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2 weeks in Budapest

My original plan, made a year ago, called for a week in Budapest after my 4 weeks in Poland - with another week in between for whatever I wanted. I ran through a bunch of good options (other parts of Hungary, Slovakia, cheap flights to Malta or Palermo, etc.), but at the very end of Poland, I decided what I really wanted was just to chill and be in Budapest. It might have been a bit of travel fatigue, but it was a great choice for me.

Anyway, here are the things I did and saw slowly during my 2 weeks (I am not a morning person - meaning I may be up but not “out”). So just know you could do all this in probably half the time that I did. But if you have time to relax and savor, it’s a great place for that.

Week One

  • An afternoon at the Nemzeti Vagta (National Gallop): This was just fortuitous timing. On the day I was there, it was a series of horse races, with 4-6 racers in each race. There was a lap of pageantry, 2-3 laps of race, a cool down lap, then a victor’s lap. It was just low key fun, if you like horses. Day 2 has more variety, I think.
  • A day trip to visit horses and other animals, with a Hungarian cowboy show and a wagon ride, plus a big lunch, and a short guided tour in Kecskemét. It was completely touristy and lots of fun. On my tour was a group of 5 ladies from Munich (friends for 30 years) and a group of 3 young Israeli guys from Jerusalem (2 born in Israel and one emigrated from Lithuania). It was easy for me to move between those groups and the conversations were both interesting and fun.
  • Lunch with fellow forum traveler from Texas! Always a highlight on a trip!
  • Wandering through City Park around the Hungarian House of Music and Vajdahunyad Castle (a museum now). It was a Monday with museums closed, so I just enjoyed the outside with nice weather. Then a stop at Hero’s Square with no racetrack. Ha! (Also, make a reservation online ahead of time for visiting the House of Music.)
  • Rudas Baths - a very leisurely afternoon. It was Tuesday, which is women’s day in the old Turkish bath and sauna part of the complex (but not the more modern parts). I enjoyed the pools of different temps, the rooftop warm pool, and then went to the basement Turkish pools and sauna area, followed by a massage. Lots of steps if that matters. In the evening I went down by the river for sunset.
  • Great Market Hall: it’s big. Ha!
  • Hungarian National Museum: I did not go inside but wandered the garden where there was an outside exhibition of fashion designs on very very tall “models”, with the dresses looking to be made of plastics. I had seen this driving in on arrival day and was intrigued.
  • Spice shop: inside a little courtyard you can’t see from the street. Presents…. :) I could have gotten something similar at the Great Market Hall, but this had a lot of variety in small packets (and for better or worse didn’t say Hungary in bright red letters all over them).
  • Doheny Synagogue tour: beautiful, huge, ornate. The garden and museum and very small exhibition showing the Jewish area in 1944 is moving.
  • Salgotarjani street Jewish Cemetery: I love old cemeteries and this is a once grand small cemetery with gorgeous old monuments, tall trees, but now falling into disrepair. Peaceful and beautiful. Definitely outside the normal tourist zone but not hard to get to.
  • House of Terror:: Pretty unique museum and definitely something to know about Hungary’s history. I had read about this time period, but to be in the actual location is chilling.
  • Hungarian Opera House Tour: Yes, I have tickets to the opera, but a friend reminded me that on a tour I would learn what I would not with just the performance.
  • Spinoza Dinner and Klezmer Concert: This was great fun. Welcome drink, 1 hour show, followed by 3 course dinner. And the music is just a lot of fun and musicians good. (Plus I now have new friends from Harlaam.)


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4352 posts

Week 2

  • Mass at Mattias Church with organ. There are a number of Sunday services, but I wanted the noon one with the organ. It definitely felt like most of the people in attendance are there regularly. Afterwards I did walk Fisherman’s Bastion but nowhere else (I had been to the castle area in 2018).
  • Hospital in the Rock: interesting museum. Practical note - (as of this time) you can’t buy your ticket online, nor with cash when you arrive - nor with a credit card unless you have a pin for it. Only via machine onsite (I used my debit card).
  • Concert at the Mupa (performance venue): Placido Domingo, with friends, and with the Hungarian National Orchestra. Modern style venue and I don’t think there is a bad seat. Men in suits and women in nice dresses. Tram 2 lets you off right in front of it.
  • New York Cafe for lunch: I realize this is food, but really, it was about the experience! Opulent interior, live music, plus the food was good.
  • Wine tasting with Taste Hungary: this really was two hours of fun - the grapes (and wine regions/history) well explained, charcuterie board of Hungarian cheese and meats included, plus I made more new friends.
  • Roth Museum: very small place dedicated to the work of Miksa Roth, glass painting and mosaics.
  • Ervin Szabo Library: Also small. This is really a library in a former palace and most rooms have been completely renovated but on the 4th floor there are a few rooms that still retain their palace structure.
  • Lunch with another forum member! Bonus!
  • Margaret Island Musical Fountain show after dark: 30 minutes of relaxing fun, plus spectacular views from the Margaret Bridge waiting on the tram afterwards.
  • Parliament tour. Be early. Well run and efficient. And impressive.
  • Shoes on the Daube monument. Take a flower, not just a picture.
  • Evening free organ concert at St Stephen’s Basilica. While I am not a huge fan of organ music in general, I love it in these huge cathedrals and churches. An hour does not get long for me.
  • Post Office: Had fun in Gdansk, so thought I would try it in Budapest. Lol. I was mailing an envelope to Kyiv and one of the ladies working looked at me and I am pretty sure she asked if I knew there was a war…. 😂
  • Tosca at the Opera House: A total splurge on a box. Yes, I had to buy all four seats, but in July, in Scotland, I met a young Hungarian couple and we had such great conversation on our bus ride, that we stayed in touch and they took me to dinner in week one and I took them to the opera in week two.
  • Budapest Zoo: Just a fun couple of hours with lots of locals on the weekend.
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4352 posts

Other Thoughts:

Tram: Riding up and down the river at dusk and after dark might not be quite as good as a river cruise but it’s pretty good. :) And free with your pass.

Food: I am not going to try to list everywhere I ate, but I considered interesting places to eat, as well as getting to and from, as part of my sightseeing.

BudapestGo app: I bought the 15 day pass. I may be wrong but I think if you buy less than a month pass, you have to open the app and scan a QR code each time you ride. It gives you a little dancing picture, and I did have that checked several times by the metro checkers (but never on bus or tram, although it works the same and I didn’t try not scanning). Every metro station has the QR code and it is on the door of every bus and tram I saw. Set up the app and buy your pass before you leave home, if you can, and set the start date for whenever you need it to be. Using it requires data and a phone that hasn’t run out of battery…. Lol. No, I do not know this from personal experience but came close a couple of times.

I also found that Google Maps did a pretty decent job of routing me via public transportation. That made it easy to just head somewhere without having to think ahead of time about how to get back or to my next destination.

CityTaxi App: allowed me to schedule a very early morning taxi the previous evening, without a telephone call. The app then notified me as the taxi was approaching - and it arrived 10 minutes early. :) Cost to or from the airport, with both City Taxi and FoTaxi has been in the 11,000 range (2 trips to and from).

Safety: Often people worry about safety. I had an interesting discussion with a lady who has lived here 20 years (and has 6 kids raised here). She wants to visit India but has people who are worried about her safety in going there. I mentioned that it is often lack of experience with a place that makes others worry and that some people worry about safety in Budapest. She was truly astonished at that thought, because “Budapest is so safe!”.

Solo travel: I am learning how to do this better for me. What I find is that a lot of travelers are interested in easy conversation. I think this is often the travel mentality - we do it because we want to experience new thoughts and new people. It doesn’t bother me at all to eat by myself; smiles and eye contact go a long way; and there is no shortage of English here.

Summary: I knew when I left after 36 hours in 2018 that I would be back. It took me 4 years. I never even made it out of town this time and I had fully intended to, nor did I make it to everywhere on my list…. so I guess I have to come back again. Ha! I feel so happy to have had this amount of time to feel like I have “been” in Budapest, not just “done” it.

Posted by
3903 posts

I much enjoyed your trip report. Your reports have nice structure. Mine meander 🙂. I spent a long weekend in Budapest in November 2016 visiting a couple of friends who were working there at the time. It is a great city. I liked it a lot. My favorite memory is walking along a street with a friend, looking to the left and seeing a movie theater. Then I realized, "Holy cow! That's the movie theater that was a base of operations for university students during the 1956 Hungarian Uprising/Revolution!" I had read a book about the Uprising before the trip. I dragged my friend over to it, and sure enough, we found memorials on/around the building dedicated to that time.

Posted by
985 posts

Lovely, lovely report on your activities. We missed our two week trip to Budapest so reading of your adventure made me smile.

Posted by
4352 posts

Thank you, Nance! I hope you get your adventure before long. :)

Dave, your reports are immensely entertaining! Keep them coming! So, I had to Google and now have the Corvin Theater bookmarked for next time. It is near a couple of other places I didn’t make it to. There is a ton of history here for you to come back to! 🤣 A different feel than some other countries.

Posted by
128 posts

Thank you for this report. Budapest has been one of the places I’ve wanted to go for quite some time, and your descriptions and observations are just what I needed for inspiration.

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4352 posts

Thanks, Eef! :)

And samatudd, I didn’t even talk about the beauty of just walking around looking at the architecture. 😊 It SHOULD be on your list but don’t hurry through it.

Posted by
3903 posts

The book I read was Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution by Victor Sebestyen.

Posted by
4638 posts

have to open the app and scan a QR code each time you ride

Can't you just capture the image to your photos and then show that, since the QR code is unchanged? I never purchase cellular data in Europe.

fellow forum traveler from Texas

We know who that was!

Posted by
1530 posts

Meals with other forum members??? Have you been cheating on us? 😂🤣

Seriously, love your report. Saving it for when we finally get to Hungary. Thanks for observations.

Posted by
10402 posts

Great trip report! We were supposed to spend a week in Budapest in 2020, but we know that didn’t happen. We are early into week 9 of our 10 week trip and after this and our 6 week trip in the Spring we are taking next year off from international travel. I’m already thinking about 2024 and I hope Budapest is part of it.

Posted by
2633 posts

Your wonderful trip report makes me miss Budapest all the more--my 6th visit would have been in May of 2020, hoping next year is my happy return for at least a week. You did lots of things and went places I very much enjoyed, and gave me ideas for new places I need to see--my 2 main reasons for going are to see the nesting storks on Margit sziget and go to Ecseri piac to find more 1930s pottery pieces for my collection...and the food, the glorious food!

Posted by
3961 posts

Thank you for sharing your amazing 2 weeks in lovely Budapest. I can certainly understand taking your time. Budapest deserves more time! We were there in 2019 for 5 nights. We didn’t want to leave! We were on a 3.5 week journey to Vienna, Česky Krumlov, Prague and Amsterdam. We enjoyed many of the highlights that you described. Unfortunately the Opera House was closed when we visited. Besides a private walking tour that included the Jewish Quarter with Timea Tarjani, we also enjoyed the organ concert at St. Stephen’s Basilica. Ordinarily not a fan of organ music, but like you it was special in the beautiful cathedral. Agree, the Parliament tour was impressive. We had met a couple there who we later ran into in Vienna at the Vienna State Opera. We also enjoyed the tram ride. Great transportation with a view! Thank you for mentioning the CitiTaxi App. Wasn’t aware of it in 2019. That would have been very helpful. Thanks also for sharing your trip report in Poland. Loved it. I am bookmarking for future reference!

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4352 posts

Wow, thanks, everyone! Just made it back to Texas….. :)

Dave, thanks for the title - I am slowly wading through a long list of forum recommendations and will add this one.

Tom, you don’t capture the QR code - when you scan it, it creates an animated image. And there is a time stamp attached to the image. However you can still use paper tickets, I think. It’s just less convenient for me than the app. And lol - took me a minute - but actually I had lunch with Love2travl and blackcatfortunate. :)

Carol, I would love to have lunch with you two again - in a heartbeat! Maybe 2024 when you get to Budapest!

christa, I can see why you go back again and again….. I was too late for the storks - and I have probably gained 10 pounds. 🙈 The food was SO good! Back to real life tomorrow.

Andrea, I remember you saying that. You need to make it happen. 🤣 And I am in awe of your trip this year - you are really moving!

Janis, that sounds like a wonderful trip! I am with you on not wanting to leave…..

Posted by
4946 posts

Yes, I had to buy all four seats

I'd like to go back to Budapest, in part, to see a ballet at the Opera House, which was not hosting performances when I was there while the renovations were underway. So I'm curious why you had to buy all 4 seats. Was that because of your own intended use? Or a ticketing requirement for the Budapest Opera House? (I bought a single ticket for a box seat in Vienna, so I haven't run up against this.)

You've given me lots of good ideas for a return trip, so thanks for taking the time to write it up!

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4352 posts

CW, I have no idea on why, although I can make things up that sound reasonable. Lol! And I bought 5 of 6 seats for a box in Prague last year, so Prague and Vienna sound alike.

However - back when telling us about the re-opening of the opera house, Mister E, in the wealth of knowledge he provides, mentioned that you have to buy the whole box. So I knew that. And on the website, that is how it is set up. It’s more like buying the box, instead of buying individual seats - and then you can have up to 4 people. It was a lot of fun getting to treat my young Budapest-native friends to a new experience, as well. :) But the ground floor seats, which I otherwise would have gotten, looked wonderful. I don’t know about the higher up individual seats.

A note - almost everyone was dressed nicely. Men in dress shirts & slacks, at the very least, and many with a sport coat or suit. Women in a dress or dressy pants and nice top. I only saw a few (tourists?) casually dressed on the way in or out.

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4946 posts

Ok, I'll have to make a point of meeting some new friends to join me!

Posted by
61 posts

You make me want to go back! Loved our lunch and all the things we got to see, but 4 days is nowhere NEAR enough time in Budapest! Reading of your experiences helps me remember how much MORE there is to see and do in BP, so until next time…

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4352 posts

CW, I somehow doubt you would have any trouble making new friends to take with you. LOL!

Thank you, Love2travl. It was fun to trade stories! And chicken paprika again wouldn’t be a bad thing either, right? 🤣

Posted by
2744 posts

Wonderful trip report. Budapest has been on my list for a while.

Posted by
18833 posts

1/ TTM: glad you enjoyed it, you did more I'm 2 weeks than I have in the last 12 months while there.
2/ I have a business associate that I almost forced to visit Budapest last year; he had no interest in it.
3/ In January he purchased the Airbnb he used in Budapest on that trip.
4/ Had dinner with him last night, he had just returned from Budapest and said for the first time in his life he felt at home ... and home is Budapest.
5/ so be careful.

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Texastravelmom.......Re: your comments in the "Summary": My feelings exactly. I knew after my very first visit in BP in late April 2010 as a day trip from Vienna, I knew I would go back. That was obvious. This first visit only served as an incentive for repeated return visits. Like you I didn't make back there until 4 years later, ie in May of 2014, and the last time in May of 2015.

Obviously, it is time for another detailed visit, especially I had read about the city in The Rough Guide Budapest.

Thanks for this report.!!

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4352 posts

Carroll, thank you. And yes, many interesting facets, in addition to the architecture itself. It is definitely worth spending some time. :)

Fred, it IS time for another visit! Lol!

Mister E, you did more I'm 2 weeks than I have in the last 12 months while there.
I am sure you have done most of this multiple times already. :) and

so be careful.
Well. Nowwwww you tell me….. 🤣 Oh, wait. Maybe you have been saying this for years….

Posted by
4352 posts

Thanks, Diane!

I hope your recent trip went well - look forward to hearing about the fun!

Posted by
3363 posts

Enjoyed your TR! Like so many other places, I would love to spend time there!
TexasTravelmom-would love to know your 2023 travel plans when you have them!

Posted by
2599 posts

Enjoyed your trip report! I was in Budapest in probably 1987 in the waning days of communism, I realized in reading your report how little we saw! But then it was a pretty different trip. We were supposed to meet a colleague of my husband’s from what is now Serbia and stay with friends of hers in Budapest. Her son got sick and we decided to go anyway and if they didn’t meet us, we would find a hotel. But they met us and we stayed 3 nights with them and their 3 year old daughter. We communicated through German which was none of our first language!

We had a real sense when we were there that change was in the wind. We ought to return as clearly it would be a different experience!

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4352 posts

Tammy, yep, it’s definitely worth it! When the time is right, be sure to give it 4-5 days. You would go faster than me, but there’s a lot to take in and there are still quite a few places still on my “next-time” list. Plus all the rest of Hungary! And when I decide on 2023, I will let you know. Lol! I am pretty committed to Albania and northern Greece in May, but no firm plans yet, so that could change.

Beth, wow - what an experience! I bet it WOULD be interesting to you to see the changes. And I would be very interested in your comparison after a second visit.

Posted by
787 posts

Thanks for the great report! I really hope to visit Budapest some day for 5-6 nights.

Posted by
4352 posts

Thanks, Barbara! So many places on our lists, right? Should I confess I am already considering where a return would fit? 🤦🏻‍♀️

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4352 posts

Hmmm, Mister E, so that would make it either April or June…. Which is better? Don’t say both or I might.