The great city of Budapest (Buda-Pest) straddles a bend in the Danube
river where Transdanubia
meets the Great Plain
of the central Hungary. Budapest was formally created in 1873
when the two cities
married together to create what was first called Pest-Buda
was the side of the Danube that was flat and industrial
, whereas Buda
was a more hilly and residential
enclave on the opposite west bank of the river - both compliment
each other nicely.
Travel around the city is serviced by three underground metro lines, which meet at the meet in the city at Deák Tér (metro closes after 11pm), there's a suburban railway line, and there are numerous trams, trolleybuses and regular bus services to all corners of the city. Intercity travel is serviced by the three main railway stations of the city, Budapest is a vital link of the inter-Europe network, being the place you must change if travelling from Western (e.g. Paris) to Eastern (e.g. Istanbul) European cities (although the Oriental Express isn't running any more) so in this way Budapest truly is where East meets West. Of course the Danube River can also be used for travel, Hydrofoils depart from the International Pier towards Vienna via Bratislava. Eurolines operates Budapest's international coach travel. The airport is 30 minutes away from the city center by bus.
Budapest was left unmarked by World War II in comparison to other East European cities. Budapest's imperial era is well reflected in the glorious architecture: the neo-renaissance dome of St Stephen's Basilica (96 m high), the Great Synagogue built in 1859 and is still the largest functioning synagogue in all Europe, the State Opera House (where you can still catch performances for very reasonable prices) and the absolutely incredible (on a par with Westminster Palace) neo-Gothic Parliament building; all must been seen (you will find them hard to avoid).
Pubs, Restaurants and Bars are scattered around the city, and are varied enough to provide good choice of atmosphere at good prices, the local brands (Dreyher or Köbanyai) of beer are as good as the Czech's so try to taste as many as possible. You won't be forced to try it but traditional Hungarian fare can consists of fruit or vegetable soups, goulash, fried cheese, goose legs and livers, and fish dishes. ATMs can be found in the city center all over the place. Credit Cards are generally only accepted in the higher scale establishments or the Pizza Hut or MacDonalds.
Accomdation can be private rooms, hostels, and hotels, as usual prices will rise in summer and it will be harder to find a place. In theory it should always be possible to find a reasonably priced bed whatever time of year it is.
Useful Budapest (even Hungarian) Phone Numbers
Hungary's International calling code is 36
UK Embassy : 1 266 2888
US Embassy : 1 475 4400
Canadian Embassy : 1 275 1200
Tourist Information : Tourinform : 1 317 9800 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or pre-recorded info : 6 8066 0044
Last Minute Room Bookings : Most useful place is Tribus Hotel Service (1 318 4848/318 5776). Ibusz Office changes money, books rooms, and accepts credit card payments (1 317 1806)