Whet your Appetite for Hungary
Delicious goulash. Fragrant paprika. Sweet vizsla dogs and kerchief-clad ladies relaxing beside the Danube, which splits Budapest, into two sections – Buda and Pest. One of the bigger train stations – the Keleti – is on the Pest side. You can arrive from major, central Europe capitals like Vienna in just 3 hours by train. Budapest is larger than you might expect. If you plan on staying on the Buda side, which is decidedly more suburban, you’ll require the use of a tram to get there from the Keleti station. Easily explore both sides with the Budapest Card, which gives you access to public transit, sightseeing tours, museums, and more.
Crossing over the Danube, you’ll spot a rock wall with large buildings on top of Chapel Hill. Take a funicular to the top or get your daily exercise by trekking up the paved walkway and stairs to the Buda Castle. This lavishly appointed palace is filled with Hungarian art and antiquities as well as the National Archives. The changing of the guard still occurs daily, right across the street in front of the President.
Castle Hill can take several hours to explore. The view from the top is simply spectacular, and gives you a greater perspective on the size of the city. Descend the hill and cross over the popular Chain Bridge, where you’re greeted with another stunning view of the Parliament building. And right across the river, St. Stephen’s church, the largest in Hungary. After its completion in 1905, after the dome collapsed 50 years earlier, the building was considered so sturdy, important documents and artworks were stored there during World War II.
Getting around the rest of the city is easy, especially when you have a valid metro card. Remember to get your card or ticket stamped at a machine prior to entering the turnstile. A Budapest Public Transportation Card (can be purchased locally) is valid on the Metro, trams and buses.
Some things don’t change. For one, the currency is still the Forint (HUF). And for 3600 HUF, or about 13 Euro, you can enjoy a hot Hungarian treat – a bath – at the famed Gellert Baths. This giant, natural tub of hearty and helpful minerals will cure your traveler weary muscles.
Hungry for more Hungary? Take a day trip to the quaint town of Szentendre. Just 45 minutes by the HEV railroad (and about .55 with a Budapest public transport card), you’ll be treated to a taste of the zeitgeist - outdoor cafes where locals convene for good conversation and marzipan. Have a seat and enjoy true local cuisine. An accordion player may come by and serenade you.
In addition, when you use a Eurail Hungary Pass for travel in Budapest, you’ll receive a 50% reduction on the entrance fee for the Hungarian Heritage Railway Park by motor train from Budapest-Nyugati station.
Contributed by: Vida, Development Coach, is 100% Lithuanian and has plans to visit the country soon.