One Day in Budapest

Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:30 AM
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One Day in Budapest

As an American living in Budapest, people often write me to ask if they can do Budapest in a day while visiting Vienna. I hate typing this over and over, so here it is.

First let me say, that is is a sacrilege to come here for one day. 5 days in Vienna is going to be EXPENSIVE, but Budapest is cheaper. Okay, I will step off of my soapbox.

Now, can you do it in a day? Yes, you can. However, you will be spending a minimum of 5 1/2 hours on a train coming and going. This is the minimum. The maximum is over 12 hours depending on how often they stop and which train you choose. See the Hungarian train website for the full schedule. We do not use Euros here, so you will have to bring or get Hungarian forint as soon as you arrive.

Let's assume you take the 6:22 am train from Vienna, which puts you in Budapest at 9:08 am. You will arrive at Keleti station. This is on the RED metro line. You go down the stairs and follow the signs for the Metro and buy a pack of 10 tickets (1,450 Huf) or a day pass (1,350 Huf).

When you go down the subway, look at the walls. The directions and the stops are posted in big letters on the walls. Look at the arrows between the names. You will go in the direction of Deak. It is only 3 stops from Keleti.

The hard part is that many subway stations are confusing, because they have multiple exits. Deak is the worst since this is the ONLY station where you can transfer from one metro to another. When you come up the escalator, you will go STRAIGHT ahead and take a second elevator to the street level. Immediately to your right is a small bakery kiosk. Go out that door and turn right. Walk to the street and cross it. Once you are across the street, turn left immediately. There you will find bus 16 across from the Meridian Hotel. Use another ticket and take this bus to the top of the castle district. There you can see what was once the castle (destroyed in WWII), rebuilt and is now a museum. St. Mattias Church (Charge to get in, but well worth it. Make sure you go upstairs) and Fisherman's Bastion. Okay, you have spent two hours there. Now take the same bus 16 to where you got on it. There is another smaller bus, but do not take it.

Back at Deak, walking away from the metro exit you came out of, walk straight. You will run into St. Stephan's Basilica. You cannot miss the steeple if you cannot see the building yet. You will walk through a large park like area with stairs that go down into a big space that sometimes has a restaurant and you will pass a pool of shallow water and glass walls with dates etched in them. Remember these markers since you will be coming back this way.

After your trip to the Basilica, return to the corner above. On one corner is a Toni and Guy Hair Salon. Directly across the street is an antique bookstore. It is in Hungarian, but you should be able to recognize it as a bookstore. Cross over to the bookstore and walk down the street. You should pass the bookstore with it being on your left side. This is Andrassy u. Walk down Andrassy to the Opera House. Tours are daily, but you can go into the lobby for free. It is about 5 blocks from the corner where you started. There are lots of overpriced restaurants along the way. Check menus.

At the opera house, as you are facing it, take the small street to the right of it for two blocks. At the second block, there is a nice restaurant on the corner. There is a beautiful mosaic on the wall. I cannot remember the name of it. You have 10 minutes to rest and drink your coffee. Okay, time to move on. Too much to do...

Walk back to the Opera House. Directly in front of it is the Yellow metro. Go down the stairs and you will notice you can only go in one direction. You will take this to the end, two stops. Don't forget to stamp your ticket. By the way, this subway was the first in continental Europe and the second oldest in the world.

When you come up from the metro, you are almost at the river. This is a lovely square where the famous Gerbrauds Restaurant is located. The pedestrian street is the 'famous' or infamous Vasi Street for tourists. Skip all of this and walk to the river. With the metro exit to your back, walk straight for two blocks and you are there. Take a stroll down the river, look at the castle hill from the Pest side, St. Mattias Church, and the statue of the woman you see in the distance to the left is the Citadel. There is a lovely view from there, but there is not enough time in one day.

Okay, now walk back to the Yellow metro. You will have to enter the opposite side you exited it from. It is the one farthest from Gerbrauds. Take the metro to Hosok ter. It is 8 stops. This is Hero's Square or Millennium Square. When you come up from the subway, you will see the square and lots of statues. These are the people famous for founding and continuing the Hungarian nation. To the left is the art museum. I am not an art expert, but some of our guests who are museum curators have told us that their collection is very significant. There is a free tour (after admission fee) in English of a small piece of the collection in English at 11:00 daily, closed Mondays.

From here walk back into the park behind Hero's Square and see the Szechenyi Thermals building. It is a surprisingly huge complex once you enter, but you would never know from the outside. If you walk to the right of Hero's square and over the bridge, you will see the Agricultural Museum, which is built to be a replica of a Transylvanian castle. Transylvania was part of Hungary until the Trianon Treaty after WW 1 and is now part of Romania.

Now go back to the Metro. With your back to Hero's Square, you want the metro entrance on the right side of the street. Take the metro back to Deak. At Deak, do not leave the building, but follow the signs to M2 and M3. You want to switch to the Red metro and take it one stop to Kossuth ter. Of course you could walk this, but hey, you got up early, you only have the day and your are tuckered out by now. See where the day ticket has saved you $? When you come up the escalator, turn left immediately and you are at Parliament. If you have time, I strongly suggest a tour. It is magnificent inside.

For restaurants and shopping, I am going to direct you to our website. Restaurants we like are listed under..."Restaurants" and shopping tips are under "Mondays". This is one of the suggestions for Mondays when other things are closed.

Now the latest train you will want to take back is the 20:25 (8:25 pm) from the same train station you arrived at. You will get back to Vienna at 11:15 pm. If you should take a later train, you will arrive in Vienna in the wee hours of the morning. Where these trains stop, I have no idea, but the duration is over 9 hours for what should be under 3 hours.

Have fun!!!

drryanjames is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:14 AM
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Lucky you, Budapest is a great city. Not only is Budapest cheaper than Vienna, I thought it was much more interesting.
Thanks for this posting, I'm copying it to put in my Budapest file for when we return. And we will.
The train station was the hardest for us to navigate while we were there. I like the exact directions.
L84SKY is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 09:16 AM
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Nicely done, Ryan.

Having been to Budapest twice recently and visisted almost all the places you mention (including all the walks and landmarks you mention) I can vouch for your accuracy and commendation. Luckily for me, I had a week the second time to really explore the city, to get my bearings and use the subway (yes, and to discover all the quirks of Deak station), and to discover many wonderful things, like the Dohanyi synagogue and holocaust memorial, the 'sendvich shops' and countless antique book stores.

Your tips are excellent for anyone interested, but I agree that it is a lot to cram into one day.
Mathieu is offline  
Old Sep 2nd, 2005, 11:40 AM
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Thank You so much for the detailed information. I am one of those unfortunate people who are spending one day in Budapest (I am flying in however, spleeping there and taking a train out the next day). I only have three days in Vienna though! I am literally going to print your page and folow it!! Unless of course you feel like doing a private tour?? HA HA
mansfield is offline  
Old Sep 2nd, 2005, 02:04 PM
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Thanks for being ao thoughtful in writing this message.
We will be visiting Budapest for the first time next spring. I have printed out your message and placed it in my Budapest folder.
don76 is offline  
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