December 2017

Best Public Transport for Sightseeing in Budapest

Posted By : pfarkas/ 104 0

You may have been to cities where the best option for sightseeing was a taxi, tuk-tuk or a hop-on-hop-off service. Lucky for you, Budapest boasts one of the best public transportation network in Europe (and the world). Moreover, it’s relatively cheap. And the best thing is, there are some public transport lines that offer a truly fabulous sightseeing experience – just by looking out the window.

 

Let me recommend a few lines that are really worth buying one of those daily tourist tickets.

 

Tram 2

 

Between Közvágóhíd and Jászai Mari tér stations, tram 2 transports packs of people each day on the bank of the Danube on the Pest side of the city, establishing connections between several metro, bus and other tram lines.

 

Northbound, the first stop is MüPa and the National Theatre, the former famous for concerts, dance performances and a contemporary art museum, also a wonderful piece of contemporary architecture. The surrounding area is mostly built in with office buildings but a lookout tower next to the Theatre offers a great view of the Buda side of the city on the riverbank.

 

The next exciting place is Boráros tér, from where hidden gems of pubs, museums and cult theatres of the ninth district are available within walking distance. Then stay onboard for a while and get off at Fővám tér for the most spectacular market hall, Nagyvásárcsarnok and this is also where the promenade Váci utca begins.

 

For a few stops now, the city center of the Pest side is easy to reach and the promenade on the bank of the Danube is an attraction of its own right. Then, Kossuth tér and Országház Látogatóközpont (Parliament, visitor centre) are a must-get-off to see the largest standalone parliament in Europe after the British one. The last stop is Jászai Mari tér, from where a short walk would take you to Margitsziget or down Falk Miksa utca, a lovely street full of art galleries and antique shops.

 

Ship D11

 

Between Kopaszi-gát – BudaPart and Újpest, Árpád út there’s a pretty slow but lovely little ship line that offers a great view of Budapest’s two riversides. The full tour takes time and there’s no guide but it is definitely worth the price. Kopaszi-gát itself is a fun place to be especially when it’s warm. The park is alway beautifully trimmed and the variety of restaurants is also great at the bay.

 

Northbound, the first stop is Müpa and the National Theatre, which I’ve already mentioned above with Tram 2. Then, on the Buda side Egyetemváros – A38 is one great location. Pontoon A38 is one of the greatest music bars in Europe and the restaurant onboard is worth a visit, not only for the nice view.

 

Szent Gellért tér, also in Buda is the gateway to the artsy part of the 11th district, Bartók Béla boulevard. Cafés and art galleries are just a minute away from this stop, as well as Gellért hill and the church-on-the-rock, or Sziklatemplom.

 

As the ship zigzags its way up the river, it’s worth hopping out on the Buda side once again on Batthyány square for the greatest view and photo option of the Parliament, and for good coffee at the market hall.

 

Tram 19

 

On the Buda side there’s another tram line worth mentioning and travelling on for at least a few stops. Between Kelenföld train station and Bécsi út / Vörösvári út this tram goes a long way to transport passengers. Some of its stops that may be an idea to get off are Rudas Gyógyfürdő, a thermal bath you can read further about in our bath post {link}. The next stop here is Várkert Bazár, a recently renewed landmark building in the hillside leading up to the Buda Castle. The iconic events hall is beautiful on the outside and a lot of programs are on all year round.

 

Clark Ádám square is a busy spot for tourists since the cogwheel Budavári Sikló takes people up the castle from here, while a nice walk on Lánchíd across to Pest is also a good idea. The stop Bem József square would be a choice for those who are hungry for nice riverside restaurants offer great view and food.

 

Another stop later on, Szent Lukács Gyógyfürdő is another spectacular thermal bath to try, while Kolosy tér up further north is a good starting point for excursions up the Buda Hills, with buses to catch to climb the hills or get to the caves Szemlő-hegyi or Pál-völgyi.

Budapest Caves Guide – Underground Budapest

Posted By : pfarkas/ 149 0

Budapest with its 80 geothermal springs and 200 caves found to date is not only famous for its hot springs and thermal spas but caves as well. Budapest lies on a geological fault line, where the thermal springs during millions of years have carved out a complex network of tunnels and caves. Since these caves were carved out from the inside, they did not have natural entrances. That is the reason why most of the caves have been discovered only in the previous century.
Since hot water and caves are such a big part of what Budapest, if you have more than just a weekend here we suggest not only visiting some of the thermal spas, but also exploring the what’s under the ground and visiting one of the caves in Budapest.
We collected caves from stroller friendly to extremely adventurous, only to make sure you’ll find the one that best suits you.

A walk in Pál-völgyi Cave

The spectacular dripstones, formations of calcite crystals and clamshells are what made this cave famous. The 500 meters hiking trail is completely modernized, but there are steep narrow stages, so only bring kids older than 5 years.
Visiting the cave doesn’t need any special clothing or equipment, but since the temperature is a constant 11 degrees celsius, dress up well inside in the summer.
Getting there is easy as pie, bus no. 65 or a taxi takes you there. Sporty ones, get your bikes out!

www.dunaipoly.hu/en/places/interpretation-sites/pal-volgyi-cave

Want to have the goosebumps? Have a real cave tour in the unlit, original cave without any professional qualification. Crawl and climb through the 2-3-hour tour in the mostly untouched Mátyás-hegyi cave.

Climb and crawl in Mátyás-hegyi Cave

For those of you who are a bit more adventurous, go and explore the untouched parts of the Pálvölgyi and Mátyáshegyi cave systems. No trails, no lighting, no handrails, no stairs, just you and the earth here. You’ll have to climb, crawl on your belly and climb in an overall and helmet with a headlamp – all provided at the cave.
It is extremely interesting and fun, I myself have been many times. If you ask your guide, he can take you to a part of the cave where you can try squeezing yourself through narrow cracks and holes if you want to. Excited by extreme situations? Test what it feels like to be in complete darkness by turning your lights off. All supervised by a tour guide.
All you need is comfortable clothes, hiking shoes and a sporty attitude. The cave is a constant 10 degrees celsius all year round. This tour needs prior booking but you can even bring kids over 10 years of age, they’ll love it!
It is very quick to get there with bus no. 65 or a taxi.

(This tour is not recommended for those who are don’t have a general level of fitness or strongly overweight.)
www.dunaipoly.hu/hu/helyek/bemutatohelyek/matyas-hegyi-barlang

A stroll in Szemlőhegyi Cave

Those interested in spectacular forms, rich ornaments and mineral precipitations, as well as bats, will find this a great experience. The hiking route is around 250 meters, all on comfortable concrete sidewalks. Pisolite precipitations and gypsum crystals are almost unparalleled in Europe.
The formations are nicely lit and the exhibition is short and sweet. The duration of the tour is about 40 minutes.
Also an easy one to reach, by bus no. 29. There is 12 degrees celsius inside, a very nice way to cool down in the summer. Dressed up well, you may even take your toddler in a stroller thanks to the spacious passages.

www.dunaipoly.hu/en/places/interpretation-sites/szemlo-hegyi-cave

A visit to the Castle Cave and labyrinth

A visit to the Castle Cave may be an interesting extra when visiting Buda Castle. Underneath the castle there is a network of natural tunnels and chambers carved by the vast amount of thermal water under the city. The inhabitants of medieval Buda most likely happened to find the caves hidden in the depth while digging wells. Realising the potential they dug access tunnels and turned these caves into cellars. Evidence shows that the arrangement of the houses above was adjusted to these cave cellars.
The wells in the cellars provided water during siege, and chambers were used to store and hide food and valuables from the enemy (or tax collector). This cave and tunnel system have actually even been used by the Germans as a battle station and a storage facility during the second world war.
Part of the cave is open to visitors, the walk takes about an hour. There’s an oil lamp tour every day at 6 pm. Regular street clothes are enough since it’s 16-18 degrees Celsius in the cave. The labyrinth can be used without a guide as arrows help you to find your way. It is also used as an exhibition centre.

www.c3.hu/~kzoli/cave/

The Hospital in the Rock Museum

The hospital is also below Buda Castle and is part of the vast tunnel and cave system. The tunnels and caverns were used for shelter during sieges in the middle ages and their potential was realised again during WWII. An access tunnel was drilled to from the side of the hill, and tunnels were converted to halls and chambers into rooms. At the beginning the airstrike syren was operated from here and was used as a bunker, but by the end of the war it was converted to a hospital to attend to those injured in airstrikes.
After WWII the hospital was converted and prepared to be an atomic bunker. Fortunately it has never been used as such, so it has mostly been conserved at its current form. It was renovated and opened to the public only in 2008 and it is a truly interesting place to visit with kids too.

www.sziklakorhaz.eu/en

The Cave Church of Gellert Hill

The cave church is exactly what it sounds to be, a church built into the caves of Gellert Hill. The church was founded in 1926 and even though it is not a historical monument, it is still functioning. There was a small cave where the church is today, which is believed to have been used by St.Ivan as a healing place in medieval times which was expanded during construction.
At the end of WWI, the Treaty of Trianon redraw the borders of Hungary, leaving about one third of the population and five of the largest ten cities outside of borders. At this time all Hungary was devastated, everyone was mourning. Inspired by The Cave of Maria in Lourdes, the cave church was built to adore Mary (the patron of Hungary) in these hard times.
The church is accessible right opposite to the entrance of the Gellert Bath.

www.sziklatemplom.hu

Walking and crawling is so ordinary. Why not try diving in one of the caves?

Diving in Molnár János Cave

Budapest is home to the largest known thermal cave system, the Molnár János cave. It is a complex labyrinth of caves that lie below the streets of Buda. The cave that was first thought to be only one chamber when it was explored in 1974, turned out to be system of 7 kms of tunnels and chambers by 2011.
What’s special about the cave is, that it’s an active, continuously forming thermal cave. Diving here is very special because the water is warm and crystal clear, and there are exciting stone and crystal formations on the limestone walls.
There is a diving centre by the cave and they regularly organise visits there, but you do need a couple of certifications to be able to visit.

www.mjcave.hu/en

Diving in a former brewery and quarry

Many of Budapest’s iconic buildings and historical monuments were built from limestone mined in the Eastern side of Budapest. Quarrying here in Kőbánya, the name of the area referring to the actual work done here, created a labyrinth of passages. Later when mining ceased at the turn of the 20th century, the Dreher Brewery operated here, then the mine was empty and parts of it flooded.
Many of the chambers today are divable with cave certification. There is no dive centre at the location, so getting changed could be a bit cold, just like the water. But this adventure is definitely worth it.

www.paprikadivers.com/kobanya-former-stone-mine-and-beer-factory-budapest/

The 7 Best Christmas Fairs not to Miss in and around Budapest

Posted By : Panni Vas/ 350 0

The Advent period is always exciting even if one means to escape the hassle and stress ahead of the Christmas holidays. One way to do so is travelling and once you’re in Budapest it is really worth checking out the city’s most popular or even a few less-known Christmas markets. A blog by our first-ever guest blogger Anna.

1. The Christmas Fair on Vörösmarty Square

Undoubtedly, the most famous Christmas market in town is the Budapest Advent and Christmas Fair on Vörösmarty Square. It opened its gates early November and will stay open until 31st December. This is basically an art fair, where only verified artisans may sell their beautiful goods. There is also a huge food court in the middle of the market, where you can taste the fine winter specialities of Hungary – drink fine mulled wine or krampampuri, eat kürtőskalács, a sweet speciality, or fantastic sausages. Children can play in the playhouse, while musicians perform on the small stage.
This is all in the middle of the city, on the square next to Café Gerbaud, one of the most famous cafés in Budapest. From the market, you can wander on Váci street, the pedestrian shopping street, and do the rest of your Christmas shopping.

If you would like to know more, visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/budapestchristmasfair
or www.budapestinfo.hu/advent-and-christmas-fair-2017
From 10th November to 31st December

2. Christmas Market in front of St Stephen’s Basilica

If you are looking for a more chic crowd, your place is in front of St Stephen’s Basilica, not far from Vörösmarty Square. This is the Advent Feast at the Basilica. In the middle of the square there is a free ice skating rink for children. There is a 3D mapping show every evening, as well as flash-mobs and some concerts. Food-wise you can taste the best flódni in town (Ráhel flódnija, which is an apple, walnut, poppy seed and plum jam cake, a nice example of Hungarian-Jewish tradition). Otherwise you can eat the traditional foods of any fairs in town, or drink wonderful pálinkas. This is a more food-focused market for travelers and locals looking for culinary pleasures.

If you would like to know more, visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/adventiunnepabazilikanal or adventiunnep.hu/en
From 24th November to 1st January.

3. Várkert Bazár by the foot of the Castle

For the Advent market with the most beautiful view, cross the Chain Bridge from the previous two locations and visit the advent market in front of Várkert Bazár, the renovated cultural centre at the foot of the Buda Castle, along the Danube river. This is a rather small and less known affair, with a free skating rink, music, tasty mulled wine and wonderful food. To enjoy the lights of the Chain Bridge and the city, visit the market after dusk. Later, take the lift or climb the stairs to the Buda Castle, and check out the view from there.

If you would like to know more, visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/events/227079477705852/

4. Christmas in the Buda Hills market

For more intimate adventures and once you’re on the Buda side, definitely visit another one of the smaller markets. Take the bus from the centre and visit the Advent in the Buda Hills (Advent a Hegyvidéken). This is a local market, starting at the beginning of December. It is a child-friendly affair with concerts, puppet theatre, and a visit from Santa on the 6th December. If you want to find some small gifts or ornaments for your tree, this is a nice little place to look. It is about a 20-minute bus ride from the city centre by bus 105, or take the tram 59 from Széll Kálmán tér.

If you would like to know more, visit their Facebook page www.programturizmus.hu/ajanlat-advent-a-hegyvideken-budapest

5. Christmas market in Óbuda on Szentlélek tér

Óbuda organises its winter market on Szentlélek tér in the old town of the district. It opens on the 1st of December with concerts, beautiful lights, a free ice skating rink just the right size. It’s open every weekend. The candle on the Advent wreath is lit each Sunday amid singing. The market itself is open all week. You need to take the suburban train (HÉV) from Batthyány Square to get there.

If you would like to know more, visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/adventobudan

6. Gozsdu Christmas Market

To be able to go straight to a nice restaurant or one of the famous bars in the party district of Budapest, your place to be is the Gozsdu Christmas Market from the 1st December. There will be Hanukah celebrations as well, just like every year, as well as the usual New Year’s party. This little street, lined with restaurants and bars on each side, connects two streets in the old Jewish district of Budapest. The atmosphere is guaranteed, as the most famous bars are just around the corner.

If you would like to know more, visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/events/469905346718977/ or
gozsduudvar.hu/en

7. Christmas in Szentendre

To get out of the city, visit Szentendre, a beautiful little town north of Budapest. It’s situated on the bank of the Danube, is popular with tourists, but its Christmas market is not yet that well known. The centre of Szentendre is an old town, with a wonderful square and a beautiful church in the middle. Also, you can have a stroll on the bank of the river with a hot tea or mulled wine to keep you warm.
Detailed program of the fair is coming soon. You can take the suburban train (HÉV) form Batthyány square to get there, or a coach.

If you would like to know more, visit www.szentendreadvent.hu
From 2nd December to 7th January.

8. Christmas Tram

Now this one is an extra, since this is not a Christmas Fair or Market, but it sure adds to the Christmas spirit to travel with the Christmas tram. It is a tram decorated with 3500 meters of lights with 39 200 light bulbs that runs on line nr.2 every Christmas for the past several years. You don’t need any special tickets on this tram, the regular tickets or passes will get you a ride.

It’s timetable for Christmas 2017: