What to do in Hungary
What to do in Hungary Reviews
Should you go to Hungary? Sep 01, 2009
The answer is yes.
After extensive research and asking the locals, if you decide to go, I recommend you go to the following cities:
1)Budapest 2)Pecs 3)Sopron. I only went to the first 2 but heard a lot about Sopron. Seeing the Balaton lake especially in summer is worth it too. But you can either book a couple of days in one of the resorts there or take an overday trip from Budapest.
Budapest (main attractions):
Budapest is split into 2 by the Danube (Duna)river; there is Buda and Pest. Budapest has beautiful architecture everywhere and decent infrastructure and public services. The surprising part is how empty the city is with only 1.7 million inhabitants and an aging population. But every European city has a hundred places to visit and the guidebooks tell you you need to spend half a day here and a full day there. Top 5 places worth seeing are:
1) Buda Castle where you have a great overlook on the Pest site of the city from a high altitude. Walk around, there are a few nice cafes. If you want to see the building from the inside go ahead and if you don't you can enjoy the garden and the view.
2) Citadel: Also on a high hill top on the Buda site. This is an old location worth exploring a bit. There is also a nice restaurant/cafe where you can have decent food and enjoy the view and the breeze.
3) Parliament building. It is worth seeing and taking a photo from outside. Nothing more.
4) St. Stephan Basilica: This is a masterpiece. Great place to see from the outside especially at night. There are some outdoor restaurants on the street with good food around it.
5) Heros (Hősök) Square: Very nice photo ops. And a few museums around it if you are into museums. Best to go with the metro (orange line).
Budapest is very famous for it's spas and baths as they call them. The top 2 are Széchenyi fürdő and Gellert. The former is the most famous one but the latter is a bit more upscale since it is inside a hotel. The idea is basically many indoor pools, tubs, steam rooms and saunas with different tempratures. Plus a huge multi-pool complex outdoors. Very nice way to spend half a day or more. Széchenyi fürdő is co-ed at all days but most others are seperate or have different hours for males and females. Not sure about Gellert because we only saw it from the outside.
Accomodation: The Pest side is a much better choice since everything that matters is on that side of the Danub river. Try to stay by the Deák Ferenc Square. For 5 stars go for Le Meredien. If you want a 3 star hotel, try Central Basilica Hotel which is across the small park from Le Meredien and is a very decent hotel. If you choose to stay somewhere else, make sure you're near a metro station or it will ruin your stay.
Shopping: Generally not the best place to shop. Prices are around 30% higher than the US, France and other main shopping cities. Sale time might be okay though.
1) Arena Plaza is the one mall worth visiting. It is 5 minutes walk from the Keleti Metro station (there's a train station there as well). Has some international brand like Zara, Guess, etc. But it is small. Try the Nilus restaurant in the main square by the train station. Good shawerma and grilled food.
2) Vaci St and Fashion St.: These 2 streets have some .shops and boutiques of famous brands. They are around the Deák Ferenc Square.
During the week, most of the clubs are closed. Some open on specific days, so you need to double check by phone before going.
Moulin Rouge: This is the fanciest and nicest in my opinion. The crowd is more sophisticated that the rest of the clubs and the atmosphere is quite elegant.
Morrison's (1 and 2): Morrison's 2 is the bigger one and is open for most of the week. It has several rooms underground and is a bit of a maze so in case of an emergency you'll be trapped to death :). The entrance takes you into an outdoor terrace bar which is quite cool itself. The crowd is generally young and it is full of smoke. Worth checking out if nothing else is open.
Old Man's Pub: Very basic pub with a small dancefloor. Trashy to some extent. Not recommended.
Symbol: Trendy and very fancy. We went on a Thursday but it was rather empty. Try it in the weekend.
B-Seven: You'll read that it is the biggest club in Budapest. That is a lie. It is quite small and full of college students who seem to all know each other. We only stayed there for 15 minutes and couldn't stand it. It is on the same street as Moulin Rouge.
Club Rio: Open in summer only. Supposed to be a really nice place but was closed in September when we went.
1) The best tip we got before going to Budapest was to take the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour. It takes you to the main sites and you can spend time in the ones you like and take a later bus.
2) Use the metro. Buy a 3-day or weekly pass and use it. It's simple, affordable and clean enough. The metro stops rather early around 11PM or mid-night depending on the time of the year. But you can use the 3 day or weekly pass on trams and busses. Have your hotel concierge tell you the lines because these are not as easy to figure out as the metro.
3) Taxis are quite expensive and each of them operates on a different fare rate so you could pay Euros 10 on your way to a place and Euro 20 on your way back.
4) Walking: We realized that the Pest side is quite small, so you can pretty much go out at night without a need for a Taxi. Ask for directions of the place you're going to at your concierge since it could be very close and you'll enjoy the walk.
Pecs: The city is the 2010 cultural city of Europe. It is one large museum with plenty to see. A full day with an overnight stay is enough to see everything. But 2 days is still good enough if you have company with you and can take it slowly.
To get there: The best option is to take the train from Budapest. It leaves Keleti station and there are trains every hour. Duration is 2h 50m with the intercity train. Book 1st class, it's much better but here's the trick. They ask you if you want to pay an extra 10% to book a seat. 1st class is always empty, so no need to do so. You'll find many empty seats unless there's a national holiday or some event in Pecs.
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