Budapest trip report (long)

Jun 22nd, 2007, 01:55 PM
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Budapest trip report (long)

Just finished a 4-day business trip to Budapest--my first ever visit there. Less than 2 days were in actual meetings, so I had plenty of time to explore the city. Here's what I found, in case you're thinking of visiting:

Overall character: Budapest is far more laid back than any other European city I've visited. Most people on the street were in shorts or jeans and sandales; even in my business meetings the men were in short sleeved sports shirts with no ties. Everyone I met was pleasant but somewhat reserved. There were a lot of tourists, mostly American or German but also quite a few Japanese and some French.

Language: People in restaurants and shops seemed to know just enough English (and German) to do their jobs. While sometimes there were some minor misunderstandings and miscommunications (ice cream listed as walnut-and-chocolate was really walnut-and-cinnamon, cottage cheese streudel was really cream cheese strudel), overall I had no problem communicating as needed.

Hungarian is very different from virtually every other language. During my whole visit there were maybe half a dozen words I could figure out, so I relied on English translations when they were provided. Most menus in the tourist areas are posted in English and German as well as Hungarian. (All restaurants post their menus and prices outside.)

Sights: If you love beautiful architecture, you will think you've died and gone to heaven. The art nouveau architecture is amazing; so is the baroque and neo-classical. Budapest was heavily damaged in WWII, so a good bit of what you see is actually rebuilt or restored after the war. I spent all my free time simply walking around and gawking at the architecture; I never went in any museums.

Most of sights in Budapest are in a fairly flat, compact area (except the old city of Buda, which is up on a ridge but accessible by funicular). I walked everywhere. What's nice is that, unless you're familiar with Hungarian history and culture, Budapest has no "must sees," no icons like the Eiffel Tower or the Parthenon, so you can feel free to amble around at leisure, striking out in whatever direction takes your fancy. This makes for a very relaxing visit.

My favorite stop was Central Market Hall--a magnificent building filled with food stalls on the bottom floor (definitely get some fresh-made strudel) and Hungarian handwork on the upper balcony. I spent two hours wandering around and shopping. The paprika stalls are a hoot, and I picked up a lot of inexpensive souvenirs for folks back home (painted wooden egg Christmas tree ornaments, "secret boxes" (with parts you must push in order to open the box) and, of course, paprika.

Prices in Budapest are generally very reasonable except for clothes, which are very expensive compared to comparable quality in the US.

Eating: Many/most of the restaurants in the downtown area have sidewalk cafes and very extensive menus. You can get a traditional Hungarian meal, a sandwich or salad, or just a glass of wine or cup of coffee or an ice cream sundae. Food is very reasonable--many entrees are around US$10-12. There are gelato stands on every block, often charging US 50 cents for a small cone. I went to places with large crowds and English menus and was never disappointed:

Cafe Anna (at both ends of Vaci utca) has a broad menu; I got a delicious caprese with phenomenal tomatoes.

Dunacorso (on Vigado ter near the Danube): Another broad menu; I got a Hungarian pork "stew" (really two pork chops with veggies) and a Dreher beer. This was a bit more expensive, because it's prime tourist area, but you're paying for the view of the Danube and the square and the Hungarian trio playing Frank Sinatra music. Lots of fun!

Cafe Vian (on Ferenz Liszt ter): Another place with an incredibly broad menu, reasonably priced. I got chicken paprikash with dumplings (really spaetzle) and a dark Dreher beer. Delicious but the chicken was all dark meat.

Gerbeaud: This is a famous coffee bar. All I got was the gelato outside, which is twice as expensive as elsewhere but comes on freshly baked, freshly rolled cones--best cones I've ever eaten.

Salaam Bombay (northeast of Roosevelt ter): Budapest has plenty of non-Hungarian restaurants (lots of Italian). This was an Indian restaurant I had a business dinner at. We ordered a bunch of dishes and shared; everything was delicious.

Hotel: I stayed in the Intercontinental (typical upscale chain hotel), which was in a terrific central and scenic location, off Roosevelt ter right on the banks of the Danube. There are several other large hotels nearby. If I returned, I'd definitely want to stay in this general location.

If you go to Budapest, it's really worth buying some good guidebooks and reading up on Hungarian history. It really helped me appreciate much of what I saw, especially the monuments, some of which are quite poignant and moving. I had Lonely Planet and Eyewitness Travel, and liked the latter best.
Linda0515 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2007, 06:30 AM
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Thanks for this update on Budapest. It is one of the places where we would like to see again.
Jed is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2007, 06:55 AM
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We're considering a day trip to Budapest this summer, so thanks for sharing your impressions!
travelgirl2 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2007, 07:20 AM
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Linda, you call your report long; I call it great - thanks for posting it.
You mention all the walking but I'm curious if you used public transport at all? Thanks again!
nyse is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2007, 07:54 AM
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Linda05015 wrote: "Budapest has no "must sees," no icons like the Eiffel Tower or the Parthenon".

I agree, simply because I do not believe in the idea of "must sees". But you might give a wrong impression, because Budapest does have a number of places with high visual impact: Gellert Hill, the Parliament building, St. Mathias's Church, Fisherman's Bastion, spring readily to mind. But I agree that the thing about Budapest is the whole package, not going from A to B to C and then marking everything done.

I don't quite agree about the people being somewhat reserved. Many have only a little English, and that inhibits communication. But I find that those who have reasonable English are quite happy to converse. The word I think of is "affable".
Padraig is offline  
Jun 24th, 2007, 04:21 PM
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Thanks so much. I am doing a 4 day-3 night trip to Budapest as a side trip from my 4 week Vienna home exchange coming up soon. Your trip report was very helpful.

I agree about the Hungarian language being impossible to decode. It is related to Finnish and Estonian and is sort of an "orphan" language. I have a 1-hour long CD called "In Flight Hungarian" that I bought to learn some things. I can count in Hungarian now and say a few things, but the words bear no relation to any other language I have studied except for words related to technology like "e-mail". Nice to know there is enough English around.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Jun 26th, 2007, 02:13 PM
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nyse: No, I didn't take any public transport except the funicular up to Buda's old city. The ticket office had signs posted in English so it was no problem.

Padraig: It was the people I met on business who I found relatively reserved compared with people working in similar positions in other countries. They were cordial but I didn't feel I got to know them, e.g., I didn't feel I got honest reactions from them to the advice I offered (I work as a consultant). They were all reasonably fluent in English, so that wasn't an issue. Usually when I do one of these visits, my hosts schedule every minute of my time, to try to get as much value from my visit as possible. These folks hosted me for the minimum scheduled time and no more--no invitation to follow up over dinner, for example.
Linda0515 is offline  
Jun 26th, 2007, 03:44 PM
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I'm not going to argue with your experiences, Linda: you were there, and that's what happened to you.

My interactions were more limited, but I found things like chatty waiters and barmen. That's nice to experience when, as I did last time, one travels on one's own.

Perhaps there are cultural differences that we (you and I, anyway) don't fully understand. For example, if you came to Ireland on a work assignment, you might be invited to pubs a lot, whereas if you went to France you would not normally be invited to a bar, but quite possibly to somebody's home to dine with the family.

One illustration of how friendly some of the people in Budapest are: a young woman stopped me on Vaci utca and, without a prior introduction, offered me sex.
Padraig is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2007, 09:49 AM
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You went to Cafe Anna? I go with my wife at least twice on or yearly visits. It is the only place I've seen the pastry-"Flodni".
Apuka is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2007, 12:14 PM
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Thank you Linda! pp
peppermintpatti is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 12:26 PM
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Padraig: If she offered you sex at no cost, then I'd say she's really, really friendly!
Poohgirl is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 01:55 PM
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WHAT?? Poohgirl, do you think she might have wanted money? I thought she found me irresistibly attractive, and I regretted having to disappoint her.
Padraig is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 02:12 PM
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I think we saw saw of her friends standing roadside in Budakeszi - wearing bathing suits & standing at the end of driveways & kind of in the middle of nowhere . . . very strange. We were lost at the time, but I'd didn't stop for directions.

Ian is offline  
Jul 18th, 2007, 07:51 AM
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LOL Padraig!
Poohgirl is offline  
Oct 8th, 2007, 05:38 PM
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Snowflake25 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2007, 10:00 AM
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Linda.... The Central Market(Nagy Csarnok) OMG the strudel is to die for. You made my mouth water just reading your post.

Unfortunately though, most of the restaurants/cafes you visited are the typical touristy places. It is too bad that you did not off the beaten path to where the locals really go. Sad to say that most locals cannot afford places like Dunacorso, Anna, and the Gerbeaud.

It is an amazing city, the view at night is something to really behold.

It is unfortunate that you only got to spend 4 days there, and 1/2 if was business.

It is a city that I just CANNOT get enough of.

Glad that you had such an amazing time.
shangrila is offline  
Oct 9th, 2007, 10:58 AM
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linda - thanks for the report.
shangrila - I'll be in Budapest for six nights starting next Tuesday - care to share what restaurants you would recommend?
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 10th, 2007, 08:04 AM
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I would love to share... here are a few, some of them might not have english menus.

Joe Bacsi.. out towards the airport

Ördögárok u. 80. T. 397-2742. Open Mon.-Fri., noon-11 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 9 am: 11 p.m. Outdoor dining available. No. SG bus from Moszkva tér, then No. 157 bus to Nagyrét u.

GHANDI or Govinda (Possible name change)
A wide assortment of delicious dishes from the world`s most famous vegetarian recipes, available in a non-smoking environment, are on offer.
V. Vigyázó Ferenc u. 4. T. 269-1625. May all beings be free and happy.

This choice might be a touristy.. but it is good, go hungry, huge portions...
V. Váci u. 67.
Tel 266-2607, Fax 266-2608 Open 11:30-02:00

XII. Márvány u. 19/a. T. 212-3743. Open daily, noon-midnight. All can eat stylebuffet.

I. Belgrád rkpt. 16. T. 318-1222.
Open noon-late every day. Live music every Fri. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Terrace open.

Also an excellent Greek restaurant in Mammut 1 on the top floor.

Eat with your silverware
Renaissance-style, complete with flagons of ale, pigs on the spit and 100 types of Hungarian wine. 1065 Podmaniczky u. 14.
Reservations: 302-4456
Open everyday: 12-01

Get crepes 101 ways..
II. Széna tér T. 201-8605.

An authentic diner with burgers and shakes..
Restaurant II. Hûvösvölgyi út 136 (by the filling station) T. 275-1825. Home deliveryto districts I, II, V, and XII. plus Nagykovácsi, Budakeszi and Solymár.

V. Bihari János u.17. T. 2G9-3108. Open everyday. Kitchen open from 10 am: 1 p.m. Terrace and cheap, quality food! Near Nyugati.

Into German Beer and Brat.. try Paulaner Brauhaus in MOM Park Shopping Center.

Another All you can eat buffet
Trofeja Etterem located at the Mexikoi ut end station of Underground (yellow #1 line).

I hope this will keep you full and happy on your visit... if not, there is always the TGIFridays, Pizza Hut and Subway just to name a few.

Have a super trip.

PS>> I DO NOT guarantee the type of service you will receive. That is determined strictly by the mood of your server.

shangrila is offline  
Oct 10th, 2007, 08:42 AM
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JNG is offline  
Oct 10th, 2007, 09:11 AM
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Wow, Shangrila.
Thanks for the restau recos.
Mathieu is offline  

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