JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ALIZ KRAMMER FROM BUDAPEST, HUNGARY !
Aliz Krammer works as an architect 9-5, but after that she is a travel blogger. She is obsessed with travel planning, specialty coffee, tasty brunch, colourful cutenesses like unicorns and rainbows. Laughing makes her feel alive. For her, sightseeing is not only exploring the tourist attractions but trying out local dishes and visiting specialty cafés. Visit her travel blog, Aliz’s Wonderland, if you’re interested in practical travel tips and itineraries, moreover, Instagrammable foodies and coffee places.
Home to Europe’s largest synagogue (the Dohány Street Synagogue) and biggest spa is Hungary’s capital, Budapest. It is the country’s most important city and has become one of the main tourist destinations in Europe. It’s the only capital in the world where you’ll find caves underneath its streets. Beneath the Castle Hill, a whole city exists which consists of a maze of 200+ caverns. They are the result of the great number of geothermal springs in the area.
The Danube River is the second longest river in Europe, after the Volga. It crosses Europe from west to east and spans Germany, where it originates. It also crosses Austria, Hungary and Romania. The Danube divided Buda and Pest, two separate cities.
In 1873 Buda and Pest officially merged with Óbuda (Old Buda), creating the new metropolis of Budapest. They are connected by the magnificent bridge of Széchenyi (known as the ‘Chain Bridge’).Buda is built on a hill, on the Western bank of the river and forms the historical part of the city. Pest stands on a plain and it’s more businesslike with its shops and boulevards.
(Nitasha) : Please tell us something about your connection with Budapest. As a local, when do you think is the best time to visit Budapest?
(Aliz) : I moved to Budapest when I started university and the city totally mesmerized me with its architecture, cultural opportunities, cute parks, gorgeous foodie places, specialty coffee shops and its nightlife. I couldn’t imagine my life in other Hungarian cities.
Every time is the best time to visit Budapest. I mean it! Budapest always offers amazing adventures, outdoor, indoor, nature-loving, cultural, foodie experiences on the ground and water alike.
In spring, the flowers are blooming and making the city more colourful. People are doing more outdoor activities, strolling in parks and enjoying the sunshine. Budapest has the most tourists during summertime. Sziget festival in the middle of August attracts many people, including myself 🙂
In the hot weather, you can cool yourself down in outdoor pools and baths. Or just grab a cold drink in outdoor ruin bars or bars at the Danube bank and enjoy the sunset. In autumn, the hills and parks are dressed in yellow and orange, making the city more colourful. September is the month of harvest and wines. The Wine Festival in the Castle District is the perfect place to try the top Hungarian wineries.
Winter can be cold and snowy, though the beautiful snowy landscape will compensate for the cold. You can quickly warm up yourself in the Christmas markets with mulled wine and fresh chimney cake. The thermal baths and steam baths are also there to heat you up.
(Nitasha) : Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Budapest? Would you recommend renting a car for day trips or using public transport?
(Aliz) : The public transport works well with the metros, trams, buses, trolleybuses and boats. The main tourist attractions can be reached easily by public transportation. At most of the stations, you can find BKK ticket vending machines to buy any kind of tickets for an affordable price.
The most convenient and fastest transports are definitely metros and trams. Only the Tube in London and the underground of Chicago are older than the Budapest subway system. UNESCO has added the M1 Line of the subway to its World Heritage Sites because of the innovative elements of the railway. One part of metro line 3 is currently under renovation, so the traffic in the city centre isn’t that ideal nowadays.
Tram 2 on the Pest side goes on the most special and scenic route. The vintage yellow cars run along the Danube, passing by the Parliament, Chain bridge, Great Market Hall and Palace of Arts. It’s also considered a tourist sightseeing tram.
For discovering Budapest and its surroundings, public transport, buses and trains are suitable. Menetrendek.hu is a helpful site for bus and train schedules. Unfortunately, the English version is not available, though the site can be translated by Google.
However, if someone wants to visit a more remote place, a rented car could be the most comfortable choice.
(Nitasha) : Which are the must visit places of Budapest?
(Aliz) : This is one of the hardest questions 🙂 I could talk about the beauties of Budapest for days. However, if I could choose only three, then the must-visit tourist attractions would be the Hungarian Parliament, Castle District with Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Stephen’s Basilica. All of them are architectural masterpieces, and the last two offer a gorgeous panorama to the city.
Hungarian Parliament : The Hungarian Parliament Building is the biggest building in Hungary and the third largest national assembly in the world. The Parliament features 691 rooms, 28 entrances, 10 courtyards, and 29 staircases. The exterior is a mixture of three architectural styles – Neo-Gothic, Neo-Romantic, and Neo-Baroque – which further contributes to its splendor. Hungary was one of the biggest sufferers of the holocaust of the Third Reich. Next to the parliament, by the edge of the river Danube, you can find lots of shoes made of bronze fixed to the ground. These are a tribute to all the Jews that were killed.
To reach : Take a Metro to Kossuth Lajos tér, M2 line/Tram to Kossuth Lajos tér, line 2/Bus to Kossuth Lajos tér, lines 15, 70, 78 and 115.
Fisherman’s Bastion : The Halászbástya or Fisherman’s Bastion is a lookout located on the Castle Hill in Budapest, to the west of the Danube River. Its seven high-pitched stone towers symbolize the seven chieftains of the Hungarians who founded Hungary in 895. From Fisherman’s Bastion, one can enjoy the best panoramic views of the Hungarian Parliament. Buda Castle and Matthias Church can be visited along with Fisherman’s Bastion. These attractions are all located on Castle Hill and are not very far from each other.
To reach : Take a bus to Szentháromság tér, lines 16, 16A and 116.
St. Stephen’s Basilica : St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica. It is named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary, whose right hand is housed in the reliquary. St. Stephens Basilica alongwith the Parliament are the tallest buildings of Hungary ( both 96m tall). No building in Budapest can be taller than 96 meters, which refers to the year 1896, when extensive constructions were carried out to celebrate the country’s Millenium. Visitors can climb to the top of the church’s right tower, where there is an impressive observation deck with beautiful views over Budapest. You can climb to the top either by taking the stairs or an elevator.
To reach : Take a Metro to Bajcsy Zsilinszky út, line M1 (yellow) and Arany János utca, line M3 (blue)/
Bus to Hercegprímás utca, lines 15 and 115.
(Nitasha) : What are the best day trips (a few hour’s drive away) for nature, culture and history from Budapest?
(Aliz) : The closest and most charming little town would be Szentendre, only 20 km from Budapest. It’s situated at the Danube and has narrow cobblestone streets with museums, galleries and shops. At the side of the town, Skanzen Village Open-air Museum represents Hungarian folk architecture.
For more history and scenic view, visit the towns of Visegrád and Esztergom. Esztergom is the home of Hungary’s tallest church. From Visegrád castle and hillside, you can enjoy the panorama of Danube Bend.
Another charming town is Tata, which is located 70 km from Budapest. There you can enjoy the lakeside, nature trail, hiking and discovering Szelim Cave.
Lake Balaton can be reached in a few hours of driving, especially its northern side rich in natural sights, viewpoints, wineries, cute little towns and adventures. Though I’d recommend spending there more day to discover an area.
(Nitasha) : Budapest is famous for its distinctive thermal baths and hot springs. Which among them must be visited?
(Aliz) : The most famous and beautiful thermal baths are Gellért, Rudas and Széchenyi Thermal Bath. All of them offer an exceptional experience like…
- Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the most popular and well-known among tourist. The outdoor pools have a charming atmosphere, especially during winter, but the indoor area seems like a maze for the first time. It has 21 pools, health and wellness services, saunas, beer pool. Saturday nights, it hosts bath parties called Sparty.
- One of the most unique experiences in Rudas Thermal Bath is the rooftop panorama pool with a view to Gellért Hill and Danube. Its 450-year-old steam bath also offers an intimate atmosphere.
- Gellért Thermal Bath is my personal favourite. It’s perfect in every season. The building is super beautiful with the mosaics and its historical indoor pools. Aaaaand in summer, the outdoor pool functions as a wave pool every hour! Its renovation will start in June, 2022, so it will be closed for an unknown period!
(Nitasha) : Which are the must try local dishes of Budapest?
(Aliz) : Where should I start…
The most famous Hungarian food is definitely goulash soup (gulyás leves), but Hungary has a lot more to offer. I’m not asking you to eat every day in a Hungarian restaurant, but try as many dishes as possible. You can eat a goulash soup or a Fisherman’s soup as a starter, a meat stew or stuffed cabbage as a main dish and don’t forget about desserts and Hungarian wines. In the centre of Budapest, the best Hungarian restaurants are Gettó Gulyás, Pörc & Prézli, M restaurant and Kispiac Bisztró.
For street food lovers, lángos is a must-try. It’s fried bread dough and served with many toppings. The most Hungarian (and best) topping is the sour cream and cheese combination. The best places for the traditional lángos are Retro Lángos, Lángos Papa and the Central Market.
Dessert and sweet lovers have to taste chimney cake (kürtős kalács). It’s basically a cylindric sweet doubt, which can be coated with sugar, cinnamon, cacao, coconut or whatever you choose. It has an advanced level… You can eat filled chimney cake at Töltött Kürtős (Street Cakes) and Kató néni finomságai, where you can select fillings, toppings and extra toppings for your chimney cake cone.
(Nitasha) : Where to head for shopping in Budapest? Are there any popular weekend/night/flea markets which tourists must visit? Anything that one must bring home from Budapest?
(Aliz) : If you’re not a fan of “average” souvenirs like me and prefer to buy something useful in design shops to support local artists, Budapest is your place.
The best design shop in the centre are:
- Urban Sidewalker for artistic Budapest prints and postcards
- Printa for eco-friendly clothing, tote bags, stationery, home decor products
- Rododendron Art for accessories, stationery and prints
- MONO art & design for clothes, ceramics, home decor and beauty products
- PaUZa for sustainable and eco-friendly products
If you’re lucky, you can catch WAMP design fair, which occurs once a month to showcase Hungarian designers and their works.
For more traditional souvenirs, make sure to visit the Great Market Hall. You can buy a nice package of dried or powdered paprika and sausage as a souvenir on the ground floor. The upper floor awaits even more souvenirs (handicrafts, embroideries, and Budapest themed products). For flea market fans, a must-visit place is Ecseri Flea Market, where you can find everything. Literally! Unfortunately, it’s located further from the centre. However, a smaller flea market called Antik Placc occurs in Budapest’s heart, but only on Sundays.
(Nitasha) : Please suggest places from where one can get the best view of Budapest?
(Aliz) : As I’ve already mentioned, Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church, which offer a wonderful view of the river with the Parliament, the bridges and Gellért Hill.
Another viewpoint on the Buda side is Gellért Hill with Citadel, which stands 130 meters above the Danube. From this height, you can see the contrast between the hilly Buda and the flat Pest side.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is the tallest church in Budapest, with its dome reaching the height of 96 meters. And its Panorama Lookout Tower can be visited for 3 euros (1000 HUF). From the top, you’ll get a 360 degrees view of Budapest!
If you’re looking for a different perspective, discover the riverside of Budapest from a boat. I’m not suggesting to pay for expensive river cruises, it’s enough if you buy a single ticket for the public transport boat service. The boats stop at the main attractions but operate only from May to October.
(Nitasha) : Would you suggest any events in Budapest for drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in the city?
(Aliz) : For music lovers, the best event is the Sziget festival, the island of freedom! It won the best European Festival Award more times because it’s not just a simple festival. The area of the island is changing into a small city during the middle of August.
For music and culture lovers, the Budapest Spring Festival and Budapest Summer Festival are recommended.
Other cultural events:
- Museum’s night in summer
- Design Week in October
- Café Budapest Contemporary Art Festival in October
- Christmas Markets in December
(Nitasha) : Any suggestions on hikes to take in or around Budapest for spectacular scenery?
(Aliz) : In Budapest, the best hikes and viewpoints are:
- Walk from Normafa Park to János Hill (527 m), where you’ll find the Erzsébet Lookout Tower with the view of the Buda Hills and the Danube from Árpád bridge till the Gellért Hill. Back to the city, you can travel by chairlift from János Hill.
- Árpád Lookout (378 m) requires only a short walk in the forest, and you’ll have a view of the curvy Danube and its bridges.
- From Hármashatárhegy (495 m) with Guckler Károly Lookout and Noth Point Lookout, even Budapest’s northern bridge is visible. The hike can be from 11-15 km up to your starting point and the circle you take.
Around and close to Budapest, the best hikes and viewpoints are:
- Prédilálószék (639 m) is accessible from the town of Dömös. And from the top, you can have to best panorama to the Danube Bend. The 15 km long circuit trail takes around 5 hours hiking.
- Dobogókő (699 m) is the highest point is Visegrád Hills. The viewpoint is located only 100 m from the parking area. Of course, the site has many hiking trails.
- Csóványos (938 m) is part of Börzöny Hills, and it’s located more than 60 km from Budapest. You can choose from many trails with different starting points. Most of them are longer than 16 km.
(Nitasha) : As a local would you want to give any suggestion/tip to tourists visiting Budapest?
(Aliz) : Make sure to not miss:
- Discover the historical parts and explore the fun ruin bars too
- Relax in thermal baths
- Learn the word “Cheers” in Hungarian, which is “Egészségedre” [Egg-esh-ay-ged-reh]. Locals will be happy to help!
- Try out traditional Hungarian dishes
- Skip Starbucks and visit the local specialty coffee shops.
Mistakes to avoid:
- Presuming that everyone speaks English
- In the case of using a taxi, always check the taximeter to avoid scams.
- Not checking the bill before paying
- Exchanging money at the airport
- Not paying attention to your belongings
THINGS TO KNOW
To Reach Budapest : Budapest is located in the heart of Central Europe. It can be easily reached either by plane, train, coach or high-speed ferry from Vienna and Bratislava. Numerous direct flights are available between Budapest, Debrecen and Sármellék near Lake Balaton in Hungary and European cities and countries overseas.
By Air : Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport is located 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) southeast of the center of Budapest . Other nearby airports include Bratislava (BTS) (156.4 km) and Vienna (VIE) (197.6 km).
By Rail : Budapest has three major railway stations, Keleti (Eastern), Nyugati (Western) and Déli (Southern) Railway Stations. International trains usually arrive at Keleti (Eastern) Railway Station. Déli (Southern) Railway Station mostly receives trains from countries on the southern border of Hungary, such as Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia. It is also well connected with nearby European capital cities such as Vienna and Bratislava. Every 3 hours, trains depart from Budapest to these two destinations.
Different parts of the city can easily be accessed from the railway stations by metro. Keleti Railway Station is on the metro lines M2 and M4, Déli Railway Station is on the metro line M2 and Nyugati Railway Station is on the metro line M3. You can always find yellow cabs around the railway stations.
You can find more information on railway timetables on the website of Hungarian State Railways.
By Bus : One of the cheapest ways to travel to Budapest from nearby European cities is by coach. The international bus station is located in Népliget.
By Cruise : Every year, on designated weekends between June and September, visitors can avail the services of a special hydrofoil line between Vienna and Budapest, stopping in Bratislava as well.
Boats from Bratislava take 3 hours and 4 hours and a half from Vienna. Tickets can be booked through Mahart Passnave.
Please make sure to acquire all the necessary information on border crossing requirements and possible visa obligations, as entry points do not offer visa services.
Average temperatures range 21,0°C, 70°F from June-August, range -0,9°C, 30°F from December- February.
Hungarian words to learn :
1. Hi -> Szia
2. Thanks -> Köszönöm
3. Cheers -> Egészségedre
Country Code, Important Telephone Numbers :
- International dialling code : +36
- Emergency telephone number: 112
- Ambulance service phone: 104
- Police phone: 107
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