Contents : Arriving in Budapest | Transportation to Downtown | Café Gerbeaud | Gellért Baths | Kispiac Bisztró
Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport is the city’s main international airport although it’s sometimes referred to by its former name, Budapest Ferihegy International.
Transportation to Downtown. Learning common courtesies in the language of the country one is visiting is always a good idea. I will admit, however, Hungarian is incredibly complex and not easy to learn. To this day, the only phrase I’m able to recall is how to order a beer. Go figure. I mention this because there are a number of ways to reach the city from the airport. It might be best, however, to rely on the mini buses or taxis since signage, via other means of public transport, might be difficult to understand―at least until you have spent a couple of days there and are better acclimated.
By Minibus. Similar to the SuperShuttle service found in urban centers here in the States, AirportShuttle-Minibus is reliable, affordable and like the taxi stands, can be found outside the baggage claim areas in Terminals 1, 2A and 2B. Unlike the taxi service, however, AirportShuttle-Minibus is based on a prior reservation which can be made in as little as 24 hours before you arrive at www.airportshuttle.hu. If you didn’t make a reservation, you can still schedule a pick-up at the AirportShuttle-Minibus Desk. You may have to wait, however, so the customer service representatives can ascertain how many passengers are traveling to the same area as you.
By Taxi. Taxis are readily available outside the baggage claim areas in Terminals 1, 2A and 2B. The taxi company, Főtaxi, is reliable and you will be charged based on the districts traveled within the city limits, i.e., Zones 1 – 4. It’s not a bad idea if you have the address of your hotel / destination already written down to present to the driver in case they’re not fluent in English.
By Train. If you’re traveling to an area close to the city’s Nyugati rail station and you don’t have much luggage to carry, you may want to use rail service.
― From Ferenc Liszt’s Terminal 2, take the 200E bus (or the 900 if you’ve arrived at night) to the airport’s closest rail station, Ferihegy.
― Tickets can be purchased at the Ferihegy station for onward travel to the downtown area.
You may also purchase 1-, 3 or 7-day passes from the airport’s post office, i.e., “Posta,” in Terminal 2A prior to boarding the 200E / 900 buses.
It was quickly apparent when I arrived Budapest has some of the most spectacular architecture in Europe. Small businesses, like cafes, inherited the buildings in which they were located when communism fell in 1989―noteworthy because during its long and rich history, Budapest’s streets had been constructed in grand fashion similar to Paris. As you walk along them today, particularly one of its most famous, Andrássy út, you’ll be struck by how the simplest of stores are housed in such incredible buildings and with such beautiful facades.
Calling to mind the visual details of the Alhambra in Spain, Budapest is home to the largest synagogue in Europe, Dohány Street Synagogue, on Király utca.
No trip to Budapest would be complete without a visit to Café Gerbeaud, a source of pride for Hungarians and rightfully so as its considered one of the great coffee houses in all of Europe. Located at Vörösmarty tér, Gerbeaud has been in business since 1858. Its bistro features a decent and well thought out menu, but its the café’s espressos and desserts which must be experienced, the latter of which are drop-dead beautiful to look at and even better to taste. I can’t recommend enough the Emil Gerbeaud Legacy, their signature dessert, featuring chocolate with homemade cognac cherries and vanilla ice-cream. Don’t even bother with trying to share it since once you taste it, giving any of it up will be an exercise in futility.
Budapest is home to almost 120 natural thermal springs, contributing to the city’s reputation as a center of public baths, spas and overall wellness. The most famous is Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool, part of the famous Hotel Gellért. Located at Kelenhegyi út 4, Gellért can be reached by the public transportation system’s tram network and features :
― cold dive pools (surprisingly refreshing)
― dry and steam saunas
― men’s and women’s thermal bath pools
― swimming pools
There are coed areas, as well as men- and women-only sections. Most wear bathing suits but there are clothing optional areas. I would recommend visiting mainly due to the fact the thermal baths, supplied from Gellért hill’s mineral hot springs, really are invigorating. The other reason to go is because the complex, one of the largest in the world, is an incredible architectural wonder. Its Art Nouveau style features mosaic floors, walls and stained glass windows. If I have a criticism its in the fact the complex is so large that navigating it can be challenging. Even though the signage features English, the layout of the place is not conventional and at times defies common sense.
Hungarian cuisine has always been considered an oxymoron, unfortunate since Budapest has some very fine restaurants and cafes. The city’s less-than-stellar reputation as a hub of great food and cuisine may soon change with the opening of Kispiac Bisztro, at Hold utca 13 near the Hold utca Market. The bistro is small and if you blink, you may very well walk right past it. The menu features well-prepared, family style, traditional Hungarian comfort food but bumped up a notch, served with style, and very well priced. The open kitchen allows you to watch the chefs prepare the meals, and the wine and beers are all locally produced.