Category Archives: Hungary

Budapest weekend

Budapest is an easy drive for a weekend getaway from Vienna. The downtown area is chock full of restaurants, and after dark, becomes quite the hot spot for nightlife.

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Both sides of the Danube river provide beautiful views.

Everything is available by the light rail and easy walk.

Some parts will be appreciated by the kids because of the resemblance to Disneyland, or is it the other way?

More photographs can be seen at my travel website.

 

 

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Travel guide – Sopron

Reviewed by Mary: My family and I have taken a couple day trips to Sopron, Hungary, but thus far our activities have been limited to what is outside. I’ve included links to some of the city’s museums, but we’ve not visited them (yet!) so I cannot speak to them first hand.

Driving to Sopron from Vienna:

Sopron is an easy, one-hour drive from Vienna along the A3. I know that you need a Hungarian vignette to drive on their major highways (i.e., if you were headed to Budapest), but once you cross the border into Hungary you are on a secondary/non-highway road. We have thus never purchased the vignette for our excursions into Sopron and we have not experienced any problems. (But if someone reading this knows for a fact this is wrong and you do in fact need a vignette, please correct me!)

We have always parked at the parking garage by the Petőfi theater on Petőfi tér: it is very inexpensive, and an easy (less than 10-minute) walk to the historic city center from here. As a bonus, if you walk to the city center from the garage along Széchenyi tér, you will pass by a bakery offering all manner of tempting sweets at a very low price. The staff at the bakery speak German as well as Hungarian, and will accept payment in Euros.

Things to do:

As you walk towards the Firewatch Tower, whose gate leads into the old inner city, you will see remnants of the city’s old defensive walls. My children spent a large amount of time running along the walls, imagining they were defending the city. As we were following them along the wall, we noticed three interesting things: multilingual signs along the wall that explained the history of the city and the remaining structures; the open air museum of reconstructed Roman walls and remains of some Roman buildings, and; the walking path that leads you around what remains of the city’s perimeter wall.

Along the city wall

Along the city wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open air Roman museum (behind the gate)

Open air Roman museum (behind the gate)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as we are sure that Sopron is safe from “the bad guys,” we spend the rest of our time in the city eating and exploring the city’s historic center.

Street leading to Firewatch tower

Street leading to Firewatch tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main square

Main square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sopron also boasts a pharmacy museum, bakery museum, and chocolate factory.

Restaurant Recommendations:

1. Fogas Étterem, located on Előkapu. As I mentioned earlier, we follow Széchenyi tér into the old part of the city, and this restaurant is located right before you get to the church and fire tower. The restaurant is very family-friendly: there is a play area in the back of the restaurant where the kids can play as you wait for your food. The bartender (?!?) kindly made our children hot chocolate, though it was not on the menu.

The restaurant’s specialty is seafood, but there are other hearty offerings. We had a platter that consisted of five huge pieces of various grilled meats situated atop a mound of fries. It was enough to feed our entire family, and it was very inexpensive. The restaurant accepts payment via credit card, Forint (the Hungarian currency), or Euro. The staff did not appear to speak English, but they did speak German.

2. Corvinus-Generális Étterem, Fő tér 7. Another location where you can get a large portion of hearty Hungarian fare for a very low price, payable in either Forint or Euro. The staff were very friendly, and I really appreciated how they greet you with a bowl of Erős Pista and a basket of warm bread.

Last but not least…

There is a Tesco Hypermarket located on the outskirts of Sopron. Tesco is a large British grocery store chain, and the one in Sopron is more akin to a Super Wal-Mart in that it sells household goods as well as groceries. We find the prices there to be lower than those in Vienna, so we always bring a cooler and stock up on grocery staples before we leave Hungary. And beer lovers, save space in your grocery cart for a case of the local Soproni beer.

for more information:

Travel guide – Budapest

Reviewed by Nicole: This past weekend, my family and I along with some friends headed to the beautiful city Budapest – here’s a quick recap of our top recommendations along with a very extensive additional list from Mary!

Driving to Budapest from Vienna:

Driving to Budapest is very straightforward – follow the A4 into Hungary which then becomes M1 and take that all the way into Budapest. Once you cross the border, remember to purchase the vignette to drive legally in Hungary (there are many stands at the border where you can buy vignettes and change money).

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Language:

Primary language is Hungarian which is neither easy to understand nor to speak. But rest assured, all signage is in English as well and since Budapest is a major tourist city, everyone seems to speak and/or understand English and German very well.

Where to stay:

We rented an apartment (Garibaldi Guest House) for our stay as that is our preferred option when traveling with  kids. The apartments are clean and well equipped and the house is located on the Pest side very  close to Parliament and about one block away from a beautiful square with two playgrounds, a splash spray-ground fountain (a nice refreshing break for the kids!) , and a cafe.

There are plenty of restaurants close-by (don’t miss Budapest Bisztró)  and it’s only a short and pleasant walk to the famous St. Stephen’s Cathedral (picture below).

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Things to do:

There are many, many things to do and see in the beautiful city of Budapest. Our time was limited and we traveled in a group of 10 people so we chose to do a hop on/off tour to see the city which turned out to be a good option as the city and its sights are very spread out. There are many hop on/off tour providers – we chose this one, primarily because the hotel across the street from our guest house sold tickets and because aside from the bus, our tickets also included a boat tour to Margaret Island, a beautiful green part of the city with many playgrounds, beer gardens and cafes, and sport options.

Restaurant Recommendations:

  • Close to Parliament, don’t miss  Budapest Bisztró – we had a fantastic lunch there (many, many Hungarian dishes) and enjoyed breakfast the next morning there as well.
  • Close to the Elizabeth Bridge, check out Százéves, a 100-year old restaurant serving excellent traditional Hungarian cuisine (rest assured – they speak excellent English despite the fact that the website is only in Hungarian!)

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Other fantastic tips:

This very extensive list of tips and suggestions on what to do and see is brought to you by Mary who apparently scoured the Internet and read every Budapest city guide she could get her hands on! Thanks Mary~

1. HOSPITAL IN THE ROCK

Address I Lovas út 4/c Transport 16, 16/a or 116 Hours 10am-7pm Tue-Sun

Part of the Castle Hill caves network, this newly opened attraction was used extensively during the siege of Budapest during WWII. It contains original medical equipment as well as some 70 wax figures and is visited on a guided half-hour tour. More interesting is the hour-long ‘full tour‘ (3000/1500/7000Ft), which includes a walk through a Cold War–era nuclear bunker.

2. NYUGATI TRAIN STATION/MCDONALD’S

Address VI Teréz körút 55-57 Transport M3 Nyugati pályaudvar

The large iron and glass structure on Nyugati tér (known as Marx tér until the early 1990s) is the Nyugati train station, built in 1877 by the Paris-based Eiffel Company. In the early 1970s a train actually crashed through the enormous glass screen on the main facade when its brakes failed, coming to rest at the 4 and 6 tram line. The old dining hall on the south side now houses one of the world’s most elegant McDonald’s.

3. CASTLE HILL

Castle Hill, a 1km-long limestone plateau towering 170m above the Danube, contains Budapest’s most important medieval monuments and museums and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is the premier sight in the capital, and with its grand views and so many things to see, you should start here.

Below is a 28km network of caves formed by thermal springs that were supposedly used by the Turks for military purposes, as air-raid shelters during WWII, and as a secret military installation during the Cold War.

The walled area consists of two distinct parts: the Old Town to the north, where commoners lived in the Middle Ages (the current owners of the coveted burgher houses here are anything but ‘common’); and the Royal Palace, the original site of the castle built in the 13th century, now housing two important museums.

The easiest way to get to Castle Hill from Pest is to take bus 16 from Deák Ferenc tér to Dísz tér, midway between the Old Town and the Royal Palace. Much more fun, though, is to stroll across Chain Bridge and board the Sikló, a funicular railway built in 1870 that ascends from Clark Ádám tér to Szent György tér near the Royal Palace.

Alternatively, you can walk up the Király lépcső, the ‘Royal Steps’ that lead northwest from Clark Ádám tér, or the wide staircase that goes to the southern end of the Royal Palace from I Szarvas tér.

Another option is to take metro M2 to Moszkva tér, walk up the steps in the northeastern part of the square and along I Várfok utca to the Vienna Gate; a minibus with a logo of a castle and labelled ‘Várbusz’ (or ‘Dísz tér’) follows the same route from the start of Várfok utca.

4. ETHNOGRAPHY MUSEUM

Address V Kossuth Lajos tér 12 Transport M2 Kossuth Lajos tér Hours 10am-6pm Tue-Sun

Visitors are offered an easy introduction to traditional Hungarian life at this sprawling museum opposite the parliament building with thousands of displays in 13 rooms on the 1st floor. The mock-ups of peasant houses from the Őrség and Sárköz regions of Western and Southern Transdanubia are well done, and there are also some priceless objects collected from Transdanubia. On the 2nd floor, most of the temporary exhibitions deal with other peoples of Europe and farther afield: Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The building itself was designed in 1893 to house the Supreme Court; note the ceiling fresco in the lobby of Justice by Károly Lotz.

5. BUDA HILLS (CAVES, CHILDREN’S RAILWAY)

With ‘peaks’ reaching over 500m, a comprehensive system of trails and no lack of unusual conveyances, the Buda Hills make up what is the city’s playground, and they’re a welcome respite from hot, dusty Pest in the warmer months. Indeed, some well-heeled Budapest families have summer homes here. If you’re planning to ramble, take along a copy of Cartographia’s 1: 30,000 A Budai-hegység map (No 6), available from bookshops and newsstands throughout the city.

Apart from the Béla Bartók Memorial House, there are very few sights per se, though you might want to poke your head into one of the Buda Hills’ several caves.

With all the unusual transport options, heading for the hills is more than half the fun. From the Moszkva tér metro station on the M2 line in Buda, walk west along Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor for 10 minutes (or take tram 18 or 56 for two stops) to the circular high-rise Hotel Budapest. Directly opposite is the terminus of the Cog Railway. Built in 1874, the cog climbs for 3.6km in about 16 minutes to Széchenyi-hegy (427m), one of the prettiest residential areas in the city.

At Széchenyi-hegy, you can stop for a picnic in the attractive park south of the old-time station or board the narrow-gauge Children’s Railway, two minutes to the south on Hegyhát út. The railway was built in 1951 by Pioneers (socialist Scouts) and is staffed entirely by schoolchildren aged 10 to 14 – with the exception of the engineer. The little train chugs along for 12km, terminating at Hűvösvölgy (Chilly Valley). There are walks fanning out from any of the stops along the way, or you can return to Moszkva tér on tram 56 from Hűvösvölgy. The train operates about once an hour (every 45 minutes at the weekend in peak season).

6. MEMORIAL

Address Újlipótváros XIII Szent István Park

A statue called the Serpent Slayer in honour of Raoul Wallenberg by Pál Pátzay stands in XIII Szent István Park. Of all the ‘righteous gentiles’ honoured by Jews around the world, the most revered is Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat and businessman who rescued as many as 35,000 Hungarian Jews during WWII.

Wallenberg, who came from a long line of bankers and diplomats, began working in 1936 for a trading firm whose president was a Hungarian Jew. In July 1944 the Swedish Foreign Ministry, at the request of Jewish and refugee organisations in the USA, sent the 32-year-old Wallenberg on a rescue mission to Budapest as an attaché to the embassy there. By that time, almost half a million Jews in Hungary had been sent to Nazi death camps.

Wallenberg immediately began issuing Swedish safe-conduct passes (called ‘Wallenberg passports’) from the former Swedish embassy (Minerva utca 3a/b, on Gellért Hill), which bears a plaque attesting to the heroism of Wallenberg and the less well-known diplomats Carl-Ivan Danielsson (1880-1963) and Per Anger (1913-2002). He also set up a series of ‘safe houses’ flying the flag of Sweden and other neutral countries where Jews could seek asylum. He even followed German ‘death marches’ and deportation trains, distributing food and clothing and actually pulling some 500 people off the cars along the way.

When the Soviet army entered Budapest in January 1945, Wallenberg went to report to the authorities but in the wartime confusion was arrested for espionage and sent to Moscow. In the early 1950s, responding to reports that Wallenberg had been seen alive in a labour camp, the Soviet Union announced that he had in fact died of a heart attack in 1947. Several reports over the next two decades suggested Wallenberg was still alive, but none was ever confirmed. Many believe Wallenberg was executed by the Soviets, who suspected him of spying for the USA.

7. GELLERT HILL (FORTRESS, VIEWS, BATH PUMP ROOM)

Gellért Hill, a rocky hill southeast of the Castle District, is crowned with a fortress and the Independence Monument. From Gellért Hill, you can’t beat the views of the Royal Palace or the Danube and its fine bridges, and Jubilee Park on the south side is an ideal spot for a picnic. The Tabán, the leafy area between Gellért and Castle Hills, stretching northwest as far as Déli train station, is associated with the Serbs, who settled here after fleeing from the Turks in the early 18th century.

Plaques on I Döbrentei utca mark the water level of the Danube during two devastating floods in 1775 and 1838.

This neighbourhood later became known for its restaurants and wine gardens – a kind of Montmartre for Budapest. Most of these burned to the ground at the turn of the 20th century. All that remains is a lovely little renovated building with a fountain designed by Miklós Ybl in 1879 known as the Castle Garden Kiosk (Várkert Kioszk; I Ybl Miklós tér 2-6), once a pump house for Castle Hill and now a casino. The dilapidated steps and archways across the road, is all that is left of the Castle Bazaar (Várbazár) pleasure park.

Today Gellért Hill and the Tabán are given over to private homes, parks and three thermal spas that make good use of the hot springs gushing from deep below Gellért Hill: the recently renovated Rudas Baths and the Gellért Baths; the Rác Baths, designed by Miklós Ybl around a much older Turkish bath, was still under renovation at the time of writing. If you don’t like getting wet you can try a ‘drinking cure’ by visiting the pump room (ivócsarnok;which is within sight of the Rudas Baths just below the western end of Elizabeth Bridge. A half-litre/litre of the hot smelly water – meant to cure whatever ails you – is just Ft15-Ft25.

8. PARLIAMENT

Address V Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3 Gate X Transport M2 Kossuth Lajos tér Hours 8am-6pm Mon & Wed-Fri, to 4pm Sat, to 2pm Sun May-Sep, 8am-4pm Mon & Wed-Sat, to 2pm Sun Oct-Apr

The parliament building, designed by Imre Steindl and completed in 1902, has 690 sumptuously decorated rooms but you’ll only get to see three on a guided tour of the North Wing: the main staircase and landing, where the Crown of St Stephen, the nation’s most important national icon, is on display, along with the ceremonial sword, orb and the oldest object among the coronation regalia, the 10th-century Persian-made sceptre with a crystal head depicting a lion; the Loge Hall; and the Congress Hall, where the House of Lords of the one-time bicameral assembly sat until 1944. The building is a blend of many architectural styles (neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque, neobaroque) and overall works very well. Unfortunately, what was spent on the design wasn’t matched in the building materials. The ornate structure was surfaced with a porous form of limestone that does not resist pollution very well. Renovations began almost immediately after it opened and will continue until the building crumbles. Members of parliament sit in the National Assembly Hall in the South Wing from February to June, and September to December. You can join a tour in any of eight languages – they depart continually in Hungarian, but the English-language ones are at 10am, noon and 2pm. To avoid dis­appointment, book ahead in person.

9. LIBERTY MONUMENT

Address Gellért Hill District XI Transport 27

The lovely lady with the palm frond, proclaiming freedom throughout the city from atop Gellért Hill, is just east of the Citadella. Standing 14m high, she was erected in 1947 in tribute to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Budapest in 1945. But the victims’ names (previously in Cyrillic letters on the plinth) and the statues of the Soviet soldiers were removed in 1992 and sent to what is now called Memento Park. In fact, the monument had been designed by the politically ‘flexible’ sculptor Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl much earlier for the ultraright government of Admiral Miklós Horthy. After the war, when procommunist monuments were in short supply, Kisfaludi Strobl passed it off as a memorial to the Soviets. Today the monument is dedicated to ‘Those who gave up their lives for Hungary’s independence, freedom and prosperity’. If you walk west for a few minutes along Citadella sétány north of the fortress, you’ll come to a lookout at arguably the best vantage point in Budapest.

10. OBUDA (ROMAN SITE)

Address near Vihar utca Buda

 Ó means ‘ancient’ in Hungarian; as its name suggests, Óbuda is the oldest part of Buda. The Romans established Aquincum, a key military garrison and civilian town north of here at the end of the 1st century AD, and it became the seat of the Roman province of Pannonia Inferior in AD 106. When the Magyars arrived, they named it Buda, which became Óbuda when the Royal Palace was built on Castle Hill and turned into the real centre.

Most visitors on their way to Szentendre on the Danube Bend are put off by what they see of Óbuda from the highway or the HÉV commuter train. Prefabricated housing blocks seem to go on forever, and the Árpád Bridge flyover splits the heart of the district (Flórián tér) in two. But behind all this are some of the most important Roman ruins in Hungary, noteworthy museums and small, quiet neighbourhoods that still recall fin-de-siècle Óbuda.

11. VIZIVAROS

Watertown is the narrow area between the Danube and Castle Hill that widens as it approaches Óbuda to the north and Rózsadomb (Rose Hill) to the northwest, spreading as far west as Moszkva tér, one of Buda’s main transport hubs. Under the Turks many of the district’s churches were used as mosques, and baths were built, one of which is still functioning. Víziváros begins at Clark Ádám tér, leading east from the square.

The street was named after the 19th-century Scottish engineer who supervised the building of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd). Clark also designed the all-important tunnel (alagút) under Castle Hill, which took eight months to carve out of the limestone. The curious sculpture, which looks like a elongated doughnut, hidden in the bushes to the south is the 0km stone; all Hungarian roads to and from the capital are measured from this exact spot.

12. SZABADSAG TER (MONUMENT TO SOVIET ARMY)

Address Lipótváros Transport 15

‘Liberty Sq’, one of the largest in Budapest, is a few minutes’ walk northeast of Roose­velt tér. In the centre is a memorial to the Soviet army, the last of its type still standing in the city. At the eastern side of the square is the fortresslike US Embassy, now cut off from the square by high metal fencing and concrete blocks. It was here that Cardinal József Mindszenty sought refuge after the 1956 Uprising and stayed for 15 years until departing for Vienna in 1971. The embassy backs onto Hold utca (Moon St), which, until 1990, was named Rosenberg házaspár utca (Rosenberg Couple St) after the American husband and wife Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were executed as Soviet spies in the US in 1953.

13. MEMENTO PARK (STATUES OF IMPORTANT COMMUNISTS, aka SOCIALIST DISNEYLAND)

Address XXII Balatoni út 16-18 Transport 150 from XI Kosztolány Dezsö tér in south Buda

Home to almost four dozen statues, busts and plaques of Lenin, Marx, Béla Kun and ‘heroic’ workers such as have ended up on trash heaps in other former socialist countries, the recently renamed Memento Park, 10km southwest of the city centre, is a mind-blowing place to visit. Ogle the socialist realism and try to imagine that at least four of these monstrous relics were erected as recently as the late 1980s; a few, including the Béla Kun memorial of our ‘hero’ in a crowd by fence-sitting sculptor Imre Varga were still in place when this author moved to Budapest in early 1992. New attractions here are the replicated remains of Stalin’s boots, all that was left after a crowd pulled the enormous statue down from its plinth on XIV Dózsa György út during the 1956 Uprising; and an exhibition centre in an old barracks with displays on the events of 1956, the changes since 1989 and a documentary film with rare footage of secret agents collecting information on ‘subversives’.

To reach this socialist Disneyland, take tram 19 from I Batthyány tér in Buda, tram 47 or 49 from V Deák Ferenc tér in Pest or bus 7 or 173 from V Ferenciek tere in Pest to XI Kosztolány Dezsö tér in southern Buda and board city bus 150 (25 minutes, every 20 to 30 minutes) for the park.

14. TIMEWHEEL

Address XIV Felvonulási tér

The Timewheel in ‘Procession Sq’ on the park’s western edge and directly behind the Palace of Art is the world’s largest hourglass, standing 8m high and weighing in at 60 tonnes. Unveiled on 1 May 2004 to commemorate Hungary’s entry into the EU, it provocatively stands a short distance from the parade grounds of Dózsa György út, where communist honchos once stood to watch May Day processions and where the 25m-tall statue of Joseph Stalin was pulled down by demonstrators on the first night of the 1956 Uprising. The ‘sand’ (actually grass granules) flows from the upper to lower chamber for one year, finishing exactly at midnight on New Year’s Eve, when the wheel is reset to begin its annual flow.

15. UNDERGROUND RAILWAY MUSEUM

Address Deák tér in the underground metro station Transport M1/2/3 Deák Ferenc tér Hours 10am-5pm Tue-Sun

In the pedestrian subway beneath V Deák Ferenc tér and next to the main ticket window, the Underground Railway Museum traces the history of the capital’s three (and soon to be four!) underground lines, and displays plans for the future. Much emphasis is put on the little yellow metro (M1), Continental Europe’s first underground railway, which opened for the millenary celebrations in 1896 and was completely renovated for the millecentenary 100 years later. In fact, the museum is housed in a stretch of tunnel that once formed part of the M1 line until it was diverted in 1955.

16. FISHERMAN’S BASTION (AT CASTLE HILL)

The bastion is a neo-Gothic masquerade that most visitors (and Hungarians) believe to be much older. But who cares? It looks medieval and offers among the best views in Budapest. Built as a viewing platform in 1905 by Frigyes Schulek, the bastion’s name was taken from the medieval guild of fishermen responsible for defending this stretch of the wall. The seven gleaming white turrets represent the Magyar tribes that entered the Carpathian Basin in the late 9th century. In front of the bastion is an ornate equestrian monument to St Stephen by sculptor Alajos Stróbl.

17. MILLENARY MONUMENT

Address Terézváros Heroes’ Sq Transport M1 Hősök tere

In the centre of Hősök tere there is a 36m-high pillar backed by colonnades to the right and left. Topping the pillar is the Angel Gabriel, who is holding the Hungarian crown and a cross. At the base are Árpád and the six other Magyar chieftains who occupied the Carpathian Basin in the late 9th century. The 14 statues in the colonnades are of rulers and statesmen: from King Stephen on the left to Lajos Kossuth on the right. The four allegorical figures atop are (from left to right) : Work and Prosperity; War; Peace; Knowledge and Glory.

18. TRANSPORT MUSEUM

Address XIV Városligeti körút 11 Transport 72 or 74 Hours 10am-5pm Tue-Fri, to 6pm Sat & Sun May-Sep, 10am-4pm Tue-Fri, to 5pm Sat & Sun Oct-Apr

The Transport Museum has one of the most enjoyable collections in Budapest and is a great place for kids. In an old and a new wing there are scale models of ancient trains (some of which run), classic late-19th-century automobiles, sailing boats and lots of those old wooden bicycles called ‘bone-shakers’. There are a few hands-on exhibits and lots of show-and-tell from the attendants. Outside are pieces from the original Danube bridges that were retrieved after the bombings of WWII, and a cafe in an old MÁV coach.19

19. CITADELLA

Address South Buda Transport 27

The Citadella atop Gellért Hill is a fortress that never did battle. Built by the Habsburgs after the 1848–49 War of Independence to defend the city from further insurrection, by the time it was ready in 1851 the political climate had changed and the Citadella had become obsolete. Today the Citadella contains some big guns and dusty displays in the central courtyard, the rather hokey 1944 Bunker Waxworks inside a bunker used during WWII and a rundown hotel-cum-hostel.

20. BUDAPEST HISTORY MUSEUM

Address Castle Hill Royal Palace, Wing E Transport 16 Hours 10am-6pm daily mid-Mar–mid-Sep & Wed-Mon mid-Sep–Oct, to 4pm Wed-Mon Nov–mid-Mar

The Budapest History Museum looks at the 2000 years of the city, on three floors. Restored palace rooms dating from the 15th century can be entered from the basement, where there are three vaulted halls, one with a magnificent Renaissance door frame in red marble bearing the seal of Queen Beatrice and tiles with a raven and a ring (the seal of her husband King Matthias Corvinus), leading to the Gothic Hall, the Royal Cellar and the 14th-century Tower Chapel.

21. ROMAN MILITARY AMPITHEATER

Address III Pacsirtamező utca Óbuda Transport 86

Built in the 2nd century for the Roman garrisons, this amphitheatre about 800m south of Flórián tér could accommodate up to 15,000 spectators and was larger than the Colosseum in Rome. The rest of the military camp extended north to Flórián tér. Archaeology and classical-history buffs taking bus 86 to Flórián tér should descend at III Nagyszombat utca. HÉV passengers should get off at Tímár utca.

22. CAVE CHAPEL

Address XI Szent Gellért rakpart 1 Transport 47 or 49

This chapel is on a small hill directly north of the landmark art nouveau Gellért Hotel (1918). The chapel was built into a cave in 1926 and was the seat of the Pauline order until 1951 when the priests were arrested and imprisoned by the communists and the cave was sealed off. It was reopened and reconsecrated in 1992. Behind the chapel there is a monastery, with neo-Gothic turrets that are visible from Liberty Bridge.

23. SHOES ON THE DANUBE MONUMENT

Address V Pesti alsó rakpart Central Pest Transport 2, 2A

A monument to Hungarian Jews shot and thrown into the Danube by members of the fascist Arrow Cross Party in 1944, Shoes on the Danube is by sculptor Gyula Pauer and film director Can Togay. It’s a simple affair – 60 pairs of old-style boots and shoes in cast iron, tossed higgledy-piggledy on the bank of the river – but it is one of the most poignant monuments yet unveiled in this city of so many tears.

24. BREWERY AND BEER MUSEUM

Address X Jászberényi utca 7-11 Transport M3 Örs vezér tere, 161, 161/a or 168/e Hours 9am-4pm

Budapest’s – and Hungary’s – largest beer maker has a museum at its brewery where you can look at displays of brewing and bottling over the centuries. If you can muster up a group of at least 10, you can take a 1½-hour ‘Beer Voyage’ (adult/senior & student 1300/650Ft), which includes a tour, a film and a tasting and must be booked in advance on the internet.

25. GOLDEN EAGLE PHARMACY MUSEUM

Address I Tárnok utca 18 Transport 16, 16/a or 116 Hours 10.30am-6pm Tue-Sun mid-Mar–Oct, to 4pm Tue-Sun Nov–mid-Mar

Just north of Dísz tér on the site of Budapest’s first pharmacy (1681), this branch of the Semmelweis Museum of Medical History contains an unusual mixture of displays, including a mock-up of an al­chemist’s laboratory with dried bats and tiny crocodiles in jars, and a small ‘spice rack’ used by 17th-century travellers for their daily fixes of curative herbs.

26. HUNGARIAN RAILWAY HISTORY PARK

Address XIV Tatai út 95 Magyar Vasúttörténeti Park Transport 30, 30/a, 14 Hours 10am-6pm Tue-Sun Apr-Oct, to 3pm Tue-Sun Nov–mid-Dec & mid-Mar–Apr

This mostly outdoor museum contains more than 100 locomotives (most of them still working and an exhibition on the history of the railroad in Hungary. There’s a wonderful array of hands-on activities – mostly involving getting behind the wheel – for kids. From late March to October a special train leaves Nyugati train station for the park at 10.20am, 11.20am and 1.20pm.

27. BUDAPEST EYE

Address  VI Váci út 1-3 Central Pest Transport  M3 Nyugati pályaudvar Hours  10:00-22:00 Sun-Thu, 10:00-24:00 Sat

This attraction exaggerates just a titch when it claims, ‘The Budapest Eye is to Budapest what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris and the London Eye is to London.’ In reality, it’s a hot-air balloon tethered to ropes, on a site between Nyugati train station and the West End City Center mall, which ascends to 150m for some hair-raising views over Budapest. But the kids will love it.

28. FUNFAIR PARK

Address  XIV Állatkerti körút 14-16 Transport  M1 Széchenyi fürdő, 72 Hours  10am-8pm Jul & Aug, 11am-7pm Mon-Fri, 10am-8pm Sat & Sun May, Jun & Sep, noon-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-7pm Sat & Sun Apr & Oct, 10am-6pm Sat & Sun Mar

This luna park on 2.5 hectares dates back to the mid-19th century. There are a couple of dozen thrilling rides, including the heart-stopping Ikarus Space Needle, the looping Star roller coaster (alongside a vintage wooden one from 1926) and the Hip-Hop freefall tower, as well as go-karts, dodgem cars, a carousel built in 1906 and the new T-Rex dinosaur attraction.

29. MUNICIPAL GREAT CIRCUS

Address  XIV Állatkerti körút 7 Transport  M1 Széchenyi fürdő,  72

Europe’s only permanent big top has every­thing one would expect from a circus, including acrobats, dare devils on horseback and ice shows in season. Performances are at 3pm Wednesday to Sunday, with additional shows at 11am and 7pm on Saturday and at 11am Sunday.

30. ROMAN CIVILIAN AMPITHEATER

Address  Zsófia utca and Szentendrei ut

The Roman Civilian Amphitheatre is about half the size of the one reserved for the military. Much is left to the imagination, but you can still see the small cubicles where lions were kept and the ‘Gate of Death’ to the west through which slain gladiators were carried.

31. BUDAPEST PUPPET THEATER

Address  VI Andrássy út 69 Transport  M1 Vörösmarty utca Website  www.budapest-babszinhaz.hu

The city’s puppet theatre, which usually doesn’t require fluency in Hungarian, presents shows designed for children at 10am or 10.30am and 3pm. Consult the theatre’s website for program schedules.

32. ST GELLERT MONUMENT

Address  Gellért Hill Transport  7

Looking down on Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd) from Gellért Hill is the St Gellért monument, an Italian missionary invited to Hungary by King Stephen to convert the natives. The monument marks the spot from where the bishop was hurled to his death in a spiked barrel in 1046 by pagan Hungarians resisting the new faith.

33. PLANETARIUM

Address  Népliget X Népliget Transport  M3 Népliget Hours  shows 9.30am, 11am, 1pm, 2.30pm & 4pm Tue-Sun, plus 5.30pm Tue & Thu

Just over the border from Józsefváros in district X’ sprawling Népliget (People’s Park), this large planetarium has star shows as well as 3-D films and cartoons. It also houses the hokey but perennially popular Laser Theatre (Lézer Színház).

34. PALACE OF WONDERS

Address  II Kis Rókus utca 16-20 Bldg D Hours  9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm Sat & Sun

The wonderful Palace of Wonders in Millennium Park is an interactive playhouse for children of all ages with ‘smart’ toys and puzzles, most of which have a scientific bent.