The life had changed a lot since I started this blog. We are no longer living in Budapest and I miss the country, the memories and friends we left behind. Then we decided to return to Hungary for Christmas.
Planning what to do during the Christmas time in Budapest is not easy. It will be cold but the town never sleeps! You will find always many things to please you night and day but I will share my wish list with you. It might be useful for somone else as well!
1. Advent fairs in downtown – there are many Christmas market during this time, but the most touristic one is in Vorosmarty Square. The goods are very expensive; however, the typical food, the mulled wine and the folk’s music cheer you up!
2. Thermal baths – it is impossible to go to Budapest and not visit one of its hot springs, especially in winter. Hungary is one of the areas with more thermal springs in the world and they know how to take advantage of it with a variety of spa’s for different tastes. My favorite ones in Budapest are as follow in order of preference:
a. Rudas – a 600 years old thermal bath close to Budapest downtown is a mandatory program, especially on Saturday nights. There is nothing better than a relaxing thermal bath after parting! The hottest pool is 42 o.C!
b. Kiralyi – as old and warm as Rudas, Kiraly is very small and less crowded than Rudas, however it looks even older due to the conditions of the building which was not renovated from outside. Inside is also old, but the environment and the calmness are relaxing. In addition, it is the cheapest option!
c. Széchenyi – this is for tourists mainly. I know some Hungarians like also, but for me this is more like an Aqua Park than a typical thermal bath. A huge water complex in downtown, close by Heroes Square, the bath celebrated in 2013 its 100 years old. It is good for families and to spend the day there. There are night parties in there, but I’ve never been to.
d. Lukacs – this is on the other hand mainly for locals. Lukacs doesn’t have the same appeal as the previous one for tourists: it is not as old as Rudas or Kiralyi nor big as Széchenyi. The locals go there mainly to socialize…
Out of Budapest you can find also very interesting spots for a nice thermal bath, check the list of my favorites: Lake Hévíz, Siklós, Miskolctapolca (Barlangfürdő), Egerszalók, Harkány (I didn’t like this!), Sárvár (very nice hotels in this area!) and Mezőkövesd.
3. Visit to Szentendre – I love to go to this small town close by Budapest. There you will find good handcraft gifts and wood toys with good prices. You will find a Christmas market there as well and a branch of Számos Cukraszda where you can taste the best pastries and cakes in town! Szentendre was the village where important Hungarian artists lived. There are some galleries and museums to amuse the interested ones in this area as well.
4. Walk on its beautiful parks and squares – the chance of snow is very high, but if the sun gives us the pleasure for some hours, it is a fantastic program to walk along its beautiful streets, parks and squares. Find below a small tour I used to do while living there covering the basics of the 5th district:
From Deák Ference Tér you cross Erszebet tér and take the Sas U. (street) until Szent Stvan Tér. Take some pictures of the giant Basilika of Saint Stephen or delight yourself with a mulled wine at the Christmas Market there. Keep walking along the Zrínyi utca and you will meet 2 icons to take traditional pictures: the statue of a chub policeman at the corner with Oktober 6 u. and a little further the grass board written Budapest in front the popular pub Otkert (http://www.otkert.hu/). 50 meters further, you will reach the river shore at its most beautiful spot: Chain Bridge, Danube River and the Castle District overcrossing. This place was called until recently Roosevelt Square but it was renamed by Orban Viktor’s to Széchenyi Tér in a tentative to honor the national personalities instead of foreigners. Don’t cross the bridge, walk along the Danube Promenade (Id. Antal Jozsef rkp) until the Shoes’ Monument (read more about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoes_on_the_Danube_Promenade). This monument is simple and touching on the same time. It is self-explanatory. Look across the river the Fisherman’s Bastian, one of my favorite spots in town to blow the sadness away… Cross the avenue and head to the Parliament but take care because there is no zebra around and you should pay attention into the cars in both sides. Here you are at Kossuth Tér. The magnificent view of the parliament and the massive buildings of the Museum of Ethnography and the Ministerium for Rural Development. This is a place full of history and remarkable for the country’s recent history. There happened the worst massacre of Hungarians during the revolution and demonstrations against the Russians in 1956. To not forget the scars of those days, the bullets marks on the walls (of the Ministerium of Rural Development, on the corner with Bathory Utca) were replaced by rubber balls as you can see in this picture I got from http://soreafraid.typepad.com/sore_afraid/2012/03/. Also there are some posts in my blog where you will find more info about this revolution. I’m particularly very interested in history and so for this sad event. Continuing your tours along this beautiful city, check the Vértanúk Square and take another traditional picture beside Nagy Imre Statue. He was nominated “president” during the Revolution of 56 and later was imprisoned at the Terror House and killed by Communist Government. Walk along Bathory Utca for 1 more block until Hovéd Utca. Turn to the right and you will find the Magyar Szecesszió Háza Budapest which is a Art Noveau museum and I reccomend you to stop by for a coffee. The building per se is already an example of the architecture style, which invaded Budapest and other cities in Hungary early century XX. Continuing along the street, you reach Szabadsag Tér and its beautiful old buildings. On your left there is a dark building where Bruce Willis shoot Die Hard 5 years ago and the beige building of MTV – Magyar Televízió before you mistake it with the other TV Channel! On your left, you will find the most bizarre thing in Budapest: the fence and the guards of the US Embassy! Unbelievable how someone can destroy the landscape installing grids and a gatehouse in the middle of an architectural and historical site and be authorized to do that! I think they should be located in another spot if they need a fortress… ok, but this is only my opinion… right next is the Hungarian Central Bank. I heard that a visit inside is worth, but I have never had the opportunity. The families, dogs and tourists are everywhere around in this square what makes the atmosphere very nice! Another curiosity, you will find the only monument of the Communist age that remained in town and not moved to Memento Park – the monument to the Russian Heroes. I never understood this monument, why the thankful and why it was not removed, but again, it is only my taught… Head back along Oktober 6 Street to Vörösmarty Ter to finish the tour, enjoy the buildings along and spoil yourself with a nice (and expensive!) cake at Gerbeaud .
Pictures downloaded from Wikipedia and http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/days-and-nights-in-budapest/2013/10/11/7ee62454-312f-11e3-89ae-16e186e117d8_gallery.html#photo=23