December 10, 2011

1 Seven Tips for Your Visit to Budapest

1. Check for passes.  Like Venice, I read about the Budapest Card in one of our guidebooks.  We elected to get the 72 hour Card, which cost 8300 forints (about $37) each.   The Card gave us free access to most museums, free public transportation, some free tours and discounts on other tours, discounts at some restaurants and hotels, etc.  We were able to purchase it at the airport, which allowed us to start using it right away.  Our cards definitely paid for themselves!

2. Take random streets and tip your head straight up- Budapest has some fantastic architecture.  The city has been bombed and sacked so many times throughout history that it's had to rebuild itself in layers- which creates a wonderful hodgepodge mix of architectural styles.  The mix of Roman, Gothic, Ottoman, Renaissance, Romantic, Art Nouveau, etc. buildings have enabled Budapest to stand in for many European cities in cinema.

3. Of course, eat your heart out!  This tip seems to fall on each of my "Seven Tips", but Budapest scores extra points- Hungarian food is delicious, although heavy on grease and frying, but we also had some other excellent ethnic foods.   As for Hungarian food, my favorite was easily the fresh paprika crisps we got at the Christmas market.  The paprika chicken was also tasty, probably one of the most flavorful chicken breasts I've ever had without being spicy.  Paul had (and thoroughly enjoyed) some classic goulash.  When I was desperate for some vegetables that weren't boiled or fried we found a small Greek eatery- and it was authentic and tasty enough to make us both want to go back to Greece just to eat!  Likewise, the Italian we had (sponsored by George Clooney?) was also really good.

4.  Use public transportation.  Our Budapest Cards gave us unlimited access to all public transportation.  This got us to and from the airport, subway rides multiple times each day, and out to Memento Park.  Budapest's public transport options include bus, rail, tram, and metro- so there's a good chance you can get where you're going easily.  The only time we had any trouble was trying to get to Memento Park.  I was relying on the directions given by the website, and they were confusing as to where to get off the tram, but after asking a very helpful driver we found the connecting bus stop.
  **side note** Nearly every travel book I read and our hotel warned us about taxis.  Apparently taxi fraud is rife in Budapest, so visitors are cautioned to only get into taxis you've called for and that are clearly marked as licensed taxis.  The only time we used one was when we transferred between hotels, and the first hotel rang for the taxi for us. Since the public transport was so easy, using a taxi never came up again.

5.  Plan your days by area, but leave time for lingering places.   We didn't get to Margaret IslandGellért Hill, or tour the Synagogue for example, but we did get to Memento Park and went on a tour of the Opera House, which I am really happy we did.  We knew we had limited time, and we did get to all of our "must-sees", but, as Budapest is actually three cities (Pest, Buda, and Óbuda) with over a thousand years of history, it's very hard to take it all in with just a few days!  Even with the ease of public transportation, there's a lot of ground to cover, so make your plans with a map beside you!

6. This one's from Paul (crazy, I know!).  Splurge a little.  Budapest is remarkably cheap (like Krakow), so why not go a little fancier?  We went out one night to a really nice restaurant that had a live 3-piece traditional Hungarian band and enjoyed a delicious three-course meal- all for under $70.  Granted, we didn't have wine, neither of us enjoy it, but Paul did have beer.  Like I mentioned, our hotel was also four-star, and, while I can't remember the cost since I booked it last summer, it was something we found affordable- and four-star is not in our regular price range!!

7. My last tip is really specific- if you choose to go to Memento Park via public transportation, learn from our confusion. The park's website gives directions, but in practice, these directions proved somewhat misleading, at least to me.  As we were doing our last bits of sightseeing that day, we took the metro to the Great Market Hall and then caught a tram right in front of the market to cross the Liberty Bridge.  The tram we were on was one of the ones recommended by the website, so we stayed on it until we got to the intersection of Fehervari ut and Bocskai ut- where, in my confusion over the "Campona" part of the directions, I got us on another tram.  This tram seemed to go for a while and we saw random "Campona" signs that gave us hope we were going in the correct direction.  When things seemed questionable, we got off and waited.  I asked the driver of the next tram that came (a different number) if she took us to the bus for Memento Park- she said to get on and ride.  We did, and went straight back to the intersection.  Once off, the driver pointed down the cross street, where, a short distance away, there is a bus stop (one of MANY in the intersection!) that has a sign saying "MEMENTO PARK BUS."  We got on the bus and then got off when we saw the park- that stop isn't clearly marked either!  Long story short, don't be afraid to ask transportation officials for guidance- they understand more English than you expect (or at least "lost" and "Memento Park"!) and are happy to help!

1 comment:

  1. Between your wealth of information and gorgeous photos, I just want to know when you'll be publishing a travel guide. Seriously, i definitely refer to your blog when travel planning. I'm glad (and slightly jealous) that you and Paul are taking full advantage of living over here! Great posts!


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