Can anyone recommend a nice hotel in the castle district for a older couple .
First to answer your question. The Hilton is a very nice hotel and fairly reasonably priced. We always go visit it when in town. The views are great and the performances in the courtyard in the summer are generally very good. If you prefer smaller and more intimate than the St George Residence has a lot of luxury and character. BUT, unless you have some real burning desire to stay in the Castle District (which is lovely) you might consider the distance to most of what most people go to Budapest to see. Don't take anyone's word for it. Go to Goggle Maps and then Directions and choose the Hilton as from and most any Budapest attraction as the other point. The map will give you detailed instructions on which bus, (or route if you walk) and the anticipated time. Vorosmarty ter is sort of the center of the Pest tourist district. From there most of what you may want to see is less than a 15 minute walk or less than 15 minute walk/public transport trip. From the Hilton you would walk a couple of minutes to the stop for the No.16 Bus and take about a 15 to 20 minute ride plus wait time for the bus. By foot its about a mile and a half and maybe a 30 minute walk. Going down is easy, going back up the hill......??? Budapest is full of great hotels and I only recommend what I have personal experience with and I haven't had enough personal experience to make too many comparisons (I have an apartment in town for when I visit). I've had very good experience with the K&K in Pest and found the Art'otel in Buda to be less enjoyable. My suggestion is generally to get a map (Goggle Maps will work) and draw a line down the center of Andrassy ut from the Oktogon metro stop and on to the river and then I say find something that meets your needs within two blocks above or three blocks below that line. So far I think the advice has worked for those that tried it.
I agree with James that the vast majority of what you want to see in Budapest (and therefore, the majority of your time) will be in Pest, not Buda. So, I agree with him that I wouldn't want to stay in a hotel near the castle (no matter how nice it otherwise was).
In the castle district you might check out the Kulturanov. It is the Hungarian Cultural house. It has very basic rooms in a really classic old building right next to Matthias Church. The stairway up to the rooms is worth the price of admission. Then again,if you are considering the Hilton...well it is a nicely done building trying to keep to the castle district's ambiance. And money must not be an issue. waune iNWI
Take my suggestions for what they are worth. Everyone has their own style, those things that they are interested in and those things that they enjoy. For instance I can sit half day on the sidewalk on Kiraly utca (sort of a transition area between local and tourist) and just drink coffee and watch the people go by but I would be bored out of my skull doing the same on Vaci ut; the tourist hub. I also spend hours each trip in Alexandra's Books in the Paris Department Store building. So it is conceivable that someone may find what they are looking for on Castle Hill. It is a lovely place especially early and late in the day when the tourist throng is at its lightest. The view from the bar in the Hilton is unique and one that is sort of special and the old abbey ruin courtyard has a great charm. Some of the shops and the open market are also worth the visit. Pest fits the "average" and the location I suggest in Pest is the best of the "average"; but how many of us are "average"? And if it's in your budget then you can simply call a taxi to take you back and forth to Pest and enjoy the best of both worlds. That's why I say if you find a hotel that seems to fit your style tell me the name and I will try and tell you something about the areas, distances, etc. and maybe that will assist just a tiny bit in making the stay perfect for you. For instance I know a woman who always stays at the Gellert. I think she is nutty but she has the time of her life every stay and I don't think she would be happy with anything else. So she is 100% correct. Listen to a lot of people and do some research. Its really difficult to have a bad time in Budapest (for me at least).
I want to thank all the responses. We have decided to stay at the K&K Opera as suggested. So now ,we have 2 days/nights it would help to have some must see or don't miss if time. Thanks again
I am going to hope it really is two full days. That means you arrive on say a Monday probably late, then you have Tuesday and Wednesday to see the town and you leave on Thursday? Maybe, I hope? Here is my suggestion. You can google the places I recommend and trace the route on Google Earth. DAY ONE Get up early and have a very decent breakfast (although somewhat over priced) at the K&K. As an option go to Café Vian as follows (and start your tour in the process) walk out the front door of the hotel and turn to your left and then right at the Opera House. Go down into the metro stop and buy a book of 10 tickets. Now go up and walk across Andrassy ut and keep walking until that street ends, then make a quick jog to the right and continue in the same direction you were previously walking. You are on Vasvari Pal utca. On the right is a yellow building, wave hello. On your left is the Vasvari Pal utca synagogue. When Vasvari Pal ends you will be at Kirlay utca (King Street). This old street houses a lot of design shops. It's a great compromise between tourism and real Budapest. I love it. Continue down and you will see a number of little cafes but you want to go to go to number 13 which is the entry to the Gozsdu Courtyard. In the courtyard you will find Café Vian which has an outstanding 5 euro breakfast. If you get lucky Ester will be manager on duty; say hello. Continue through the courtyard and you will find yourself facing Dob utca and the Spinoza Café which has a great Klezmer band / typical Jewish dinner on Friday night (you need reservations). Turn right down Dob utca and you will find the Great Synagogue. Take the tour (closed Saturday).
DAY ONE CONTINUED From the front of the Synagogue you will see a yellow tram go by from time to time. Now you want to be on that tram heading to your left. Get off just before the bridge and you are in front of the Market Hall. After seeing the Market walk across the street from the front entrance and you will find yourself on the famous Vaci utca, home of the first McDonalds behind the Iron Curtain. Also home of all of Budapest's expensive tourist traps; but worth the walk. Eat lunch at the Café Gerbeaud, then walk the Danube embankment to Chain Bridge. Cross the bridge on foot and take the Funicular up the hill. Now use your guide book and see what interests you up there. That's pretty much a full day. I suggest the funicular back down or you can walk if you are up to it. Look for the tram stop on your left as you face the river. Get on the tram heading from right to left as you face the water and get off at the last stop. This tram the 19/41 runs the river embankment to the stop of the M2 metro which will take you back to Deak Fernec ter in Pest. From Deak Fernec you can either walk to the hotel or switch to the M1 and get off at the Opera stop. Fun? Day Two tomorrow
Day 1 looks great. Anything at night? Looking forward to day 2. John
Night? That's a depender. Depends on what time of year and day of the week and your interests. Outside of the summer there are good performances at the Opera and I love the Operett. On Friday the Klezmer band at Spinoza's. If you are a foodies there are all sorts of outstanding restaurants. I'm not a big fan of the dinner boats but they really do have great views. Belly dancers anyone? One thing that I do recommend is to get a taxi and have him take you to the top of Gellert hill after sunset to see the view and the lights. Outstanding. Me, if the weather is good we eat outside some place on Kiraly utca or Andrassy ut and then hang out at a wine bar for the most part. You could also hire a guide (I like a gentleman named Andrew ILLES) to drive you and show you all the lights of the city. Did this with him once and did enjoy it. Then there are the ruin pubs. Just depends on what you like. Day Two. This time walk over to the Opera House and walk up the street on the opposite side of the Opera House from the K&K. This is nice little pedestrian zone with a couple of really pretty good restaurants. The first street you will come to is O utca; turn right and go to about number 24 and you will find another cheap breakfast wiith sidewalk seating (a few at least). In the courtyard of the adjacent building is a good laundry service if you need it. Now I stop here until you tell me what interests you. Jewish/Holocaust Nazi/Communism Parliament Tour Underground war hospitals / fallout shelters (I have one for sale....never mind) Bath Houses Antique shops Art museums Zoos Antique Trains Gypsies 19th century cemeteries Architecture Shopping Turn of the century (19/20) opulance Churches Mummified Hands Parks and Fountains People watching
And a date for special events would help
For an evening, you could get tickets to a concert at St. Stephen's Basilica. Go for the middle priced tickets for the best views of the Basilica. Go early to pick good seats, then you'll also have some time to walk around a little (and take photos) before the concert starts. Then sit back, enjoy the music and the detail of the church.
This fall we will make our first visit to Budapest , and I avidly read James' wonderfully informed posts . One other suggestion for your consideration : I am reading a wonderful book right now , entitled " The Great Escape " by Kati Marton . This is the story of nine Jewish scientists , photographers , film directors ,etc. who were born and bred in Budapest in it's golden years and went on to change the world . It is fascinating and makes Budapest come alive even before setting foot there . Do yourself a big favor and read this excellent book !!!
Steven, your rave book recommendation would make a great addition to this other area of the RS site. Even though the topic says 'Novels', some of the recommended books people have written about are non-fiction. http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/graffiti108.html
Rose , great idea ! I wasn't aware of that . By the way , this book is one of Kati Marton's earlier books . Her recent " Paris , A Love Story " is a real winner as well . We listened to her speak about it with Adam Gopnik this past fall at NY Historical Society .
Day Two: Morning This time walk over to the Opera House and walk up the street on the opposite side of the Opera House from the K&K. This is nice little pedestrian zone with a couple of really pretty good restaurants. The first street you will come to is O utca; turn right and go to about number 24 and you will find another cheap breakfast with sidewalk seating (a few at least). In the courtyard of the adjacent building is a good laundry service if you need it. Make your way back to Andrassy ut and then get on the M1 metro towards Deak Fernec ter (go down the stairs in front of the Opera house and your will be going the right way) . At the Deak Fernec ter stop go down the stairs to the M2 metro and go to Kossuth Lajos ter. Now you are at the Parliament. I wanted to get you to the Parliament quickly so you can make the tour. After the tour we stay above ground. Take the tour. Google "Parliament Tours" for times and prices. You might be able to get them in advance from http://www.jegymester.hu/ Tour starts on northeast corner (or did prior to the parking lot work). From the Parliament walk back in the general direction of the Metro stop you arrived to, on your left you will see a statue of a man standing on a bridge. This is Imre Nagy who was instrumental in the '56 uprising against the communist. Behind Imre in the distance you will see the Soviet War Memorial (odd, it was in a different part of town in the latest Die Hard movie). Walk that way. You are now in Szabadsag ter (Freedom Square).
At the far end of the square you will see an interactive fountain. Go play. As you approach the water turns off so you can enter the center of the fountain. If the weather is good this is a lovely place to spend time. If you continue up one of the streets behind the fountain you will find yourself on the pedestrian way that connects the Basilica to Széchenyi István tér on the river (old guide books will call it Roosevelt Square, but don't fret, they renamed Moscow ter as well). About halfway between the tow ends (maybe number 12 more or less) is a small souvenir shop that sells everything music related. Budapest is about the music so its fitting (they have a shop on Vaci utca and in the Opera House too but this is my favorite). Go to the Basilica, see the hand of St. Stephen and climb to the top for the view of the city. If you are on the front steps of the Basilica facing it then look to your right you will see some of the better (and more expensive) souvenir shops in Budapest. Buy a Gomboc. I think these are fascinating but then I am sort of a nerd. You have to be hungry by now so go behind the Basilica, cross the street and have a meal at Lugas étterem (pretty typical local place).
Up to a great walk? From the restaurant walk towards Andrassy ut., and walk up to the Opera. Cross Andrassy and continue along the same route you did for breakfast yesterday (did you see the Persian carpet shop?) but when you get to Kiraly ut instead of turning right as you did yesterday, turn left. Note Kadarka Wine Bar. You might want to try this tonight. Walk up Kiraly utca to the Franz Liszt Academy building. If the restoration is complete and its open it will be worth the stop. Stunning on the inside. Turn left in front of the building and you will find restaurants on both sides of a pedestrian street. This ends at Andrassy ut where you will turn right and continue to the Oktogon where you will get on the M1 metro and take it to the Széchenyi fürd? stop. This is the famous bath house. I did tell you to bring a towel and swim suit didn't I? Sorry, the towel at least you can purchase from the vendors outside or rent inside (more like a thin sheet than a towel). You have had a lot of exercise for two days and you said you wanted to people watch; what better place? After your dip in the bath house you will begin your walk down Andrassy ut; through the park, though Hero's Square, past the mansions and embassies and eventually the Opera. Tonight? Well..... later.
Careful about the Szechenyi bath house. You may think you will be there for an hour or two, and before you know it, four hours have gone by. Definitely a highlight of my 2-1/2 days in Budapest. I really enjoyed the Memento Park too. Public transportation to the park involved both a tram ride and the local bus, but really wasn't difficult with a little advance prep. Hoping for a return trip to Budapest to see the things I missed this time around.
Eric, go back for Christmas. Beautiful and inexpensive.
What an awesome city! Reading james posts, i can visualize my time spent there in march. Can't wait to go back and would love to rent a place for a month! I would return to Budapest before I would Paris and Rome!
Cliff, good to hear you enjoyed it. Sometimes I wonder if my appreciation for the place is "normal".