Budapest – The Heart of Europe
You can feel Budapest’s allure from when you first catch a glimpse of the city from the airplane window. With the Danube flowing right in between, and the hilly Buda and flat Pest sprawled out along majestically, the Hungarian capital can hypnotically hold your gaze. Even though it had a bitter past, the city is undergoing a modern renaissance and is the country’s primary political, cultural and economic centre.
1. History of Budapest
The story starts sometime around the stone age when the area was occupied by Celts. Evidence of the territories occupation in the Bronze Age has also been found. A striking moment in Budapest’s history was when it was occupied by the Romans which made the city a centre of commerce and military activity. They gave the city proper roads, baths, amphitheatres and much more. c. 9th century the Hungarians had entered the scene and set up their kingdom. The Huns were the next to occupy the region followed by the Ottomans. A political struggle emerged between the Ottomans and the Kingdom of Hungary, during which Budapest saw many ups and downs. 19th century saw the region striving for independence and the unification of Buda and Pest.
2. Night Life of Budapest
In terms of bars and clubs, Budapest has something unique – ruin bars. Ruin bars are the new hipster bars. Set in old, dilapidated building with a laid-back and dystopian environment, these bars are spread all over the city. The best ruin pubs (Szimplakert and Instinct) are found in the VII District.
Raday Utca is the Budapest’s Soho. Full of cafés , open bars and wine bars, Raday Utca is an informal and young place. Thermal Baths organise night parties on the Saturdays.
For a night full of visual arts, check out the opera scene at The Operetta Theatre in the VI District. The cinema at West End Theatre is also worth a shot.
In terms of music, mainstream clubs like: Corvintető, Morrison’s (Liget, 2, and Opera), Symbol, Café del Rio are great bets.
3. Safety in Budapest
Petty theft aimed at tourists is fairly common in the city. Hence, take the necessary precautions against pickpockets. Use a belt bag to keep your mobile, money and documents. If you are approached by a group of people trying to attract your attention, turn back and walk away. Pickpockets and scam merchants work hand in hand to rip you off. Stay alert at all times.
Do not board unmarked cabs. They are scams. Only use licensed and marked cabs. You can also use Uber in the city.
As a rule of thumb, avoid poorly lit streets and underpasses. The outer areas of District VII, VIII and IX should be avoided during the night time.
4. Living Expenses of Budapest
Budapest is a fairly inexpensive when compared to other European capitals. With the cost of hotels lower than expected and cheap restaurants, the Hungarian capital makes for a cheap holiday destination.
Rent prices in Budapest are 86% lower as compared to New York.The rent of a one bedroom apartment in the city centre is around 110,000Ft (USD 400) . A similar apartment out of the city centre would cost around 75,000 Ft (USD 300).
The price of a square meter of apartment space in the city centre costs around 500,000 Ft (USD 2,000). A square meter of apartment space outside the city centre costs around 300,000 Ft (USD 1,100).
An average budget hotel in the city has tariffs upto USD 30. A luxury hotel, on the other hand, charges around USD 350 per night.
5. Cuisines of Budapest
The abundance of meat in the Hungarian cuisine is a direct consequence of the peoples’ nomadic past. Traditional Hungarian dishes are based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, dairy products and cheeses. Hungarians are very passionate about their food and mixing of various types of meats is a traditional feature of the cuisine. Other parts of the cuisine include soups, desserts, pastries and stuffed crepes.
Kürtőskalács are Hungarian pastry. These coal baked, sweet-dough-dipped-in-sugar wonders are not to be missed. 2Spaghi is as true to the Italian cuisine as can be. Gyradiko is the ideal place for great Greek food. Marika Néni Cafe is famous for its enormous mouthwatering burgers. A stone’s throw from the Fisherman’s Bastion is Pest-Buda Bistro. Be sure to pop in for lunch for an amazing gastronomic experience. Comme Chez Soi is a tiny, but amazing establishment on the Aranykéz utca. Lángos are a Hungarian street food specialty. Pizzas at Pomo D’oro are worth dying for. Don’t forget to try out the Goulash. To end your meal on a sweet note, try out Gellarto Rosa for a wonderful cone of gelato.
6. Statistics of Budapest
Budapest is the largest city of Hungary. Spread over an area of 540 sq.km., the city’s inhabitants total up to over 1.7 million with a population density of 3,500 per sq.km.
The 2011 census claimed that 92.6% of the city’s residents were born in Hungary, while the rest of the 7% had migrated from other countries with Germany taking the most of that percentage. Hungarian is spoken by over 97% as a first language. Common languages include English, German, French and Russian.
Budapest is home to one of Central Europe’s largest Christian community. Roman Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, Jews and Greek Catholics form the minority religious communities.
7. Public Transport in Budapest
Budapest’s public transport is extensive. The city has more than 30 tram lines, marked out by their bright yellow colour. The Metro has four lines and connects most of the city. Travelling by tram is slower, but you would be more spectacular.
The buses connect most of the city. Some parts are only accessible by a bus or a cab. Night buses, marked with a three digit number between 900-999, cater to transportation at night.
You can also travel the city on a bike. Some specified lines (trams, buses, HEV, boats) allow you to carry your bike with you.
To avoid the hassles related to buying and validating tickets, you can buy a Budapest Card Valid for a one, two or three day visit, the Budapest Card caters to a huge part of your trip. The card provides free and unlimited use of transportation services, free entry to museums and baths, and avail some tourist facilities at a reduced price.
Pollution in Budapest: According to an EU study of 25 European cities, Budapest had the second worst air quality. As of March 2016, the PM 10 levels in the city averaged at 34 ppm.
8. Weather of Budapest
Budapest has a humid continental climate. The city is characterised by long, warm summers and chilling winters with frequent snowfall.
The city witnesses rainfall in May and June with an average annual precipitation is 540mm.
Summer: May to August. Average Low: 16°C. Average High: 26°C
Autumn: September to October. Average Low: 9°C. Average High: 18°C
Winter: November to March. Average Low: 0°C. Average High: 4°C
Spring: April to May. Average Low: 5°C. Average High: 12°C
9. Culture of Budapest
Heavily damaged in the WWII, the Hungarian capital is enjoying a cultural renaissance. The culture of the city is mirrored by its size and diversity. Budapest is the birthplace to most of the country’s cultural movements. It is an important center for music, film, theatre, dance and visual arts. It is attracting world-class performers as well as nurturing young indigenous talent.
The city has forty theatres, seven concert halls and an opera house. Among the plethora of theaters, the largest are the Budapest Operetta and Musical Theatre, the Jozsef Attila Theatre, the Katona Jozsef Theatre and the Hungarian State Opera House.
The city is home to over 200 museums and galleries, with plenty of temporary exhibitions in the most unlikely of settings. The famous museums are the Hungarian National Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery, the House of Terror and the Museum of Applied Arts.
Budapest is home to many annual festivals. The Sziget Festival is one of the largest outdoor music festival in Europe. The Budapest Spring Festival and the Budapest Autumn Festival bring free music, dance and art to the streets. Gastronomy festivals, like the Wine Festival and the Budapest Palinka Festival, are an annual showcase of the culinary art.
10. Places to Visit in Budapest
Things to do in Budapest: Breathe in the city; Visit the Buda Castle, Castle Hill, the Fisherman’s Bastion, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hosok Tere and the Matthias Church; Walk in District V and admire the architecture of the Parliament Building, Gresham Palace and the Andrassy ut; Take a relaxing break in the Szechenyi thermal baths; Attend a show at the State Opera House; Explore the bridges on the Danube and see the Shoes on the Bank; Have some Goulash; Spend a night at a ruin pub.
Things to do for Kids in Budapest: The Budapest Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world, dating back to the 1820s. Tagged with the Botanical Garden, these two make for an exhausting excursion for your little nomads. The kids would also love the Miniversum – a museum full of miniature models of famous landmarks from Hungary, Germany and Austria. Erzsebet Square is the largest green area in the inner city. It is an amazing experience with its playgrounds, fountains and a huge ferris wheel.
Museums and Galleries: House of Terror, Hungarian National Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts, Hungarian National Museum, Mupa Budapest, Memento Park, Hall of Art, Ethnographic Museum, Aquincum Museum, Hungarian Natural History Museum, Museum of Applied Arts,
Places Nearby: Szentendre is an hour from Budapest. Its cobble-stoned streets, galleries and eateries make for the perfect day trip. Hollókő is a UNESCO World Heritage town which has the traditional Hungarian traditions preserved. The walled castle quarter of Veszprem is full of historic sites worth visiting.
Offbeat Places: Heviz, a two hour drive from Budapest, has Europe’s largest thermal lake. The Aggtelek National Park is a 2.5 hour drive from Budapest. It has the famous Baradla Cave which is over 25km long and stretches into Slovakia. Built in 1340, the first Magyar fortress’s ruins can be seen near Miskolc (180 km from Budapest).
Author’s Conclusion: Budapest’s allure is irresistible. The city can make you glide towards itself. With its fantastic architecture and monuments, the history it carries with itself, the cuisine.. You can explore the capital to find an inexhaustible number of places to eat and things to do. While the promised level of quality is no different from any other European capital, Budapest lets you have more fun in a tighter budget.
My advice? Go. Pack your bags, Fall in love with this city. Rinse, repeat.
|Population||1,757,618 as of 2015|
|Currency||Hungarian Forint(Ft) (1 Ft = 0.0036 USD as of 21st March, 2016)|
|Time Zone||Central European Time (UTC +1)
Central European Summer Time (UTC +2)
|Driving||Right Hand Drive|
|Helpline||Emergency-112, Police-107, Fire-105, Ambulance-104|
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