Some taxis will rip you off, but there are simple ways to avoid this:
- never take a taxi that is unmarked (except for the light on top), including the white taxis lined up at the airport; these are mafia run and will rip you off
- taxis are always cheaper if you call in advance - get some numbers from your hotel/hostel, or have the bar call for you
- some reputable companies: BudaTaxi; 6x6 Taxi; Taxi 4; RadioTaxi. There are others, but in six years I've never gone wrong with these
- it's a good idea to keep a card with your address written down on it
Take the old underground (yellow line) to Hosok tere, where you will find a crescent of statues of historic figures of Hungary. Behind the square where you arrive is a park, which is a favourite for many, particularly families with small children (a zoo and amusement park are on your left). In the winter, you can go there for skating. Petofi csarnok (hall) offers cultural events and a flea market on some weekends.
Tube: No 1 to Hosok tere or Szechenyi furdo; trolleys: various
This is an old market hall close to Liberty Bridge, not far from Kalvin ter tube station. Shopping can be an experience and the architecture is of exceptional value. Most vendors remember that Margaret Thatcher visited the market in 1984, but this should not be seen as argument against a visit. Next door you will find the neo-renaissance building of the economics faculty.
Vámház körút; nearest metro: Kálvin tér; trams: No 2, 47, 49 at Fovam ter
Two great restaurants in downtown Pest. Both cheap and with great menus. The Boheme is on Paulay Ede Utca and does massive portions of great food. The Kiskacsa is on the corner of Kazinsky and Dob Utca, just in the Jewish part of town and specializes, as the name would suggest, in duck. It also lets you throw dice at the end of the meal to get a freebie. I've never won it but it adds to the fun.
Stand on the Erzsebet Hid and look east towards the parliament building. It gives a fantastic view of the city, and is one of the most beautiful sights in the whole world. Alternatively, get on any train out of the rat race that is Budapest to any of the other cities in Hungary, where the pace is slower, calmer, and less touristy.
Crossing the Duna (Danube) river
Magical experience of swimming in the three naturally heated outdoor pools, with snow on the ground an air temperature of –5C and swirling steam masking the people standing next to you. The jacuzzi/whirlpool provided an invigorating contrast, it was so good we went twice.
Állakerti körút 11; nearest metro: M1 Széchenyi fürdő
Restaurant/bar that serves large reasonably priced Hungarian fare with a decent wine menu. Also has a good range of vegetarian options. Another retro-styled place with a good second-hand shop next door.
IX. Raday utca 39; within walking distance of Ferenc Korut Metro station
Like many European cities, you must validate your travel ticket in a punch machine when you get on public transport, like buses. Don’t forget to do this when you've just arrived. Transit police nab tourists who haven't done so for big fines. We were still struggling to find a place for our bags on the crowded bus and hadn't yet spotted the validation machine, when they got us for €25 each.
Excellent restaurant with traditional Hungarian dishes, decent prices, good service, and a great wine list. It's in the courtyard of the restored Károly Mansion, and has nice outdoor seating. When I was there, there was a play being performed next door, so we got free dinner theatre as a bonus. It has vegetarian choices as well.
V. Károlyi Mihályi utca;
Cool courtyard bar that stays open all winter thanks to a pre-fab roof and loads of garden heaters. Szimpla is full of people at the weekend although it never gets too busy and it manages to retain a relaxed but lively atmosphere. The decor is sparse but fun. Old cinema chairs and dusty sofas, along with the crumbling stonework lend it a decadent air. Cheapish booze but don't try the wine! In summer check out Szimpla kis kért (Szimpla's little brother) and loads of other Pest courtyards.
Kazinczy ut 14; nearest metro station is Astoria
Cyrano is a sophisticated restaurant in the heart of Budapest. With an interior that wouldn't look out of place in Wallpaper*, it sets the scene for an elegant dining experience. The food is superb, with an emphasis on seasonal market produce cooked in a classic style. Good value.
Kristóf tér 7-8, District V; tel: 1 266 3096
Szentendre is an idyllic small town situated on the Danube River about 19km away from the main city. In Szentendre, you can escape the chaos of the city and experience a timeless, laid-back old town that has hardly been affected by the modernity of Budapest.
It takes around 45 minutes to get there on the the suburban train (HÉV) from I. Batthyány tér to Szentendre
The Owl Restaurant next to the zoo. Staffed entirely by women, and providing traditional Hungarian fare. Very reasonable prices, excellent value for money, and generous portion sizes.
By the city zoo, near the National Gallery
This was excellent value for money - getting free travel on trams, buses, metro - plus free entry to the zoo, museums etc and discount at other places including restaurants. It comes with a booklet detailing all offers.
We got ours at the hotel, they can also be bought at the airport and the stations.
Friendly hostel located near the centre of the city in an enchanting old building. If you are travelling in a group, ring ahead and book the 'penthouse' - it sleeps eight and has its own kitchen/dining area and bathroom with shower. And if you stay for more than five days you get a Yellow Submarine t-shirt.
56 Terez Korut - near Nuygati train station
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