When departing Budapest by air (and presumably when arriving too), don't bother with the various taxi/minibus services. The public transport alternative is efficient, perfectly easy to use and far, far cheaper (about £1 each way, as opposed to £6ish for the shuttle service).
From the town centre (Deak Ter) to the airport, simply take the blue metro line to the end of the line, then jump onto the clearly signposted no: 200 bus (complete with little aeroplane logo and English announcements). It goes to Terminal 1 first, then Terminal 2, and the entire journey to Terminal 1 takes about half an hour.
You need to validate one single ticket on the metro, and then another on the bus (or vice versa if arriving). True, ticket staff don't speak much English, but they are quite keen to help, and "2 single tickets" is widely understood (if various options are proffered, single tickets are the little flimsy orange ones with perforations).
I stayed here last week with my family and had a great time. The location was perfect - just off the main boulevard, and the apartment comfortable and the whole stay was well organised. The apartment had everything you need, and at a great price.
I booked the apartment through www.budapestholidayservice.com
If you're looking for inexpensive and advantageously located accommodation in Budapest, try Buro Panzio. This is a small hotel, only about l0 rooms, located just off Moszkva Ter, a major subway/tram/bus stop on the Buda side and therefore convenient to almost anything of interest. The rooms are clean, comfortable and air-conditioned, a rarity in any small hotel there. The young staff could not be more friendly and helpful. There is a good Hungarian restaurant next door and a local vegetable/fruit/bread/meat market just across the street. All this equals great value for money at about 60 euros/night. I could not have been more pleased with my stay there.
1024 Budapest II
Dekan U 3
+361 21 22929
Great hotel in an excellent location - good breakfast included in the rate and most places are walkable from it.
The airport minibus is expensive by Hungarian standards and not a particularly good service. The standard of driving when we took it was atrocious and on our return journey, we were kept waiting & driven on a tour of the city while they tried to fill it up with other passengers.
In the lobby of the Marriott Hotel is an 'all you can eat' dessert bar, which costs roughly £4 per head. The selection is fantastic (they had 3 different kinds of strudel the day we went). However, coffee, tea etc is extra.
· Apaczai Csere Janos u. 4, on the riverbank of the Pest side, just north of the Elizabeth bridge;
· tel: 36 1 266 7000, (or toll free 008 001 1998);
The Soul Cafe is a restaurant on Raday Utca, serving superb food in pleasant surroundings. They have everything from soups and sandwiches to mains etc. We had lots of lovely meals in Budapest but this was the best. If this restaurant doesn't tempt you, there are dozens of others on this street, which is near Kalvin Ter metro station.
Raday Utca 11-13;
tel: 217 6986;
A studio apartment in the fast-rising bohemian district 8, this is a great place to stay for couples. The apartment has been done up to a really high standard for Budapest and it is very good value for money. Close to tram and underground links.
We had a really good experience here. Cosy, clean apartment with a balcony, friendly staff, not expensive! We really felt the luxury like in any hotel - the service was excellent and we enjoyed the privacy.
Reasonably priced hotel in a quiet residential area a little out of town, but easy to get to and within 20 minutes or so via trolleybus (no 74) or metro (the fab line 1 from Mexicoi Utca). It's also only 10 minutes from the city park, and the Szechenyi baths, via public transport (you could walk it in 20-30, but it's a bit bleak to be honest).
Staff are friendly and helpful. They can organise a taxi transfer to/from airport terminals for 5600 HUF each way. (Though a rail link is due to be opened in 2007, according to the Budapest Sun. That's to the city, not to the hotel I guess).
They put us in one of the attic rooms on our first night, which is kind of claustrophobic as it has a skylight you can't see out of without balancing in a frankly reckless fashion on two stools upon the bed (and I'm 6ft tall), but shifted us to a much better room the next morning.
65 euro/room per night, 60 if paid in cash.
Budapest has three metro lines that are great for getting about, but spend a few moments enjoying the look of them too. Line 1 is the oldest (as far as Hosok Tere, anyhow - the extension to Mexicoi Utca was completed in 1973) and is undoubtedly charming (even the little cartoon fanfare noises that signal imminent arrival or departure sound chipper), but I also became quite obsessed with the grimy space-age look of the other two lines, particularly the Dr Who/Kubrick/James Bond look of the Deak Ter station on lines 2 & 3. It's all in the lights, it seems - very photogenic, in it's own brutal fashion. Deak Ter station - as someone else said, it's the Kings Cross of the Budapest system. If you can't find it, you're hopelessly lost, and perhaps in the wrong city.
To be honest, we weren't expecting that much from Hungarian cuisine, and sadly on the whole we weren't disappointed. During a 6-day stay we were often left with a heavy, ponderous and slightly queasy feeling as if we'd just been given some bad news, having consumed what we took to be typical dishes (stews, side orders of pasta, lots of meat and few vegetables). Tellingly, this also sums up the facial expressions of many of our fellow diners at a number of eateries.
Lucky breaks came at two main venues: one being the grill houses set up at the open-air wine festival between Deak Ter and Astoria (duck leg, crispy red cabbage, mixed veg), but most significantly (and reliably, as the wine fest isn't an ongoing feature) the fine restaurant Cafe Kor on Sas Utca. We found the place on our penultimate day and had lunch and dinner in there - two meals at one place in a day is something of a first for us.
The restaurant is billed as offering “quintessential Hungarian dishes with an international twist” and this seems to sum it up nicely. The food we had was uniformly excellent, well-presented but not fussy, substantial where necessary but not overbearing - various salads, freshly- and lightly-cooked vegetables, creamy sauces that weren't cloying and drowning the meat or fish. Service was great too - friendly, attentive and relaxed. (We were juggling space on our table at lunch and they offered us somewhere else to sit before it had even crossed our minds to suggest it).
It's quite pricey by local standards, at least compared with the 1000-2000 HUF prices we'd been paying for mains elsewhere, but still very good value. (The wine ramped up the cost of dinner quite a bit, but it still came to about £45 for two - a shared starter, two mains, desert, wine and coffee. Lunch - two salads and asparagus, plus a couple of glasses of wine - was about £18).
It was very busy at lunch and dinner midweek, and they recommend booking. I'm sure there must be many other sources for great Hungarian food, but do check this place out.
Pest V, Sas utca 17;
tel: 311 0053
An asian/italian/fusion restaurant where I ate possibly the best chocolate cake of my life : chocolate lava cake. The decor is amazing, music just right, and is the type of place that if it opened in Bucharest would be heart-breakingly expensive, but it's in Budapest so it's not.
Andrassy ut, before the Oktagon
A very central Budapest holiday apartment beside the Danube River.
Bright and great for 2 people in a quiet, historic building. Also just by the famous pedestrianised Vaci Ucta for shopping, restaurants, bars, etc.
Where possible I like to partake of the local tipple on my travels but rarely, if ever, have I tasted anything like Hungary's herb based spirit, Unicum. A single measure of this concoction should be more than enough for two to three people ... the first sip tastes a little of cough mixture, and the second enough to convince you that no, apologies to the good people at Benylin, this is something far nastier.
On the plus side, it does come in great globe shaped bottles - miniatures of which make ideal presents for friends back home, particularly those you don't like much.
Just about every bar in Budapest
The name is - fortunately - nothing to do with János Kádár, Hungary's last Communist leader, the surname Kádár is quite common (and means 'cooper'). Kádár Étkezde (bistro) is a fabulous little lunch venue in the heart of the historic Jewish district in central Pest. It's packed with locals enjoying the non-kosher Jewish home cooking; great matzo ball soup, crisp duck leg with spicy red cabbage or boiled beef with a range of fruit sauces (gooseberry, sour cherry, horseradish) served on a ceramic all-in-one airplane style plates. Uncle Tibi personally greets regulars from the neighbourhood as they pile in and tots up the bill at the end. The walls of the crowded room are crammed with photos (many autographed) of Hungarian actors and athletes as well as other fans of the bistro including Marcello Mastroiani. Sip málna szörp (raspberry cordial) at this non-alcoholic eaterie or help yourself from the old-fashioned soda water bottles on every table. The waitresses are the kindest and most efficient in Budapest, the menu is only in Hungarian, and you'll have to share a table but that's part of the atmosphere. The last time I ate there, the elderly lady sipping soup at my table had numbers tattooed on her arm. This was a sudden, brutal, unexpected reminder of Hungary's shocking history.
Klauzál tér 9
Open Tues-Sat 11.30-15.30
Tel: (+36 1) 321 3622
To get there: Take tram 4 & 6 to Király utca stop.
Prices: Soup 300 forints, main dishes 500-800 forints, cash only, no CC.
A real off the wall tourist attraction! A tongue in cheek art/spiritual/cultural exhibition located in an intriguing labyrinth of tunnels under castle hill. Strange music, odd statues, faux cave paintings and a real maze will keep you guessing what's round the next bend. Thoroughly enjoyable. We visited in winter when it provided much-needed relief from the subzero chill on the Hill. Drop your sulky kids off there whilst you take in the sights above ground..!
A back street on castle hill, Uri Utca 9.
This is a great hotel, large but friendly. Fabulous location in Pest beside the National Museum and within walking distance of all the major sights in both Pest and Buda - minutes from the Danube. Good selection of bars, restaurants (Raday Utca street very good) and shopping. Excellent reception service with English spoken by all staff - very important here. The hotel has its own small pool and sauna, good buffet breakfasts with vegetarian options, and both a public and a private members' bar. We asked for a quiet room, which was good. Like many hotels in Cental Pest there is the likelihood of traffic noise if you are on a main road (it is a city). I would thoroughly recommend it.
Kecskemeti U 14, Budapest, 1053, Area VIII
If you're bathing in Budapest, it doesn't get any better than the beautiful bath house at Szechenyi Furdo. Exquisite baroque architecture, wonderful selection of hot and cold pools, steam rooms and a well stocked cafe for those who fancy a beer and a game of chess.
Worth a visit anytime of the year. Were it not for corpulent 50-something Hungarians wearing nothing but Speedos, this could possibly be my favourite place in the whole world.
A five minute walk from Szechenyi Furdo on the Budapest underground
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