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What to do in Prague & Budapest?
March 10, 2013 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Headed to Prague & Budapest Friday & am looking for recommendations on what to do, see, and eat while there!

I've read all of the other questions on traveling to Prague and to Budapest (as well as all of the New York Time's "36 Hours In" pieces on the two cities), but was hoping to get some specific guidance based on interests and timeframe. We are going to be in Prague on Friday (3/15) and then taking the train to Budapest the following Thursday (3/21). We head back to the US on 3/25. In Prague we are staying near that "I. P. Pavlova" metro station, and in Budapest we are staying near "Arany Jànos utca" metro.

What are your favorite places to eat delicious things and to get drinks? I know that Prague has an awesome number of microbreweries -- which are the best? I've also read that Budapest has "ruin bars" but am still a bit hazy on what exactly that is and how to go about finding one. Please help!

Is there anything that is March 2013-specific that we absolutely need to do/see? Does either city have any vintage photobooths (that give a strip of 4 photos)?

I am less interested in clubs, museums, churches, more interested in wandering around and doing things. I really like food. I really like things that can only be done in one of those cities and nowhere else in the world. I like biking in the US, but it seems like it will be really cold when we are in Prague & Budapest so am not sure if I want to do that there!

Thanks!!
posted by aaanastasia to Travel & Transportation around Budapest, Hungary (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
The baths at Rudas are definitely worth the time, since you'll be in Budapest over a weekend. I think I remember that they're co-ed on Saturdays, but it's been just over a year since I was there so you probably want to check.
posted by brennen at 12:49 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


My husband and I were in Budapest almost exactly ten years ago (Jesus!) and just walking around, especially in the older part of the city near the Danube, was awesome. I would totally go to the Fisherman's Bastion, at least walk around the outside of the Hungarian Parliament building (gorgeous inside and out), and climb up what I think is Castle Hill. We also went to a Turkish bath in a nice hotel (way nicer than the hotel in which we were staying; we were broke college students) and it was really pretty and a cool thing to try. It was basically a big indoor tile pool but it might be more on the "wandering around and doing things" spectrum.

To be honest I didn't find there to be anything special about the food although when we were there there was a big German festival or something near St. Stephen's basilica (if you do want to go to a church make it that one) and it was fun to get tasty food from the booths and stuff there; it was around this time of year so that might be an option. Have a great time!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:52 PM on March 10, 2013


This site details various baths in Budapest, including the Rudas baths that brennen links to, but also including the more famous Szechenyi and Gellert Baths.
posted by biffa at 1:15 PM on March 10, 2013


Re: Budapest... seconding the baths and Fisherman's Bastion. Don't miss the Castle District and the Chain Bridge. For more of a shopping/wandering experience, Vaci utca is the place to go.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:29 PM on March 10, 2013


Central Europe means cake; Central Kavehaz in Budapest does good cake.
posted by holgate at 1:48 PM on March 10, 2013


Ruinpubs are previously abandoned and derelict buildings in the 6th and 7th districts of Budapest (on the Pest side) that have been turned into night spots, usually with kind of a hip art student dive-bar aesthetic - cheap drinks, and lots of mismatched furniture and installation art. The biggest ones are conversions of entire apartment blocks that are split into lots of different spaces and have seating in their courtyards for when the weather's nice.

Ruinpubs tend not to have a lot of signage on the outside, so if you're not familiar with Budapest, it's better to look their locations up online rather than just wandering around the 7th district looking for one.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:06 PM on March 10, 2013


The Central, as holgate suggested, is an excellent place for cake; Gerbeaud's is also fantastic. Both are quite upscale but even the run of the mill Budapest cafe is great. There's a little-known but quite good quick-service cafe for pastries on the go near Ferenciek tere, the Jégbüfé.

Back when I was there, the Szimplakert was the Budapest ruinpub (romkocsma). I think it's changed and gotten a little less aggressively funky and better known, so that, say, chairs with protruding pointy springs are no longer part of the decor.

As for food in Hungary: well, there are upscale legends, like Gundel or Szindbad, but you can eat very well in less style. Some of my faves are Szént Jupát out by Moszkva tér, Kacsa out on the Buda waterfront near Batthyany, and Green's near Astoria. Really, there's a lot of good stuff out there, and most of the places you could end up can get you a pretty good selection of tasty Hungarian cuisine. For really bad-for-you snack food in the early afternoon, if you find yourself near either the Nagycsarnok or anywhere else with street food, get yourself a sajtos-téyfölös lángos, a fried dough topped with cheese and sour cream. (for a more virtuous but likewise divey afternoon snack, duck into a Nagyi Palacsintazoja or the Korona Passage for a palacsinta, a sweet or savory crepe).
posted by jackbishop at 2:55 PM on March 10, 2013


I was in Prague earlier this year, and my daughter insisted that we try the street food which is a slice of breaded/fried cheese on a hamburger bun. I just looked it up to find that it's Smazný sýr (pronounced sma-zhe-nee see'r), which literally translates as "Fried Cheese. It was fantastic. I am thinking about the next time I can go to Prague, only for that sandwich. All the food carts that set up on the sidewalks have it.

The other thing I found interesting in Prague is the art. Specifically David Cerny (that link is for an afternoon walk to see lots of his art in the city), but also just google for Prague Street Art and you will find some interesting things at the time you are going.
posted by CathyG at 3:32 PM on March 10, 2013


Yes! I love that combination!

I did exactly both Prague and Budapest in 2008.

Here are some pictures.

Other than the normal touristy walk-abouts, do this; from Prague, take the bus to Karlovy Vary and Cesky Krumlov. Quite possibly more interesting than Prague itself.

Go to the Vysehrad Cemetery in Prague and spot the headstones of famous Czech artists and composers.

Baths in Budapest is fun, dipping with mostly elderly Hungarians.
posted by ianK at 6:26 PM on March 10, 2013


Prague & Budapest are both great. Go to Cesky Krumlov if you can, it's awesome.
In terms of food, I found Hungary to be streets ahead of Czechy.

Prague has much more old architecture, due to being largely unscathed in WWII.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:58 PM on March 10, 2013


Three recommendations from my trip to Prague:

Cerny Slon restaurant. Get the roasting pan, with the juices getting all up into the dumplings. If it's not too cold, you can sit outside with your back up against the wall of the incredible Tyn church.

Les Moules: Obviously not something you can only get in Prague, but if you could use a break, my wife said the mussels were great, and I loved the beer list.

Segway tour: This is a good city for it; you can tell these guys you've already seen all the highlights, and they'll take you somewhere (probably up an enormous hill) you otherwise wouldn't have seen. We used them to go up to go up Nerudova and see the city from the Strahov Monastery.

Also, this was probably in the other posts you read, but yes to blacklight theater.
posted by troywestfield at 7:45 AM on March 11, 2013


The single best meal I have ever eaten was at a place called Borkonyha WineKitchen in Budapest, in Sas Utca (pronounced "shash ootsuh"). I am not a foodie. My husband is. We were both transported. It was *amazing*. And, because we're from the US and were living in England at the time when we went, also very cheap.

In Prague we went to a beer hall called U Fleku. And it was awesome. Cheerful, and also loud, but in a drunk-people-singing-raucous-folk-songs-as-an-accordionist-wandered-the-room way which was impossible to resist. People come around with trays with beer and some sort of delicious honey-flavored shot, at least the night we were there, and you could probably order other drinks, but why would you do that when these are so good? We both had different soups, which were awesome. It was just a great deal of fun. My favourite meal of the Prague trip.
posted by Because at 11:00 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know you're already there, but in case you need more recommendations...

re: Prague food - 2nding Smazný sýr (fried cheese) and you've gotta try a langoš (pronounced "langosh"). It's a freshly fried disc of dough topped with your choice of garlic and/or cheese. You'll find them at oily-looking carts around shopping malls etc on the side of the street.

If you're not sick of dumplings yet, you should try halušky. It's the national dish of next-door neighbor Slovakia, and it's soft sheep cheese sauce over little dumplings and topped with bacon. Yum yum yum.

Take the funicular up to the top of Petřín Hill and walk around.

Budapest has a number of hop-on, hop-off bus services. The one we utilized was Giraffe, which operates a red and a yellow line which go all over the city. We happened to take the Castle Hill route just as the sun was setting and it was magnificent. A headphone audio tour plays in several languages as you drive around.

Our last morning in Budapest, we set out on foot from Pest and crossed the Elizabeth Bridge, walked up the hundreds of stairs of Gellert Hill (St. Gellert is the dude at the top of the waterfall peak), then walked back across the Chain Bridge. It was invigorating and really the best way to get a feel for the city. We just used the Giraffe map as a reference.

I hope you're having lots of fun and enjoying the unbelievably cheap beer! I miss Central Europe already. :)
posted by wintersonata9 at 12:45 AM on March 18, 2013


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