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BUDAPEST A PEARL ON THE BANKS OF THE DANUBE
HISTORICAL NOTES bmoving Getting around Budapest
GASTRONOMY & MAIN EVENTS baround Neighbours in Budapest
bbudapest Other places of interest
RESERVATIONS RESERVATIONS GLOBAL
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ON CITY HELP CITY TROUBLES
Phone + 34 931 842 761
city of bridges - like Paris, London or Prague - Budapest stretches along the banks of the Danube, the second longest and most plentiful river in Europe after the Volga. The river brings character and beauty to the Hungarian capital, itself a true bridge between East and West where striking buildings from the earlier imperial era are still preserved. On its banks, among other charms are the Parliament and Buda Palace. There is also a sense of a country that has overcome the horrors of the Second World War and the isolation of the communist regime to position itself now at the head of the new Europe. The city itself is the result of the unification of three urban areas: Buda, Pest and Óbuda. The first of these, Buda, is the old mediaeval area, sitting on a hill. Pest is the extension of the city built between the 19th and 20th century on the other side of the ever-present river. Óbuda is where the Romans established their first settlement and the area breathes the nostalgia of better times. Budapest has grand avenues, thermal baths, music and 1
scented lime trees. Expansive, romantic and melancholic, the birthplace of photographer André Friedman, better known as Robert Capa, every year it attracts thousands of visitors who wish to freeze
such a majestic image. Many have tried with varying degrees of luck. If you would like to try, you just have to relax in this magnificent metropolis and let yourself be carried away by its seductive flow.
A practical guide The information provided below does not aim to cover the whole city; rather, it focuses on the more interesting areas for visitors. Budapest has more than 2 million inhabitants _ roughly one-fifth of the Hungarian population _ and covers an area of 525 square kilometres; too large an area to cover in a few days. The city is spread over 23 districts (kerületek). Close to the Hungarian capital for example can be found San Andrés (Szentendre), a small area established in the 18th century by inhabitants originally from the Balkans. However, in this guide, we focus on some of the better-known attractions in the city as well as some of the areas that may go unnoticed but which enable the visitor to capture the essence of the best while getting a feel for what it is like day-to-day. The multicoloured Buda is to the west and is characterised by its narrow cobbled streets in which mediaeval buildings mix together with neoclassical buildings constructed after the Second World War. The flat Pest is to the east and is made up of broad boulevards lined with Art Deco style buildings.
Budapest was established as a unified city in 1873 but it dates back to the era of the Celts, who inhabited the Danube basin from around 1000 BC. Julius Caesar’s armies conquered the region in 35 AD and later annexed it for the Empire under the name Pannonia. Waves of Germanic and Turk peoples expelled the Romans in the middle of the 5th century and settled in the area. Internecine struggles continued for decades until in the 896 the Magyars arrived, ancestors of the current Hungarian people. Their origins are still not clear. Hungry was established in the year 1000 with the crowning of its first king: Stephen I. In 1241, Mongols attacked these lands and destroyed everything. A third of the population died in less than a year. Fortunately for the Hungarians, the internecine feuding at the heart of the conquering hordes forced the Mongolians to withdraw, but the country was devastated and the work of reconstruction took decades. Budapest became the country’s capital in 1361 and from then on, followed years of prosperity. Everything was thrown into disarray again in 1526 with defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish occupation lasted 160 years until the Habsburgs came to power in 1686. Under the direct control of Vienna, Budapest began a period of rejuvenation, both economically and architecturally, until the point where it started to compete in splendour with the capital of the Empire itself. Reformist movements The 18th century brought Hungary in general and Budapest in particular enormous economic and demographic growth. The land, dominated by the nobles related to the Habsburgs, played a decisive part in saving an empire that was going through a period of profound crisis. The regime turned to a system of learned despotism, which peaked during the reign of Joseph II (1780_1790). In spite of everything, a slow
modernisation of society began thanks to the transformation of agriculture, the economic support of that time - a situation that led to the birth of a liberal political movement opposed to the regime. This vision of progress took shape in the construction of the Chain Bridge – the first permanent bridge to unite Buda and Pest. In 1848, during Europe’s great revolutionary wave, the uprising against the Austrians failed. But something changed from that point. The Habsburgs were forced to make concessions to the Hungarians – like the signature in 1867 of a commitment based upon which the Empire would become a federal and dual state with two capitals of equal ranking: Vienna and Budapest. These so-called twin cities experienced growth, which in the case of the Hungarian capital peaked in 1896, coinciding with the celebration of 1000 years of Magyar presence in the region. New suburbs were created and grand avenues were designed in the image of those in the Austrian capital. A short period of independence After the First World War and as a consequence of the defeat of the Empire, an independent Hungarian state was established with its capital in Budapest. The human losses from the war and the loss of two thirds of the land of the former Hungary was a temporary trauma, as Budapest then became the capital of a country that was small, but fully sovereign. During the interwar period, a significant boom took place and the city reached a population of one million. This trend was cut short with the outbreak of World War II during which the city suffered the aerial bombardment of the Allies, with significant damage as a result. The Jewish community in Budapest was deported en masse to the concentration camps. And the subsequent siege by the Red Army also wreaked havoc on the population. In 1945, elections
were held in which the Independent Party of Small Property-Owners – a political group that brought together the bourgeoisie and peasants – won. Nevertheless, at the request of the great victors, a coalition government was formed. Until 1948, a peculiar and limited democracy prevailed in Hungary although the country’s luck ran out with the Communists, who collectivised the land and nationalised industry. Tens of thousands of people were deported or incarcerated by Moscow’s satellite regime. Revolution and repression Popular desperation exploded in October of 1956 in the form of an uprising. Breaking with his Communist past, Imre Nagy headed up the movement and the government. But two weeks later the Russian forces squashed the revolt. The subsequent repression was far worse than any previous. At the end of the 1960s, modest reforms were introduced into an ancient regime that began to crumble with the dismissal from office of the septuagenarian János Kádár in 1988. The Socialist Republic of the Hungarian People abandoned communism the following year and changed its name to the Republic of Hungary. Rapad Gïncz was elected president in 1990, the same year in which Budapest reached a population of two million. Since then, the rate of change has been giddy. In 1999 Hungry joined NATO and in 2004 it became part of the European Union.
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Meat, a specialty of the house Traditional Hungarian dishes are rich in spicy flavours and aromas. In addition to the classic home-made cooking, which is served in the popular vendégló, in the last 10 or 15 years, more refined contemporary and international dishes have been introduced. Typical dishes in this country mix Hungarian peasant and French influences _ though passed on by the Austrians. This means that most palates are satisfied. Meat, principally game, is an essential food at any table in Budapest _ whether
griddled, roast or grilled… Chicken with paprika and galuska - a type of gnocchi – is one of the most popular recipes. Roston, grilled meat, ox soup with bone marrow and pörkölt, stew made with different meats are some of the other dishes that are found on almost any menu as well as gulash, a thick soup made with small chunks of meat and served with potatoes, cream csipetke – made with flour and eggs – and, of course, spiced up with paprika. Fish lovers need not worry because it also
features strongly on Hungarian tables. The most representative of these dishes is halaszle soup, made with fish, onion and paprika. However, there are plenty of freshwater fish dishes such as grilled barbel and trout with almonds. Pastries, from the Viennese court, are very high quality as can be seen with somló – a sponge cake with cream and rum. Or there is purée of chestnuts as well as an enormous variety of crepes which are known as palacsinta. Enjoy your meal, jó étvágyat!
GETTING AROUND BUDAPEST Useful advice
Hungry is in the same time zone as the rest of central Europe _ that is, GMT +1 hour as in countries like Spain. Any time of year is good for visiting Budapest although it is worth avoiding the busiest tourist times such as Easter, Christmas and July and August. The climate, which is clearly continental, is characterised by a marked variation in temperatures between winter and summer. It is normal for it to snow between December and February, and heavy rains fall throughout much of the year. The average temperature across the year is around 11°C with an average of 0°C in January, the coldest month and around 23°C in July, the warmest month. The best way of seeing the main attractions in the centre of Budapest is on foot and by public transport, which is run by the company Budapesti Kozlekedési Vállalat (BKV). The network includes metro, trams, buses, trolley buses, trains as well as ferries for crossing the Danube. The 3
ferries are only for use in summer. The night bus service is limited and identified with an “E”. There are three Metro lines (M1, yellow; M2, red; and M3, blue). They converge at Deák Square. The first of the suburban lines was built to celebrate the 1896 Universal Exhibition and is the oldest in the city. A chairlift (libego) operates daily from September to May from the Zugliget district to János hill, the highest point in the Hungarian capital. The local suburban trains (HÉV) complete the choice of public transport. The service is excellent and normally operates from 4.30 am until 11 pm. The more important lines, such as trams 4 and 6, also operate at night. Tickets can be bought at automatic machines located at stops, in kiosks and BKV windows. They must be bought in advance and validated when boarding. As regards the taxi service, you should avoid vehicles that do not have a yellow numbered sign, and those that do not have an accreditation on the side of the vehicle or a chart with tariffs
inside. It is not worth driving in Budapest unless you know the city like the back of your hand. Traffic jams are frequent and can ruin a lovely day sightseeing.
MAIN EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
Budapest is a safe destination provided you use common sense. As in many other tourist cities, pickpockets are the main enemy and tend to take advantage of people who are not paying attention in busy areas. The best thing is to leave any objects of value at home or keep them out of the reach of thieves.
New Year’s Day January 1 - the first day of the year. The New Year’s Day concert is held with popular Hungarian classics being performed.
Practically all businesses open from 8.30 am or 9 am until 5 pm or 6 pm weekdays and until 11 am or 1 pm on Saturdays. However, being a fairly touristic city, there are places that serve customers at all hours. As far as tips go, although they are not obligatory, in restaurants it is normal to round the bill up if the service has been satisfactory.
Budapest Festival of Cinema The seventh art invades the city at the beginning of February. Carnival Sunday The last Sunday before Lent a fancy dress parade is held. Spring Uprising On 15 March, the start of the 1848 revolution is commemorated with street theatre. Budapest Spring Festival Based on classical and folkloric music. Takes place over two weeks between
Labour Day This day which was essential in the communist calendar, is held on the first of May with shows at different places in the city, a crafts market and stalls selling sausages and beer. Book Fair Display of books in the centre of Pest, held the first weekend in June. Festival of Music Held in the middle of June in different open-air theatres Búcsú On 24 June, one of the main popular festivals takes place to commemorate the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1991. Concerts, shows and open-air markets are
held in various parks and public spaces. Festival of St James One of the great national festivals is held on 20 August. Jewish Summer Festival Organised at the end of August or beginning of September throughout the city. Festival of the Revolution On 23 October, the popular uprising of 1956 is commemorated and the victims are remembered. Festival of St Nicholas Held on 6 December as a precursor to Christmas.
also find countless shops, bookshops, and cafés, as this is the pedestrian and shopping area. The latter square is in the historic heart of Belváros, which spread through the extension of the 19th century, and is one of the busiest areas of Budapest. A few metres away is the Gerbeaud patisserie, perhaps the Magyar capital’s most famous establishment. Founded in 1858, it was acquired some twenty years later by the Swiss patissier Émile Gerbeaud, who turned it into a large, Viennese-style tearoom with sumptuous baroque decoration and velvet tapestries. In front of this there is the city’s most popular underground line entrance, which began service in 1896 and allows one to travel up the whole length of Andrássy Avenue.
The centre of this district is focused on the Holy Trinity Square, where the baroque column of the same name stands. A few steps away is Saint Matthew’s church, the Fishermen’s Bastion and the cable car, an area that has been declared a World Heritage site due to its beauty and eclectic architecture. In this part of the Hungarian capital, which runs alongside the banks of the Danube and over a mountainous outcrop on the river’s right bank, there are numerous restaurants and cafeterias. It is one of the city’s favourite tourist areas, so there is always a bustle of people and a good atmosphere. By strolling through its streets one can walk through the country’s history from the arrival of the Magyar tribes to the end of the communist regime. Here, the first people settled, dominating from above the vast plain that spreads out on the other side of the river. Tárnok Street, a main thoroughfare of the area, begins at Dísz Square’s north end. Its houses were destroyed during the struggles that confronted Christians and Turks at the start of the 18th century. This is why the houses were rebuilt in a baroque style, which now predominates. On the other hand, some of the houses that flank Országház Street testify to how the quarter was in the Middle Ages. Fortuna Street, parallel to the previous one, used to be called German Street in reference to its inhabitants’ origins.
This place name means the city of water in reference to the thin strip of land bound by the Danube and Castle Hill, which fans out to the north. In the Middle Ages it was inhabited by craftspeople, fisherman and merchants. This era was followed by the Ottoman occupation, of which some vestiges are still conserved, such as the Király Baths. Víziváros was born in the middle of the 19th century once the Chain Bridge was built. The Main Street (F_ utca), which runs parallel to the river, is the main artery and it was here that the first palaces were built between 1860 and 1870. The most striking buildings are found around Corvin Square (Corvin tér). Continuing northwards one arrives at Batthyány Square, which is an important urban junction, since here one can find the underground, the local train and several bus routes. The baroque church of Saint Anne dominates the area.
This haven of peace is considered to be one of the metropolis’ green lungs, along with Városliget and Gellért, and the most popular sports centre thanks to its Olympic pool, tennis courts and unbeatable surroundings for doing athletics. This park is popular on Sundays with families, and is the first islet on this winding stretch of the Danube. One can hire bicycles here, or have a ride in horse-driven carriages. In Roman times villas flourished here, to be replaced in the Middle Ages by monasteries of all kinds of religious orders: Dominicans, Franciscans, …In the 18th century, at the height of the Mongol invasion, the daughter of King Béla IV and the Byzantine Princess Mary Lascaris, Margaret, was sent to the island- which still bears her name today- to live a pious life. The convent’s ruins where she was shut away for twenty years still lie on the east bank, near the ruins of a Franciscan church. The Ottomans swept away nearly everything, and this piece of land surrounded by the arms of the Danube was abandoned. A mansion was built here in 1796 and a mineral water spring began to flow in 1867, which revived the islet. It has been joined to the mainland as of 1900 by Margaret Bridge. Another good thing about the island is that cars are not allowed, except in designated zones.
It is worth coming down from Castle Hill on the cable car and crossing to the other side of the river to get another view of Buda from a completely different perspective. A stroll on the left bank of the Danube gives fairy-tale panoramic views of the city’s other half. The visitor can walk along its tranquil streets dotted with restaurants. In summer it is advisable to book a table on one of the terraces, from which the illuminated monuments and bridges can be seen shining in the dark. In Váci Street and Vörösmarty Square one can 5
This Avenue is the most distinguished one in Budapest, and was laid out in the 19th century following the example of Paris’ Champs Elysées. It is the city’s main cultural axis, led by the Music Academy and Opera Theatre. Andrássy links the centre with Heroes’ Square through a succession of somewhat neo-renaissance palaces and mansions surrounded by elegant gardens. The bustle of the first stretch, up to Oktogon Square, gives way to an aristocratic residential atmosphere in the area nearest Városliget Park. Nagymez_ Street, perpendicular to the Opera Theatre, is not known as Broadway for nothing; here one finds a New York style frenzy. The theatres and nightclubs are to be found here. Back in Andrássy it’s worth stopping off in one of its famous cafés, such as the Muvész (the Artists’ café), where tasty cakes are served in an eminently classical setting. Afterwards, one can take the underground to discover the oldest line on the whole European continent. The carriages’ bodywork and the very stations themselves take the visitor back to the city’s underground origins. This means of transport also stops at the enormous Városliget Park, one of Budapest’s inhabitants’ most appreciated green spaces.
This means Leopold’s City, referring to the Hungarian king of the same name, the son of Maria Teresa, and is characterised by the sumptuousness of its buildings, many of which are offices, banks and ministries. It is presided over by Parliament and its animated streets are ever-changing, as the daytime bustle is replaced by the most absolute tranquillity at night. From Lajos-Kossuth Square, in front of the Parliament, one can go along Nádor Street parallel to the Danube and come out in Liberty (Szabadság tér) Square, which occupies an area that was rehabilitated in1900. From Roosevelt, another of this district’s large squares, one can take a pretty walk along the quayside with extraordinary views of Buda.
Leopold’s new city sits on top of the old quarter before it and is bounded by Váci Street, Saint Stephen’s Boulevard (Szent István körút), Bessenyei Street and the Danube. Many of its buildings date from 1930, and before the Second World War it was considered to be one of the well-off middle-class’ favourite residential districts. Today, this part of the city is appreciated for the tranquility one finds here and the elegance to be appreciated above all around the quays and at the beginning of Szent-István Park. Together with Nagykörút it became the most important Jewish quarter in Pest.
The Grand Boulevard links Margaret and Pet_fi Bridges, and symbolises the expansion of the late 19th century. In order to build it, numerous buildings were knocked down and unhealthy areas around Margaret’s Bridge were rehabilitated. In this artery of nearly 4 kilometres in length one can find much of the nightlife, with theatres, cinemas, bars and cafés. From Oktogon Square, the boulevard changes its name to Erzsébet (Elisabeth) and crosses the Erzsébetváros district (Elisabeth’s City, in reference to the queen of the same name, the wife of Emperor Franz Josef). It is one of the capital’s most densely populated areas, as well as one of the liveliest thanks to its cinemas, cafés and shops found on the buildings’ upper floors. To the south extends the old Jewish quarter, which reminds us of a world that is almost forgotten: 70% of the community perished in 1940 at the hands of the Nazis. Of the 110 synagogues that existed before the Second World War only about twenty still remain today, among them the biggest one in Europe. This temple’s neighbouring streets, Király, Dob and Wesselényi, make up the central nucleus of the old Jewish district, one of the metropolis’ most attractive areas due to the melancholic beauty that permeates it.
This quarter sits at the northern end of the Danube’s right bank, the same area where the Romans established their first military camp, which gave rise to an inhabited nucleus baptised with the name of Aquincum several centuries ago. This district, which was reviled during the Ottoman period, recovered its vitality in the 18th century thanks to the splendour of the Zichy family, though little remains of those years of harmony between Germans, Jews, and Hungarians, other than some buildings in Mókus Street. 6
garian Gallery is right in the heart of the palace and exhibits around 600 pieces in a journey that starts in the 11th century and continues almost up to the present day. The Gothic-style triptychs and romantic painters’ canvases are particularly beautiful. The Royal Palace with its extensive gardens has magnificent views over Pest.
On the other bank of the Danube stands this colossal building, another symbol of Budapest and one of the largest Lower Houses in the world. Over a thousand workmen and 17 years of effort were needed to build this neo-gothic style mass, which was finished in 1902. It has certain similarities with the British Parliament and Milan’s cathedral, and was erected to commemorate the foundation of Hungary, when seven Magyar tribes from the Asian steppes defeated the Romans. With its neo-renaissance elegant dome topped with a neo-gothic spire, the building measures 265 metres in length. Kings, princes and historic Hungarian characters sculpted in stone gaze at the Danube from a privileged position, in niches in the façade. Its 691 halls house the Presidency of the Republic, the National Assembly, the prime minister’s office, and a library with over 40,000 volumes, especially about history and political sciences. The interior decoration is dominated by a profusion of frescos, stained glass, sculptures and ceilings
Years ago, you could only cross the Danube by barge or by walking on ice during the more severe winters. At the start of the 15th century, a series of pontoons were installed to cross the riverbed and thus enable commercial exchanges - although that solution never became permanent. At the start of the 18th century, plans to connect the two sides of the river increased and initially it was thought that the Charles Bridge in Prague would be used as a model. However, the final project would have to wait several years. The oldest of the bridges in the Hungarian capital - and one of the best known across the Danube - was built between 1839 and 1849 out of stone and iron according to the plans of the English engineer William Tierney Clark and under the direction of the Scotsman Adam Clark. Nobody at that time could have imagined that that feat of civil engineering would, in less than three decades, enable the forging together of the three towns of Buda, Pest and Óbuda. At the end of the Second World War, German troops blew it up but it was rebuilt and on 21 November 1949, reopened with unrivalled festivities to celebrate its first 100 years of majestic presence. And that is how it still is until the present day - with its classic and elegant lines. Two stone lions guard over the entrance to the east side of the bridge, an exceptional and symbolic viewing point over Budapest, especially at night time when the lighting enhances its neoclassic forms. Its pillars rise up like small triumphant arches reaching up to the chains to which they are attached. Other more recent breaches have joined the Chain Bridge down the years; among them Pet_fi, Elisabeth, Margarita and Árpád.
Hungary in 896 - with columns, arcade and statues, the highest point in the area. The fishermen were responsible for defending this area in the Middle Ages _ hence its name _ although the current construction was never meant to be a defence but purely ornamental. Its white stones and wooded surroundings make this one of the must-see places in the city. Between this monument and Matthias Church rises a bronze equestrian statue of Stephen I of Hungary, patron saint of the city.
Royal Palace of Buda
This kind of terrace is located in Buda, behind Matthias Church and offers a splendid view of the Danube and Pest. Neo-Romanic in style, it was built in 1905 on the mediaeval wall and in the place that was subsequently occupied by a fishing market. Its designer, Frigyes Schulek, conceived an elegant system of stairs that would rise from the Danube to the top of the hill. He envisaged the final structure festooned with seven observation towers that would symbolise the Magyar tribes that founded 7
The hill upon which this area sits has always been considered strategic; a privileged place that was not replaced until the 19th century when the city was extended beyond the opposite side of the river into Pest and where there was almost unlimited space to rapidly grow during the industrial era. The first settlers installed themselves on the east and south slope of this headland but the houses were devastated during Mongolian incursions in the middle of the 13th century. Following the devas-
tation, King Béla IV ordered the erection of a castle in the enclave, which reached its peak during the reign of Matthias Corvinus [1458-1490], who turned it into one of the knowledge centres of Europe. Further plundering, this time by the Ottoman troops, reduced this world of learning to ashes. It did not begin to recover until 1715 with the construction of a smaller baroque palace, which doubled in size at the end of the 19th century. Again, injustice brought its walls down during the Second World War and, once again, a new building was proudly erected - a compendium of styles dotted with some of the country’s main cultural bastions: The Museum of History of Budapest, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Hungarian Gallery and the National Library. The first of these covers the ups and downs of the city - from the liberation of Buda from the Turks in 1686 up until 1970. The Ludwig Museum, situated in the north wing of the palace owes its name to its patron Peter Ludwig whose donations include paintings by Picasso and Warhol. The National Hun-
of noble woods such as oak, walnut and mahogany, all of which emphasise the solemnity of the place.
Saint Matthew’s Church
Over the years and invasions, there is little left of the original temple erected in the 13th century, except for the lower part of the bell tower, the indoor pillars and the Virgin’s Gate. After the Turkish occupation, it was almost completely rebuilt between 1873 and 1896. The treasure it houses is considered to be one of the wealthiest collections of holy art in the Hungarian capital. This church is the most visited sanctuary in the city, and has been witness to royal weddings – that of Matthew Corvino and Beatrice of Aragon– and coronations, such as that of Franz Josef I in 1867. Its tiles are as colourful and detailed as snakeskin. Like many historical buildings in Budapest, it has suffered all kinds of mishaps, from its conversion into a mosque during the Ottoman rule to its use as a kitchen and stable by the Nazis and the Red Army respectively.
The pleasant journey up to Gellért Hill, visible from any point of the city, allows one to discover Budapest through the foliage of trees and to walk around the fortress that crowns the summit. It was built by the
Austrian army after the War of Independence of 1848-1849, and is now a reminder of the oppression that people lived through in that time. The cannons were not continually trained down on the city for nothing; they were there to guarantee the submission of the people. Towards the end of the 19th century this bastion came into the administration’s hands and is now appreciated as an exceptional viewpoint. This hill is also dominated by a gigantic monument to the liberation erected in 1947 by the Soviet regime.
Saint Stephen’s Basilica
The largest church in Budapest was built in1845, though it was not consecrated until1905. A storm destroyed the original dome in 1868. The temple is dedicated to Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary, and was rebuilt from scratch in a neorenaissance style, though it was later to suffer damage during the Second World War. Inside, the painting by Gyula Benczúr in which Saint Stephen offers the Hungarian crown to the Virgin Mary symbolises the alliance between Hungary and Western Europe. The dome evokes that of the Church of Saint Paul in London, and affords excellent views of the city, which is the main attraction of the place.
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The Budapest Tourism Office is part of the City Council and provides information through specialist staff and pamphlets. It is located at the following address: 1056 Budapest Marcius 15 tér 7 (01) 266 0479 www.budapestinfo.hu The branch offices of Ibusz close to the Chain Bridge and Keleti station also offer tourist information as do the offices at the main hall of Nyugati station at Budaörs and in the area of the Castle.
SHOWS There is a wide choice although it varies depending on time of year. Music features heavily around the city, peaking during the Spring Festival (between March and April), the Festival of Music (in the middle of June) and the Búcsú (24 June). Lovers of sport and theatre will have no reason to be bored either during their stay in Budapest. Theatres and concert halls Hungarian State Opera Andrássy út 22 (36-1) 353 0170 www.opera.hu This building, opened in 1884, holds a preeminent position among the great opera houses of Europe.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST The Great Synagogue The biggest synagogue in Europe can hold 3,000 worshippers and was designed by Ludwig Förster in 1859 in a Byzantine-Mozarab style. Liszt and San Saëns are two of the famous musicians that have played its splendid organ. It was desecrated by the Nazis, but the two Mozarab domes are gleaming again after a ten-year restoration financed by the Hungarian government and the Tony Curtis Emmanuel foundation. The Jewish Museum, located a few metres away, houses different cult objects as well as photographs of the ghetto in 1944. Next to the synagogue there is a monument on which the names of thousands of victims of Nazism can be read, and a plaque that reminds us that in the adjacent house Theodor Herzl was born, the author of The Jewish State and founder of the Zionist movement. The streets neighbouring this temple make up the central nucleus of the old Jewish quarter.
The Heroes’ Square Andrássy Avenue, one of the most majestic thoroughfares of the metropolis, ends in this imposing space, where the famous monument commemorating the millennium stands, built in 1896 to commemorate 9
the Magyar conquest. The statue of the archangel Gabriel at the top of a 36-metre column, winner of the Grand Prix at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900, is surrounded by the equestrian statues of the seven Magyar tribes’ chiefs and the most famous Hungarian leaders, from King Stephen to Kossuth. There is also a place for the heroes fallen in defence of the fatherland at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and allegories of work, well-being, honour, glory, war and peace. The square is hemmed in by Budapest’s main museums: the Fine Arts and the National Art Gallery. All kinds of events are often held here, from demonstrations to popular celebrations, as well as formal ceremonies. During the proletarian revolution of 1919 the Habsburg statues in the gallery of kings were torn down, which during the Soviet era was covered with a red cloth every 1st May. On the immense canvas could be read: “Proletarians of the world, unite”.
Vajdahunyad Castle Just behind the Heroes’ Square there is an enormous park embellished by an artificial lake and a fairytale castle, originally built of wood and card to commemorate the millennium of the State of Hungary. This building has an eclectic appearance – a mix of gothic, baroque and romance styles- and
was intended to demonstrate the country’s rich architectural history. It was so successful that it was rebuilt at the beginning of the last century using more resistant materials, like stone and brick. In winter it provides an unbeatable backdrop for the skating rink that the artificial lake becomes, which also allows for pedal-boat and rowboat rides in summer. The zoo is very near this site, which was a royal hunting ground during the Middle Ages.
Academy of Music Liszt Ferenc tér 8 (36-1) 342 0179 Institution for teaching music for more than a century and one of the main concert
centres in the city. Its grand hall, with excellent acoustics has 1200 seats. It is worth buying a ticket for a recital if only to enjoy the inside of the building.
street Liszt has a young, modern feel as does Radáy street, located close to the Liberty Bridge. Below, we list some bars and restaurants:
Opereta Theatre Nagymezõ u. 19 (36-1) 353 2172
Dokk Bistro Hajógyári Sziget 122 Has good DJs and jazz performances.
Thalia Theatre Nagymezõ u. 222-224 (36-1) 312 4230
Jazz Garden Veres Pálné u. 44/a www.jazzgarden.hu For those who love good jazz.
Madách Theatre Erzsébet krt. 29-33 (36-1) 478 2041 Bars, cafés and discotheques There is no specific area for going out at night but there is enough going on and enough places to go to satisfy all visitors to the city. Some open until dawn although the majority close at around 4 am. The borozos are relatively cheap wine cellars, while the sorozos are bars that also serve reasonably-priced food. The pedestrian
Trafó Liliom u. 41 www.trafo.hu Puts on experimental music shows.
The thermal baths of Széchenyi This place is designed for taking a break during a walk of a couple of hours. It can be easily recognised from the distance thanks to its large neo-baroque dome. The south wing of this thermal complex is decorated with Art Nouveau style mosaics. A staircase provides access to the outdoor swimming pool with water that is maintained at a temperature of 38°C. The inhabitants of Budapest traditionally welcome winter with a warm bath with their family or among friends under the watchful eyes of the snow-covered statues. There are more than 50 public baths in the Hungarian capital some of which have a history of half a century.
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