It is difficult to see any city in one day. It takes at least a week to absorb in the beauty, the culture, the food and the language. That is according to me and I am sure opinions differ!
Each year I go on a week’s holiday with a group of my friends to some European country or the other. This year most of my friends were stuck with something or the other so it was just PD and I. We had no particular place in mind so we went cheap ticket hunting! After searching four different airline sites we decided it was either Prague or Budapest and that too for just a weekend, as we did not have enough holidays left!
Again we hadn’t decided on the dates as we were very flexible and we wanted to fly the weekend when we could get the cheapest tickets. So once this much was decided I checked the prices and Budapest beat Prague by about 30 Euros per head! So Budapest it was for the second weekend of October. This was my going to be my first trip to Eastern Europe so I was really excited.
I had seen the place in movies (Yes, this is the city they show in “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” as Italy), and we got books and videos from the library to know more about the place so that we could pack in as much as possible in such a short time. What we found out was interesting. This place had so much to offer depending on what you wanted!
If you are flying into Budapest for just one day I would suggest a few different things.
Try out the different Thermal baths and massages. The prices vary from place to place and they tend to give you a refund based on how long you spend in the baths. And be careful, in some places the time for the massage is included as well. So the actual time is calculated as time spent for massage + time spent for thermal baths. And most places will give you about 800 HUF (Hungarian Forints) back if you get out with in a couple of hours.
Try out the different museums. If you get a Buda Card (available for 2 days/3 days), you get free entry to 55 museums. I suggest that you get Buda Card right at the airport and start using it straight away. The card is for unlimited travel on public transport. Get a map at the tourist information centre at the airport and you can decide all the museums that you want to cover right away!
Check out shopping. If you are in Mainland Europe then this is the place to go shopping! I found most of the things way too cheap compared to UK, Ireland and Scandinavia. Food was the cheapest and I ate like a pig! If you are buying anything in the roadside shops, try bargaining! What I found most expensive was souvenirs. Everything else seemed to be cheap.
Do the general tour. There is so much to see in Budapest that I doubt if you can see it all in a day, but you can always do the important ones like Hero’s Square, Parliament, Castle Area, Margaret’s island, the Gellert hill, the Jewish Synagogue (The biggest one in Europe), the Royal Palace, Opera house, Transport museum and of course the Danube and the bridges across them. Though I have listed the sights in no particular order, I would advice you to pick all the places you want to see in Buda/Pest and do one side of the river at a time.
And if you don’t enjoy any of the above then just find yourself a nice seat in one of those boats restaurants along the Danube and just relax! Or maybe you could take one of those long distance trains and go down the country and enjoy a fun fair where you get to see Hungarian dancing and get to eat Goulash and get to spend some time with the locals!
As for us, we spent two hectic days trying to do a bit of everything. I spent a few hours in the Szchenyi baths, got a nice back massage. We went a bit of window-shopping in the castle area. Did too much of traveling on the buses and trams and trains. Played dumb charades on the streets, as most of the natives don’t speak English! Walked around like a typical tourist with a big SLR camera hanging around my neck and a map in our hand asking for directions.
The walk along the Danube was lovely so was the walking tour in Margaret’s island that we did on our own. The blue Danube is not blue anymore but it sure looks lovely. The bridges old and new across Danube are something worth seeing too.
We got some wonderful photographs of the parliament from across the Danube but it was a pity that there was some work going so could not get the real beauty of it. Ate loads of Hungarian food, actually ate loads in general. Did a little local tour on our own. Normally if I have very less time in a city I tend to take one of those bus tours but this time I enjoyed doing it my way and at my own pace. On the whole it was a real lovely trip that I would recommend for anyone, anytime!
Here is some useful info:
If you are flying check out the deals in Malev Hungarian – the local airline!
If you are looking for info on Budapest check out http://www.budapest.com
The local currency is HUF (Hungarian Forint) (1 EUR aproximately is 250 HUF)
Modes of transport in city are: Bus, Tram and Metro.
Get the Budacard for travel and free entry to museums and also discounts in hotels, tours, etc.
If you are going shopping, bargain!
Local people do not speak English but are very friendly.
And last but not least, be prepared to be bowled over by these beautiful twin cities.