Day 1 – things to do on Day 1 in ’3 days Budapest’ – a weekend getaway in Budapest, Hungary
Buda Castle, Budapest (photo by Mark Mitchell)
Route in Budapest: Deak square – Szechenyi Istvan square – Chain Bridge – Funicular Railway - Castle Hill – Buda Castle (Royal Palace) – Wine Tasting - Moszkva square (Szell Kalman ter ) – Millenary Park – Parliament – Opera House
Your walking shoes are on, camera in the bag, so let’s explore the Pearl of the Danube, Budapest and its beautiful World Heritage site, which gives some explanation for the nickname ‘Pearl of the Danube’.
1, First, get to the city centre, Deak square (Deák tér is the meeting point of all metros as well as several buses and trams). Take a 5 minute walk to the Art Nouveau building of Gresham Palace (Four Seasons Hotel Budapest) on Szechenyi Istvan square, just by the Chain Bridge. You can take a look at the interior without commitment, or have a nice (and pricey) cup of coffee /tea with excellent desserts in Cafe Gresham to feel more invigorated for the whole day walking tour in Budapest.
Gresham Palace Budapest
2, Next, take a 10-15 minute walk through the Chain Bridge (in peak summer months only open to pedestrians, concerts, street vendors, exhibitions are right on the bridge – Chain Bridge Festival). You can get a nice view of both sides of Budapest divided by the river Danube – great place for making photos too.
At the end of the Chain Bridge you will see the Tunnel of Budapest, which is under the Castle Hill.
Take the street on the right of the Tunnel – in about 10-30 minutes, depending on your fitness, you will be up in the Castle District. Or simply hop on the bus on the right of the Tunnel (bus number 16 stops at Gresham Palace and then in front of the Tunnel).
The third option to get to the top of the Castle Hill is taking the 19th century cable car of the Budapest Funicular railway (special tickets needed, not included in your public transport pass). And up you go. Short, but fun ride.
Matthias Well, Buda Castle Budapest (Mark Mitchell)
You are in the Castle District now, a huge prey bird, the Turul, on your left, and a colourful church tower on your right rising above the old Castle houses. If you go left, you will see one of our favourite statues, the Matthias well (King Matthias hunting with vizsla dogs and finding a beautiful girl – romantic scene, very nice composition), you may visit the Hungarian National Gallery or the Museum of History also in the Buda Castle.
But if you are short of time, and 3 days in Budapest is not much, you can just turn right at the Funicular and head for Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion.
3, Visit the gothic Matthias Church, and take panoramic photos from the Fisherman’s Bastion – they are right next to each other. Cool down in the church, listen to a choir, or a concert, see some of the art treasures in the Ecclesiastical Art Museum, take photos on the balconies of the Fisherman’s Bastion (top panoramic photo spot in Budapest, Hungary).
Cafe Ruszwurm Budapest
If you are hungry by now, you can have a fancy lunch in one of the posh restaurants in the Castle district (Alabardos Restaurant and Restaurant ’21′ are well rated by locals and tourists alike).
Two further gastronomical options: a superb wine tasting in Faust Wine Cellar or in the Royal Wine House (both in the Castle district) and / or Cafe Ruszwurm (founded in 1827), which is a must see to picture Budapest and the Royal Palace in the 19th century.
After lunch or for a cheaper lunch, go down the hill towards former Moszkva square (now Szell Kalman ter) in about 15 min (or take the Castle minibus to the square), and take a lunch in one of the diners of the Mammut shopping mall, or in the neighbouring restaurants. Or have a quick snack in the Feny utca Market Hall (Langos is the traditional ‘Hungaricum snack’). Once on Szell Kalman ter, don’t miss Auguszt Confectionary in Feny street, one of the best confectionaries in Budapest. We swear by it. Another option to descend from Castle Hill is walking to Batthyany square. If you should choose that route, and missed both excellent confectionaries, Ruszwurm and Auguszt, hop in the tiny Pillok Cukraszda for a take away (traditional Jewish cake with layers of ground walnut paste, raisins, ground poppy seeds and apples).
Millenary Park Budapest (photo by Daniel Edwins)
4, Eating, shopping, lying in the grass: at the post-communist former Moszkva square (Szell Kalman ter), you can find some souvenirs in the most popular shopping mall in the city: Mammut – the mammoth. Take a look around in the mall, buy some nice gifts or just enjoy your lunch in one of the approx. 20 restaurants in the building. Peep into the farmer’s market in Feny utca. And see Millenary Park (Millenaris Park), a former industrial building turned into a cultural centre. Throughout the summer Millenary Park has great open air programmes, many of which are free, some nice green grass to lie on and relax, a cafe, a restaurant, art exhibitions as well as an interactive science house for kids. Depending on when you visit Budapest, in Millenaris Park you may bump into a group of graffiti artists decorating old Trabants, or a Czech cultural day with beers, or a science-fiction fan festival or an International Book Festival, etc. There is always something going on at the weekends, and it is a nice green spot during the weekdays.
Marxim Restaurant Budapest
If you haven’t had lunch yet, there are some other restaurants you may be interested in (outside of Mammut Shopping mall): Szent Jupat Etterem (all kinds of dishes, big portions of Hungarian foods at affordable prices), or the cosy shady terrace of Trombitas Restaurant (Italian theme, pizza, salads). If you are interested in communism, and don’t mind second-hand smoking, or if you want a simple pizza, you can go over to the smallish Marxim Etterem. Marxim restaurant is next to the Millenary Park in Kisrokus street: communist interior design with several communist relics and pizza names featuring Lenin, Breznev, the ghost of Communism, etc. and other communist think tanks.
5, Again on Moszkva Szell Kalman square.Get on the M2 (red line) metro. Within 5 minutes you can get from Moszkva Szell Kalman ter on the Buda side to Kossuth square on the Pest side. Take a look at the neo-gothic Parliament building (except for national holidays), then walk on Nador street to find a great dinner spot. Some of the highlights to choose from: Onyx Restaurant, a 1 star Michelin restaurant, the Italian Taverna Pomo d’Oro Restaurant, Momotaro Ramen Restaurant Japanese-Chinese eatery or Iguana Bar, Grill Restaurant – Mexican foods – in Zoltan street. These restaurants (‘etterem’) are all very close to the Parliament and they are of high standards, among the best Budapest restaurants.
Now after the walks in the city, it is time to relax a bit. You can skip the following options if you are completely tired and just wish to relax. For complete relaxation you can go to Szechenyi Baths (open until 10pm) and soak in the water (open air thermal open in summer and winter, no matter what). But you can leave the baths till the next day to start with. And let’s not forget that there are more Budapest baths to choose from.
But if you have more stamina here are some late afternoon, and evening programmes. Option A: the post-pioneer Children’s Railway in the Buda Hills. (the last trains run about 4-5pm). Option B: Margaret Island. Option C: the Opera House (performances mostly at 7pm). See the details of each option:
Children's Railway (former Pioneer Train) Budapest
6, Option A, If you have covered all of the above, maybe skipping the Parliament, and it is early afternoon, say 2-3 pm (which is unrealistic, but who knows), you can get back to nature and history. Take a trip on the Buda hills with the former Pioneer Railway. First walk back to Moszkva ter (Szell Kalman square), then take the tram (pick from 18, 56 or 59). Get off at the second stop and get changed to the cogwheel train right next to the tram. The cogwheel railway is called ‘Fogaskereku’ in Hungarian. The last stop of the cogwheel train is what you need (about 20 min). Get off, wait for the ex-pioneer train to stop in the nearby railway stop, and enjoy your 40-minute ride in the woods of the Buda hills on the unique Children’s Railway. Beautiful scenery, post-communist railway (the ticket inspectors and some other railway staff members are kids – literally – and they take pride in what they do!). It may sound slightly complicated to get there, but it is not, and the public transport is quite frequent. Detailed schedule of trains here.
Margaret Island (Margitsziget) Budapest (photo by Alex Proimos)
6, Option B: the Margaret island. From Szell Kalman ter get on the tram number 4 or 6 and get off at Margaret Bridge. The fascinating Margaret Island with its huge parks, fountains, medieval ruins, open-air swimming pools, etc. is a great summer time spot for everyone. You can easily take a look around the island with a 4 wheeled bike (for 2 or 4 people), and other fun vehicles. Holdudvar bar is a great favourite among locals and tourists alike. Nice open-air place, good food, dancing, etc. And if you are with children, you can go to the pet zoo on the island (small zoo with ducks, horses, etc.). The island’s big Palatinus lido with all kinds of pools is open until 8 pm (from mid June to late Aug).
Opera House Budapest (photo by *dan*)
6, Option C: Budapest Opera House is beautiful to look at, and great to enjoy the quality acoustics. The cheapest tickets are ridiculously cheap (3-4 euros). Opera performances are almost on every evening, between 7 pm and 10 pm. After the performance, you can enjoy the late night walks in the gently lit Andrassy Avenue (part of the World Heritage). Mind you, after 10 pm there are not many restaurant kitchens still open for orders, so you may wish to have dinner before going to the opera.
If opera is not your genre, you could walk back to the Chain Bridge and enjoy the night lights of Budapest. Great time for taking night photos of the romantic playful lights of this great city. Check out Godor Club night life on Deak square – jazz and rock concerts, exhibitions and many people enjoying the night.
Day 2 of your 3-day Budapest programme
Day 3 of your 3-day Budapest programme
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