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 Visiting Budapest, Hungary's capital city 


Fisherman’s Bastion, Hungary
Panoramic view of the Fisherman’s Bastion, with the main façade to the left (another photo below). All photos were taken in February 2013.
Map of Budapest city:
Click to open map in new window.







Metro map    |    Weather outlook    |    Useful links    |   Budapest (Part 2)    |    Visiting Europe
Origin of Budapest:
Budapest was formed in 1873, with the merging of Buda, Pest and Obuda. The Danube River cuts the city into two halves - Buda on the left and Pest on the right with Obuda to the north.
Hungarian forint:
Although member of the EU since 2004, Hungary is not using the euro yet. In early March 2013, one euro was worth 295HUF or 295ft (depending on whether you are in a bank or in a shop!) There are many money-changers along Vaci utca but don't worry, you can always pay the equivalent in euro everywhere.

Souvenirs to bring home:
A typical gift from Hungary is a liquor drink containing 40% alcohol called unicum. This is what Hungary is famous for. It is made from 40 plants and can easily be distinguished as it is in a round bottle with the red cross symbol as its distinguishing mark (for this reason it is humorously referred to as "First-aid"). The name is fitting as it is also reputed to cure stomach-ache. Apart from that you can always bring back their famous paprika for home cooking!
Free travel for EU seniors:
If you are over 65 years old and are from an EU country you don't have to pay to use the public transport in Budapest. Just show the inspectors your ID or passport!

Cybercafe for internet:
It is not very easy to find one in Budapest. There is one at No. 42 of Vaci utca, the popular shopping street. It is actually a souvenir shop that have a few computers upstairs for internet. They charge a flat rate of 300ft for every 15 minutes.

The funicular train to Buda Castle
The funicular train that goes to the Buda Castle district
Szechenyi thermal baths
Steamy open-air pool in Szechenyi during winter.

Thermal baths

What makes Budapest so different from all other European cities are its thermal baths. In fact it could very well be the highlight of your stay in Budapest as it is likely to be an experience that will stay in your memory long after the trip is over. And if you should suffer from arthritis or back pains (God forbid!) it gives you even more reason to go there.
The two most famous among the tourists are the Szechenyi baths and the Gellert baths though you might prefer to go to the ones frequented by the locals (and which are a bit cheaper). All the details can be obtained from this website. Many of them open as early as 06h00 and remain open till about 19h00 or so every day of the week.
Despite its steep entrance fee (4,100 forints or 18 USD for the day) the huge Szechenyi thermal baths complex could be well worth the money as it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, such as leaving a sweltering and steam-filled cabin where the temperature is over 70°C to plunge completely into an immersion pool with the water at hardly 18°C. But most people would rather just relax comfortably for hours in the dozen or so "medicinal" pools with temperatures ranging from 28°C to 40°C.
It is very easy to go to the Szechenyi thermal baths complex by public transport as it is just a stone's throw away from the metro station carrying the same name (Szechenyi furdo in Hungarian). When you come out of the station you'll see a huge yellow building and that's it. The photo above shows an open-air pool where you can feel comfortable even in winter. It is here where the locals play chess on a "floating" chessboard (the chessboard is not actually floating but placed on a corner of the stone steps that lead to the water). If you are a swimmer you will also enjoy swimming in the 50-meter long open air pool next to this one as the water is comfortably warm even in winter.

The Buda Castle district

Buda Castle (Royal Palace) is on top of Castle Hill and is easily accessible by a funicular train at Adam Clark Square just across the Chain Bridge from the Pest side. The short trip by the funicular train costs 1,000 forint one-way or 1,700 forint for a return ticket (prices as in March 2013). When you get out of the funicular train you will find the Royal Palace on your left (on the right is the annexe to the Royal Palace where the changing of guards ceremony is held). The Royal Palace does not really live up to its name as no royals ever lived in it. It houses the Hungarian National Gallery as well as the Historical Museum of Budapest. As for the annexe to the Royal Palace it is called Sandor Palota in Hungarian and is the official residence and office of the President of the Republic of Hungary. More here.
If you walk further up and continue walking for 100 meters towards your right you will arrive at the must-see tourist spot called the Fisherman's Bastion, passing the colourful Matthias Church (also known as Church of Our Lady) on the way. It stands just in front of the Fisherman's Bastion (singular form for fisherman as that is how it is used in the Hungarian name). You will be able to have a very enjoyable promenade here and take in the breathtaking views of Pest on the other side of the Danube River. The seven turrets there represent the seven Magyar tribes that invaded the Carpathian Basin and established the Principality of Hungary.

Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport

It's no hassle at all to get to the city from the Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport by taking public transport. As you exit the airport turn right and you will see the bus-stop for Bus No. 200E. It will take you to the Kobanya-Kispest metro terminus of M3 (Line 3). From here you can get off at Deak Ferenc ter if you need to change for M1 or M2. A fourth line (M4) is in its final stages. The airport bus 200E runs every 8-12 minutes in the daytime and every 15-20 minutes in the evening.

Fisherman’s Bastion, Hungary
The Fisherman's Bastion is one of the few absolutely must-see places in Budapest.
Matthias Church in Buda Castle district, Hungary
Next to the Fisherman's Bastion is the Matthias Church with its brightly-coloured roof.
Buda Castle as seen from the Pest side
The green-domed Buda Castle as seen from the Pest side of the Danube River.
Changing of guards ceremony at Royal Palace, Buda Castle
The changing of guards ceremony at the annexe to the Royal Palace in the Buda district.


The Central Market Hall (Vasarcsarnok)

Another must-see place in Budapest is the Central Market Hall (Nagyvasarcsarnok or simply Vasarcsarnok) at Fovam Square near the Liberty Bridge. In fact Fovam Square is at one end of the famous Vaci utca (utca meaning street). On the top floor are a number of stalls selling typical Hungarian dishes. Not only tourists but many locals too go here to have their meals. And if you are looking for souvenirs to bring home you don't have to go far as this floor is full of souvenir shops that might have just what you are looking for. The market is open from 6 in the morning to 6 in the evening. When you walk out of the market there's a post office just across the road if you have postcards to send.
Main hall of the Central Market of Budapest
The main hall of the Central Market of Budapest. The top floor is for souvenir and foodstalls.
Foodstalls at the Central Market of Budapest
On the top floor of the market are numerous buffet-style foodstalls selling typical Hungarian dishes.
Huge Post-It price stickers cover this cheese stall
Huge Post-It price stickers cover this cheese and dairy products stall in the market.
Stall selling paprika-based products in Budapest Central Market
A stall specializing in selling paprika-based products, the mainstay of Hungarian cooking.
Continued in Page 2.