Budapest en Español: the Spanish Guide to Budapest – Part 1 & 2

Here’s Javier Martin from Planeta Infinito, desculpe, Planeta Finito presenting Budapest in Spanish. It’s really funny and informative. For those who want to practice their Spanish before coming to Hungary – even though it sounds a bit confused, the program is highly recommended. (I hope the videos won’t be taken down)

As Wikipedia writes:

Planeta Finito es un programa televisivo de viajes en el que un personaje famoso recorre un destino turístico del mundo para mostrar su historia y peculiaridades. Su formato se basa en el conocido programa de viajes Lonely Planet, donde los presentadores iban a diferentes partes del planeta. Está producido por Globomedia y se emite los sábados sobre las 19:00 horas en LaSexta.

And the videos in several parts

Part 1: Planeta Finito: Budapest (public transport, Buda Castle, Labyrinth)

Part 2: Planeta Finito: Budapest (Fishermen’s Bastion, Matthias Church, Cafe Ruszwurm, Restaurant Gundel, Children’s Railway, St Gellért Statue, Gellért Spa Bath, Four Seasons Gresham Palace)

Budapest Bike Rentals: Where Can You Rent a Bicycle?

OK, so you want to rent a bike in Budapest? Make your bike rental decision informed. Riding a bike in Budapest is fun and not fun: conditions are not so much acceptable presently, although Budapest could potentially offer one of the greatest urban cycling experiences ever. Once the bike culture will be even more improved (more careful drivers, a lot more biking routes)… and cycling in Budapest will be in the top ten things to do in Budapest!

Attitude towards biking in Budapest has changed a lot in the past few years, the Critical Mass movement has grown stronger than ever, and luckily, more and more Budapest pubs and bars offer bike parking facilities, especially the so called ruin pubs. So enjoy it, but don’t expect to have conditions like in Amsterdam. Here’s a pic from Budapest Critical Mass :)

Good to know:

  • Geography: Budapest has two parts. Buda is hilly and Pest is totally flat, easy to bike. In some places there are quite good bike routes along the river Danube, mostly on the Buda side
  • Public transport with bike: you cannot travel on the metro= underground with bike. On trains you must buy a ticket for your bike (nominal fee, but a must).
  • Biking routes: bike routes are oftentimes shared with pedestrians, who are not used to speeding bikers, please be careful.
  • Cars vs. Bikes: car drivers don’t really like bikers (euphemism), and unfortunately won’t typically yield to bikers or pedestrians – again, be careful.
  • Bike thieves: unlike in the Netherlands, for instance, you should NOT leave your bike unlocked – it will disappear in a moment. Lock it safely, lock it well.

There are some bike rental places in Budapest (some ask for a deposit). The ones that are conveniently located are the following:

Bike Base

BikeBase bicycle rental offers a wide range of bikes, from MTBs to city cruisers, plus you can also rent customized biking tours in Budapest.

  • Bikes: from mountain bikes through city cruisers to children’s bikes, something to suit all ages and styles.
  • Extras: (included in the price) helmet, locks, tour tips, map, if outside Budapest: panniers, repair tool kit
  • Address: Podmaniczky utca 19, 1065 Budapest
  • Phone: 00-36-70-625-85-01 or 00-36-1-269-59-83
  • Opening hours: 9 am – 7 pm (earlier or later too, if arranged via phone)
  • Rental prices:

9 EUR (2 600 HUF) for 24h
16 EUR (4 600 HUF) for 48h
Special price for longterm rent. If you cannot pick up or return the bike to the shop, for a nominal fee, Bike Base will collect or deliver anywhere within Budapest city limits.

Budapest Bike

Besides renting bikes here, the guys at Budapest Bike also promise to take you to places you should not but might miss, to help with avoiding tourist traps while in Budapest, to point out where to go and what to see. You can also rent biking tours here for about 5000 HUF (dirt cheap in Budapest), or Pub Crawl bike tours (min 4 pubs, 4 hours) for 20 euros. Bikes can be rented for 3 or more days 2500HUF /day and you can hire tandem bikes too.

  • Bikes: Gepida Alboins (women’s & men’s)
  • Extras: (included in the price) helmet, chain, lock and limited insurance as stated in the rental contract.
  • Address: Wesselenyi u. 18. Budapest 1077
  • Phone: 00-36-30-944-5533
  • Rental Prices:

6 hours: 2000HUF
1 day: 3000HUF
2 day: 5000HUF
3 or more days 2500HUF/day

Budapest Tourist Map shows the different bike rental locations (check the green bicycle map icon)

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Bringo Hinto

BringoHinto rental offers bikes and bike carts or kids cars, etc. on Margitsziget (Margaret Island).

  • Bikes: mountain & city bikes, adult and kid bike carts
  • Address: Hajos Alfred setany 1., Budapest 1138
  • Phone: 00-36-329-2746

Free Riders bike rental, Budapest

Free Riders bicycle rental is close to Petofi Bridge, so you can take a ride to the Palace of Arts, to Rakoczi Bridge, etc. 

  • Bikes: not specified
  • Extras: helmet, lock, basket container, etc.
  • Address: Lonyay street 60. Budapest, District  IX. (close to Petofi Bridge on the Pest side)
  • Phone: 00-36-30 816 4192 or 00-36 30 816 4192
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 14.00-18.00, closed at weekends
  • Prices:

1-5 h 300 HUF/ hour
24 h 3,000 HUF
24+ h 2,000 HUF
Deposit is HUF 10,000

Some useful Cycling words in Hungarian:

  • bike: bringa (brin-gah), bico (bits-oh), bicaj (bi-tsoi)
  • bicycle: kerekpar (care-ache-phaar)
  • wheel: kerek (care-ache)
  • pump: pumpa (poom-pah)
  • lock: lakat (lock-ot)
  • berel (bay-rel)

Please help me to update the info. Thanks.

Budapest Wine Shopping: Hungarian House of Wines

The Hungarian House of Wines (Magyar Borok Háza) is in Budapest Castle District right next to the Matthias Church. The House not only has a nice and comprehensive exhibition summarizing the Hungarian wine culture, but they also offer wine tasting sessions in the dramatic maze-like cellar of the House.

The wines have been carefully picked from all the 22 wine-regions of Hungary, from Villany & Szekszard to Eger & Tokaj. There are about 700 different Hungarian wines & sparkling wines. The wine-exhibition, which is available in English, German, and French, gives a unique overview of Hungarian.


Wine Tasting at the Magyar Borok Háza

What kind of wines will you try?

You can try both typical Hungarian wines (which are considered Hungaricums), and the local varieties of international wines. The Hungarian wines on the tasting tour change month by month. Tasting Tokaj wines of the greatest value (prize-winning 5-6 puttonyos Tokaj aszú) is not part of the default wine tour, it comes at an extra price . It was the French king Louis XIV who said of Tokaji aszú “the wine of kings and the king of wines.”

How many wines will you taste?

You will get access to 50 different wines per tour, and it’s up to you which of them you try (just flushing your mouth as the experts do is a good idea to attempt to fight off the sneaky little goblets).

Where can you buy tickets?

On location. Tickets for the wine-tasting tour can be bought at the reception desk (opposite the main entrance). Tokens for the extra Tokaj 5 & 6 star aszú are also sold here.

What does the wine tasting session include?

  • participation in a 2-hour wine-tour
  • engraved tasting glass
  • small savory snacks with cheese: e.g. cheese scones (‘pogácsa’)
  • the map of the wine cellar

Address: Szentháromság tér 6. Budapest 1014
Phone: 00-36-1-212 10 31
Opening hours: 12pm – 8 pm
Prices: approx. 4,000 HUF (yes, basically only the price of a bottle of good wine)
Getting here:
1, from Deák tér, take bus number 16 (almost at Hotel Kempinski & Le Meridien)
2, take the red metro line till Moszkva tér, then get on the minibus, or just take a 10-15 minute walk up the hill.

Check the location of Hungarian House of Wines on the Budapest Shopping Map (check the Glass sign for wine shops & further wine buying details in Budapest) or read more about Hungarian wines on Budapest Blog.


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Anyway, the House of Hungarian Wines was founded in 1996 as a private enterprise. Wine growing in Hungary goes back to the Roman times. The best known wines are Bull’s Blood from Eger (Egri bikavér red wine) and the noble-rot-sweetened white wines from Tokaj (Tokaji aszú), but things are slowly changing and other wine regions (especially Villany) are getting their due international appreciation too in the world wine web.

Market Halls in Budapest: Fény Utcai Piac

Fény Utca Market Hall (Fény utcai Piac) is located just behind the Mammut Shopping Mall. It is not as elegantly rustic, and architecturally grand as the Vásárcsarnok (Central Market Hall) on the Pest side, but it is a good market with fresh fruits, vegetables, paprika, home-made dairy products and honey, bakery, herbs, fish, meat, poultry, and an amazingly good Lángos (fried dough)!

There are about 10,000 – 25,000 shoppers at the market per day.

Feny Market Hall Feny utcai Piac in Budapest

Address: Lövőház utca 12., Budapest Hungary
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 6am-6pm, Sat 2pm, Sun (up to individual vendors)
Phone: 00-36-1-345-4101
Getting here:

  • Metro: red line, get off at Moszkva tér stop and walk 2 min towards Mammut Shopping Mall.
  • Trams/ Streetcars: number 4 or 6, Moszkva tér stop

Location of Budapest Fény Market on the Budapest Shopping Map:


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What else can you do at Fény utca Market Hall?

Once you decide to go to Fény Piac in Budapest, you can connect this program with various other programs:

Mammut Shopping Mall (from high end boutiques to international journals, electronics, perfumes, books & maps, batteries, sports equipment, restaurants, cafes, bars, movies, arcade games etc.) – right next to the market (basically one building). Children-friendly places: Child care (in Mammut 2 building), Libri Book store with a kid section, Movie, McDonald’s, etc.

Millenary Park (Millenáris Park): a huge complex offering ongoing entertainment, and educational programs, surrounded by a bigger park

Buda Palace in the Castle District: from the market it should take about 15 minutes or so to go up the hill to the Castle District on foot (you can take the Vár minibus from Moszkva tér – make sure you have a ticket or a Budapest pass)

Children’s Railway: it’s about 35 min to go up to the Children’s Railway on Széchenyi hegy (see detailed explanation about the mini train, the attractions, location etc. in the Children’s Railway Budapest article). By taking the train, you can also get to the highest point of Budapest where there is a nice Lookout tower (Elisabeth) on the hill ( János hegy). Good for taking panorama photos.

Turkish Baths in Budapest: Kiraly, Rac, Rudas Furdo

Turkish Baths in Budapest are inviting you to soak in the steaming water, relax and marvel at the mysteriously lit domes with half closed eyes. Just recall that engulfing feeling when you dissolve in your home tub after a tiring day.

Now multiply it with the strange radiation of medieval centuries and a sense of freedom holidays give you (plus the bigger bath and extras, of course). If you like relaxing in water, Budapest, the City of Spas is a must have on your travel list. Just remember, Turkish baths in Hungary are quite different from Turkish baths in Turkey: no people with buckets of water and bubble baths sitting on marble slabs, no harsh rubbing massages. Instead, the focus is on the water, and smoother massages.

Currently the only Turkish bath in Budapest that is also part of a spa hotel is Rac Bath, which still has not opened its gates, although the bath complex and the luxury hotel is ready to be used, completely finished, but losing millions each month due to legal issues. Until they sort out the legal mess, here is a list of Budapest spa hotels.

Turkish Baths in Budapest Kiraly Rudas Rac Csaszar Furdo

Most tourists will know the non-Turkish Szechenyi Baths and Gellert Baths, the two most popular & family-friendly spa baths in Budapest. In Szechenyi bath you don’t need to check if the bath is for men or for women only. But if you want to make your spa experience culturally spicy, and architecturally unique, try one of the few Turkish baths in Budapest, which were built in the 16th-17th century – and are still functioning.

Budapest Turkish Baths

In Budapest, you will find the following Turkish baths:

  • Rudas Furdo/ Rudas Bath built in 1550. Turkish name: Jesil direkli iligesi
  • Kiraly Furdo/ Kiraly Baths) built in 1565. Turkish name: Horoz kapi iligesi
  • Rác Furdo/ Rac Bath built in the 16th century on the previously flourishing bath used by Hungarian kings (King Matthias accessed the bath from his palace through a direct corridor). It is to re-open in about 2009 (coming complete with a luxurious hotel & a deep garage, plus expanded with an elevator to the Citadel). Turkish name: Debagghane/ Kücük iligesi
  • Csaszar Furdo/ Emperor Spa Bath, now known as Veli Bej Bath after its Turkish equivalent built in the 16th century. It’s the odd one out as the bath is closed for the general public (is owned by the Order of Hospitallers). The spa bath is originally from the Roman times. It was one of the most lavishly built baths, directly connected with corridors to the monastery of dervishes. Turkish name: Veli bej iliges

Not all existing baths were used by the Ottoman Turks as Turkish baths: most notably, Lukács Spa Bath was used “to produce gunpowder and for grinding wheat.” Although Lukács bath was founded in the 12th century by the Knights of St. John.

See Budapest Spa Baths (including the Turkish baths) in the Budapest Tourist Map (blue wave sign):


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But let’s have a look at the history of Turkish baths in Budapest, Hungary.

Why are there Turkish Baths in Hungary at all?

No, not out of free will or economic consideration, nor out of fad like in Victorian England. The truth is that Hungary did not want to have Turkish baths at all – especially not in the 16th century, when the ‘Muslim Turkish meant a great threat to the Christian Europe’. But as the Hungarian armies led by King Louis II were defeated by the Turks led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in a very decisive battle at Mohács in 1526, the Ottoman Turkish took over (the remainder of) Hungary. (I mean remainder as the previous Hungarian Kingdom was divided into 3 big chunks, one for the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy, one for Sultan Suleiman and one for the autonomous princes of Transylvania).

During the 150 years of Ottoman Turkish rule (from 1526 to 1699), more and more Turkish people (janissary, dervish, pasha, etc.) settled down in Hungary, so more and more Turkish baths were needed as part of the everyday social and religious life. Some of the Turkish baths were built on former baths built by the Romans (mixing the steam-based Turkish with the water-based Roman style), while others were made from scratch. The Turks have built at least 40 spa baths (or hamam) on the medicinal water springs they have found in Hungary. In his Seyahatname (Book of Travels), Evliya Çelebi Turkish traveler mentions 70 baths of 42 places, but as far as we know today, his work is to taken with a pinch of salt.

Building Turkish Baths was an excellent financial investment for the Turkish aristocracy as there was a steadily growing market demand for hygienic Turkish baths in the 1550’s. In addition, building a bath was a good deed that increased the believer’s chances to get a good final judgment. Over time, not only Turkish but many other (Christian and Jewish) residents frequented these baths. Hungarian historians don’t fail to point out that Hungary benefited from the Turkish occupation through taking over its widespread bathing culture, and in fact learning everyday hygienics, which was not very well observed in Europe in the middle ages. But it’s equally important to point out that it was not the Ottoman Turks who brought baths as a novelty in the conquered Hungarian kingdom: the first findings of baths go back to the Celtics, then to the Roman Emperor Claudius (relief saying “aquae calidae superiores et inferiores” i.e. “better and worse warm waters”), then to the 12th century, etc.

According to Katalin Kéri Dr., “men, women and children filled the baths of the Islamic empire in those centuries when in the medieval Europe little care was paid to personal hygiene.” Ritual bathing, at least once a week, also meant that the world made by Allah is taken care of, including your own body, beauty and health. Beauty and health reflected the creator’s perfection. And as everything is related, the Ottoman Turkish placed special emphasis on the individual responsibility for preserving one’s own health. The number of baths was an indicator of the richness of a city. But these numbers were many times exaggerated (e.g. Baghdad in the 9-10th century was said to have had between 60,000 and 200,000 Turkish baths…).

The most entrepreneurial Turkish bath-builder was the Bosnian Sokollu Mehmet Pasha who alone had 16 Turkish baths built in Hungary. The beautiful baths in Buda bear the Turkish architectural features: the central dome studded with small eyelet windows, niches with fountains, etc. After the Turkish rule of 150 years, most steam baths (e.g. in Siklós, Pécs, Szeged, Tata, etc.) were turned into churches, schools, saltpeter-makers, and so on. In contrast, several thermal baths remained functional as baths for many many years.

Fast forward to the 21st century: four of the Turkish baths were well preserved, and in the last couple of years considerable investments have been made to reconstruct and even expand them.

Turkish travelogues as sources

Besides architectural features, historical Ottoman administrative documents, and Christian travelogues (e.g. the Tzech Vratislav Vencel or Auer Ferdinand from Bratislava) researchers have used several old travelogues written by Turkish travelers: e.g.

Menázir’l-aválim made by Âşık Mehmet bin Háfiz Ömer er-rúmí (?-1598),
Tergüme-i Coğrafya-ı Kebîr made by Ebu Bekir bin Behram ed-Dimiscinec (?-1690/1691)
manuscript of Süleymâniye Kütüphânesi
Seyahatname (Book of Travels) made by Evliya Çelebi
The biography of Sokollu Mustafa made by anonymous author in 1591 in Buda

Sources: (in Hungarian) Terebess: The history of Turkish baths in Hungary

Budapest Children’s Railway: A Cheerful Blink From The Pioneer Past

Budapest Children’s Railway is not only an ideal program for those who come to Budapest with little kids, or who simply fell in love in (and with) Budapest and want to see the gentle green forest, the panorama, the old nostalgia trains, and to spend a nice sunny day away from the hustle and bustle. It is also a great historical tour: going through 50 years of the pioneer history in the adjoining Children’ Railway Museum.

Budapest Childrens Railway at Normafa stop in summer

Opening hours:
May-August every day from 9am to 7pm
September-April: (except for Mondays) every day. from 9am to 5pm
Phone: 00-36-1-397 5392
Prices:

  • Adults: one-way ticket for a few stops 450 HUF, full line ticket 600 HUF (return 1200 HUF)
  • Children (6-14): one-way ticket for a few stops 250 HUF, full line ticket 300 HUF (return 600 HUF). Kids under 6 travel free. Budapest card enables you & a kid to buy full line tickets at the price of a ticket for a few stops.
  • Pets (with lead and muzzle): 100 HUF
  • Family daily ticket: HUF 3000

Pioneer working at Budapest Childrens Railway

Getting here: the Children’s Railway is in the Buda hills (the hilly Buda side of Budapest), so don’t expect a central location. It’s about 35-50 minutes by public transportation from the city center. First go to Moszkva tér (red line metro), take a tram (choose either from 18, 56 or 59 – people speak English, so ask them where the stop is) and get off at the 2nd stop called Fogaskereku Vasut (Cogwheel Railway). Hop on the Cogwheel Railway and lean back until the terminal. You are at Szechenyi-hegy (Szechenyi hill), walk a few steps, and you are at one end of the Children’s Railway line. You can take a return tour if you are only here for the railroad ride.

But if you want to walk or get to know another part of Budapest, buy only a one-way ticket, get off at the terminal called Hűvösvölgy (‘Cool Valley’) and take the trams (again, choose either from 18 or 56) for about 13 stop to get back to Moszkva tér. Or get off at János hegy, check out the highest point of the Buda hills at the lookout tower called Erzsébet kilátó, and then take the Chairlift downwards. Number 158 bus takes you back to Moszkva tér again.

I would recommend another third way to get to the Children’s Railway from Moszkva tér though, which won’t take you to the terminal, but to the 1st stop called Normafa. Take buses 21 or 90 (about 16 stops or 20 minutes), get off at Normafa, try the freshly made strudel with mulled wine at the strudel vendor, or the goulash in the ski house (both great and highly popular in winter), or some more exquisite courses at the Normafa Cafe and Grill, which has a lovely, family-friendly summer terrace (open from 12 to 24). At Normafa stop, don’t expect a building for the Children’s Railway, it is a stop, wait, get on, and get your ticket from one of the children railway guys.

Location of Children’s Railway (map icon: blue train) on the Budapest Tourist Map. If you are specifically interested in other ex-communist traces in Hungary, check out the red flames icons for more tips.


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FAQ of Budapest Children’s Railway
Is it true that the trains are operated by kids?
Yes, it is. Children aged 10 to 14 years of age control the traffic, operate railroad switches & signals, sell and validate tickets, etc. under the supervision of adults (many times former kid employees of the Children’s Railway). The train/ engine itself is driven by an experienced adult. However, the railway is not a children’s toy train – all services and operations are in line with the regulations of any other railway line of the Hungarian State Railways (MÁV).
How long is the ride?
Length: 11 km/ 6.8 miles. Duration: about 40 minutes (full length from Szechenyi hegy to Huvosvolgy)
Is there any good Budapest panoramic view?
Sure, just by getting on top of the hill, you’ll surely have some nice photos of the beautiful view. Plus, on the train, you can get an exceptionally good glimpse of Budapest from a height of 323 meter/ 0.2 miles between Szepjuhaszne and Harshegy stops. Further places: Szechenyi Memorial Lookout, Erzsébet Lookout (527 m/ 0.3 miles).
Are there any special programs at the Children’s Railway?
Yes, there are. Quite a lot of them, from spring to fall. March 15 sees hundreds of people participating in a 6-hour tour from the foot to the top of the hill: the route touches upon the major spots of the Children’s Railway and some other memorable places in the neighborhood. The tour is about 6 km in length, starting from Széchenyi hegy leading to Hűvösvölgy. Join the tour for a nominal fee, get your map and off you go. Spots are to be ticked off in order and you can expect warm lunch at the end of the tour (included in the price). :) April 12: the day of the Children’s Railway. May 25 is Children’s Day celebrated at the Children’s Railway. June 14 Graduation ceremony for new children’s rail staff, June 23 Museum Night, July 31- Aug 03 (in 2008): 60 year old birthday of the Children’s Railway, Aug 20: the firework tour on August 20 (a Hungarian national public holiday, the celebration of bread, the Hungarian state and the first king), Aug 24 Farewell party of young children’s railway professionals, Sept 13 Nostalgia Day.

Check out this great video on Budapest Children’s Railway (yes, kids still salute the train and travelers):

History of Budapest Children’s Railway

The idea of the Children’s Railway in Budapest came only two years after the end of WW2, in 1947, and in a year (strictly in line with the expectations of the government) in 1948 the first 3 km of the railway was completed, the first couple of boys and girls aged 12-14 took part in a six-week course and started to operate the Children’s Railway (in the beginning it was called either children’s or pioneer railway). Mind you, some people were quite unhappy about the Children’s railway. There were opponents: those who doubted that kids could possibly run such a serious institution, and those who wanted to allocate resources to re-build the country elsewhere.

The Children’s Railway was modeled after the pioneer railways in the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. The aim was not simply a railway for and by kids, but the establishment of a tightly-knit children’s community. Needless to say, the plot for the Children’s Railway (as well as the neighboring pioneer mega-camp, also called Pioneer Republic in Csillebérc, Budapest, also build at that time) was a free gift from the Budapest municipality. By 1949, the second, more challenging part of the Children’s Railway was given over. There was special attention paid to the design: panoramic view and a tunnel were default, so they added a fancy tunnel of 198 m length to make the railway trip more interesting. The first elevator in Hungary was also built here, for the Children’s Railway. In 1956, during the Hungarian revolution against the Soviet dictatorship and occupation, the railway stopped working: but people saw the railway more for kids and families than as the emblem of autocracy, so there was no damaged caused. As the communist regime forgot to notify the Pioneer Railway management that the railway services should be resumed, the director sat down with the kids and decided to resume normal services at their own responsibility. Strangely enough, nobody made a big fuss about it. From the 1950s to the 1970s about 6-700,000 people used it per year (these days it’s about 300,000). It was extremely popular and it was a great pride to be a pioneer railway girl/boy.

After the change of regime in 1989, the Children’s Railway way reconstructed, and modernized. The communist red star emblems disappeared from the trains, the red scarves of the pioneers were replaced with blue ones, and the Children’s Railway pioneers stopped greeting each other with the traditional pioneer greeting ‘Előre’ (which means approx. “Forward!”). Instead, they just used the normal Hungarian greetings in accordance with the daily hours. Another big change was making the Pioneer Railway Museum public (earlier it was restricted to special guests).

Photos and info from the official Children’s Railway site.

Gellért Spa Bath in Budapest: Merry Healing in Art Deco Environment

Gellert Bath in Budapest/ Gellért Fürdő (say: Gal-ay-rt Fur-dur ) is one of the most frequented spa baths in Budapest by locals and tourists alike. Gellert Spa Bath is located in Hotel Gellert (Danubius Hotel Gellert), but the thermal spa bath is open for the general public (there is a separate entrance for non-hotel guests). Both the hotel and the spa bath are in a fascinating Art Nouveau – Art Deco building (including Hungarian folk art motifs, phenomenal colorful lead glasses and painted eosin mosaics).

The quality of the thermal water is superb (already in use in the 15th century!). In addition, Gellert Furdo has 13 baths including a wave bath and a children’s pool, so it is not only recreational but it’s fun. Needless to say, there are pampering massages, treatments, drinking cures, etc. Gellert Spa Bath – as part of Hotel Gellert Budapest was built in 1918. There are 13 baths 20-38 °C (68-100 degrees Fahrenheit).

See the Frequently Asked Questions about Gellert Bath and the Video at the bottom!

Gellert Spa Bath Budapest Hungary Gellert Furdo montage

The thermal water is recommended for:
damaged joints (e.g. worn hip and knee joints), degenerative diseases, arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis or Bechterew’s disease, low back pain or lumbago, after accidents as a post therapy.
Address: Kelenhegyi út 4, Budapest, H-1118, check its location on the Budapest Tourist map (blue waves indicate major spa baths)
Location: Gellert Spa Bath is on the Buda side, almost at the foot of Liberty Bridge Budapest (Szabadsághíd), next to Gellert Hill, which is a great green area with the Statue of Liberty and a superb panoramic view of the Pest side of Budapest with the Parliament, Chain Bridge, Basilica, Gresham Palace, etc.
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 6am to 8pm
Phone: 00-36-1-466-6166
Getting there: Trams/ Streetcars: 18,19, 47, 49, Buses: 7 (green normal, not the red express!), 86
Prices: general admission with cabin HUF 5,300. There are all kinds of massages available, which can be booked online in advance for your convenience.

More  in depth info about Budapest Baths


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Miscellaneous: Saint Gellert (also known as St Gerard) was a Hungarian bishop who came from Italy to spread Christianity and educate the son of the first Hungarian king, St Stephen in the 11th century. Pagans threw him off the Gellert Hill. Unfortunately, Gellert Furdo is slightly worn down and will need some reconstruction to get back its truly five-star beauty.

Gellert Furdo FAQ

Are the baths inside or outside?
Baths are both outside and inside.
Is Gellert Spa Bath closed in winter?
No, it is open all year, on weekdays from 6am to 7pm, and at weekends from 6am to 5pm (except for some public holidays).
When is it the best time to go to Gellért Fürdő?
Well, that’s a good question. Although Gellert Furdo has 13 baths, weekends tend to be crowded, so it is worth going there a bit earlier.
Do you need anything else than yourself, a swim gear and money?
A towel, flip-flops or rubber shoes (for general hygienic and preventive reasons too), and water-resistant purse for the buffet or for massages & treatments will come in handy (although you can hire some of them for a nominal price). If you want to swim laps in the pool, besides using the thermal baths, you will need a swim cap too.
Can you book massages in advance?
No, unfortunately, massages cannot be pre-arranged. Gellert Spa Bath is operated on a first come first served basis.
Is Gellert Furdo good for children?
Yes, Gellért Spa Bath is a family-friendly place. For instance, there is an outside bath whose thermal water starts to wave periodically: its gradient depth ranges from 0.4m/1.30 feet to 2.75m/ 9 feet) . Then there’s a separate children’s spa bath (30 degrees Celsius/ 86 degrees Fahrenheit and 0.4 m/ 1.31 feet deep). Nevertheless, the spa bath is still a calm thermal bath and not a water amusement park (no big and complex slides, spring boards, etc.).
Shall I go to Gellért or Széchenyi Spa Bath?
Ideally, you should try both baths to discover which suits better your tastes. Both are located in a beautiful building (Szechenyi is neo-baroque, Gellert is fabulous art-deco). Both have world-renowned healing properties and good massages. Gellert Spa Bath might be a bit more touristy as it’s located in Hotel Gellert, while Szechenyi Furdo is an individual spa bath (note: contracted with several Budapest hotels). In addition, Szechenyi Spa Bath is slightly less expensive than Gellert Spa Bath (e.g. admission with cabin: 2,800 HUF vs. 3,100 HUF). Gellert might be a better choice for families with kids though, but several travelers suggest Szechenyi for children. Good question. Let me know what you found out: add your comments, please.

Do you know of the best Spa Hotels in Budapest?

We think that Hotel Gellert is really great, but may seem a bit outdated, if you want something high-end, upscale, and are willing to splurge. Here is a good list of the best Budapest spa hotels, and if you ask us, we recommend Corinthia Hotel Budapest.
How do you get from Keleti railway station to Gellért Spa Bath?
The easiest and quickest way is to take the red line Metro at Keleti pu. until Astoria. At Astoria, get off and take the green number 7 bus, which will take you over the Elisabeth Bridge to the Buda side. About 3 stops. See the Gellert Hill and the nice Hotel? There you are!

Watch Gellert Spa Bath Budapest on this video made with Michael Palin (comedian, writer, Monty Python member, as well as maker and presenter of several BBC travel documentaries). Hey, one of my favorite comedians!

Dining in Budapest: Lángos, the filling snack

Fresh Hungarian Lángos Fried Dough

Hungarian Snack Langos fried sour dough

Lángos (say lahn-gosh) is a sort of salty fried dough, usually served with sour cream (tejföl in Hungarian) and grated cheese. It was originally a by-product of making bread. There are all sorts of toppings, including cabbage, mushroom, beef, ham, etc.
Tips: put some garlic sauce, or if you are a garlic fan like we are, rub lots of garlic on top of the lángos, before adding the sour cream & cheese toppings, to make it even tastier. Don’t look at the calories, enjoy the little vice of your taste buds! Lángos is especially great as a beer snack, or an afternoon snack. But you will surely enjoy it without a beer too. :)

Warning: if your lángos is not fresh and is too oily, you are at the wrong place! Escape and try one of the following places below (Fény utca should be a good tip).

Price ranges: plain lángos (like the one to the left) is about 140-160 HUF (about half a euro or 0.77 USD) while turbo lángos with extra toppings is about twice as much.

Where can you buy good Lángos in Budapest?

There are not many super-pleasant places in Budapest where you can try lángos, especially not in restaurants and bars – don’t ask why, it would be an excellent idea! Instead, you can try the pleasant market halls in Budapest and some other places. And once you decide to try lángos, don’t start with the plain ones: choose something with loads of toppings. Here’s a photo of the classic Tejfölös-sajtos lángos (lángos with sour cream and grated cheese) made by Eszter:

Tejfölös-sajtos lángos (lángos with sour cream and grated cheese)

Here’s a short list to start your Lángos tour with (not in order of quality):

1, Vásárcsarnok, or Central Market Hall (higher prices , smaller sizes) is always inviting

2, Another great place to try lángos is the Market Hall in Fény utca: it is right behind Mammut Shopping Mall on the Buda side (the name is Fény utcai piac, say approx. ‘faign ootsai pee-ats’). Some say that lángos with cabbage here is a great choice, and lángos is less oily in Fény utcai Market, which is important.

3, A lot less touristy, truly rustic place is the Lehel tér piac, another big market hall very much frequented by locals, especially from the less rich strata (oftentimes cheaper than Vásárcsarnok). Beware, the building of Lehel Market Hall is really tasteless, some say it was the revenge of the architect on Budapest. But the main point is lángos, and you will find it there too.

4, If you happen to be in Budapest during the Christmas holidays, try lángos on Vörösmarty tér: usually there is a beautiful folk market on Vörösmarty square, and also great food and drinks, e.g. lángos and mulled wine.

(from now on, I will mainly rely on a great Lángos test, made by Eszter Fűszeres in November 2007 – in Hungarian)

5, Garay utca piac – temporarily moved to Rottenbiller utca (according to locals, the best version is Hungarian lángos with the Greek tzatziki, but many bought Lángos with ham and ketchup).

6, 58-as Lángoskert (Lángos Garden Buffet): great lángos, spacious place for up to 40 people. Only open from spring to autumn and is operating in an old streetcar named desire Lángos.

See the Lángos Locations on the Budapest Tourist Map (click on the yellow basket signs to see detailed info on the food markets):


View Larger Map

Read more about the Best Restaurants in Budapest or the Best Cafes in Budapest.

Did you know?

Most Hungarians associate Lángos with holidays spent at Lake Balaton (the ‘Hungarian sea’ as we call the great Hungarian fresh-water lake). It is great between two dips, and you will surely find lángos makers in almost every town at Lake Balaton, too.

I think, most people in Hungary think of Lángos as a savoury snack (salty not sweet) and Fánk (another deep fried dough or doughnut) is what is eaten sweet. But some people mention eating lángos sweet with sugar, jam, cinnamon, etc. Apparently, Hungarians living in Transylvania eat lángos with fruit spread, sweet.

Lángos (or lángus), is also sold in other neighboring countries, such as Austria, Romania, Serbia, etc.

Vásárcsarnok in Budapest: Central Market Hall

Vásárcsarnok (Central Market Hall) in Budapest offers a great rustic market experience in a beautiful building: you can buy several Hungaricums, as well as organic vegetables, home-made andouille sausages, salamis, pastries, etc. Great place for buying gifts, souvenirs (e.g. Szeged or Kalocsa paprika, embroidered tablecloths, blouses, Hungarian spirits like Zwack Unicum, cans of goose liver, various Russian dolls, etc.). As you can see all sorts of people here Vásárcsarnok (say: vaash-are-char-knock) is also a great place for people-watching! Here’s a photo of Budapest Vasarcsarnok on a less busy day:

Vasarcsarnok Budapest Central Market Hall on a less busy day

What is worth trying?
Tastes differ, but for a gastronomical tour you may wish to try the following foods, dishes, drinks:

  • Lángos (say laan-gosh) is a sort of salty fried dough, usually served with sour cream and grated cheese (Tip: put some garlic dip on top of the lángos, under the sour cream & cheese toppings, to make it even tastier). Don’t look at the calories, enjoy the little vice of your taste buds! :) Lángos is a great favorite of Hungarians especially in summer between two dips in the water on beaches and lidos (e.g. at Lake Balaton, on Csillaghegyi Strand, etc.)
  • Goulash soup: forget the canned versions of goulash and try the real Hungarian goulash for authenticity. It is filling and great with some spicy paprika.
  • Organic fruits: try some organic fruits produced in Hungary. I suggest the wide variety of apples, pears, apricots, peaches, plums. Yummy. They might not be huge & pleasing to the eye, but they are not watery, they are really full of flavor.

Opening hours: Mon: 6.00 am – 5.00 pm, Tue-Fri: 6.00 am – 6.00 pm, Sat: 6.00 am – 3.00 pm, Sun: closed
Address: Vámház körút 3, Budapest Hungary
Phone: 00-36-1-366-3300
Getting here:

  • Trams/ streetcars: number 2, 47 or 49
  • Metro: blue line, get off at Kálvin tér stop and walk towards the River Danube for about 5 min.

Vásárcsarnok, Central Market Hall on the Budapest Tourist Map (see the yellow basket in the middle):


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Video of Budapest Central Market Hall
Here’s the video made for budapestinfo.hu:

If you are absolutely in the shopping mood in Budapest, here’s a great map for Budapest Shopping,, nothing else but shopping: ranging from wine shops through designer jewelry or hats to fake 18th century umbrellas on the Ecseri flea market. The different types of shops and stores are color and symbol coded, which hopefully will save you time, money & headache. For example, click on the symbol of a Cocktail Glass for wines, spirits, palinka etc.


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History of Vásárcsarnok Budapest

The idea of establishing a central market hall came in the 1860s. In fact, the idea was not simply to have a well organized venue for selling foods and farm produces, but also to improve the quality of products by ensuring quality assurance standards in the new market. The newly formed Food Committee put together a proposal in 1883 to establish market halls. They chose the present venue of the Central Market Hall in Fővám Square, on the site of the Salt depot. The location was very logical as it could be easily accessed from the River Danube, by rail, by wagons, or on foot. As the plot was the property of the state treasury, “the royal government relinquished the plot for the sake of the capital”, according to the history of Vásárcsarnok. There was a tender for design announced in 1892. The most practical design came from Samu Pecz, and basically the Central Market Hall was built from 1894 to 1896.

design from 1893 for Vásárcsarnok Central Market Hall Budapest
Samu Pecz’s design for the Fővám Square front (1893

Just ten days before the completion of the market, however, there was a sudden fire breakout, which caused serious damages. The investigation into the fire accident, which lasted for a whole year, could not reveal what caused the fire. Then Samu Pecz started the repair works, this time with additional structures in order to increase safety. Petz worked with well established names in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, like Schlick (iron foundry making the steelwork for the building), or Zsolnay (making the pyrogranite coloured ceramic roof tiles), etc. The Central Market Hall finally opened its gates in 1897. The Central Market Hall supplied goods both to the capital and the countryside, and people were not always satisfied. Clients often complained that traders lacked manners and cheated with the measures.

Zsolnay tiles on Vásárcsarnok roof, Central Market Hall Budapest
Zsolnay pyrogranite loft ventilation caps and chimney pots on the Fővám Square front

The Association of Market Hall Traders established in 1897 was formed to solve such problems, come up with better rules to create a fair competition. However, when World War I broke out and the market police disappeared from the Central Market Hall, prices surged, so police had to be called back to resume order. Unfortunately, in WW2, the market hall was heavily damaged. Despite reconstructions in the 1960’s, the pillars of the building badly deteriorated, so the market hall was closed down in 1991. Vásárcsarnok was reopened as a protected monument, and a city favorite in 1994. Now you can hear the market hall clocks play Zoltán Kodály’s folksong tune, “I went to the fair…” every hour.

Hungary the Land of Spas and Budapest the City of Spas

Visiting Budapest can not be complete without visiting one of the Budapest baths. There are thermal baths, open air spa baths, lidos and pools in big green parks all over the city. How come?

Gellert Bath

Gellert Bath – Joe Mabel Photography

Why is Budapest the City of Spas?

Hungary is full of wonderful spas, thermal waters, and both Budapest and the countryside (e.g. Zalakaros, Hévíz) can boast about superb thermal baths (at truly affordable prices). Little wonder that in 1937 Budapest officially became the City of Spas at the first World Federation of Hydrotherapy and Climatotherapy, for short FEMTEC conference held in Budapest with the participation of 37 countries.

Even the first president of the World Federation of Hydrotherapy was a Hungarian man (József Ferenc) Unfortunately, during the communist era, spa baths were very hard to be accessed for western travelers daring through the iron curtain. But since 1989, Hungary has been open to everybody who wishes to relax in its thermal baths, and huge investments are being made into the versatile utilization of geothermal energies.

As the old Roman proverb says:

“Balnea, vina, Venus corrumpunt corpora sana,
Corpora sana dabunt balnea, vina, Venus.”

“Baths, wine and love spoils healthy bodies;
but baths, wine and love make up healthy bodies.”

(this ancient Roman proverb was well-known in the Turkish ruled Hungarian city of Eger in the in the Middle Ages, according to chronicles)

Last time, I have written about Szechenyi Furdo, Budapest, probably the most frequented by tourists due to its charm, location, architecture, treatments, etc. This time I will give a short overview of Hungarian spa baths.

How many spa baths are there in Hungary?

Currently there are about 140 registered thermal baths in Hungary, out of which about 10 spa baths are located in Budapest (Csepel Bath and Lido, Dagaly Bath and Lido, Dandar Bath and Lido, Gellert Baths, Kiraly Baths, Lukacs Baths, Paskal Lido and Baths, Palatinus LidoRac Bath, Rudas Bath, Szechenyi Baths, Ujpest Bath) – some are using the same thermal springs. However, according to estimates (sources differ widely), there are about 1300 thermal springs in Hungary (620 wells) – many of which are not simply mineral waters containing magnesium or calcium, etc., but they are proven medicinal waters with various healing properties.

You can see some of the spa baths in Budapest in this nice video:

Why are there so many spa baths in Hungary?

First the Romans, then the Turks have discovered that the area where Hungary is now located is abundant with warm or hot healing waters – some are muddier, others are cleaner, some are good for your legs, arms and joints, others for your lungs, kidney, stomach, etc. Spa waters were recognized by their heat and smell, and soldiers, dervishes, pashas, etc. liked this special luxury – not just for religious but for medical reasons too. But why are there so many of these healing waters? The answer is geothermal energy, i.e. the energy given by the heat of the Earth. This heat preserved in the inner parts of the planet, under the crust, gets to the surface more easily in Hungary as the crust under the country has become thinner over the thousands of years. So much thinner that the average geothermal heat coming from beneath is twice of the European average. Hungary has several geothermal reservoirs, hot springs, more readily available, well before geothermal drilling became a practice. You can find thermal waters under 80% of the Hungarian territory. No wonder, 2008 has been announced as the Year of Waters by the Hungarian Tourism Co.

What are Hungarian spa waters good for?

Of course, over the last 1000-1500 years in the Carpathian basin, people who inhabited these regions have got to know what these waters are best used for to preserve your health. Treating locomotor diseases, stomach complaints are the most typical, but some of the water springs are recommended for gynaecological problems, skin diseases, etc. As thermal waters are not black or white magic, you may wish to check with your doctor if spa baths are recommended for you or not (usually they are not suggested for chronic high-blood pressure, anaemia, during pregnancy, right after heart attacks, etc.).

Remains of the old Spa Culture

Excavations have revealed Celtic and Roman ruins of bath houses, mosaics, remains of frescoes, which show that the Romans used the available spa water resources for heating and bathing alike. Aquincum (literally: Water-city) a military city also inhabited by wine-growers, tradesmen, etc. had bath houses, palaces, amphitheatres, aqueducts, sewers, and it is the most well-known aquacultural memento of the Roman times in Hungary. Originally it served as a border city to protect the outermost territories of the Roman empire. See its location on this reconstructed map (red letter in the upper right part):

Aquincum map in the Roman times now located in Budapest Óbuda

Here’s a photo of the mosaics of the Roman bath (made by khoogheem)

Aquincum Budapest Museum the Roman bath house mosaics

Turkish occupation, Turkish Baths

During the Ottoman Turkish occupation (from 1526 to 1699), the Turks have built at least 40 spa baths (or hamam) on the medicinal water springs they have found in Hungary. It was an excellent financial investment – not just today but already in the 16th century. Turkish architectural features (impressive dome, small windows, niches with fountains, etc.) were well preserved, and in the last couple of years considerable investments have been made to reconstruct the beautiful and mysteriously lit Turkish baths. Alas, only a handful of them are operational these days. In Budapest, you will find Rudas Gyógyfürdő (Rudas Spa Bath from the 1550s), Rác Gyógyfürdő (Rác Spa Bath – formerly known in King Matthias time as the Royal Spa – under construction!), Király Fürdő (Király Spa Bath – built in 1565), as well as the historical Császár Fürdő (Csaszar Spa Bath). In the countryside, you can visit the Turkish Bath in Eger (built in 1610-17), or the Turkish Bath (now only functioning as a Bath Museum) in Pécs.

This is a photo of Rudas Fürdő (Rudas Turkish Bath)

Rudas Fürdő Turkish Spa Bath in Budapest

and a picture of Király Fürdő (Király Turkish Bath)

Király Fürdő Turkish Spa Bath in Budapest

Searching For Oil, Finding Water

In the course of the 18-19th century, there were several attempts made to find oil in Hungary, the liquid gold to make profits everyone was hoping for, which often resulted in finding good quality thermal medicinal waters. Hungarians enjoyed them tremendously, but it took many decades to recognize that the thermal baths and geo thermal energies are the golden mines of Hungary. Not only in Budapest, but all over the country of Hungary new spa and medicinal baths were built, e.g. in Zalakaros, Hajdúszoboszló, Sárvár, Hévíz. Needless to say, the most visited thermal bath houses are in Budapest, so if you take a visit in the Hungarian capital, do not miss the “Baths Budapest” item on the itinerary.

Budapest Funicular Railway: Schedule, History & more

Budapest Funicular railway is one of the most popular programs in Budapest, Hungary. The Funicular Railway offers a beautiful nostalgic ride with one of the most unique city panoramic views in the world: you can see the Chain Bridge arching the River Danube, the opulent Four Seasons Gresham Palace on Roosevelt square the distant green of Margaret Island in Budapest, etc. It is the second funicular built in the whole world (1868-70), and it is the only one that has coaches that look like a three-step staircase. The third unique thing is that you will see (or even walk over) little metal bridges that are arching over the funicular itself. Great for taking photos too!

Operating hours: 7:30 to 22:00 every day (except for maintenance Mondays – every odd week: 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th etc. AND also closed between April 2 & 6 in the spring general maintenance)
Length & time: 1.9 km (1.18 miles) and 7 minutes
Tickets: regular tickets and passes are not valid for the Funicular. You need to buy a separate ticket for about 3 euros/ 4 USD/ 700 HUF.
Alternatives: Of course, you can also take nice walks up the hill (about 15-25 minutes on foot depending on your fitness and urgency – it is about 50 m/ 16.4 ft difference in sea level) or take other means of public transport like the number 16 bus (also has a stop right at the funicular) on Adam Clark square or the so called Castle bus (Várbusz) a minibus leaving from Moszkva tér.

Budapest Funicular Railway at the Castle Hill  by Bruse LF Persson

The Funicular railway (or Sikló say: shik-loah in Hungarian) is a kind of cable railway a bit similar to the Angel Flight in Los Angeles, the Montmartre funicular in Paris, or the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh. The funicular connects the foot of the Castle hill (river level, Adam Clark square) with the top in Castle District (it is between the Alexander Palace and the the Royal Palace) taking you on a 48% steep. It is fun, beautiful, romantic and family-friendly. These days we are so much used to traveling by cars that it is refreshing to travel back in time and use a fantastically restored 19th century funicular – with a Number 1 city view.

History

Budapest Funicular was built between 1868 and 1870 as the second Funicular railway in the world. It was originally steam-powered (now it runs on electricity). The idea of a funicular – then very much in need due to the opening of the Tunnel in 1855 as well as the horse-driven tram over the Chain Bridge – came from Ödön Széchenyi, the son of the ‘Greatest Hungarian’ István Széchenyi (Hungarians thankfully honor this great politician for many of his great deeds). The work was carried out under the supervision of Henrik Wohlfarth engineer. The coaches were made in the Viennese Spiering Factory, while the steam engine came from the Viennese factory of Theodor Schultz.

Up until 1928 it was the only public transport to the Royal Palace and the Castle top as such. In 1928, however, the first castle buses appeared. Fortunately, tourists loved the funicular so much by that time that its traffic has not declined due to modernization. The real tragedy came in 1944: bombardments, broken cables and coaches. Budapest Funicular was destroyed in the WW2.

In 1948 and 49, the governing powers of the capital did not see much in the shattered funicular, so instead of envisioning its revival, they let the remains of the funicular taken away, reused etc. So Budapest had no Sikló (Funicular) for more than forty decades.

In 1986 it was beautifully reconstructed. Since then approx. 800,000 tourists take the funicular for a nostalgic joy ride every year. (The locals are in a hurry so they won’t take the pricey and slowish funicular for regular rides). Budapest Funicular is now part of the Unesco World Heritage. And as I have heard, this is basically the one and only property of Budapest Public Transportation Co. which is actually profitable. Maybe we should have a Budapest yellow submarine and other fun rides too.

But back to the funicular: as you can see in the photo, there is one thing that sets the Budapest Funicular apart from other funiculars all around the world: the footbridges over the railway. See the foot bridges and an upcoming funicular in this video made by a Dutch tourist (pyromax1):

And here’s the funicular from the outside (by GanzAlex):

Source: the official website of BKV (Budapest Public Transportation) on the Budapest Funicular history of BKV (in Hungarian)