Budapest Events Calendar 2012

Spruce up your Budapest holiday with some of the amazing and fun events taking place in Budapest – a few ideas have been gathered in Budapest Events Calendar 2012 by Top Budapest Travel Guide

Budapest Events Calendar - agenda view

Budapest Events Calendar – agenda view

Each day Budapest has something peculiar to offer, so enjoy Budapest nightlife, live music at bars, cool concerts, classical music events, contemporary dances, sports events like Budapest Formula 1 this summer, or the upcoming Hungary – Netherlands Qualifying Match in September 2012.

Pick a concert, a musical, an exhibition or a gastronomy festival with great wines and traditional Hungarian foods. Pick any genre and you will definitely find something which appeals to you.

Budapest Events Calendar is quite flexible, although it may take some time to download all the events (which is not even a comprehensive list of Budapest events!)

Budapest Events Calendar in agenda view – it is the default view. But you can also take a look at the upcoming events in a monthly overview, which is especially useful if you are planning your Budapest trip in advance. Mind you, many many events are not published until 2-3 weeks before they start (especially smaller concerts and parties).

Budapest Events Calendar in calendar view – if you click on the little calendar icon in the upper left hand corner, you can switch to calendar view in this neat little Budapest Events Calendar

Budapest Events Calendar - calendar view

Budapest Events Calendar – calendar view

Crossing from Pest to Buda: Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd)

Széchenyi Chain Bridge is one of the several nice bridges connecting the two parts of Budapest: the hilly Buda side and the flat Pest side. It was built in 1849 as the very first permanent bridge spanning the River Danube (the river ‘Duna’ has an average width of approx. 400 meters / 1,325 feet). In fact, when the Chainbridge was built, Budapest has not existed yet: the major city parts (Buda, old Buda aka Óbuda and Pest) were united more than 20 years later in 1873 partly due to the first bridge as a pre-condition.

“The bridge was designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark in 1839, after Count István Széchenyi’s initiative in the same year, with construction supervised locally by Scottish engineer Adam Clark (no relation). It is a larger scale version of William Tierney Clark’s earlier Marlow Bridge, across the River Thames in Marlow, England. ” (wikipedia)

The Chain Bridge was blown up by the Nazis in WW2, so it was rebuilt in 1949.

Walk over the bridge, which connects Roosevelt square (Four Seasons Gresham Palace, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Sofitel Hotel Budapest) with Adam Clark square (Funicular Railway, Tunnel, Zero Kilometer Stone statue), and is part of the Unesco world heritage (with the Royal Palace, the Parliament, etc.).

Here’s a video made on the Chain Bridge (by hcjfisch) to give you some idea of the dimensions:

See the attractions close to the bridge on the Budapest Tourist Map (click on the icons to learn more about them, or follow the View Larger Map blue link under the map to enlarge it)


View Larger Map

Anecdotes:

  • Check if the lions guarding the ends of the bridge have tongues. Find out what’s the truth in this common Hungarian insider’s joke.
  • Do you think that the Chainbridge could be rolled into the Tunnel? When the weather is bad, the bridge needs to be protected, so there was a tunnel needed under the Castle Hill. Could it be?

Note

  • You can easily cross the bridge on foot (on bike too, although there’s no designated bike route so you’ll have to carefully meander through the pedestrians). It takes about 5-15 minutes to cross the bridge (3 min in a hurry, 15 min with taking photos, and a deep breath, 1h – proposal to girlfriends considerably expands time)
  • If you don’t want to walk, take the bus (number 16 and 105).
  • In the past few years, the Chain Bridge was closed down for cars and turned into a cultural program venue at weekends in summers (about June 23- Aug 12). Concerts, theater performances, buffets pop up. Buses usually cross on Elisabeth or Margaret bridge at this time.
  • Unfortunately, there’s a lot of graffiti on the bridge – but it’s still a landmark.

Here’s a video on the summer cultural festival on Chain Bridge (Lanchid):

Why the bridge is called Széchenyi is because this noble man, Count István Széchenyi was one of those few politicians and thinkers in the 19th century who wanted to make things better in Hungary and did accordingly so. Not only did he urge the construction of the bridge between the two sides of the river Danube, but he also gave away the full annual income of his estates for the establishment of the Hungarian Academy of Science, organized the first national Casino (nay, not primarily for gambling but in order to organize the reform-minded nobility – to encourage networking and thinking), he imported horse breeds to improve the Hungarian horse culture, etc. He is called ‘the greatest Hungarian’ although he was a Hungarian who could hardly speak the Hungarian language, and who was born and who died outside Hungary – but his family was an old Hungarian aristocratic dynasty and, most importantly, he considered himself a Magyar.

One Day Tour in Budapest: Get The Most Out Of 24 Hour

If you only have one day in Budapest, although it is not much time to really look around to see the sights and enjoy fun things to do, you can still make the most out of it in a one-day tour, and hopefully you will come back to see more. Let’s suppose you arrive late afternoon, so all you are ready for is having a good dinner, maybe a feel of Budapest nightlife, and you leave discovering the attractions for next morning.

Night in Budapest

If you plan to have a few drinks in the happening area, Pest side gives more options than Buda side (where the castle is). Here’s a great map of the pubs, bars, clubs and party places of Budapest. The different color-coded icons on the map show you different styles: e.g.

  • Green for Irish pubs,
  • Blue for Best – based on tourists’ feedback
  • Blue dot for Best alternative pubs
  • Blue pin for Belgian beers
  • Light blue for maybe good
  • Yellow for themed pubs (e.g. Western, Cuban, etc.)
  • Pink GL-friendly, etc.

Here’s the map, color-coded: double-click to enlarge, or click on an icon to get more info on the pub / bar.

View Larger Map

Whichever pub or bar suits your style and wallet more, one thing is sure: don’t miss the Danube river-view at night. It is beautiful: classical yet intimate beauty. Read more about the Best Restaurants in Budapest or the Best Cafes in Budapest.

Next Morning in Budapest

1, (7-9am) I would start with an early morning Széchenyi bath and wash away my headache in the thermal water: it’s for both men and women, and kids. Take your towel.
2, (9-10:30) go over to Heroes’ square & have a look at the Millennial monument, then (depending which attracts you more)
a, Arts: peep into the Museum of Fine Arts
b, Agriculture: the Vajdahunyad Castle in the City Park (hosting the Museum of Agriculture)
c, History: the House of Terror on Andrássy: tricks and tools of Nazi and Soviet dictatorship at the former HQ of the Hungarian Secret Police. Not for small kids.
d, Model trains, cars, planes etc.: Museum of Transport, Budapest
e, none: you saved 1.3 hours!

Follow your route on the Budapest Tourist Map: double click to enlarge or simply click on the view large option under the map.

View Larger Map

3, (11-12:00) take the underground to Vorosmarty ter, have a quick snack, coffee, cake in Café Gerbeaud OR walk over to Gresham Palace and have a snack there.
4, (12-12:30) walk over the Chain Bridge, get on the Funicular on the Buda side at Adam Clark square (Clark Ádám tér) up to the Castle Hill.
5, (12:30-14:00) have a quick look around the Castle District, take photos at Fishermen’s Bastion (you will see the beautiful Parliament, which is highly worth checking out but no time now) & at Matthias Church.
6, (14-16:00) take the bus (number 16) from Dísz tér to Deák tér, then the tram (number 2) along the Danube embankment up to Fővám tér – go to the Central Market Hall to do some gift shopping and or have late lunch or a quick snack (e.g. Lángos). Note: the Central Market Hall is closed on Sundays and closes early on Saturdays, so change the order if it is not convenient for your travel, please.

Alternatively,

You can do the whole thing backwards, or with variations. Start with the Castle, down to Gresham Palace (then to the Basilica or the Synagogue & the old Jewish district) or directly to Heroes’ square.
I usually leave shopping at the end to avoid having to wade through the city with bags. If you are more shopping-minded, use the Budapest Shopping Map to guide you.

View Larger Map

No need to rush: you can come back any time and take a closer look at Budapest. It’s well worth it: after more than 20 years I am still discovering a lot of new things to see, do, eat – it’s a city that does not let you get bored, and which always welcomes you, alone or with friends & family.

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)

View Larger Map

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.

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.

Current Public Holidays in Hungary

As you are coming to Budapest, it is good to know which days are the public holidays in Hungary. Most shops (even in shopping malls), banks, restaurants, etc. are closed and public transportation is less frequent (instead of 2-5 minutes you may have to wait 10-20 minutes for buses, trolleys, trams etc. – however, the metro/ underground is still very frequent coming every 5 minutes or so). Most of the public holidays are celebrated by outdoor events, public concerts and shows, contests, excursions, picnics, if weather allows, alongside official national celebrations.

Here’s the complete list of the Hungarian public holidays:

  • 1st January (New Year)
  • 15th March (commemorating the 1848/49 revolution and war of independence against the Austrian rule)
  • Easter Sunday and Monday
  • 1st May (Labour Day)
  • Whit Sunday and Monday
  • 20th August (threefold celebration: the celebration of Bread, the name day of Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary, and the foundation of the Hungarian state). Budapest fireworks on August 20 national holiday.
  • 23rd October (anniversary of the 1956 revolution and war of independence)
  • 1st November (All Saints’ Day): most people go to the cemetery, and there’s a handful of Halloween parties (Halloween is relatively freshly imported – similarly to Valentine’s day).
  • 25-26th December (Christmas in Budapest) Watch out for Dec 24! Although December 24 is not an official public holiday, people go home at about 3-4 pm to celebrate Christmas Eve with their families, so most shops close, some restaurants are open. More about Christmas opening hours in Budapest here.

Some History

During communism in Hungary (up until 1989 when the democratic transition took place), the list of the public holidays was slightly different – most notably October 23rd was not celebrated (1956 was called ‘anti-revolution’), while March 21, April 4 and November 7 were. April 4 was the most powerful and most colorful reddest holiday. April 4 1945 was the day when the Soviet soldiers defeated the Nazi troops, and also the very same day that – retrospectively – meant the beginning of totalitarianism for most Hungarians. The day is not exactly the last day of World War II for Hungarians, and most people simply said that ‘the Russians came in in 1945’ which referred to the two-edged move later on (liberation and occupation). But not in 1945 necessarily as many people in 1945 assumed that the Soviet soldiers (who stayed in Hungary until 1991), would go home after the peace pact (1947). Not so.
Also, people were celebrating differently: many of them were forced to celebrate of course. Forced to put on a broad smile and believe the lies that Hungarian economy was thriving, Hungarian factories were outdoing any western factories, Hungarian pigs were always giving the highest number of piglets possible, etc. etc. Even if people were forced with direct physical contact, they were under the constant mental pressure of potentially being spied on through the effective spying system, where you had to watch your neighbour and your friends (!) – all potential spies for the communist government. You did not have to hold an important position to be monitored. But descendants of former Hungarian aristocracy, religious people, writers, poets, artists were especially under control. Maybe your friends were just spies in order to survive or protect their families, if they were threatened by communists (and oftentimes they were). But maybe they believed in the system or were simply brutally unscrupulous survivors.

Due to the general mandatory celebrating spirit, the vast majority of Hungarians was staying with the officially celebrating crowds. All schools – without exception – even kindergartens were happily celebrating the end of WW2 and the beginning of soviet Hungary: Soviet inspired poems, songs were performed, red balloons, little red flags and Hungarian flags made of paper and wooden stick were waved by the smallest children and the biggest adults. Kids were marching in scout-like groups (senior high school kids, so called pioneers were wearing red-scarves, junior high school kids, so called ‘little drummers’ were wearing blue scarves to their blue and white uniforms), and the TV showed the best moments of the parades. Everyone smiling, happy, full of soviet power and energy to transform the world into – prosperity?

I must add though that as a kid (aged 3-12) I was pretty much enjoying the parades, the big choirs, the competitions, the whole event – and had no clue what was behind these false happy celebrations, why adults were whispering strange things, why they are laughing at political humorist Géza Hofi, why some of the teenagers and young people burnt their red scarves as a sign of rebel, etc.. So I am from a generation that got relatively the best & most humorous part of communism, the weakening tail of it, and then suddenly grew up in a young chaotic democratic Hungary from 1989.

Here’s a slideshow of Hungarian pioneers with the most typical upbeat pioneer song entitled Mint a mókus fenn a fán. It was The Greatest Hit, so to say, with an easy lyrics: Like the squirrel on the tree, Pioneers are so happy, they do not stop singing for a moment. If they strike a camp somewhere, they will start to sing as well, and they don’t stop singing for a moment, etc. etc.

These days? No, you won’t see huge masses of hundreds of thousands of people. Many people either stay at home and watch TV, or tend to the garden, go to the parks and the free concerts taking place, climb hills and relax with friends, drink a beer or two, or three, etc. But at this moment as I am writing these lines, I feel that it may not be true for the next couple of years – at least taking into account some recent Hungarian political events and the reactions of several interest groups.

Warning

October 23 (commemorating 1956) is particularly touchy – marked by the conflicts between the two major parties (Hungarian Socialists and the Young Democrats – the former party thought of by several Hungarians as the legacy of the communist era, while the latter party thought of by several critics as overtly nationalistic.). So if you should be staying in Budapest during October 23, I suggest avoiding the major scenes of national celebration (there is no blood shedding, or major physical dangers, but you may be pushed around with the crowd, or just feel uncomfortable to see quarrelling and shouting people).

source (in Hungarian) for the fictitious April 4 1945 date from Domonkos Szőke historian on Nol.hu

Budapest: Vaci Utca the Shopping Street

Váci utca (say Vaatsy ootsaa), which is not to be confused with Váci út (Váci Road) has been a pedestrian only, shopping street for decades. It is well worth taking a leisurely stroll along the street, where one end runs into Vörösmarty tér, the elegant square where Café Gerbeaud is located, while the other end of the street leads you to the Central Market Hall in Fővám tér.

Suggested Tours:

Start in Café Gerbeaud (you may try the Hungarian cake called Dobos), walk through Vörösmarty square (Mihály Vörösmarty, after whom the square was named has his marble statue in the middle of the square). It takes about 20 minutes to walk through Váci street flanked by many 19th century residential and commercial buildings, banks, trendy and classic boutiques, souvenir and antique shops, bars, etc. (interestingly enough, restaurants in Váci utca are not really highlighted in guest or professional reviews). Peep into side streets. Cross to the other side of Váci street (after the white bridge, Elisabeth Bridge). Do some shopping in the Central Market Hall (closed on Sundays, end closes early on Saturdays).

See Vaci utca indicated with a blue line.


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Art Gallery Tour

Buying arts and crafts: zoom in on the map by double clicking, check the purple balloons for art galleries, antique shops. You may find the following places of interest in Váci utca:

  • Auction House, City Center (Belvárosi Aukciósház). Address: Váci utca 36. Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am – 6 pm, Sat-Sun 10am- 4pm
  • Arten Galéria/Arten Gallery fine art studio (mostly Hungarian contemporary art works). Address: Váci utca 25. Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am – 6:30 pm, Sat 10am- 6pm
  • Abigeil Galéria/ Abigeil Gallery (auctions, exhibitions). Address: Váci utca 19-21.
  • Sziget Galéria/ Sziget Gallery (exhibitions, sales from 19th to 21st century art). Address: Váci utca 63.

Have a look at this video on Váci utca made by Tamás Kulcsár and a Hungarian girl, Gyöngyi:

During the communist era, Vaci utca was The Shopping Street with luxury boutiques tagged with unavailable prices for most Hungarians (even the Hungarian version of the board game Capitaly had Vaci street as one of the most expensive lots to buy). These days, real high-end boutiques are not only in Váci utca, they are either scattered or in malls too, or simply not represented in Budapest. Is the street touristy? Sure, it is, but you will still enjoy its beauty, the chic boutiques, the good cafés with terraces to people-watch, etc. When looking at the prices, keep in mind that VAT is included in the price, so what you see is what you pay. Opening hours for non-food stores are generally from 10 am to 6 pm or even up to 8-9 pm (especially in malls).


History of Váci street

The story of Váci utca goes back to the Romans (“what have the Romans ever done for us? The aqueduct?”). They have built Contra Aquincum in the 3rd century, which was opposite – surprise, surprise – Aquincum on the other side of the river. As the River Danube was strategically quite good for the then Roman ruled Pannonia, they needed fortresses, baths, places for the soldiers, etc.Later on the ruins of these fortresses were used by the Magyars who conquered the area and settled down in the 9-10th century after years of wandering, nonstop horse-riding and backward shooting with their fierce arrows. Chief Árpád brought Muslim tradesmen and Bulgarian plus Slav ferrymen in this area who co-habited with the local Hungarian ad Slav agricultural workers. Between 1218 and 1225 German craftsmen and tradesmen arrived, and then Jewish settlers, so the developing Pest was a real melting pot. The Germans reused the good stones of the former fortresses to build their houses and the Pest side had only weak wooden walls.No wonder the whole city got ruined by the armies of Batu Khan in 1241, who had spies reporting him about the weakness of the settlement. Alas, the winter weather also liked Batu Khan, the grandson of Ghengis Khan, as the frozen river let the armies cross from the Pest side to the Buda side, and not only flatten the buildings of Buda (todays’ Old Buda or Óbuda), but go on to proceed to today’s Austria, Dalmatia and Italy. Luckily for the rest of the Europe, Batu Khan had to go back home for a big CEO meeting after the old khan died and the grandsons had to discuss who is going to be the heir.

In the middle ages, Váci street was called Big or Main street in the 15th century trading city, which had 3 gates to let people in and out through the thick protective walls (they learned from the 1241-42 spectacular defeat from Batu Khan).

Then came the Turks in the 16th century, and decided to love this city and linger on for another 150 years. Most of the city dwellings were in ruins after the long siege, and wooden houses, minarets, Turkish baths sprang up. The street had a Turkish name (Big or Nagy Mahalle), and the hygienics of the middle ages (many dead animals left rotting along the Mahalle). By this time, Turkish tax registries show that most of the settlers were Hungarians of Christian religion and the two major minorities were Germans and Jewish.

1686 was the next turning point that said goodbye to the Turks under the leadership of the Habsburg emperor Leopold I. The city started to rebuild and re-flourish. Again, many peoples found their homes here, including Greeks, Macedons, Armenians, Serbians, Slovakians and of course Germans who got the plots from the Emperor for a few ‘cents’. Most of the settlers, besides Hungarians, are Germans. The Nagy Mahalle (today’s Váci street) is named after the victorious emperor as Leopoldgasse. The city gets back its privileges as a free royal city, which hastens its dynamic growth into a modern commercial and cultural centre.

So much so that Váci utca becomes a fashionable walking street for civic residents to show off new clothes, to gossip, tp fall in and out of love, to talk about serious political issues, etc. And to window-shop, of course! So elegant boutiques concentrate their business efforts in the street already in the 19th century. The tower guard cries the hours every hour and the Svab German milk-women as well as other tradesmen sell loud their produce all day long. The water of the river Danube is sold for drinking, which today is hardly suitable for even bathing.

In 1838, a big-big flood washes away many things, animals and people, while ten years later the firy spirit of the Hungarian revolution upsets peaceful promenading in the street. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867, when Hungary is given some freedom, both the Pest and the Buda side gains even more impetus for development, and the two sides join in 1873, giving birth to Buda-Pest, i.e. Budapest.

The two world wars, needless to say, bring about a long sad and ruinous break, followed by another ruinous communist era when the shopping street was turned into just a plain street with offices, stores and state-owned shops with uniform products. In 1964, Váci utca becomes a pedestrian only zone, and the gradually softening goulash communism slowly lets back elegant boutiques – after all, the wives of prominent communist leaders also like shopping western quality things.

Some of the historical buildings in Váci utca

No. 9 Pest Theater today, and one time inn, where 11-year-old Ferenc Liszt gave a concert.
No. 11 The facade is covered in Zsolnay ceramic tiles.
No. 39 Three reliefs show that the Zsolnay’s had an office, apartment and store here (1, a man making pottery, 2, a poet 3, the five-tower porcelain factory emblem).
No. 42If you watch hard, you will see owl statuettes at the balconies – once the house of a famous Hungarian doctor (Frigyes Korányi). The facade is covered in Zsolnay pyro-granite ceramic tiles. Pyrogranite was developed by Vilmos Zsolnay, the greatest Hungarian potter achieving international appreciation for his porcelain, eosin and pyro-granite products.

Sources (Hungarian): BP Archiv and Világjáró Magazin.

Parties at Rudas Spa Bath in Budapest in 2008: CineTrip Again!

After the great New Year’s Day party at Rudas Spa Bath, the party series continue:

“hosting musicians and DJs to re-musicalize old, mostly silent films, the unique atmosphere of Cinetrip parties that have been organized in the Rudas Baths since 1998 will be revived from December 2007 with the support of all the visual spectacles and perceptional experience that the technology of the 21st century can offer. … it will be even more special this year: as Cinetrip celebrates its 10th birthday!”(from Spas Budapest).

Here’s a user made (elroyhun) video at one of the Cinetrip parties at Rudas Spa Bath to give you an idea if Rudas Cinetrip parties are for you or not:

Phone: 00-36-20-20-20-202.
Map:

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Additional party dates in 2008 are

  • 15 January
  • 09 February
  • 08 March
  • 12 April

Check out Rudas Furdo (Rudas Spa Bath) special night parties in the Ottoman – modern atmosphere and be prepared for the dazzling audiovisual effects with VJs, DJs, and many young guys and girls.