A Bit of Budapest

Budapest is a delightful mix of old and new, a place where you can find a rich cultural history as well as hopping nightlife.


A Bit of Budapest

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 15, 2007

We had a blast in this delightful old city. If nightlife is what you're looking for, you can't go wrong in Budapest.

Don't miss the Great Market Hall. The guys and I all had a great time shopping here for food and gifts for the folks back home who weren't fortunate enough to join us on our trip.

Hungarians are a friendly lot—meet as many of them as you can.${QuickSuggestions} Apparently the Parliament is the thing to see. We didn't realize this. And we missed it, much to the dismay of our Hungarian friend. There are two English language tours available each day. Try to make it to one of them.

Don't hesitate to try the Hungarian food and beer!

A walk along the river at night is beautiful.

Hungary is known for its paprika and Tokaji. Both are cheap. Pick some up.

Also, no trip to Budapest is complete with a stop at the baths. And this is why I must return to Budapest.

The train station in Budapest feels about as shady as any I've ever been to, but we didn't run into any trouble. Know that you will likely be approached by people offering to rent you a room in their home during your stay.${BestWay} Walking. City buses.

Cafe Zenit

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

This is actually more of a bar/coffeehouse than a restaurant, but we were hopeful when we stopped in for breakfast one morning.

The menu was made of up coffee, tea, hot chocolate, melange, milkshakes, and a handful of yummy-looking cakes. Not so much the kind of breakfast we were looking for.

However, they did have one sandwich on the menu. There was a picture of it. It cost 680 forints and didn't look very appetizing. I decided to go hungry for awhile, but the guys both ordered the sandwich.

It took an excessive amount of time to arrive, especially considering there were no other customers in the place and you can't tell me they made that thing fresh.

But it finally arrived. And it looked nothing like the picture. It looked...good.

It was more of a hot pocket, long and rectangular, and cut into four triangles. It was oozing with mushrooms and melted cheese, ham, and tomatoes. Joel offered me a piece but I turned it down, not feeling like I should eat his food when I could have ordered my own.

After Jack ate two slices, he was getting full, so he started on his third and offered his fourth one to me, which I gladly took. And it was as good as it looked. So simple, and clearly just a frozen concoction that the bartenders had to put in the microwave or something, but still very good.

Remember, that sandwich is your only meal option, so if you visit Café Zenit I would go for the coffee and the cake, and have that sandwich if you happen to be hungry. You won't be sorry.

Another plus? Free internet.
Cafe Zenit

Budapest, Hungary

Patko Bandi

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

We arrived for a late lunch, but this little hole-in-the-wall bar was still half full with the lunchtime crowd.

There was a lunch special of a soup and main dish for 900 forints, but we opted for the lunch buffet for 1100 forints. Menus were available, but we didn't get that far.

The food looked great, and it tasted great, too, but you could tell it had been sitting out for a while. I would have enjoyed it a lot more had we been there an hour earlier.

There were three soups on the buffet. We all tried this creamy mushroom and meat soup that was really good. No idea what it was really made of, but it was good. There were several main dishes available; potatoes, meat, liver, mushrooms, and creamy sauces all played a key role. There were also some Oriental-style noodles. I occasionally found myself not knowing what to do with a dish—do I put it on top of something, do I eat it plain, do I dip something in it, etc. But in the end, I just took what looked good and if it tasted good I ate a lot of it; if it didn't, I didn't.

A good place to try some more traditional Hungarian dishes, and an excellent choice if you're looking for a lot of food for a little money.
Patko Bandi
Váci Út 12
Budapest
+36 1 239-1128

Tabani Gosser Restaurant

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

Mmmm, gulyasleves (Hungarian goulash soup). I was on a hunt for this and found a fine example of it at Tabani Gosser. It was on the menu with four other soups, but it was no contest: I had to try this one.

Gulyasleves is basically just a hearty stew, but if you like hearty stew, you'll love this. So my choice was easy. The boys had a harder time.

The menu was quite extensive, ranging in price from 590 to 4000 forints. You could choose from wild game, steak, fish, salads, and desserts. If you feel like an appetizer, perhaps you could try the bone marrow with toast. I would have opted for the breaded mushrooms.

The waiter was a delightful man who played a key role in the ordering process. Joel had ordered a pork dish as well as some pickle thing (sort of like an appetizer, but listed separately—there were lots of pickled options). The waiter said something about how they didn't go together, and he didn't bring the pickles!

Jack tried to order catfish, but the waiter said they were out and chose another fish option for him. Jack didn't have time to protest even if he had wanted to!

All the food was excellent. The guys both let me try theirs. I'm not even a big fan of fish, but that was good! It was wrapped in crepes and had mushrooms in it as well. Joel's pork was wrapped in bacon and cooked in a delicious sauce.

I'd love to do a better job describing it for you, but I don't know all that much about food and its preparation. Just know that we were very satisfied with this dining experience. I would love to go back and try something new.

When our waiter brought the check, he shook hands with Jack and Joel—and kissed mine.
Tabani Gosser Restaurant
Attila ut 19
Budapest, Hungary, 1013
+361 375 9482

Hungarian National Gallery

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

The guys ran off to the history museum and I immersed myself in Hungary's National Gallery, a part of the castle complex.

The first section I visited was mainly ruins from the old castle. I'll admit it: kind of boring. I was nervous about the rest of the museum. From there I journeyed on to religious paintings and sculptures, the ones from that period that all look the same. I'm not a big fan.

But I kept moving. And things got good.

I wasn't familiar with any of the artists—they were Hungarian, a country that is underrepresented in most of the major art galleries I've visited in the rest of Europe. It just didn't produce any Picassos or da Vincis, but their art is not undeserving of merit.

I saw paintings by one Wolfgang Kopp, who impressed me immediately. I can't describe it, but his style is unlike anything I've ever really seen before.

There was an entire wing devoted to Laszlo Paal and Mihaly Munkacsy. They did a lot of foliage work. Nice. But there was a lot of it. I ended up rushing through this part a bit.

There was one painting called "Woman in Violet". It caught my eye because the figure in the painting...was wearing violet. Look around the famous old art: you will rarely see a woman painted wearing a color like that. It's not the sort of thing you realize until you are face to face with "Woman in Violet".

As you move up in the museum, the paintings get newer. By the top floor we had art after 1945. There was one called "Red Blind Spot" by Attila Szucs that was beautiful. It was an arctic scene, and in the middle was a giant red spot—as if someone had taken a photo and the glare off the snow created a red blind spot. Stunning. Otherwise, there was little I took note of in this section.

Most captions were in English and Hungarian, but this wasn't consistent. Sometimes they would be in Hungarian only. Sometimes there would be German captions. In front of one work there were Braille captions!

I spent a delightful 2 hours at the National Gallery, and could have easily devoted more time to it had I not agreed to meet the guys back on the steps at 12:30. If you like art, it would be a shame to miss out on the Hungarian works, which you will have a hard time finding in other museums around Europe.

Hungarian National Gallery
Tues-Sun 10am-6pm
Permanent collection free
Guided tours available for a fee
Hungarian National Gallery
Budavári Palota, Szent György tér 2., Wings A, B, C, D
Budapest, Hungary, 1014
(+36 1) 201 9082

Museum of Fine Arts

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

This museum houses a large collection from a variety of artists. I found it difficult to navigate which, if you've read any of my other art gallery reviews, you know is a pet peeve of mine. The rooms have several doors leading to several different rooms, and it can get difficult to remember where you've been and what you've seen. The rooms are divided basically by country and period.

The permanent collection is free. Temporary exhibitions, like the Van Gogh exhibit on display while we were there, have an additional cost, as do the audio guides, which are available in several languages. If you happen to be here while the Van Gogh exhibit is still on—well, go if you've never seen a Van Gogh. I'm sure the exhibit is lovely, and it's always good to see some of Vincent's works. However, if you have plans to ever travel to Amsterdam, just wait and pay to visit the Van Gogh museum there.

I was delighted by the works by Rubens, Rodin, Monet, and Manet. The highlight was El Greco's Annunciation. Wonderful.

The lower level is full of Egyptian artifacts. You can see stone slabs full of hieroglyphics. And don't forget to check out the mummies—including a crocodile mummy.

Museum of Fine Arts
Tues-Sun 10am-5:30pm
Permanent collection free
Museum of Fine Arts
Hosok tere
Budapest, Hungary, 1146
+36 1 343 9759

West Balkan

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

This is a big place. You enter to face a long bar. There are some foosball tables in the corner and a few tables. This is definitely the quieter part of the place.

If you take a left and go through the plastic curtains you come to a smaller bar. Fewer drink options here, but this is where you will find the food later in the evening. We never ate here, but it smelled so good all night long. There are a couple of tables here, but it's not really a place to perch—just move on through.

Go through more red curtains and you're in the main arena. It's a huge room with another huge bar and a stage. There was a band playing early in the evening—I'm told this place has live music or a DJ every night.

The band was local, though I'm told that sometimes the West Balkan hosts bigger names. This four-member band played what I can only call Hungarian folk rap. Think about it. That noise you hear in your head is probably pretty accurate.

It seemed strange to me, but there were a lot of people there and they really seemed to enjoy the band! There were many dancers in front of the stage.

There is also a big projection screen. At the time it was just showing various images, probably something that went along with the songs.

Wine starts at 150 forints per glass, while beer starts around 350. Mixed drinks, naturally, go much higher. Coffee and teas are also available.

Despite the unusual music, we had a great time at West Balkan. It's a great place to meet people. I loved it especially because I had the best of both bar worlds in one: I could go to the big room to dance, or I could hang out in the quieter areas in the front to talk with my friends.
West Balkan
Kisfaludy u. # 36
Budapest, Hungary

Great Market Hall

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

Look no further than the Great Market for your shopping needs in Budapest.

The first level is full of food options, from meats and vegetables to dried fruits and nuts. You'll also find Hungary's famous paprika here in several types of packaging. (At less than $1 per package in most cases, paprika makes a great gift for the should-I-or-shouldn't-I people on your gift-giving list. Of course, more expensive options are available.)

I picked up lots of paprika as well as some dried kiwi, which I had discovered and loved in Barcelona over the summer. It wasn't as good as it was there, but this is winter in Budapest, not summer in Spain—what can you expect? I still enjoyed it.

On the next level you can find the typical souvenir-type booths with magnets, figurines, and mugs, but you will also find dozens of tablecloth booths. All the cloths are handmade and vary greatly in price. The small knitted pieces are the most beautiful—and the most expensive. Don't be afraid to bargain—there is lots of competition up there, and the vendors are eager for the sale.

You will find it hard to browse, because the vendor will approach you and ask what you are looking for and offer to show you dozens of examples. It took me a long time to find what I was looking for, because I had a hard time moving on from a place when I realized they didn't have it.

You will also find several wine booths, where you can purchase tokaji (which ranges in price from €3 to €50) and bull's blood wine. I bought some tokaji on the lower end of the price scale, and I thought it was really, really good. It's not so bitter as a typical wine. I highly recommend you try it—at those lower-end prices, it's silly not to.

Even the guys had fun. "Jack and I are going to look for scarves," Joel said at one point. We all took our time and all came home with some Hungarian "treasures."
Central Market Hall/Great Market Hall
Fovam Ter, Ix Kerulet
Budapest, Hungary

House of Terror

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

Even the name gives you shivers.

I wouldn't have guessed what this actually is. It sort of sounds more like some cheesy tourist attraction. In reality, it's a fantastic museum documenting the Nazi and Soviet occupation of Hungary. It is housed in what was once truly a house of terror—the former headquarters of various organizations such as the Arrow Cross Party and the Political Police.

When you walk in you see a giant wall covered in photographs of the victims of the terror regimes.

The layout is fantastic. You just follow the logical path throughout the whole museum, picking up sheets of information everywhere. There are dozens of videos, and even more photographs and artifacts, but few of the captions are in English. Most of the information you get will come from the papers you pick up as you enter a room.

Each room is designed very differently. One is totally covered in old documents, another in propaganda posters. You can learn all about Hungarian life under the rule of the Nazis and the Soviets.

The basement of the building was once a prison, and though the Nazi and Soviet organizations destroyed most of that when they abandoned the building, the prison has been reconstructed. You can walk through the cells where hundreds of people were once tortured. One was for solitary confinement, another was filled partially with water and the prisoner had to sit in that for the duration of his punishment.

One of the most moving exhibits, for me, was at the very end. There on the wall were the names and photographs of all the victimizers—the very people who caused so much suffering. It is so strange, because you imagine these people to be monsters, but there they are—and they look just like anyone else. You could pass one of them on the street in today's world and never even know.

Which, I suppose, is the purpose of the exhibit. All of this was so recent—many of these people are probably still alive—and there they are on the wall for all of us to see. There is a short caption, as well, that says something to the effect of, "It doesn't matter how these people lived their lives before or after their involvement in this part of history, they are responsible for their actions." True. Maybe some of them are upstanding citizens of the world today, but that doesn't erase the fact that they played a role in the persecution of so many people.

House of Terror
Tues-Sun 10am-6pm
Admission: 1500 HUF (students 750 HUF)
House of Terror
Andrassy ut 60.
Budapest, Hungary

Siraly

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

I loved this place from the moment I stepped in. It's my kind of bar—quiet, artsy, cozy. There were spiral stairs leading to a landing and a table, and more spiral stairs leading to another floor.

We were there around 8:30 on a Thursday night, but already it was packed. We had actually shown up to see the band playing downstairs, but upon our arrival we found out that we had to have tickets, and those had sold out just an hour ago. So I didn't get to see the basement, but my Hungarian friend told me they often host musical or theatrical shows there.

There is also a large room in the back, the doorway of which we ended up standing in because we couldn't find a place to sit. This room has a large projection screen, and they often screen movies there. On this day they were setting up a movie about Budapest before the war. We watched parts of it as I drank my wine (180 forints).

If I lived in Budapest, I would frequent Siraly. It's a place you go with your friends to talk, but not really a place you go to meet new people. Take some buddies and check it out. If you manage to get a seat, I think you'll feel right at home, as I did.
Siraly
Kiraly utca 50
Budapest
+36 20 992 7901

Wichmann

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Mandan Lynn on January 24, 2007

Wichmann is a very traditional, local pub. It's small, smoky, and very cheap. My wine cost barely the equivalent of a dollar. There was one man at the bar, probably the owner—quiet, slow-moving, a whaddya-want? kind of man.

There was a large group of people at a corner table playing some sort of quiz game and drinking plenty of beer—and smoking plenty of cigarettes.

The bathrooms were surprisingly clean for such a rustic place.

There weren't a lot of people there, but those who were there definitely felt at home—you could see that much.

You shouldn't go here if you're looking to find a date or meet other travelers or go dancing. It's just a place to sit quietly with your friends and talk. There wasn't even any music playing. It was the perfect way to end a day of being on the road—or the rails, as the case may be.
Wichmann
Kazinczy Utca 55
Budapest

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