-).

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9305 posts

sueco, then there is the husband and wife that manage the apartment we stay in, oh and their two daughters about 5 and maybe 8. that;s 12. Hey, that's a Dinner Party!!!!

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13 posts

Thanks Gabriel for confirming City Taxi and for the suggestion to call them 5-10 minutes prior and letting me know they take cards. I'll be sure to report back after our trip on how it all went. Most grateful for all the help:-)

Posted by
12 posts

Best and least expensive souvenirs can be found from the Great Market Hall, second floor. Explore the building and realize that it was designed by Mr Eiffel. First floor is fruits, vegetables, and meats, the basement has a supermarket, and fish. The second floor is full of Hungarian handicrafts and other perfect souvenir items. Also you can eat here authentic goulash, or grab some coffee and luscious pastry with the natives. Enjoy!

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13 posts

Marjatta, Thanks so much for your suggestion! I am looking forward to the Great Market Hall and will be sure to check out the second floor for souvenirs. We are one week away from leaving on our trip and getting very excited!

Posted by
13 posts

James, you will still beat me there! We fly first to Munich, then to Salzburg and Vienna before our brief but highly anticipated overnight to Budapest on the 29th :)
Thanks again for all your help in creating my itinerary. I hope you have a fabulous time and I will be sure to report on our adventure!

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9305 posts

OVERNIGHT STAY!!!!!! Soooooooooooooooooooooo Sad. Did I ever mention that we discovered Budapest after day two of our four day trip to Vienna found us bored out of our minds. We just packed up and caught a train south to this strange unheard of place and fell in love. NOW, before someone rips me. It is perfectly okay to love Vienna. The fact that so many people disagree about the simple things is what keeps life amazing.

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Sad that it's so short yes, but good that we can go and fall in love with Budapest and come back! You crammed a lot into our overnight so we will have a nice tease!