June 24, 2008 5:08 PM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: What should I see or do while in Budapest for the next two weeks?

I'm leaving for Budapest Sunday night and I don't know what to do when I get there!

I am finally taking some personal vacation time and I am using it to go stay with some friends who are living in Budapest right now. They have offered to let me stay with them the whole time, and my flights have been covered almost entirely by frequent flier miles. My costs will be low, but I really don't have a ton to spend anyway.

Some info:

I am a nerd and love anything gadgety.
I'm not so big on history.
I love photography.
I have never been to Europe.
I am newly single.
I have some thinking to do.

Any recommendations? Honestly, I'll take any ideas!
posted by ThFullEffect to Travel & Transportation around Budapest, Hungary (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I have seen this. I was just hoping to get some updated/personal suggestions.
posted by ThFullEffect at 5:09 PM on June 24, 2008

If you like taking photos (not sure if you meant looking at photography instead), the Statue Park of decommissioned Communist-era propaganda statues could be really amazing for you. These things are massively huge, and it's surreal to see them all together in one place.
posted by xo at 5:22 PM on June 24, 2008

1) Day visit to Szentendre, which is a cool artist enclave town north of Budapest, with lots of weird little things to do. I liked the "microscopic" museum! You can take an hour train-ride there - it's cheap.

2) Ruin bars. These change a lot, but your friends should know about them - cool outdoorsy bars in the middle of courtyards of abandoned buildings or old factories.

3) Margitsziget. Lovely island with many attractions, in the middle of the Danube, easily accessible by walking across the Margithíd (famous bridge) and descending halfway across.

4) Some real Roma (Gypsy) or some táncház music experience. The latter is kind of a revival of cool old Hungarian folk music, but there's often crossover between the two.

5) Pörkölt - this is sort of what Americans think of as goulash. It's a stew, usually with veal or pork, and loads of paprika and yumminess. And also gulyás, which is pronounced sort of like "goo-yahsh" and is really a soup. (And the source of "goulash.") And while we're on the subject of food, I don't spend a morning in BP without my csokis csiga or "chocolate snail," which is a curled pastry with chocolate in it. And you should, at least once, hit one of the grand old coffee houses. But sadly, Budapest is often not the best place for Hungarian food, oddly enough, so . . .

6) Please spend a day (or preferably a day and night) in some place like Eger, with its valley of wine caves, where a big glass of wine might cost as little as 40¢ or so. Great fun in the summer, and you've got at least a marginally better chance of great Hungarian food.

7) Castle Hill on the Buda side of the Danube.

8) The Terror Museum, which is awesome.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:34 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

And seconding Statue Park, creeps me out a little to see all the giant bad guys together again and in one place . . . but great for photography.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:35 PM on June 24, 2008

Go to the spa at the Hotel Gellert and soak in the naturally radioactive water. Very popular with locals of both sexes.

Buy a gyro from a street vendor and get all twenty toppings.

Go to the Zwack museum or the nearby distillery. This museum isn't typically history-y-- it contains all types of memorabilia of a unique Hungarian liquor, Zwack Unicum.

Eat at Kispipa Vendeglo: sort of upscale, authentic and amazing cuisine, great value.

Take walks in all the 'obvious' spots: along the river, across the bridges, up to the monument on the hill. You'll be entertained just by the street scenes, and absorb a history lesson whether you want to or not.

Transportation is easy using the Metro. Just remember to hold onto your ticket, because officials will ask to see it even AFTER you get off the train and you could be fined if you don't have it.

Have fun! It's one of my favorite cities.
posted by oceanmorning at 5:39 PM on June 24, 2008

Thirding statue park, totally worth the bus ride out there.
posted by jessamyn at 7:03 PM on June 24, 2008

Fourthing the statue park -- creepy but fun. My personal favorite is the spa at the Gellert. Yeah, it's schmancier than the others in town, but I really love it. There is a restaurant near Moskva ter metro called Szent Jupat (looking it up, the address is Dékan utca 3) -- think Hungarian Denny's. Except AWESOME. The fried-vegetable selection alone, dear golly... when I was dating a guy in Pest, we worked our way through that section of the menu like it was our last meal ever. The Matyas Templom church on Castle Hill is my personal favorite... and if you like yogurt, have a Danone green apple (zsold almas) one for me -- it's the only place in Europe I've seen it, which makes me think it might be a Hungary-only thing. Yum.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:13 PM on June 24, 2008

I stayed in the neighborhood behind Gellert Hegy for two nights back in the early 80s. It was before the breakup of the Soviet Union, though it could be argued that Hungary had never completely closed the Iron Curtain shut. In any case, we went for breakfast to a little cafe/pub - very working class - at a very early hour. The breakfast of choice apeared to be a sort of scrambled eggs topped with paprika with a large beer. So naturally I ordered that (by pointing). It turned out to be both of those fine things, except the scrambled eggs were laced with about a pound of bacon fat. Delicious. I'd recommend it.

(I'm on lipitor now, but that's more to do with the breakfast beer than the bacon fat).
posted by Sk4n at 8:19 PM on June 24, 2008

by coinky-dink, noted hungarian eszter hargittai just posted a cool annotated google map of places to see in budapest.
posted by bruceo at 9:03 PM on June 24, 2008

Mefite zaelic has an amazing blog which covers many things but frequently discusses food, Budapest, and where to obtain that food in Budapest. I think you could plan a bunch of foodie expeditions based on it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:05 AM on June 25, 2008

posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:06 AM on June 25, 2008

I love Budapest and spend two years living there. Just being in the city is enough for me! Dee Xtrovert has a very good list that won't see you going wrong. If you are in the "thinking" frame of mind, I particularly recommend Margitsziget. It is very tranquil and amazing to find such a peaceful place in the heart of a capital city.The trouble is, the more history you know, the more you will enjoy Budapest, and Hungary in general.

I would recommend a day trip to Vác - its baroque square is one of the finest in Hungary. Go down to the Danube, sit and contemplate. And remember the words of the great Hungary poet Attila Jozsef and his epic "By the Danube poem...

I sat there on the quayside by the landing,
a melon rind was drifting on the flow .
I delved into my fate, just understanding:
the surface chatters, while it's calm below
As if my heart had been its very source,
troubled, wise was the Danube, mighty force.
Like muscles when you work and lift the axe,
or harvest, hammer, excavate a grave,
so did the water tighten, surge, relax
with every current, every breezy wave.
Like Mother, dandled, told a tale, caressed,
laundered the dirt of all of Budapest.

Just sayin'
posted by vac2003 at 2:36 AM on June 25, 2008

Budapest had some of the best city parks I've ever seen--highly recommended for wandering around thinking and for taking photos: City Park and Margaret Island (the aforementioned Margitsziget).
posted by CiaoMela at 9:30 AM on June 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, all of these suggestions are awesome. I'll be using this askmefi question as my personal to-do list when I get there. Keep 'em coming..I'll be there for two weeks!
posted by ThFullEffect at 11:28 AM on June 25, 2008

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