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 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.

Budapest Museum of Fine Arts: Szepmuveszeti Muzeum

The Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum) in Budapest has an extraordinary permanent and a hugely successful temporary exhibition series.

Opening hours: Permanent Exhibitions are open from Tue to Sun 10 am – 5pm. Oftentimes, the museum is open until 9:30 pm on Thursdays (if there’s an extra program). Temp exhibitions are basically the same, but you have another half an hour to enter (until 17:30). The museum is closed on Mondays.
Prices: 1200 HUF (if you are from the EU and aged between 6-26 or 62-70 you can get a 50% discount). Temporary exhibition prices start at 1200 HUF, and if you buy a ticket for a temp exhibition, you can go to the permanent exhibition free.
Tip for budget travelers: For individuals, the Museum of Fine Arts provide FREE guided tours in English in the Collection of Old Master Paintings from Tue to Fri at 11am & 2pm, on Sat at 11am. The Old Master Paintings are the core of the permanent exhibition (so the free guided tour excludes other collections and temp exhibitions, and guidance for groups, of course). More advanced guided tours need to be paid. But again, there are audio tours available for 1000 HUF (both perm and temp, flexible route)! You can listen to some samples here (e.g. Gauguin: The Black Pigs, Raffaello Santi: The Esterházy Madonna, Cézanne: The Buffet)

Budapest Museum of Fine Arts Szepmuveszeti Muzeum download audio tour samples

Phone: 00-36 1 469 7100
Getting here:
metro (yellow line): Hősök tere stop
trolley buses: 72
buses: 4, 30, 75, 79

Location of the Museum of Fine Arts on the Budapest Tourist Map:


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Permanent exhibitions in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Not only will you find here approx. 3,000 excellent foreign art works (especially Flemish, Dutch as well as Spanish, French, German paintings, graphics and statues ranging from the 13th to the 18th century etc.), but also valuable collections from the ancient times (Egyptian, Greek & Roman artifacts) displaying original works of the art of Hellas, Italy and Rome.

Temporary exhibitions in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

To mention but a few of the temp exhibitions from the past few years: Van Gogh, Tiziano, the Incas, Hundertwasser, etc. If you drop by these days, you can see the Splendour of the Medici, Art and Life in Renaissance Florence (until May 18, 2008). Prices are very favorable (starting at 1200 HUF, and if you are under 26 or over 62, it will only cost you 600 HUF). Temp exhibitions were tremendous success, oftentimes tickets sold out, so you may wish to book your admission in advance.

Budapest Museum of Fine Arts Szepmuveszeti Muzeum full of foreign artworks like Cezanne Raffaello Gauguin

Children in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

There are regular museum educational classes where art touches children through stories, dances, creative movement, dance, etc.- not boring! Also for kids between 5 and 7, who learn about Seasons, Colors and Shapes, Stories in Art and, of course, Animals. There’s even a summer camp! Most of these programs are in Hungarian (e.g. the Sat morning museum immersion classes), so please contact the Museum of Fine Arts for further details at Phone: 00-36-469 7180, Email to muzeumpedagogia@szepmuveszeti.hu.

History of the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

When Hungary was celebrating its 1000th birthday in 1896, the Hungarian Parliament passed a new law, which said that art collections scattered in different institutions were to be placed in the newly-established Museum of Fine Arts. The Museum of Fine Arts was designed by Albert Schickendanz and Fülöp Herzog, and it finally opened its gates in 1906 (inaugurated by I. Franz Joseph ). At that time, only plaster casts were available to illustrate the complete history of European sculpture. “It was for these life-size copy sculptures that the Doric, Ionic, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque halls on the ground floor were designed, imitating the styles of individual periods of art history,” writes Szilvia Bodnár. Over the years, the number of original works increased, so the plaster sculptures were out, and the ground floor galleries are now used to display exhibitions of the Classical Antiquities and of 19th century paintings & sculptures, Renaissance frescoes & fountains, the Prints and Drawings Gallery & the Marble and Baroque halls. During WW2, the Museum of Fine Arts was heavily damaged (only opened again in 1949) and many of the finest works were taken out of the country in order to save them.

Museum Quiz: Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

  • Who is at the top of the entrance gate?
  • Who painted The Sermon of St. John the Baptist?
  • Who painted this portrait and who is the Petrarch-follower depicted on the oil canvas?

museum quiz of the museum of fine arts budapest

  • When was this painting made?

museum quiz 2 of the museum of fine arts budapest

  • How many El Greco paintings can you see in the museum?
  • Which collection is the basis of the world-renowned Old Painters Gallery and when was it bought?

Please don’t spoil the quiz by writing the answers in the comments. Thank you. Drop Anna a mail if any of the answers bug you at LuxuryBudapest [@] gmail [dot] com.

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.

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.

Which Is The Best Hungarian Paprika And Why?

One of the best Hungaricums, i.e. real and high-quality Hungarian products is the ground rose paprika. As Encyclopedia Britannica writes:

The rose paprika of Hungary is generally considered the finest variety. It is made from choice dark red pods that have a sweet flavour and aroma. A sharper Hungarian variety, Koenigspaprika, or king’s paprika, is made from the whole pepper.

Hungarian Paprika world renowned for delicacy and Vitamin C content

Paprika is not simply a popular seasoning in Hungary, but its at the very core of Hungarian cuisine (I have also personally realized it while living in New Orleans). It is used for its flavor and for its bright color in two varieties: édes or sweet and erős or hot/ spicy. Most households will have both for Hungarian dishes like goulash (gulyás, or gulyásleves: say goo-yaash), which is the flagship Hungarian dish (alas, slightly threatened by more modern and healthy cuisine trends). If you think you have eaten goulash, think twice: most of the goulash or canned goulash sold in western countries is not resembling the real goulash (it’s like having a real New Orleanian gumbo soup or getting a canned gumbo in Sweden). Another version of goulash is made with beans (babgulyás): it is wonderful, very filling though, so better eaten for lunch to give your stomach some time to digest it.

Further typical Hungarian dishes made with ground paprika are different stews (beef, pork, chicken, mutton, most typically), which we call pörkölt (perr-curlt) in Hungarian, fish soup, lecsó, ‘paprikás’ anything as ‘paprikás’ means ‘with paprika’ so you can have paprikás krumpli (potato stew with sausages) or paprikás csirke ( a type of chicken stew), paprikás gomba (mushroom stew), etc. As you can see, Hungarian like stewing all kinds of things. I remember eating ‘fake paprika‘ dishes, which doesn’t mean that the paprika is fake: ‘fake’ refers to the fact that there is no meat in the stew (e.g. green pea stew with noodles), so it’s only imitation of the real stew – by default made with meat. Of course, an economical solution for more vegetarian days. :) What else? Other Hungarian dishes with paprika include – well, almost every spicy, salty dish will get a little color with paprika – depending on the cooking style of the kitchen queen or king (green bean soup, stuffed cabbage, different vegetable dishes thickened with roux – főzelék in Hungarian).

Best Paprika Brands in Hungary: where to buy and what to buy?

If you are not sure what kind of paprika you should buy in Hungary, the safest choice would be to go for Szeged or Kalocsa paprika. Both Szeged and Kalocsa are cities in Hungary competing for the title of Paprika Capital for centuries. You can buy it in most supermarkets at normal price, or in the Central Market Hall in decorative packaging. The quality range goes from extra delicatesse, delicatesse, noble sweet, hot delicatesse, and rose. Here are the major paprika locations on the Tourist Map (see the red signs for the Central Market Hall, Kalocsa and Szeged)

Szeged

By today, I think Szeged is typically associated with the best paprika in Hungary. Why? Probably for several reasons: a, the paprika plant spread and most paprika dishes come from the Szeged region (although there are wonderful paprikas grown in Kalocsa and other parts of the country too) b, better marketing – already exporting to western countries (incl. the US) in the 1930’s c, biochemist Professor Albert Szent-Györgyi got his Nobel in 1937 for discovering vitamin C, which, as you may have guessed, happened to be very high content in Szeged paprika. And this fact in itself, seems to have won the Paprika Capital title for Szeged. To put Albert Szent-György­i’s discovery more scientifically:

Walt­ner treated the ef­fect­s of vit­am­in A found in the Hun­gari­an cap­sic­um, while Al­ber­t Szent-György­i ex­amined vit­am­in C. He dis­covered that cap­sic­um [i.e. paprika] is the main source of vit­am­in C. He pro­duced it in a large amoun­t thus cre­at­ing the pos­sib­il­ity to state the ex­act chem­ic­al struc­ture of this vit­am­in, also c­alled ascor­bic a­cid. He also elab­or­ated a tech­no­logy for the pro­duc­tion of a paprika sort with con­densed vit­am­in C, a most healthy spice. … He dis­covered the cata­lys­is of di­car­bon a­cid C4, a basis for the Kreb­s cir­cu­la­tion pro­cess. His re­searches con­cern­ing the per­ox­ide-sys­tem led to the dis­cov­ery of the re­du­cing a­gent ne­ces­sar­y for ox­id­a­tion – the ascor­bic a­cid. He es­tab­lished the com­pound­s of hex­ur­on a­cid, iden­ti­fied it with the ascor­bic a­cid – an­d this is vit­am­in C.

Kalocsa
Growing paprika in the Kalocsa region (mid-southern part of Hungary) goes back to the 18th century, but industrial production only started in the 1920’s. Kalocsa was in strong competition with Szeged, especially in the sweet paprika (édes paprika) market. Their extra strength is that Kalocsa folk dresses are beautiful and girls look pretty with the paprika.

Paprika Garlands
I think I am lucky enough to say that I was making paprika garlands with my grandfather. It is an old tradition in Hungary and a practical way of letting the paprikas dry on long strings hung out in front of the house. Although a paprika garland is also very decorative, you won’t see many these days: it is more simple to buy the ground version (as dry paprika powder or as wet paprika cream, like Erős Pista).

Did you know?

0, Paprika contains Vitamin C, anitoxidants and capsaicin. Hungarians use paprika in dishes that you could describe as ‘tons of paprika,’ which turns out to be a healthy thing!

1, Paprika is a Hungaricum, despite the fact that paprika as such only came to Europe in the 16th century thanks to the doctor of Columbus, Diego Chanca. Paprika (or capsicum in Latin) comes from Central America. Europeans were quite suspicious about the new plant: for two centuries it was only used as a decoration. Paprika came to Hungary in the 16th century: there are documents from 1570 about the ‘red Turkish pepper‘ as it was called at that time. In the 17th century there are already family names with Paprika.

2, Paprika became a popular part of cuisine in the 1780’s in Hungary. The technique of making sweet paprika was gradually developed in Hungary from the 1850’s by getting rid of the seeds and stems, only keeping the pods.

3, One of the most popular TV channel in Hungary is TV Paprika: a cooking program

4, To make dishes hot, besides spicy ground paprika, several Hungarians also like wet paprika cream (especially in meat soups, goulash and stews) and the small hot green pepper originally imported from the excellent Bulgarian gardens in the 1870’s.

5, There is a Paprika Museum in Szeged with standard exhibitions of the His­tory of Szeged Paprika as well as the Pick Salam­i. En­trance fees are dirt cheap (at the time of writing in 2008: 480 HUF/adult, 360 HUF/chil­dren, stu­dent­s an­d pen­sion­er­s). Szeged is about 170 km/ 106 miles from Budapest. There is also a Paprika Museum in Kalocsa (see the map above).

6, paprika is NOT red pepper. It is totally different.

sources: Hungarian Folk Lexicon (in Hungarian), and Szeged Paprika Museum site

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 Zwack Museum: History of the Hungarian Liqueur

The Zwack Museum in Budapest shows the history of the Hungarian bittersweet liqueur called Zwack Unicum, and so much more than that: the exhibition is also the history of a family of six generations going through the ups and downs of Hungarian history. You can see the greatest European mini-bottle collection of 15,000 pieces, as well as the passport to Sweden made out to Peter Zwack by the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

But we can learn about the exciting story of how János Zwack managed to save the secret recipe of Zwack Unicum in an oil barrel in 1948, when the factory was taken away by the communist government. How did they continue producing the liqueur in the communist era? How did Peter Zwack manage to get back his family business by outbidding the Guinness Group? etc.

Of course, the tickets include tasting too: you can try three different Zwack products (the legal age for drinking alcohol in Hungary is 18, so kids under 18 won’t be given Zwack products to try). The museum is accessible for guests with limited mobility too.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm
Tickets: 1500 HUF (850 HUF for students under 18), but admission is free with Budapest Card.
Group visits need to be booked in advance at muzeum@zwackunicum.hu
Further inquiries: 00-36-1-476-2383

Budapest Tourist Map:

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Special Products in Hungary: Zwack Unicum, the bittersweet herbal liqueur

If you ask a Hungarian to tell you some of the typical Hungarian products and produces, you will very likely hear of the Hungarian paprika, the Rubik cube, Tokaj wine (especially Tokaji aszú) and a kind of herbal digestive bittersweet liqueur called Unicum amongst the top Hungaricums. And Unicum means Zwack Unicum from the Zwack family, exported to 40 countries all over the world. Now unlike the magic cube invented by Rubik, Unicum is a century old product, going back to the 18th century.

What do the leading tenor Luciano Pavarotti, American icon Jacqueline Kennedy, and world famous conductor Zubin Mehta have in common? These celebrities have all shared a weakness for the Hungarian bitter liquor known as Unicum.

What makes Zwack Unicum special?
The liqueur is not only fun, it also blends the healing power of more than 40 herbs & spices to ‘cure you of all ills.’ Of course, Zwack Unicum has its own secret formula, so secret that even the master blender does not know the recipe of the liquor: “There needs to be one family member present with the master blender when the herbs are being blended, and even the master blender doesn’t know the recipe because he receives them pre-mixed,” Izabella Zwack, a sixth-generation Zwack said. In addition to the numerous Hungarian awards, it has also been the Worldstar Winner in Tokyo in 1998

History of Zwack Unicum
Like Jagermeister, Unicum has its own history. According to the Zwack family legend, the liqueur was made in about 1790 by a Zwack who was a doctor, and as he happened to be the Royal Physician of the Austro-Hungarian emperor Joseph II, he presented the unique concoction to the Habsburg kaiser. Joseph II appreciated the drink saying “Das ist ein Unikum!” (“This is a specialty!”), most probably with a bittersweet face as the liqueur is literally bitter and sweet at the same time. And more than that: you can feel the special harmony and magic witchcraft of forest sorceress’ age-old herbal knowledge.

The founder and owner of the Zwack liqueur and rum distillery, a Moravian József Zwack, set up his company in Pest during the middle of the 19th century. He insisted his spirits should be made of organic raw materials, never of synthetic substitutes. Production of Unicum bitters started in 1860; the trade mark was patented in 1883. Since then, it has been sold in a dark green spheroid glass bottle (source: Avenue Vine)

Zwack Unicum poster from 1915 shipwrecked man with a happy survival bottleUnicum is a true trademark: a long standing (or flowing) and trustworthy brand in the Hungarian market, easily recognized by the white cross emergency sign on a deep green rounded bottle (it’s as default brand for Hungarians as Coca Cola for the international market, you just cannot imagine not having it). In 1915 Sándor Bortnyik has created one of the most famous and popular poster for Zwack Unicum: a shipwrecked guy happy to find a bottle of Zwack Unicum (message in a bottle) in the stormy sea (you can buy it as a poster too).

The liquor even survived the communist period when the factory was confiscated from the Zwack family and the whole family had to escape. “My grandfather escaped with the recipe in his pocket and that was the only time when Zwack was not in the family.” says Izabella Zwack.

In the 1956 revolution in Budapest, Unicum, the bottle of which looks like a peculiar vintage bomb, was used as a case for ammunitions against the Soviet tanks. And in 1988, just a year before the silent revolution and the birth of the new Hungarian democracy, the Zwack descendants went back to Hungary and bought back the Zwack factory and facilities.From 2007, Unicum is not only exported to about 40 countries, but the mysterious concoction is currently available in limited release in Ohio and New York too.

spheroid, bomb-shaped bottles of Zwack Unicum from HungaryBomb-shaped bottles redefined, or refined
As Frommer’s guide writes, “With its memorable bomb-shaped bottle, emergency-cross logo, and unforgettable taste — it’s Uniqum.” These days it is marketed in a more peaceful style (see the picture below made by Columbus Alive in Ohio).

Further Zwack Drinks
Besides Zwack unicum, which is a polarizing drink (either you love it, or you can’t stand it), often compared to Jagermeister, Ouzo, etc., the Zwack company also offers Zwack Attacks, Bloody Hun (basically the Bloody Mary a la Zwack with 3 oz. Bloody Mary mix, 1.5 oz. Zwack Unicum, celery, pepper, salt), and Zwackstache in foreign markets. In Hungary, you will find Zwack branded as Unicum, and a similar Zwack drink (less bitter, more citrusy) called Unicum Next. Give them a try.
How to drink Unicum?
The best drinking advice comes from the producer, so let’s quote Sándor Zwack: “It’s a wonderful drink, it is wonderfully made. You can drink it room temperature if you want, with a nice cigar. You can mix it with cranberry, pineapple and orange juice. It’s great with Red Bull, but the way we market it is to be ice cold.”

Zwack Unicum gift: Essence of Hungary
You will find Zwack Unicum in all stores and gift shops (a bottle of 0.7 l [1.43 UK pints, 1.48 US pints] is approx. 3500 HUF). The Essence of Hungary is aZwack Unicum Essence of Hungary gift package with Tokaj wine, pálinka and Zwack Unicum beautiful gift package, which in fact combines all three flagship drinks of Hungary: besides Zwack Unicum, you will also get Tokaji aszú (a sweet Tokaj wine) and Pálinka (strong brandy made of flavoury fruits).

For some reason, the Essence of Hungary drink trio is only available in the Zwack Specialty Store located about a 20 minute walk from the Central Market Hall: go from Liberty Bridge (Szabadsághíd) to Petofi bridge (Petőfi híd), then straight ahead to Dandár utca 1. in the 9th district. Or you can take the blue line metro and get off at Klinikák station followed by a 10 minute walk.
Check the Zwack Specialty Store location on the Budapest Tourist Map:


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Cheers in Hungarian
When you want to say cheers in Hungarian, you need to muscle up your linguistic skills a bit: you can say egg-ace-shage-ed-rae (Egészségedre, literally ‘To your health’), or egg-ace-shage (Egészség) for short (informal). For a less neutral version, you can say Isten-Isten (ish-ten, ish-ten or God-God). The real black belt version of Cheers is when you want to say cheers to everybody in a bigger company (‘to our health’), which is Egészségünkre, say egg-ace-shagen-krae. Cheerio will be also understood by most people.

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)