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Travel guidance for day trip from Vienna to Budapest

I'm planning a week-long trip in early October-visiting Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna, and would like to do a day-trip to Budapest from Vienna. I've scoped out bus, train, group bus tours, and they all have their positives and negatives (cost, early morning, and hard-to-understand guides being the negatives).
If I decided to do a flexibus to keep costs down, then toured Budapest without a guide, which arrival station should I choose? There are several on the flexibus site.
Also, would it be necessary to get cash in Hungarian currency, or would most places accept Visa?
Any absolute must-sees in Budapest? I think I would end up with about 8 hours there...
Thanks for any advice you can offer!

Posted by
4267 posts

My recollection was that Vienna to Budapest was at least a 3 hour train ride. Bratislava on the other hand is an hour from Vienna. There is a lot to see in Budapest. If I had just eight hours, I guess I would take the funicular up to castle hill and wander around and visit St. Mattias. On the Pest side, I would visit St. Stephens and the nearby opera house. (When I was there one could walk into the lobby area of the opera house) I'd see if I could get a tour of parlament. (Try to get English, but if you can't any tour is better than none). The Pest main market is a wonderful place to walk around. I'd walk across a couple of the bridges and admire the Danube. If I had more time, I'd take the metro to Heroes Square. You could also go to the market on the Buda side which also offers a wonderful view of parlament.

You could get money at an ATM. I would guess you'd need cash for the metro and funicular.

I arrived via train at the Keleti Pu station which is well connected by metro.

Posted by
6876 posts

We always considered Vienna to be a city worthy of a four night visit. Budapest is of the same caliber--a four night city.
Our first trip to Budapest also included a 2 night stop in Bratislava. It's a great stopover place, and only 39 miles upriver from Vienna. We caught a bus from a plaza down on the river, and were at the new Vienna main train station in just over an hour. While so close, Bratislava is so far away from Vienna. It's a very high tech, high income city and we didn't hear a word of German spoken there.
When you decide to visit Budapest, spend enough time there to get the whole Hungarian experience. We just love the place and will be returning from time to time. It's also less expensive than other large European cities right now.

Posted by
13564 posts

Looks like the bus goes to either the Pest Népliget metro stop or the Buda Kelenföld metro stop (and train station). Of the two, i would choose Népliget. From there you can ride the M3 into Deak Ferenc ter which is sort of ground zero for tourism. Actually, i would take the train (about 2.5 hours and 19 euro each way last time I checked) ..... but .... thats not your question. Oh and it stops at Keleti station, very near the town center ... but again ....

Get an early start and plan on staying until at least 8pm to begin to enjoy a good cross section of the city. What makes more sense is go spend the night and take an early train back .... i mean bus.... Same net result and you can spend the evening at a wonderful restaurant or walking the river front and seeing all the beautiful lights instead of sitting on a train... damn, did it again ... i mean bus.

Pull a little cash from an ATM (maybe 20.000 HUF), but use your credit card as much as possible and you will be fine.

The only problem you may face is NOT wanting to return to Vienna after seeing Budapest....

Posted by
13564 posts

And if you decide, try and avoid Monday and Friday/Saturday if possible. But not essential. Museums closed on the former and a lot of Jewish Budapest closed on the latter. Let me know and we can plan a full day. From your 8 hours subtract 40 minutes on arrival and an hour on departure so you get to the town center and then get back to the bus with a little extra time. 12 hours and a train would be so much easier....

Posted by
5 posts

I think I am starting to lean toward the train-the cost difference isn't huge, so I'll look into it. So Sunday would be a good day? I've already booked hotel in Vienna, so won't be staying overnight in Budapest, but at least I'll get the flavor of the city in my visit, and will come back again on a future trip (hopefully!) I'd appreciate a (mostly) walking tour suggestion that will allow me to see the most possible in the shortest amount of time!

Posted by
13564 posts

Train? There's a novel idea :-)

There is a train that departs Vienna about 7:45 and takes about 2:40; so you arrive before 10:30am. There is an earlier one, but ....
The last train home leaves at 8:20pm. About the same travel time. The train arrives at Keleti station. In the center of the station towards the front are steps that go down to the lower level. At the bottom on the right you will see an information office. Buy a 24 hour travel card. The price is 1.650 forints (about $6). With that you are set to see the town. Without a lot of detail (which if you go through with this i can help you with):

From Keleti take the M2 one stop and then walk along the great loop road to the The New York Palace Cafe. Stop for coffee.
Back on the loop get on the 4/6 tram two stops to the Oktogon. Then walk up Andrassy ut to Hero's Square. If you get tired, the M1 metro runs directly under Andrassy and there are a number of stops along the way. But the old mansions and embassy buildings are worth the effort.

From Hero's square get on the M1 back in the direction you came from and get off at the Oktogon, then continue walking Andrassy ut in the same direction. Now its mostly high end shops and pretty nice architecture. If you get off at the stop before the Oktogon you can visit the House of Terror before walking down Andrassy ut. Horrible name, great museum to the evils of fascism. Plan on 2 hours if you stop.

At the end of Andrassy to your right is St. Stephen's Basilica; but we will save that for near last.

Walk the opposite direction from the Basilica towards the yellow trams (47/49 Tram) and hop on. Sit on left facing forward. When you see the Dohany Synagogue, get off at the next stop and walk back about a block. Take the short tour they offer.

Back on the 47/49 tram to the stop just before the bridge to Buda. To your left is the Great Market Hall (closed on Sunday)

Walk towards the river and see the stairs going down. At the bottom is the stop of the No. 2 Tram (now you understand the Travel Card.). The trams are like low cost HOHO buses, but a lot more fun. Take the tram going left to right. This follows the river front and the views are great so sit on the left. Get off at the second stop and walk away from the river about a block and you will find Vorosmarty ter which anchors one end of Vaci utca the famous shopping street. Want a snack? Go to Café Gerbeaud.

Back on the 2 Tram to the first stop behind the Parliament. First walk down the stairs to the river, cross the street and on your left are the "Shoes on the Danube". Then back to the rear of the Parliament. Now continue walking upstream past the parliament and up Falk Miska utca where all the basement antique shops are. I can give you the name of one that has endless connected basements and wonderful things to see. At the end of Falk Miska is the 4/6 tram line again. Take it to the stop just across the river in Buda. Then the 19/41 tram to the Chain Bridge and the Funicular up to the Buda Castle District. Use a guide book on castle hill. Figure nothing less than 2 hours up there.

Back down the Funicular (or walk) and then across the chain bridge to Pest again. Walk behind the Four Seasons Hotel and you will see the pedestrian area that leads back to the St. Stephen's Basilica. See the Basilica... and shop the pedestrian area. The best souvenir shops are to the right of the entrance to the Basilica.

Okay, now, before we go on. All those highlighted places are worth you researching. Decide on the house of Terror and if there is anything in particular you are interested in, like the old jewish ghetto area or parks or museums or views or communist / '56 revolution / WWII or wine or beer or bars or clubs or food or.... let me know and we will weave it in and see how much time is left.

Posted by
5 posts

This sounds like a great start! Thanks so much, James!
I'm disappointed the market isn't open on Sunday. Oh well. I don't drink coffee, so I'll skip the first stop...but definitely want to see the ghetto, that's why I'm going on Sunday...

Posted by
13564 posts

Okay then. Tomorrow I will give you a plan for a few hours in the ghetto and another great market that is open on Sunday.

Posted by
13564 posts

The Jewish history of Budapest is deep and profound shaped the culture of the city in ways that helped to make it so unique. The Jewish segment of society is coming back, slowly but certainly. So you will get to learn ancient history, 20th century history and see history in the making. Some amazing, some horrific, some full of hope. An excellent choice for a few hours in Budapest.

There are a number of companies that do good tours of the Jewish District, and because of your time limitations I think a tour is a good use of the time and your money.

http://www.greatsynagogue.hu/jewishquartertours.html#stand

(tour II: this is run by the Dohany Synagogue people and includes a tour of the synagogue, museums and neighborhood. I would encourage them to do a little less museum and a little more neighborhood)

http://www.greatsynagogue.hu/jewishquartertours.html#stand

(The Stars of the 8th District: This one touches on the past and on the present. If you are into people and current cultural existence, then this is particularly good)

https://www.bigboytravel.com/europe/hungary/budapest/jewish-quarter-walking-tour/

(if you want to do it yourself, these guys have a walking tour map you can download)

http://budapest.gydeandseek.com/jewishtours/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwrZLdBRCmARIsAFBZllEf7vpoz6woIMqKvOjtMksXgbDPsQzx8851pIcBrTGJc0o7GMqohSYaAvYvEALw_wcB

(I had a guest that booked a tour with these folks a while back and raved how good it was)

Posted by
13564 posts

The old jewish quarter is really a good visit. Google Budapest Stumbling Stones for something to watch for while you walk.

Posted by
5 posts

Wow-I had never heard of Stumbling Stones. Thanks for the info! I'll be on the lookout.

Posted by
13564 posts

You can find them in Austria too. https://www.timesofisrael.com/austrians-tread-carefully-as-underfoot-holocaust-memorials-remain-controversial/ and in most of Europe, West and East unfortunately.

My place is about a block from where the wall once stood, and I know exactly where the wall was. When I cross that now imaginary line ... I cant help but feel a chill. http://www.bunkermuzeum.hu/Bunkermuzeum/terkeptar/kelet/02.jpg To have a reference point that i am certain you will visit the Star of David in the bottom left hand side is the Dohany utca (Great) Synagogue.

You might also be interested in the Yellow Star Houses of Budapest https://yellowstarhouses.culturalspot.org/exhibit/yellow-star-houses/iQJSfZrh3FQ7Ig?position=17%3A0 The sheer number was stunning and horrible.

One Day??? You will miss this if you don't spend the night https://1drv.ms/u/s!Ai7Zk-szxfTJhP9CRzqkJJH_WW52iQ

and all of this https://www.google.com/search?q=budapest+at+night&safe=off&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwifu_fAxM3dAhXC64MKHZYoDAgQ_AUIDygC&biw=1520&bih=856&dpr=1.8

Posted by
13564 posts

Pinter Antiques

is located at Falk Miksa utca 10. Easy to find. If traveling up river on the famous 2 Tram, its the stop immediately after passing the back side of the Parliament Building. But if you get off one stop sooner the rear of the parliament is a great square to explore, then walk from there. If you can do a little research on the revolution of 1956 the square will have significance too. Look for the building with the brass plugs filling the bullet holes in remembrance of the Russian massacre of the protesters.

This is a short stretch of the 2 Tram. The video ends just about 30 seconds from the stop nearest Falk Miska utca
https://1drv.ms/v/s!Ai7Zk-szxfTJhetCZeSK1XbUfjkoSA

The entire street Falk Miksa utca is full of antique shops.

https://welovebudapest.com/en/2017/12/18/browsing-budapest-the-antiques-galleries-of-falk-miksa-street/

From the opposite end of Falk Miska street you can get on the 4/6 Tram which goes to Margaret Island and Buda in one direction and to Andrassy ut and the New York Palace (and the metro line back to the train station) in the other direction.