We will be flying in late in the day on the second Wednesday, May, 2016. Wife and I will be 69 yrs old by then but still able to get around fairly well, but don't have much interest in the bar scene or taking a bath (we travel to see stuff not sit in hot water). Any idea of what temperatures and weather we might expect then? What could we see the Thursday and Friday before we leave on Saturday for Vienna via train in afternoon. We're seasoned travelers and can handle public transport very well. We will be staying on the Kiraly utca on the Pesh side. Steve has his suggested itinerary and a few sights but the only 3 diamond sight is the bath which he keeps insisting on us! The city can't be that uninteresting.
I recommend the market hall, and if you see something you like upstairs, buy it while you're there! (Foods down below/crafts, scarves, bags etc. upstairs). Also enjoyed some of the old cafés but you'll see those in Vienna as well. Also enjoyed the short ride on the original section of underground train. Opera house is beautiful to tour. I did not like the House of Terror--I thought it was too minimalist/symbolic and would have liked more written explanations rather than artsy representations of history. But that's just my two cents. And once you get there you may change your mind about the baths--the ones in Pest are pretty enticing. I had a cold when I was there and didn't go in--regret now that I couldn't take the plunge.
Sorry, it’s a pretty boring town. Bunch of overweight eastern Europeans sitting around in speedos in hot water. Not much else. Steve who? Pronounced PESH, spelled PEST. The weather will probably be somewhat in line with the averages for that time of year. You can google for the averages.
Second Wednesday in May, would that be the 11th of May of 2016? Sort of out there. Let’s see, you will miss the airshow by 11 days (and me by association). Have you ever been to Paris? Think of it as Paris but the people are nicer and talk funnier. So whatever you would enjoy in Paris you can find it with a Hungarian bent in Budapest. Eiffel, cafes, wine, museums, more wine, great old and new architecture, special settings for romance, still more wine. I guess the biggest difference is no flocks of Gypsy street criminals in Budapest. What are you interested in? Music? Theater? Museums? Any epoch of world history? Architecture? Food?
At least you choose a good hotel location. It's a nice typical Hungarian street about a third tourists and two thirds local folks. good mix and nicely centrally located to reach .................................... the bath house (for the architecture), park, hero's square (all by the M1 historic world famous metro line). Or in the other direction the market hall, Jewish Budapest or in yet another direction Tourist Central and a little further out the Parliament.
You gotta give me something to work with.......
Thanks for your replies so far. I meant Rick but my mind only got part of his name and butchered even that (I guess my age is catching up with me). Sorry. I hope there's more to the city than just fat old eastern Europeans in speedo's. I could fit in (Ukrainian born in Augsburg but grew up as U.S. citizen) except for the speedo. I hope more replies will brighten my outlook on this part of the trip.
Sorry, the speedo thing is about the best of it.
I spent a far-too-short 3.5 days in Budapest after a week in Vienna last August and absolutely loved it, hoping to return next year--beautiful city that's just a little bit gritty, friendly locals, felt very safe and comfortable walking everywhere day and night, excellent metro system and the food was by far my favourite of the countries I've visited thus far. Perhaps being 1/2 Hungarian set me up to love it, but I was also guided by the expert advice of James, everything he suggests is spot-on.
I did not do the baths, not my thing, but after Vienna I was a bit exhausted so visited sites I had a solid interest in such as the Parliament, Terror House, Museum of Applied Arts, Ethnographic Museum right across from Parliament, Opera House, Market Hall, day trip to Szentendre (lovely little town and worth the short local train trip, but perhaps not with just your 2 days), walked over Liberty Bridge and explored a bit, sat in the square at dusk and listened to musicians playing gypsy jazz a la Django Reinhardt, checked out antique shops and just wandered happily, enjoying the architecture and views across the Danube and always ready for the next meal. I definitely have a list of things to do and see for my return visit, hoping to venture to other cities as well. You may be surprised at how easily Budapest will grow on you, I certainly was.
There are no other 3-diamond sites on the list of discrete places; but there are many twos and ones from which to build a great itinerary. It can be freeing to have fewer "must sees," especially if you might not have time to see them all, and choose based on your interests. Also, for the opulent decoration, not the accompanying tour, Rick upgrades the Parliament and the Opera House interiors to 3-diamonds on p. 47 of his Budapest book.
Walking around is not usually covered on Rick's At a Glance list, but it is a key activity in any historic city, with Budapest being no exception. In Rick's book (p. 42), a private walking tour with a great local guide is another 3-diamond listing; the same is not true in every city.
Twenty years later, the strongest memories from my first visit include an affordable lunch at an expensive restaurant (Gundel), good buys on crafts at a street market, summer concerts in the parks, learning how the hot water worked in a private apartment, and the public baths.
Laura, 20 years ago? Really? That was about the same time RS made his video there.
Honestly, nothing has changed. Still the same decrepit place you remember. As for the speedos, here: https://cf.geekdo-images.com/images/pic395610.jpg That was taken in one of the most prominent bath houses in Budapest.
Will you like Budapest? Up to you. I you arrive hating it, you will hate it. If any of these things interest you, then you might have a great trip:
Like the others have said, its a strolling town, sort of like Paris
Like the others have said, its a food town, sort of like Paris; but I believe that Budapest has more Michelin Star restaurants per capital than does Paris. But I like the junk food better anyway.
Like the others have said, its a very visual place, sort of like Paris or St. Petersburg or Prague
If you enjoy the history of the last 200 years you might enjoy it.
If you are a little older and remember "duck and cover" in elementary school then you might enjoy it.
If you enjoy interesting cultural differences you might enjoy it.
Gritty? Not as much as even 10 years ago. I miss that now.
Culture? More live theater and live music per capita than any town in Texas. Probably by a factor of 10; and its primarily for local consumption; unlike Vienna for instance.
More book stores per capita than any town in Texas, again probably by a factor of 10, not that you read Hungarian but its a window into what is important in Hungarian culture.
Clean? I once had a guest upset because she accused the Hungarians of hiding the mess. "Every morning they swept the streets so the tourists wouldn't see the real Budapest" Huh??????????
Kind? We travel a lot and no group has come close to the kindness we have experienced in Hungary.
Political protest "riots" some of the best I have seen anywhere!
I know there are other "love/hate" Budapest threads on the RS forum, but I had to smile at James' comments because I wanted to stop at "I liked the market hall." Budapest was strange to me. Didn't really know much about it before going there and left still not sure what I thought about it. It's just...ugh...I don't know. It's just Budapest. And now there's that song "Budapest" on the radio--it's the city that won't die.
I find it interesting that Crista loved it, and I walked away thinking "why would anyone spend more than two days here?" I think you have to go and make it your own experience. No one else can tell you the good or bad of it because everyone has a different reaction to it. Agree that the scenic views from Buda are great.
Yes, 20 years ago was my first visit and those pleasant memories are still strong, therefore, they must have been pretty darned good, as I continue to tell travelers. 1996 was before Rick made his TV show in 2004, for the record. My later visits also are not lost in the mists of time. I don't recall anything being decrepit and am not sure where you're getting that reference.
"Budapest was strange to me." True...that's a very understandable statement, but it's a strangeness that stems from linguistic, cultural, and historical reasons. You know those reasons, the city becomes less strange. Heroes Square struck me as strange but considering where these tribes came from and crossing the Carpathians, I could see why. Those fierce Magyars depicted at Heroes Square were the terror of Europe for at least 150 years until militarily defeated.
When you visit Warsaw, Prague, Krakow, Vienna, you see cities in which the architecture is totally different from what you see in Budapest. Why? Historical reasons. Budapest was under the Turks after Mohacs, unlike those cities. Vienna was saved twice from Turkish conquest, not Budapest. Linguistically, Budapest is strange or even alien because the language is not part of the Indo-European group, therefore looking for cognates is almost useless. It's because the language is so alien/unique that educated Hungarians pride themselves on being multilingual with the ability of speaking German, French, English with ease. Keleti pu train station is probably the most tourist friendly train station I have come across.
The strangeness is also an interesting one. The buildings, their style and color, as you stroll through the streets, remind me of what I saw in Prague, Vienna, and (west) Germany in the early 1970s.
On "why would anyone want to spend more than two days here in BP"...lots of reasons, both cultural and historical. I've been to castle hill, the Military History Museum (its location pointed out in English), especially now with the detailed presentation, extensive exhibit on WW 1, the Mathias Church where the last Habsburg was crowned Emperor, Heroes Square, etc. It's a walking town plus getting around easily using the subway, the new M4 line.
And Fred, I think you will agree that speedos would be out of place in the museums?
You rode the M4. I finally had the opportunity a few weeks ago, pretty world class, wouldn't you say?
@ James...Only if that individual wants to make a spectacle of himself in a museum. No doubt the M4 is world class as a subway regardless of how one may view the city.
Having visited Budapest for 6 days in May 2015, we were thoroughly enchanted by Budapest and what it had to offer!
We prepared by reading the Rick Steves Budapest book, watching his 2004 video and of course visiting this forum. I read ALL of worldinbetween blogs for 2 years and visited her husband, Pat's, excellent photographs and blog!
So on the very first day, we bought a 7 day transit to learn our way around via public transit and went to numerous places to know what was where and how to get there.
I could list the usual items (James does it so much better!) but let me say, it on our MUST list for revisit again - to explore more, take day trips and see more of the country.
I was in Budapest last month with my daughter- we loved Budapest. Only had 3 nights, wish we had had 4.
Friendly, walkable, fabulous food, inexpensive. Beautiful sights.
Arrived by train from Vienna, called City Taxi to hotel near Opera.
Walked to Great Synagogue and surrounds.
Walked up Andrassy Ut to Terror Haza- chilling/fascinating.
Dinner somewhere on Liszt Ferenc Ter. (probably one of James' suggestions)
Night walk across Chain Bridge, pit stop at Gresham Palace.
Sat AM- walked thru Pest- to Great Market Hall- spent 2 hours here? food, fish, pickles, don't miss any of it!
Tram to Parliament- walked around- very very hot! Shoes on the Danube.
Took M1 to Heroes Sq- walked to dinner- Paprika Vendeglo? excellent.
M1 back to Opera- walked to Ruin pub area- name escapes me right now... it was fun
Sun- walking tour- Heroes Sq, Szechenyi Baths, Castle Hill, Mathias Church
Tour of Opera
Concert at St. Istvan's
Many thanks to all of you! Wonderful insights and great suggestions. We will cover Buda our first day since we will be a bit jet lagged and Pest the second day. We'll take public transportation to the furthest points and work our way back to the hotel. We'll include as many of the suggested sights along the way. I expect we will walk and take transportation as needed. We found an apartment hotel in close-to-city-center with A/C that will be available before June 1 (which is a common A/C start date in many such buildings) so we can recover each night. The hotel is also handling the van booking from the A/P for us. Thanks again to everyone.
Where are you staying and maybe I can give you some ideas on routes and transportation.
We will be staying at the Town Hall Apartments, Király utca 32.
Kiraly utca (King Street) a really nice typical Budapest shopping street sort of in margin between tourism and “real” Budapest. You couldn’t have chosen a much better location; and you won’t have any trouble finding good food. You are pretty much in the center of some great places.
Since most connections from the US arrive between 1 and 4pm and since you said you were arriving late in the afternoon I am going to guess it’s closer to 4. By the time you get off the plane, get your luggage, get in a taxi and make it to the apartment, unpack a little, clean up a little; it will be every bit of 5 to 7 pm. I wouldn’t try the trek to Buda. I would do the below.
So if you were to walk up Kiraly u. from your accommodations, the first street on your right is Kazinczy u. which leads into the heart of the old Jewish Ghetto. Know that if you were to turn right onto Kazinczy u. and walk to the end of the first building you would be at that point where the Nazi’s constructed the Ghetto Wall. Everything beyond that point is pretty terrible history.
A little further on the left is Kadarka’s. My favorite night time activity is the Kadarka Wine Bar at 42 (+ or -) Kiraly utca. The wine is all Hungarian, the service is outstanding and provided by some truly wonderful people and the food is pretty amazing too. The bar is sort of multi-generational (I am nearly 60) and if the weather is good you can sit outside to avoid the loudest part of the music. A wine bar in this part of the world is very tame, polite and somewhat reserved ……. Oh, and cheap.
At this point you may want some money. If you continue up Kiraly utca about a block past Vasvari Pal utca you will see an OTP Bank on the right. Use their ATM machine.
There is also a nice grocery market at the corner Kiraly u. across from Kadarka’s.
From Kadarka turn left up the side street (Vasvari Pal utca) on your right you will see a synagogue. Pass by on a Friday evening in good weather and you can see they are having their Shabbat Dinner in the courtyard. On the left you will see a yellow building. That is where we stay when in town so I know the neighborhood well. Continue down Vasvari Pal u. and at the next corner on the right is a dance academy. In the evening you can often see the dancers twirling and spinning through the windows. Sort of surrealistic. The building directly in front at the end of the street is the Dreshler Building (c. 1890 more or less). Originally a retirement home for rail road workers it was converted into the Ballet Academy until after the end of the occupation. The great mansion now sits empty waiting to be transformed into a luxury hotel. Walk up the side of that building and you will be on Andrassy ut directly in front of the Opera House.
So far the walk is 5 minutes by the map, but maybe 20 in reality with a little poking around. Time to purchase your metro pass. In front of the Opera is a metro station (down the stairs). Either purchase it at the window or use the ticket machine. Pretty easy to use, just follow the directions.
Now board the metro from the side of the street where the old Ballet Academy is located, show you recently purchased Travel Card and board the M1, the oldest metro line on the continent of Europe. Get off at the Széchenyi fürdő stop (next to last). Yes, that means Széchenyi Bath House. Forget the speedos, you are here to see the architecture and walk back through the park to Hero’s square. From Hero’s square get back on the M1 metro – the station is across the street from the monument park (the station on your right when your back is to the monument). This you will take one stop to the Bajza utca station. Then you will walk down Andrassy ut admiring the mansions and architecture until you reach the Vörösmarty utca station where you will join the M1 again to the last stop at Vörösmarty tér. Tricky huh? There is a Vörösmarty tér (square) and a Vörösmarty utca (street) stop on the same metro line. Careful. Depending on how fast you walked and how late it is you can walk more of Andrassy ut and skip more of the tram ride. My goal is to get you to Vörösmarty tér after sunset. From Vörösmarty tér it is a short walk to the embankment where you can see the lights of Buda across the river.
The walk back to your accommodations is short and rewarding. Did I recommend dinner reservations? If it’s really late there are places around Vörösmarty tér but know that this is the expensive tourist zone. Closer to home is the Gozsdu Courtyard which has a number of average places in an interesting environment. Right next to your apartment is Trofea Grill an all you can eat place with very good Hungarian Food. Generally too much for me on arrival day and you will need reservations; or walk back up to Kadarka and get a burger or a glass of wine and a huge plate of pâté terrine.
Incredible information James E. Thank you for taking so much time and giving so much.
If you are not locked in on your dates NEXT YEAR (? really?), then you might consider May 1st so you can see the air show. https://www.youtube.com/embed/0px9HFIVYjY?feature=player_embedded Also make sure that your room has AC as it can get pretty unexpectedly warm, even in May.
Its not too early to buy tickets for the opera if that's your thing. If you do want to go spend a few extra bucks for box seats where you will be surrounded by Hungarians as opposed to tourists and where you will have access to the bar with the balcony over Andrassy ut at the intermission. http://www.opera.hu/programme#?y=2016&m=5&helyszin=mind&mufaj=mind
It is a little early for the Operett Theater - great shows - but keep an eye open as the tickets will be available probably about November. Again, great box seats in the center come with some perks at intermission. http://www.operett.hu/operett.php?pid=schedule
We are locked in for our dates. We will consider the opera. Any formal wear requirements for the opera? (Obviously not sleeveless t-shirts, shorts and flip flops.) I found that you have to really be attentive to the hotel details regarding A/C. Our first booking had A/C listed as a room amenity but the confirmation had small print that said none until June 1. Found an apartment, that with a specific request made with the booking, would provide rooms with individually controlled A/C. Fortunately, some of the hotel websites offer on-line chats where these, and other things were cleared up. I expect that I will chat them again before we arrive to confirm the A/C.
For the opera a sports coat and tie is at the lower end of appropriate; especially if you sit in one of the better seats. What is sort of special about the theater in Budapest is that it is still very much a cultural thing. If you stay out of the balcony (generally the heaviest tourist zone because its so cheap) you will surrounded by Hungarians for their big night out. They might be young professionals in great suits and long dresses or pensioner who dug their best from 1966 out of the closet and put it on with confidence and flair. But generally, even the young, respect the environment. The other great theater is the Operett. These are more like musicals. All but a very few have English subtitles (projected above the proscenium opening) http://www.operett.hu/operett.php?pid=repertoire&evad=11&id=1 Here if you buy the good seats you are invited to the parlor for intermission where you share a table with the others in the box and are served Champaign and some sort of hors d'oeuvre. We have met some interesting people this way. Another excellent venue is http://zeneakademia.hu/hu/kezdolap
Not that in May it’s going to be that big a deal. We were there this May and I was okay, my wife likes to be well chilled so we ran the AC. The only question you might ask, not that it would be a deal breaker, is if it is a built-in AC or one of those little portable units. I spoke to a friend this morning and they are cooking there this week.
Its not unusual for me to get push back on the dress so I offer this:
Figure 10% are inappropriately under dressed and 10% unnecessarily over dressed and the truth is in the middle.
You know those khaki travel vests that men seem to enjoy wearing on the planes, etc...... Mine is a wrinkle proof ORVIS Navy Sports Coat. Holds all the tickets, wont wrinkle, has a zippered pocket, etc......
Thanks James for the advice regarding dressing for the opera. And NO, I will not load my limited packing with a sport coat, shirt and tie to wear once. I wore coats and ties for something like 25 of my 40 plus years in business and I am repulsed at the idea of returning to that noose and straight jacket just to listen to singing and music. Business casual is my usual dress with a change to jeans every other day (same shirts, no T-shirts). We pack extremely light and that would violate one of my key packing principles as well. Yes, an opera would be nice, but the burden is just too high. Yeah, I know, what a grouch and why wouldn't I do it just once... There have to be limits. The exclusion of a speedo is in this same vein. Besides, if you saw my build in a pair of those, you would scream to have me cover up since your eyes would be burning. But those old, fat Europeans would love it since I would make them look good.
Yes, an opera would be nice, but the burden is just too high.
Actually I respect your decision. GOOGLE the Opus Jazz Club for a great venue where your packing style will fit right in.