Hungary the Land of Spas and Budapest the City of Spas

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

Gellert Bath

Gellert Bath – Joe Mabel Photography

Why is Budapest the City of Spas?

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

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

As the old Roman proverb says:

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

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

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

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

How many spa baths are there in Hungary?

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

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

Why are there so many spa baths in Hungary?

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

What are Hungarian spa waters good for?

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

Remains of the old Spa Culture

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

Aquincum map in the Roman times now located in Budapest Óbuda

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

Aquincum Budapest Museum the Roman bath house mosaics

Turkish occupation, Turkish Baths

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

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

Rudas Fürdő Turkish Spa Bath in Budapest

and a picture of Király Fürdő (Király Turkish Bath)

Király Fürdő Turkish Spa Bath in Budapest

Searching For Oil, Finding Water

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

Budapest Funicular Railway: Schedule, History & more

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

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

Budapest Funicular Railway at the Castle Hill  by Bruse LF Persson

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

History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Szechenyi Spa Bath in Budapest: Soaking, Healing, Fun

Szechenyi Spa Bath/ Széchenyi Fürdő (say: Say-chain-ee Fur-dur ) is one of the most popular spa baths in Budapest – and in Europe –  both among locals and tourists: it is in a beautiful neo-baroque style building, the quality of the water is great, and it’s simply fun to go there – not in a jumpy bubble city style though as the average age tends to start from 25.

Szechenyi Baths

Szechenyi Baths – photo: melyepterv.hu

At Szechenyi Baths can enjoy wonderful massages, treatments, drinking cures, etc. You can even see some clever quirky guys playing chess on the edge of the baths, join them if you are good at chess! The spa bath was built in 1913 after some deep drilling in the city park. There are 15 baths indoors and 3 outdoors 20-38 °C (68-100 degrees Fahrenheit).

HOT TIP  for Szechenyi Baths: the palace of baths is a maze, print your map before you go as no maps are provided in the bath and the signs for navigation are poor.

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

The thermal water is recommended for:
damaged joints (e.g. worn hip and knee joints), degenerative diseases, arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis or Bechterew’s disease, low back pain or lumbago, after accidents as a post therapy. As a drink therapy the thermal water is used for gastro-enteritis, ulcers, kidney inflammations, certain types of kidney stones, rheumatic gout, calcium deficiency, bile treatments.
Address: 11. Állatkerti körút, Budapest H-1146, check its location on the Budapest Tourist map (blue waves indicate major spa baths)

View Larger Map
Location: Szechenyi Spa Bath is next to the big City Park (Városliget), and a few-minute walk to the Zoo, the Budapest Circus and the Amusement Park.
Opening hours: spa baths and medicinal massages: all days from 6am to 7pm (except for some public holidays!). Szechenyi Pool: all days from 6am to 10pm. Mud treatments: Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Aqua-fitness: 8.30, 11.30 and 16.15
Phone: 00-36-1- 363-3210
Getting there: the yellow line underground stops right at Szechenyi bath (stop: ‘Széchenyi fürdő’), Trolley bus: 72
Prices: general bath ticket prices are about HUF 3400 at the bath, where you can also book various massages (aroma massage, refreshing massage, massage therapy, etc.
Miscellaneous: István Széchenyi was a 19th century Hungarian politician oftentimes referred to as ‘the greatest Hungarian’ due to his formidable contribution to modernizing Hungary. Széchenyi Fürdő is pronounced something like Say-chain-ee Fur-dur. Szechenyi Furdo fitness classes are FREE of charge!

Szechenyi Furdo FAQ

Are the baths inside or outside?
The bigger baths are outside while some specialty baths are located inside (see the video at the bottom)
Is Szechenyi Spa Bath closed in winter?
No, it is open all year, all days from 6am to 7pm (except for holidays). It is FUN to swim in the steaming outside bath!
When is it the best time to go to Széchenyi Fürdő?
Well, that’s a good question. Although Szechenyi Furdo has 15 baths, which can take up about 1,500 people, weekends tend to be crowded, so it is worth going there early (between 6-8am) to get a good spot.
Do you need anything else than yourself, a swim gear and money?
Definitely a towel, warmly recommended are flip-flops or rubber shoes (for hygienic and preventive reasons too), and water-resistant purse for the buffet or for massages & treatments will come in handy (although you can hire some of them for a nominal price). If you want to swim laps in the pool, besides using the thermal baths, you will need a swim cap too.
Can you book massages in advance?
No, unfortunately, massages cannot be pre-arranged. Széchenyi Spa Bath is operated on a first come first served basis.
Is Szechenyi Furdo good for children?
Yes, Szechenyi Spa Bath is a family-friendly place. For instance, there is an outside bath (depth 0.8m/ 2.62 feet) whose thermal water starts to rotate periodically. But the spa bath is still a calm spa bath and not a water amusement park (no slides, spring boards, playground).
Shall I go to Szechenyi or Gellert Thermal Bath?
Ideally, you should try both to discover which suits better your tastes. Both are located in a beautiful building (Szechenyi is neo-baroque, Gellert is fabulous art-deco). Both have great healing properties and good massages. Gellert Spa Bath might be a bit more touristy due to the fact that it’s located in Hotel Gellert while Szechenyi Spa Bath is a stand alone thermal bath (mind you, contracted with several Budapest hotels). In addition, Szechenyi Spa Bath is slightly less expensive than Gellert Spa Bath. Gellert with its 13 pools including a wave bath and a children’s pool might be a better choice for families with kids though, but many suggest Szechenyi for children. Great dilemma. Let me know what you think (in the comments)!

Does Szechenyi Bath have a hotel accommodation?

No, unfortunately, Szechenyi Bath is a stand alone thermal spa bath, and has no hotel built into the palace. If you want to have a spa weekend, you can visit Szechenyi Bath on your own, or pick one of the Budapest spa hotels, including the popular Danubius Hotel Gellert)

How do you get from Keleti railway station to Szechenyi Spa Bath?
The easiest and quickest way is to go underground: take the red line Metro at Keleti pu., change at Deák tér to the yellow line underground (you will need a new ticket validated unless you have a pass!) and get off at Szechenyi Furdo stop. There you are!

Watch Szechenyi Thermal Bath on this video made by budapest.info:

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.


View Larger Map

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.

Gypsy Music in Budapest: From Restaurants Gypsy Schmaltz To Roma Folk & Jazz Musicians

Many tourists enjoy going to restaurants in Budapest where live Gypsy music is performed. If you are one of them, you will find several restaurants worth considering (usually indicated on a board outside the restaurant that Gypsy music is played). Some of the restaurants that advertise their Gypsy music are, for instance, Mátyás Pince, Százéves Étterem, Márvány Menyasszony, Nádor Étterem, etc. etc.

It is good to know that, as Frommer’s Guide writes,

“what you find in restaurants is not authentic Gypsy music, but an ersatz pop variety. If a member of the band plays a number at your table, good manners dictate that you give a tip; the appropriate amount varies with the price category of the restaurant itself (1,000 Ft-2,000 Ft/$4.50-$9 is a fair starting point). It is perfectly acceptable, however, for you to politely decline his or her offer to play for you.”

Wandering or settled Gypsies, Roma people had all kinds of jobs from trading horses, blacksmithing, through basket weaving, rope and broom making, to fortune telling, theft, faith healing, begging and even gold washing (in Transylvania). However, in all probability, the most prestigious job was being a musician for a Roma person. And this was precisely the most in demand (especially as technical development reduced the need for blacksmith jobs). Luckily, the musician life-style gave ample scope for the restless legs to wander, and Roma musicians travelled all over their regions to play for money at big family events, esp. weddings.

Old Hungarian films between the two world wars often pictured Hungarian Romas as playing the lone guest’s favourite tune in the restaurant or inn. The somewhat legendary concept of these films – featuring the Hungarian actor and sex symbol Pál Jávor – was that Hungarians enjoy themselves crying/ sobbing (“sírva vígad a magyar”) while obviously singing to the tunes of the accompanying Gypsy violin soloist (and feverishly sweating with deep emotions, occasionally pounding the candle lit table covered with red and white checked table, – or something like that). Needless to say, the mandatory part of emotional peaks was the Roma musician opening up your broken heart in love to catharsis. Here’s a cheerful version in video that may give you a hint (a scene from the All Men are Mad film):

Now you won’t see these heartbroken Hungarian lovers singing with Gypsy bands any more (if there were any), or, at least very rarely in films again, but you can still enjoy your meal while having professional Roma musicians playing for you.

If you really like Gypsy music – not just at restaurants – you may be interested in the concerts given by the Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra (the 100-member Roma Orchestra in literal translation from the Hungarian ‘100 Tagú Cigányzenekar’). They play Strauss (senior and junior), Brahms, Monti Czardas, etc. See them playing in Hősök Tere (Heroes’ Square) in Budapest.

Or you can listen to excellent contemporary (Gypsy and non-Gypsy) jazz by Béla Szakcsi Lakatos (Liszt-prize winner) and the New Hungarian Gypsy Jazz Band.

More authentic Gypsy tunes are played by Bea Palya, Kalyi Jag, and Ando Drom. Here’s a song performed by the fabulous and talented Bea Palya at a popular Hungarian TV show:

And here is Kalyi Jag:

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Sources:
1, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Institute of Ethnic and National Minorities, Roma Report 2000 by Erno Kallai
2, The Gypsies During the Second World War by Karola Fings, Donald Kenrick

Budapest Restaurants Series: Singing at Náncsi Néni Vendéglője (Inn of Aunt Nunchy)

One of the most popular restaurants amongst travellers to Budapest is Náncsi Néni Vendéglője (approx. the Inn of Aunt Nunchy or Nunchie). The aunt in question was the granny of the founder of the restaurant (Frigyes Schädler). The restaurant Náncsi néni is recommended by the Michelin Guide “Bib Gourmand” (2003 – 2007). As the website of the restaurant claims: “In 2007 the only one in Hungary!” The style is more like visiting granny-the -super-cook (i.e. down-to-earth, not formal), rather than crispy shirt & tie business. Getting there is most simple by taxi (tip: if you want to cut taxi costs, take the red line metro until Moszkva tér and call a taxi from there).
The restaurant is in the Buda hills (see its location on the Budapest Tourist Map of Luxury Hotels Budapest.com), hidden by shady, century-old horse chestnut and oak trees. It is very family friendly: you will find a baby dresser, high chairs, scribbling boards, a swing, a washroom, etc. In addition, it is also biker and pet-friendly: if you are a biker, or you wish to come along with your dog, do not hesitate: you are welcome with dogs, bikes, and it is your place. The capacity is for 100 guests in winter and an additional 250 in summer if weather allows. A three-course menu consisting of soup, main course and dessert is about HUF 4000 – 5000.

Contact Náncsi Néni Vendéglője:

  • Address: Ördögárok utca 80, Budapest H-1028
  • Phone: 00-36-1-398-7127
  • Email: info@nancsineni.hu

Many of the restaurants in Budapest frequented by tourists feature live music, and occasionally even encourage singing. Some of the guests here enjoyed their dinner on the open-air terrace on a balmy summer evening with ‘Que Sera Sera’ (the accordion-player is accompanying the dinner party). Check out the red and white checked tablecloths that are so much part of the homey Hungarian restaurant milieu. No dishes shown unfortunately.

But here’s a snippet from the lyrics:

que sera sera
whatever will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
que sera sera
what will be will be …

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:

View Larger Map
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.