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Budapest Step by Step

By Budapest Expert: Marta, Hungary, July 2011

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Budapest, the capital of Hungary is a city with a population of 2 million which definitely means there are a lot to see and do there. Most tourists however, come only for 3-4 days, which is just enough to see the main sights of Budapest. 

In these three days you can see all the great beauties of the city, visit the famous buildings, like the Parliament, the St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Opera, Matthias Church, the Great Synagogue and enter some museums like the Museum of Fine Arts, the National Gallery and the National Museum or the House of Terror. You will definitely go up to Gellért Hill to admire the view of the whole city, walk around the Buda Castle District, Fishermen’s Bastion, the Royal Palace and in the heart of the Pest side. You must take your time and ride on the comfortable old underground train too, to go to see Heroes’ Square and the City Park behind it with the romantic Vajdahunyad Castle and the biggest thermal bath of the city: the Szèchenyi Bath.

If you have a special interest, you can include extra activities in your programme like joining a Jewish Tour to discover the history and sights of the Budapest Jewish community, or a caving tour to discover the amazing cave system under the Buda Hills. If you manage to divide your time well, you might also take an excursion to any of the popular villages nearby Budapest, where you can get to easily by suburban railway. The suburbs include Szentendre, the lovely town by the river Danube with a rich variety of modern art galleries and Orthodox Churches, and the town of Gödöllő where a lovely baroque castle, used to serve as holiday residence of the Austro-Hungarian royal family, is now open for visitors with its castle museum and offers several cultural programmes throughout the year. 

Then, when time comes to rest a bit, you can’t miss coffee and cake in any of the famous confectionary houses, like the Gerbeaud on Vörösmarty Square, or grab some “market-food” in the Great Market Hall. In the evening, have dinner in a restaurant suggested by a local, where you will surely find locals and local dishes (and also some other tourists, too, who were suggested this restaurant by some other locals). If you have some energy remained to discover the Budapest nightlife, you will find hundreds of pubs, some of them even with live music, any day of the week. If you are seeking for something really special you must visit a real “ruin pub” of the 7th district.

By the end of these three days you will get a general picture of Budapest, this shiny (in good weather) and beautiful city in Eastern Europe (in reality Central Europe). You would have tasted Goulash soup, the number one typical Hungarian dish, experienced a lovely boat tour on the river Danube, and hopefully will go on to the next target of your itinerary with good memories. You might even bring with you some stories and tales about stone lions, Ottoman Turks, the Habsburgs of Austria, Hungarian revolutions, medieval kings, communist leaders, etc. And perhaps you will almost accept the name given to Budapest 100 years ago, when it was called “Paris of the East”.

You can find these programmes and places to visit on most travel sites about Budapest. If you manage to see and do at least 50% of them, you pass Budapest step by step Level 1 (Beginner), and must come back soon to start Budapest step by step Level 2 (Intermediate). 

And do not forget: Budapest is the capital of Hungary with a population of 2 million. The rest: 8 million people don’t live in Budapest, but in the country. I think it’s worth a visit, too.

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