I am going to be in Paris France from Dec 20-26. I may get laid off from my job (again) starting the day I fly from the US. I would be notified Dec 12. I would then scramble to arrange transportation and lodging at that time. If so, I am planning to take a cheap (?) flight to Budapest for 2 nights (Dec 26 and 27). Any suggestions on cheap or reasonable place to stay? What do you think my chances are of finding such a place on 2 weeks notice? Would I be able to find something once I land in Budapest if I can't book anything prior? What about plane or train reservations to and from Budapest? I am planning to go to Vienna then Bratislava (Slovakia) after Budapest....then fly back to Paris for 1 night then fly back to the US. Any info you can offer will be GREATLY appreciated. Thank you!
You know that a lot is closed on the 26th. That does make it a decent day to travel though. The Christmas markets do stay open until the first of the year so that is a good thing. I am sort of biased and I would say 2 nights is sort of a short visit; but your trip. Take the train to Bratislava after Budapest, then go to Vienna as you will have a better chance of finding a flight out of Vienna.
Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!! Your question. Sure, you can find a place on a weeks notice. Winter isn't exactly high season. With a two night stay you can get a pretty nice apartment for maybe 45 euro or a decent hotel like the K&K for about 90 euro. Since its a short trip I would say stay as close to center as possible. The Marriott and the Sofitel and the Intercontinental right on the river are also good bets but a little more money.
Thank you James! I am planning on staying from Friday (26th) until sometime on Sunday (28) or maybe Monday (29th). My itinerary is not set in stone....except for Paris-already booked. Right now I am planning so I can take advantage of possible additional time off work since I will already be in Europe. I want to at least get a taste of a couple of places to know if I want to return in the future. I realize that Budapest deserves more time (so does Paris from what I understand). This will NOT be my only trip to Europe (my mantra)!
Paris, Vienna, Budapest is the order I would do and I would either skip Bratislava or make it a day trip out of Vienna.
But you can't do wrong and you will come back..........
David, if I were an expert I could probably be more help than this, but this is all I got.
1) Never tried to get a bike home from the airport....... I am going to bet the taxi is the best bet. When you get off the plane work your way past all the private cabbies hawking their services in the airport arrival lounge. Go outside and look to your left for the FOTAXI kiosk. Tell them the deal and they will get a van for your. To be honest I don't know that it costs any more for a van. The rate to the town center in a standard cab will be 30 to 35 dollars.
2) I have never stayed in a B&B or a Hostel in Hungary so I can’t comment on the quality of any of the names you list. Check the reviews on line I guess. Myself, I generally find the negative reviews more use than the positive ones. The positive ones are generally like “best in Budapest” from a person who has only been to Budapest that one time and wouldn’t know best if it hit them in the …… On the other hand the negative reviews will give you an idea of the bottom end of the accommodation standard. It can only get better from there. What I can do is tell you about the neighborhoods (usually). So:
Butterfly: In Pest which to me is a plus. Not the most conveniently situated location but near the metro and tram line stops at Kalvin ter which will get you into the center fairly easily. On a scale of 1 to 5 (best) the location is a 3 (just my opinion).
Bellevue: In Buda which doesn’t light my fire. A fair walk vertical to the castle district and a fair walk vertical from the river. If at the end of the day you just want to go to bed then maybe Buda is okay. If you want to explore, not so good. BUT, from those I have spoken to who have stayed there it get good reviews. About a 10 minute walk plus 5 more minutes on the subway and a couple more minutes of walking to get to the center of Pest. Location for me is a 2
Mathias Rex Guesthouse: Excellent if you want to stay in Szentendre and commute to Budapest.
Maria & Istvan Apartments: I had trouble pinning down the address. The location is really pretty far out, but it is in Pest and know some of the surroundings and if you want quiet you will sure get that. It is just a few minutes from the M3 which will take you to the center of town in about 10 minutes. How about a score of 2.5.
You want a quiet side street. As cities go, with a few notable exceptions, Budapest is a fairly quiet place. For 50 euro you should be able to find an apartment in the center of the town. To ensure its quiet just get one facing the courtyard and not the street.
3) Train, again I am not certain. I think there may be a surcharge. When you get to town go to the station and ask, or give them a phone call from the states. Their number is on the website. The one time I called they were kind and helpful.
4) Great town. Love Pecs. Unfortunately I stay in a hotel. Again, I am not too much help. Sorry.
I'll jump in... I always stayed in the Bellevue B&B before moving to Budapest - only because I love the owners. But I agree, the Buda hills is not the best location. The Butterfly is owned by their son. It is in (to me) one of the most fantastic locations in the city. It is the B&B I recommend to most. That area of Budapest has just been completely renovated - and it is now one of my favorite parts of the city.
I can't talk to the others.
Ah, and on bikes, my husband is a biker. I see cyclists with their bikes on the trains all the time (and walking thru the stations). Sometimes, there is a separate car for bikes (assembled bikes). On local trains, I often see people standing with their bikes in the areas near the door (perhaps not optimal all the way to Pecs).
@David, the Gardonyi Guesthouse is in a lovely neighborhood in Pest. You are apparently athletic so the climb won't bother you. At my age, it a sort of thing I can do once a day. You will want to find your way to the Batthyany tér metro station. You know you can do a dry run on Google Maps using the Street View yoiu can "walk" the entire route and become familiar with the neighborhood.
The Batthyany tér metro station will be your point of contact to the rest of Budapest. I figure its about a fifteen minute walk from the guest house and maybe a little longer in the opposite direction going back up the hill. From Batthyany tér metro station there are a number of choices. So study a good metro / tram map and take the trams when you have a choice. Nothing worse than spending your vacation underground.
In all honesty I have only taken maybe 5 or 6 round trip rides on the trains in Hungary. In that time it seems to me I have seen a bike or two but I don't know the arrangement or requirement regarding it. I do believe that the metro requires you to use two tickets to take a bike onboard but again I am not sure. Best to call MAV.
@worldinbetween we agree. I always try and put myself in the position of a first time visitor and I suggest deeper in the heart of the town so they can spend more time seeing and less time traveling the same route back and forth to their accommodation; especially when, while pretty, there isn't much to discover on that route. A lot of people who live there confuse a great place to live with a great place to stay on a visit but the Kalvan ter area and Raday utca have really developed well and its a pretty nice area now that the construction is done. I also think the 47/49 tram is one of the best tourist rides in town; but then all the tram rides are. BUT, I also try and remember that everyone ain't me and they their own likes and dislikes and once a decision is made I do all I can to help from that starting point. It's a great town and it's hard to not have a good time if you do just a little research in advance. We will be back in a few weeks for what has to be our 25th or 30th visit and don't plan to be the least bit bored.
Absolutely, you need to buy a ticket for your bike. I would just go to the train window and point to it (as the domestic train window workers often do not speak English). I take the train to Vac out of Nyugati every day. In the summer, there are always bikers on the train.
Even for first timers, the area around Ferenciek ter is my favorite - but that's just me. I live in the 13th, which I love but do not recommend as it is probably a harder neighborhood for a tourist. The first time we stayed in Budapest for an extended time, about 7 years ago, we lived on Liszt Ferenc Ter. We loved it. But also not a neighborhood I would recommend for a first timer.
I'm glad you love the city. It is - for me - a magical place.
Ferenciek ter ................ terrific architecture.............. "real" not tourist Budapest...........gets my vote. We stay on a little street across Andrassy ut from the Opera House. It connects from Andrassy ut with a small off set to block auto traffic to Kiraly utca and District VII Love District VII.
@David, we stay at the very slightly decrepit grand old dame of Pecs, the Hotel Palatinus. Anything but a B&B.
We traveled to a major city I the region about 10 years ago with the intent to spend 5 days there. After two days we knew the place didn't light our fire and we were ready to move on. Always travel with a Plan B; Budapest was the Plan B for this trip. We fell in love within hours of arriving. We started returning on a regular basis which was getting expensive so we established a small business in Budapest to fund the trips and give us an "excuse" to return.
Sorry to interrupt this conversation, what sight or activities would you recommend as "Don't Miss". I am now planning on staying 3 days (if that helps). I want to try to experience as much as I can in such a short time. It will be there in late December, so I will unfortunately not be able to enjoy various gardens and parks as I would in other seasons. I am planning on taking a tour, going to the castle in Buda, checking out whatever I find over in Pest, and trying to find the Market. I see that you love this city, so what else can you recommend? Thanks!
Trish, my apologies...........
Late December is Christmas Market time. Andrassy ut and many of the other major squares and streets are all lit up. If you get just a little lucky there will be snow and it turns into sort of a magical place. It is also the time of music in Budapest. The Opera House, the Oprett and the Palace of Art will be in full swing as will many of the church concerts. Yes, the market is an excellent idea as is Buda Hill. Basically you dress properly for the season and go about your business like any other time of the year. These folks spend about 4 months out of the year is rather cool conditions (but not as cold as you would imagine) and life goes on as normal for the most part. The only two significant differences between the winter and more temperate times of the year are that the boat to Szentendre isn't running and the cafes don't have any table outside and the ruin pubs are closed. That's why G-d created wine bars!!!!
A "Must Do" is a box seat at the Operett. Many have English subtitles projected where you can read them. The box seat so you can mingle with the locals at the intermission in the private parlor. OR, the Opera, again a box seat for a little less cozy semi-private bar with a balcony over the lights of Budapest.
This is also a good time of the year for all the grand coffee houses, especially the NY Palace.
And a private tour is always revealing. But you have to pick a subject. Jewish Budapest (extraordinary)?, Communism, Architecture, Palaces,
Don't forget strolling the Danube Promenade. Again, you just have to dress appropriately.
Thanks @James! I will be dressed appropriately coming from (cold) Paris, and going to (cold) Slovakia and (cold) Vienna. I hope that the snow doesn't make travel difficult. That is something we'll never know until then :( I hope you won't mind if I PM you in case I have any particular questions. Thanks again!
Embrace the COLD!! It can be fun. And buy one of those fur "Russian" hats!!!
HAHAHAHAHA! Thanks James!
Seriously, the hats work. We were in Moscow for Orthodox Christmas a couple of January's ago. It was 10 below zero and the young ladies on Red Square were wearing plunging, plunging, plunging neck lines little skirts which didn't contain enough fabric to fashion ear muffs and 8" heals that stabbed the sheet of ice on the plaza like studded snow tires. Still they didn't die in the cold and it had to be because of the fur hats. Or maybe the Smirinoff antifreeze in their veins?
Edit Let me explain, this is what my wife described. I didn't notice...............better honey?
I was sort of serious with the description "very slightly decrepit grand old dame" of Pecs, the Hotel Palatinus.
But clean, good people, communist era furnishings (or not much newer than that), but located perfectly in town. I pick hotels on a number of criteria. For me they are not just a place to sleep, they are (when possible) part of the experience and this place with its faded glory and its doors that empty into the middle of what's happening in the pedestrian zone worked well. We will always stay there when in Pecs. Decent food in the restaurant too but there are lots of good places to eat in town. This is really an interesting place with great history going back to Roman times, mosques, art deco, and several nice pedestrian zones.
I think I paid 60euro last time. And yes it has an elevator. Smoking is no longer allowed in commercial establishments in Hungary and more often than not it is enforced. This is not a place I would go out of my way to recommend. I personally have fun with it and enjoy it but that's the extent of it.
Just try and stay close to the main square and the pedestrian areas (they extend from all sides of the square). And if it turns out to be a good hotel, please let me know..
Sounds like the place to be. It's been a couple of years, but if next door to the theater there is a small restaurant with a sort of theater spin to it (cant remember the name) skip it. Not that good.
In December, the ruin pub Szimpla Kert (the most famous and my personal favorite) will be open. We went with our kids at Christmas. They seal it up and have enough heat lamps to keep it comfortable.
A ruin pub is, for me, absolutely worth experiencing..
That would be in Budapest @David, not Pecs. And thank you ma'am. We've spent a couple of Christmas' in Budapest and I never thought to check.
Yeah, sorry @James. Somehow, this has become a string of multiple concurrent conversations. I was tying back to the original question and the prior statement that the ruin pubs are not open in the winter. I'm sure some do close - those that are nearly 100% outdoors. But many of the big ones do stay open.
A thought, maybe Pecs could become it's own topic? Believe it or not, we have not yet been there. I'd love to reach back and read about the Pecs posts when the time comes. I agree with your method on hotel selection...
Thanks! I'll try the restaurant you recommended. This thread is a little confusing, there are two conversations, but that's ok. We are all either here to learn or share the knowledge we have.
@Trish, just to be clear... Szimpla Kert is a Ruin Pub - a uniquely Budapest "thing" where you drink, but generally do not eat. It will all make sense when you see it. I encourage you to go.
Across from Szimpla Kert is a funky little Thai place. And down on the same block is a very good and tiny 2 or 3 table Indian place.
When you leave Szimpla Kert, you turn right to go to either of these. Only a very short walk to the Thai place, and a few steps more to the India.