Budapest has been an underrated city for tourism in Europe but recently it is gaining more and more popularity. It might be due to the low cost companies that are springing up overnight or just due to its beauty and a renovated openness to the world after a long isolation under Soviet rules, in any case tourism industry is now working very well.
I must say that Eastern Europe in Italy is often misjudged and regarded as a bad place to visit. In collective imagination Hungary, as well as other eastern European countries, are still seen as poor places, where everything homogeneus and grey, as it came straight out from the Soviet Union.
They did not realise the hidden potential of these small countries, which are still developing and improving their economy, while Europe is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Hungary And Its Peculiar History
Hungary is a small landlocked country located in the eastern part of Europe bordering Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, Slovenia and Romania. It is a really peculiar story the one regarding the Hungarians:
They are a very old population that it is said to be originated from the Huns, an Asiatic tribe that invaded Europe after the fall of Roman Empire. In Hungarian they call themselves Magyarok, a term we also use in English: Magyar. Magyars were, indeed, the nomad tribe, that among other six, conquered the Pannonian Plain and there settled down.
In the 11th century they were converted to the Catholicism by the King St. Stephen, one of the most important figures of Hungarian History. Still nowadays many streets and monuments are named after him.
If the history of their origins are peculiar (never lump them with Slavic people, they are two totally different ethnic groups), even more will it be their language.
It is the most spoken non-indo European language on the European territory. It shares almost no words with any other languages present in Europe, only some latin words that might have been assimilated throughout the time.
It is related to Finnish and Estonian but they are not mutually intelligible, it is almost as an isolated as Basque. But fear not, English is widely spoken all around the country and in Budapest it is almost impossible to find someone who is unable to speak English.
What About Budapest?
There is so much to speak about Hungary and Budapest but I will try to be fast and sum it up. Budapest, as many of you might have heard or read somewhere, is the result of 3 towns’ unification and not only two as widely believed.
Obuda, Buda – situated on the western part of the Danube – and Pest – situated on the eastern part – were put together to create one city in the 19th century.
The territory of nowadays Budapest was founded by the Celtics and then colonized by Romans. Later on the tribe of the Magyars came and settled down creating the towns of Buda, Obuda and Pest.
It was under the rules of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the First World War. Hungary joined the war with the side of Germans and a fascist regime was created. During this time many Hungarian Jews were killed and left to starve to death in ghettos. As everyone knows, after the war, Hungary fell into the hands of Soviet Union until the destruction of Berlin Wall in 1989.
From a touristic point of view, Buda is the poshest district where things are more expensive, while Pest is the shopping heart of the city where many young people go. On Buda side you can come across Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, Citadel and St. Matthias Church, while on Pest side you find thermal baths, Jewish Quarter, the beautiful promenade along the Danube and St Stephen’s Basilica.
Be aware of the fact that Hungary, even though it is part of EU Schengen Area, has not adopted Euro yet and they are currently using Fiorint or HUF. It is better to exchange your money in Pest, the eastern part, than in the airport or in Buda as the exchange rates are more favorable.
Budapest is also bigger than you could expect, one of the largest cities in the Eastern Europe and slightly resembles Paris with its wide boulevards and coffee house’s culture. There are many fancy coffee houses all around Budapest that just await to be discovered by you. They sell every kind of cakes, coffees and fancy hot chocolates.
Something very common in Budapest streets is the Art Noveau buildings scattered all around. They are all unique and beautiful, just wandering around its centre allows you to come across many of them.
When in Budapest you do not need to worry about public transportation. You will always find buses, metro stations and trams everywhere and to use them will be a great experience as Budapest is home to the oldest metro on the continent and a very well-maintained soviet metro.
There are many different kinds of tickets:
- single ticket: 350 HUF
- transfer ticket: 530 HUF It allows you to take metro and bus together otherwise you need to buy two different 350 HUF single tickets
- Block of 10 tickets: 3000 HUF
- 24 hour ticket: 4500 HUF
- 72 hour ticket: 4150 HUF
- Budapest Card for 24, 48, 72 hours 4900, 7900, 9900 HUF (Budapest card offers also more options, to know more check out their website)
Upon entering always remember to VALIDATE the ticket in the appropriate machines located just in front of the entrance. There will be guards checking your ticket at every station.
Metro: The metro itself is already an attraction to visit. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that its metro is the oldest on the continent but still second to the London metro. The metro line I am talking about is the yellow line, which is the shortest and is provided with the smallest trains of the whole metro system in Budapest. The metro is very well-planned and covers all the most important places in the city. You will always find a metro station near any place you want to reach.
Bus: Bus system is also very-well planned and extensive. On every metro station’s sign, you can find the number of the buses you can find there. Also international buses are present in the city and most of them can be found at the metro station called Nepliget on the blue line. There is a big bus terminal with every kind of international bus lines you are looking for. From here you can reach many European capitals and cities.
Train: Train system, unlike I thought, is quite very-well developed and serve many cities and towns throughout the country. For short distances they use old soviet trains – of course, renovated – but also have newer versions and IC. From Budapest you can reach the major European capitals like Vienna, Warsaw, Berlin, etc
Important Things To Remember:
- The currency is NOT euro but Fiorint
- Nevertheless it is part of the EU schengen area
- Buda and Obuda are located on the western banks of the Danube, while Pest on the eastern banks.
- Always remember to validate your ticket upon entering metro, bus or tram
- Hungarians and Slavic people are two completely different ethnic groups, do not lump them together
- The spoken language is Hungarian
- English is widely spoken but it is never bad to be able to say some basic sentences in Hungarian
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