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Here are some of the best ideas what to do in Budapest

Budapest Nightlife: the best parties in the city

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Budapest nightlife is an ever changing shape shifter, but one thing is clear. The best parties in the city are in Budapest baths. You can have a party anywhere in the world, with the same DJs, VJs, dancers, shows, but none compares with the cool parties in the thermal bath pools in Budapest. I say none.

Outdoor Pool Szechenyi Bath Sparty Budapest

Outdoor Pool Szechenyi Bath Sparty Budapest

Are you curious why? Because the spa parties are so special, in warm spring waters with lots of good minerals. Just this alone adds a lot to the boring routine of partying. Pick a date for a Sparty, and enjoy!

Now where can you go, which baths in Budapest are ready for party folks? Budapest bath parties have seasonal locations:

Szechenyi Bath Parties: June, July, August, September, New Year’s Eve Bath Party

Lukacs Bath Parties
: Feb, March, April, May, October, November, December

Budapest nightlife is best at the weekends. Come on a Friday, take a boat party in Budapest on a Friday, then plunge into the thermal pools on Saturday sparties

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Budapest Dinner on the Danube: I felt spoilt!

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We celebrated our anniversary (not a big number yet) with an evening I have longed or long wanted to try. My friend did not say a word, just that I should be pretty. I guessed that we would go to a special place. I kept nagging him, Costes? Comme chez sois? Balettcipo? I have like a dozen restaurants on my list I want to try in Budapest!

When we were heading to the river Danube, down to the cobblestones of the docks I knew it would not be the land restaurants of my wish list, but the boat dinner I was so curious about. And there it was, our beautiful ship, all glassy and classy! It was the best dinner cruise in Budapest (apparently there are more, we had the Pay as you order dinner)

The food was delicious! The dessert was ooooohsoyummy. I could have done with a bigger salad, but all courses were good and light. Plus we had a bottle of champagne (easily done). I felt really spoilt with all the panorama, and love, and champagne!

Our dinner boat on the Danube in Budapest

Our dinner boat on the Danube

There is no smoking on the boat, so we had to go out on the deck for a cigarette break, but all in all it was a cheesy little evening I can put in my photo album!

If you have a Budapest Card you can get some discount I think.

Budapest Christmas Breaks

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Are you still hesitating if you want to spend the Christmas holidays in Budapest? Don’t. The city is beautiful, festive, and there are lots of things to do in Budapest even in winter time, lots of sights to absorb and enjoy. Start to look around for ideas, tips, things to do, concerts and Christmas shows on Budapest Christmas.

Budapest Christmas Light Painting 2012

Budapest Christmas Light Painting 2012 on Basilica (Kardos Ildiko Foto)

Budapest Christmas breaks will make you feel like a time travel to the warmth of country town Christmases, mixed with the grandeur of a once glorious 19th century cosmopolitan city.

BudapestChristmas.com is the most comprehensive Budapest Christmas Break guide out there with tons of info about the

Budapest Christmas Markets
Budapest Christmas Concerts
Budapest Santa Claus events
etc.

Even Xmas opening hours in Budapest are included on the site. Give it a thumb up like on Budapest Christmas Facebook too to help others find their ways around in Budapest at Christmas.

Probably the only thing we miss from this awesome Budapest guide for any December visitors is the list of Budapest Christmas Parties. But you know what? There are some, even if not strictly on Dec 25 or Dec 26.
Just check out some of the cool bars of Budapest and you are bound to bump into a cool Budapest Xmas Party. Or go ahead and taste the winter Cinetrip party: Szechenyi Bath New Year’s Party is an annual event, which should not be missed.

And if you have missed Budapest Christmas one year, definitely put it in your calendar for the upcoming year to enjoy some of the best Christmassy things that can happen to you. Oh yes, I am totally biased. But you will still say it was wonderful!

New Wine Festival in Budapest

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There are many fine wine festivals in Budapest Hungary, what makes the Budapest New Wine Festival special is both its wines and timing as well as its location.

One of the locations is Vajdahunyad Castle: New Wine Festival in Vajdahunyad Castle

The newly made wines are presented on St Martin’s Day in Budapest, at Hotel Gellert, built together with the beautiful Art Nouveau Gellert Spa. The festival venue is partly in the main hall of Gellert Bath.

Here are some of the best St Martin’s Day events in Budapest. on or around November 11, each year.

The daily tickets are cheap (HUF 2,990 for a daily pass with a glass and a wine coupon).

If you are staying in Budapest in early November, getting some ideas about things to do in Budapest at this time of the year, specifically on St Martin’s Day, this is a nice weekend for solo travelers, couples, or families too.

St Martin’s Day is worth a visit in Szentendre too. Here are some nice photos by Rolling in Budapest

St Martin’s Day personal account – sort of Budapest review by Charles Shere

St Martin’s Day in Vienna

Similarly to Hungarian St Martin menus, you can eat roast goose, red cabbage and dumplings (in Hungary mashed potatoes with onions) in Wien, Austria. The young wines are baptized

St Martin’s Day in Venice
Venetian children run through the city of Venice, Italy. While running, they keep banging pots and pans with wooden spoons. The kids are given  a few coins. Special cakes depicting St Martin are baked and sold in Venice.

October 23 in Budapest – Is everything closed really?

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October 23 is a public holiday in Hungary, but there are still lots of things to do in Budapest, and many things to see are open. But it seems that tourists who visit Budapest on this particular day realize that they may not be able visit some or all Budapest attractions. Maybe some outdated Budapest travel guides do not know that things have changed in Budapest?

Well, it seems that many tourists think that everything will be closed, but it is not true, there are many things to do, and the first of them is to avoid the political rallies.

October 23 Budapest Parliament Panoramio

October 23 Budapest Parliament Panoramio

Otherwise they are not violent, but in 2006, the Socialist government made such a big mistake that the peaceful rallies turned into more violent clashes between the police and the local protestors. So avoid the rallies. But the city is otherwise nice as usual, and there are many things to do in Budapest even on Oct 23.

  • Museums in Budapest? OPEN. And free / discounted for EU citizens.
  • Parliament in Budapest? OPEN. And free / cheaper for EU citizens. Big crowds. Not a good day for a visit.
  • Restaurants in Budapest? Most of them OPEN.
  • Baths in Budapest, Turkish Baths? OPEN, Lukacs Baths, Szechenyi Baths, Rudas Bath, Gellert Spa, Kiraly bath are all open with weekend prices.
  • Churches in Budapest? OPEN (not the Grand Synagogue though! But the Matthias Church or the St Stephen’s Basilica are)
  • Movies? Theaters in Budapest? OPEN (not that many Hungarian plays would attract tourists, so pick a musical, an opera, etc.)
  • Stores? Shops in Budapest? CLOSED (but there are many 24/7 little corner shops in Budapest called Nonstop. f you look for a NONSTOP store, you will find that each and every major metro station has a good little grocery store with the basics, for example on Astoria, Szell Kalman square) etc.
  • Great Market Hall in Budapest? CLOSED
  • Banks in Budapest? CLOSED (but ATMs are open, which you would most likely use abroad)
  • Post offices in Budapest? CLOSED (but who goes to post office to send a picture postcard, instead of sitting in a wifi cafe and posting a photo on flickr or a blog?)

What is October 23?

In Budapest it is a day for demonstrations and recreation (sounds strange, right? Some enjoy the holiday, but the opposition is always having concerts, speeches on the political squares Kossuth ter, March15 sq, Bem sq, etc. on Hungarian national holidays).

Most importantly it is a remembrance day in Hungary, as we commemorate the sad moment of losing the 1956 revolution against the Soviets and the happy moment of winning the silent revolution in 1989, and be able to breathe again as a young, democratic country.

Our Budapest tips for October 23 in Budapest:

again, do not try to visit the Parliament building on this day

Best Hungarian Restaurants in Budapest

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Needless to say a visit to Budapest is unimaginable without trying Hungarian cuisine, which is usually heavy, and best for meat lovers, but it is not hopeless to find something decent and delicious. Cheap or expensive (like the Fisherman’s Bastion Restaurant) – the price range is quite varied, and the best ones are not necessarily the most expensive ones. So even if you are on a budget tour, you can eat well in Budapest, even in touristy places like the Buda Castle district.

heavy Hungarian meal

heavy Hungarian meal

If you are looking for top notch Hungarian restaurants, which are best in multiple categories: e.g. the best restaurants in Budapest according to local Hungarian guides, or world famous restaurant guides like Zagat, Michelin etc. you can take a look at the list of the top Hungarian Restaurants in Budapest on Top Budapest travel guide. Fodors Budapest travel guide has a list too.

Their list currently does not really focus on the budget backpacker tourists visiting Budapest, so here are some tips I have gathered from Hungarian students who like to hang out in cheap but good places in Budapest. If you are on a shoestring budget, and you don’t want to pay more than 4-12 Euros for your Hungarian dinners / lunches. The lunch deals are the best, you can easily get a 2-3 course lunch menu for 4 Euros! Another thing is that most students would have a lunch in their own college or university canteens, as they are indeed the cheapest (but you may not find them without a student friend). Corvin University, CEU, ELTE etc. all have their own canteens or eateries or ‘cheap restaurants’.

If you don’t like heavy meals, try some ducks or goose legs, they are usually nice and dry, not so many calories. I am personally not a big fan of stew.

Apart from cheap Hungarian canteens, you can go to these places:
Posonyi Kisvendeglo: it is a simple and nice place by the Margaret Island on the Pest side. If you get off the 4 or 6 tram by the Margaret bridge, you can take a short walk in a side street. There are many locals here and the foods are good, so are the prices.

Frici Papa Eatery: very cheap, very budget, lots of Hungarians flock here for lunch time. I have not tried this place yet.

Mensa Restaurant (OK, this is also on the above list): Mensa Restaurant is very popular and very good. It is located in the trendy and central Liszt Ferenc Square – pretty convenient if you are by the Opera House, or at the House of Terror. Not the best in a strict sense of the word, but best in the budget category. And the design is cool too. It is said to be retro Hungarian design of the communist 80s. Mensa is on the top of the list of Hungarian restaurants on Lonely Planet.

Kadar Eatery: another retro place but going back in time. Let’s face it, Kadar eatery is not a restaurant, but a lunch only eatery, but it is a lovely place if you like time travel Back to the Past. About 1965 or the 70s maybe, time stands still in this little place. Don’t expect too much. The Hungarian communist party leader was John Kadar, and if you like history like I do, you can easily assume that the place was named after the longest living Hungarian communist dictator John Kadar. I think nobody knows if the owner of the restaurant was somehow related to Kadar the politician, was he a relative or something or not.

More cheap restaurants in Budapest

Budapest New Metro

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New cars are coming to Budapest, I mean new metro cars, which is really cool. The old ones are very old and rusty.

I don’t like traveling by metro in Budapest unless I have to. OK, it will take you everywhere in the city as Budapest public transport is quite efficient, but I don’t like traveling underground. The noise is killing me. Not on the new metro though.

You can see the new metro cars in Budapest here. BKV, the official public transportation company needs some serious modernization.

Fruccola in Budapest – to eat, to eat

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I don’t like heavy meals. There you have it. I am not a fan of goulash. Boooo. I know. I am a salad kind of girl. Fresh yummy salads any time!

I am glad that Frucola opened up, good light salads and paninis, baguettes, granary etc. Why isn’t there more places like this all over the world? Why isn’t Fruccola bigger?

Fruccola Budapest

Fruccola Budapest

Budget place to eat? No. But it is made with real fruits and veggies.

Try their juice made with orange carrot and beetroot, and maybe ginger. It is pretty good. Here are some reviews of Fruccola on Tripadvisor.

So I usually eat at places in Budapest, which have good salads, or for a lunch treat I pick some seafood at the best Italian restaurants in Budapest.

So here is my new tip for Budapest things to do:

eat at Fruccola if you are a salad fan like me, and hate greasy oily unhealthy chain foods.

Take a Budapest market tour to get some insights into the Hungarian veggies and fruits, market halls, cuisine, culinary traditions.

Buying Tickets at Szechenyi Baths – Now Online!

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Szechenyi Baths in Budapest is very popular in the summer, actually it is the most popular Budapest bath when it comes to thermal baths or when it comes to Budapest bath parties!.

Szechenyi Baths Budapest outdoor

Szechenyi Baths Budapest outdoor

No wonder it is one of the ‘not to be missed’ or top things to do in Budapest if you are a first timer.

Yet, so far you could only buy tickets by standing in the long line at the spa baths (even though there are multiple entrances where you can buy various tickets) and not on the internet.

Now the good thing is that finally they seemed to have found a way to start selling baths tickets online via a Hungarian tourism company.

Here’s how you can do it: fill out an online form, and get a skip the line ticket at the same price you would buy at the cashiers in Szechenyi Bath.

The Hungarian Forint Bath Ticket is the original price, the Euro conversion may change with the current rates.

Buy Tickets to Szechenyi Baths

Bath Party Tickets in Szechenyi Baths

Outdoor Pool Szechenyi Bath Sparty Budapest

Outdoor Pool Szechenyi Bath Sparty Budapest

I think if you visit Budapest in winter time it may not be necessary to buy tickets in advance (unless your schedule is tight, or you come for the Budapest Christmas holidays) but in summer time when hundreds of thousands of tourists come to Budapest, it may be a very comfortable way to get in (practically almost the same price as bought in person from the baths cashier).

You can also book a massage in Szechenyi Baths (with the original, authentic massage therapists of the baths) in advance. Keep in mind that there are 4-5 private massage companies besides the massage therapists of Szechenyi Baths itself (prices widely differ). So you can never be sure what a Szechenyi Baths massage review is about: is it about the official massage therapists of the world famous thermal baths in Budapest, or is it one of the entrepreneurs renting the place?

Some general tips how to get the most out of  your massage

Anyway, it seems that most guests are pretty satisfied with the massages, and the value for money ratio too. After all they are on holiday and want to relax…

What could be more relaxing than that? Avoiding the ticket lines and lying in a happy haze under the good hands of a fine masseur or masseuse. I would reschedule many things for a good massage. At Szechenyi Baths? Right now!

Here is a video of the fun outdoor pool (a cool wave pool) at Szechenyi Baths (tourist video, a bit shaking the camera)

Budapest Travel Tips

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Where can you get the best travel tips for Budapest?

Budapest Travel Tips

Budapest Travel Tips

Luckily there are several sources to use for planning your Budapest holiday and you don’t have to rely only on guidebooks to the Hungarian capital (Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Rough Guide, Only in Budapest, TimeOut Budapest, etc.)

Budapest Travel guides – online travel guides with updated travel tips

The advantage of web based travel guides to book guides is that they can be quickly updated and you will get more info about upcoming events in Budapest

BUDAPEST TRAVEL GUIDES

Some of the Budapest travel guides we have found useful are:

BUDAPEST FORUMS

Budapest forum for Budapest travel trips

There are two lively communities, Budapest forums:

  • TA Budapest: one chatty and helpful forum is on TripAdvisor
  • VT Budapest: the other Budapest travel forum is on Virtual Tourist.
  • LP Budapest: Lonely Planet also has a Budapest forum, which is useful but its layout currently is not so great.

Visitors with young kids: check out the Facebook group of Budapest moms, their community is strong, fresh, helpful for any parent coming to Budapest with babies, toddlers, small children.