Contributor: Ildiko Gritsayenko, Hungarian National Tourist Office, New York, NY - www.gotohungary.com
Ever since the ancient Hungarians came down the Carpathian Mountains on horseback and founded the Hungarian state, Hungary has been a part of European history and has shaped the fate of the continent, sometimes with a greater and sometimes with a smaller influence. Hungary has been present on the political, economic and cultural map of Europe for 1,100 years.
Think of Europe as a New "old" World, one newly unified by membership in the European Union’s club of 25 nations and one chock-a-block full of exciting business and travel discoveries. Although Hungary has been part of the European Union since May 1st, 2004, it has not become a member of the euro zone yet, which may be considered as an advantage for travelers from the United States.
What else should you know about Hungary? Well, besides its fantastic wines, unique cuisine, soothing hot springs and unusual language Hungary is known for its legendary hospitality.
Historic & cosmopolitan - Budapest, the capital:
It is no exaggeration to say that Budapest is one of the finest capital cities in Europe and also one of the best situated. Built on the banks of the wide and majestic river Danube, it is no surprise that the city is often called the Queen of the Danube, whose wonderful panorama is on UNESCO's World Heritage list.
Budapest itself is divided into two parts: Buda and Pest. On the Buda side, one may find the cobbled Castle District, the Gellert Baths, the remains of the Roman town Aquincum and the leafy Buda Hills. The Pest side is the country’s political and business stronghold, and it is livelier than the Buda side across the water. Although Budapest is home to close to two million inhabitants, the city is among the 100 most livable cities in the world according to BusinessWeek.
What makes Budapest so attractive? The city became a modern metropolis during the past decade. It has a vivid cultural and nightlife, a varied restaurant and cafe scene with a range of internet cafés/Wi-Fi spots and is simply beautiful.
Getting there and around:
Delta Airlines offers non-stop service from New York JFK to Budapest, as well as service to some three dozen European cities. Also, all major American airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM and many other carriers offer one-stop flights daily. The Ferihegy International Airport is 12.5 mi. (30 to maximum 45 minutes travel) from the city center. The airport has three terminals: Ferihegy 1, Ferihegy 2 A and B. In order to get to the city center, you may take the convenient airport shuttle (www.airportshuttle.hu) or a cab (www.zonataxi.eu).
Budapest has a constantly developing public transport network consisting of three major subway lines, trams, trolleybuses and general buses. Tickets can be purchased at ticket machines, tobacconists, newsstands and or at subway stations where you have a larger selection. For more information on tickets and schedules, visit www.bkv.hu.
In case you intend to stay only for a short period of time, the Budapest Card would be perfect, as the card’s slogan, “The whole city in your pocket", proves to be very true. One of the best options for seeing the city and experiencing its culture, the card entitles visitors to unlimited travel on public transportation, free or discounted admission to 60 museums, a city tour at half price, special offers at restaurants, spas, sports facilities and more. A 48 hour card costs around $39, while a 72 hour card cost about $48. (www.budapestinfo.hu/en)
Time(ing) is money--
Basically, the climate in Hungary is temperate and continental, very similar to that of New York City. However, there is much less humidity in Hungary, making it a pleasant destination from spring to fall.
On the Buda side--
Erected in the 14th century and rebuilt in Baroque style 400 years later, the royal palace had been the residence of the Hungarian monarchs for 700 years. Today, it houses Budapest’s most frequented museums and galleries.
Topped by a tower of stone tracery, Matthias Church, also called the Church of Blessed Virgin Mary, has been the scene of coronations and royal weddings. In the early 19th century, it was rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style. Its excellent acoustics make it a favorite venue for organ recitals and orchestral concerts.
The Fishermen’s Bastion, a neo-Romanesque bulwark with seven towers built on medieval walls, offers an excellent view of the city.
The Citadel was built as a military fortress on the highest point of Budapest’s city centre at the top of Gellért Hill. From the Citadel, you may take fantastic pictures of the Pest side and the bridges linking the two banks.
On the Pest side--
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is the first permanent bridge over the Danube between Buda and Pest. Built in 1849, it played a major role in the unification of Pest, Buda and Óbuda later in 1873. The bridge is regularly closed on summer weekends, giving home to festivities and markets.
The Hungarian Parliament is the seat of the National Assembly, one of the most beautiful and ancient legislative buildings of Europe and the third largest Parliament building in the world. Individual visitors are not required to book in advance.
Andrassy Avenue is an iconic boulevard in Budapest that links Erzsébet tér with City Park (Városliget). The avenue is also home to many upscale boutiques, including Burberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.
The House of Terror (www.terrorhaza.hu) provides an insight into one of the worst period of Hungarian history.
The State Opera House, built in neo-Renaissance style, is located on Andrassy Avenue. For detailed a program, visit www.opera.hu.
Heroes' Square, where Andrássy Avenue meets Dózsa György út, is the biggest and most impressive square of Budapest. In the middle stands the Millennium Monument, with Archangel Gabriel on top holding the double cross of Christianity and the Holy Hungarian Crown. The left side is bordered by the Museum of Fine Arts, which holds the world's second largest collection of Spanish Art. On the right side is the Art Hall, giving home to temporary exhibitions in Budapest.
Behind Heroes' Square, the City Park Lake is perfect for boating in the summer and ice-skating in the wintertime. The entertainment and cultural facilities of the City Park (Budapest Zoo, Funfair, Municipal Circus, Vajdahunyad Castle, Museum of Agriculture and Transport, Petőfi Cultural Hall and Széchenyi Thermal Bath) are among the most sought after tourist attractions in Budapest.
One of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest is the Central Market Hall, situated on the Pest side on Fővám tér. The first floor of the market has mainly foodstuffs to offer and the second floor has traditional Hungarian folk art items and other typical products of Hungarian origin for sale.
Budapest is a very walkable city, so for those in favor of a little exercise, I would recommend the walking tours run by either www.uniquebudapest.com or www.cityrama.hu. Those who prefer full relaxation can take the hop-on hop-off city tour provided by www.eurama.eu.
There are several high end hotels in Budapest, perfectly suited to the needs and requirements of business travelers. Also, these mainly five star hotels have lower rates than their American or Western European competitors. Most of these hotels can be found in downtown Budapest, right next to the river Danube, with a wonderful view of the Castle and the Chain Bridge. The following hotels are recommended:
Intercontinental Hotel Budapest (5 stars)
Apaczai Csere Janos utca 12-14.
Tel.: +36 1 327 6333
Fax.: + 36 1 327 6357
Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest (5 stars)
Erzsébet tér 7-8.
Tel.: +36 1 429 3777
Fax.: +36 1 429 4777
Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal Budapest (5 stars)
Erzsébet körút 43-49.
Tel.: +36 1 479 4717
Fax.: +36 1 479 4727
Eat All You Can - Food and Drink:
Located in the heart of the city, next to Oktogon, a main public transportation junction, Liszt Ferenc Square is a true paradise for food lovers. You can find restaurants of all genres at this popular meeting point which gives you the impression of sitting in a garden in the middle of the city. There is one restaurant I would like to call your attention to here, called Menza. A great selection of traditional Hungarian dishes, as well as international food is available at this hip restaurant. (www.menza.co.hu)
Café Déryné is a new restaurant-lounge that is located at the foot of the Buda Hills; fabulous breakfast and lunch place that turns into a popular lounge with live French jazz music on weekends and live DJ from Thursday to Saturday. (www.cafederyne.hu)
Alabárdos is one of the best Hungarian restaurants in town, located in the Castle District. Advance reservations are recommended. (www.alarbardos.hu)
Gundel is one of Europe’s finest and most exquisite restaurants. Very upscale, this is the perfect location for business lunch, dinner or a Sunday brunch. www.gundel.hu)
Bars & Lounges--
The best thing about the atmospheric Negro Café-bar is its lovely outdoor terrace. There can be few better ways to round out an evening in the Hungarian capital, than sitting with a drink in hand, taking in the view of the magnificent St. Stephen's Basilica as the sun sets and people promenade past your table. Find it right in front of the Basilica.
Oscar is a trendy American bar near the Castle District based on a cinematic theme as the name suggests. Located next to Moszkva tér at Ostrom utca, it is a popular place to get a couple of drinks before you transfer to the Jam Pub located at the bottom of the Mammut 2 mall. (www.jampub.hu)
Situated right next to the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Creol is one of the best lounges in town, with a colorful crowd of locals and foreigners enjoying live concerts on Thursdays and live DJs on the weekends.
In the atmospheric cellar of the House of Hungarian Wines each of Hungary’s wine regions is presented to visitors in separate displays. Almost 700 different Hungarian wines and sparkling wines await wine lovers. (www.magyarborokhaza.hu)
The First Strudel House of Pest reveals the secret of delicious strudel making. This is a real treat! (www.reteshaz.com)
What to do:
Hungary is blessed with an abundance of natural thermal springs, which emerge at a temperature of 86° F and are full of salts and minerals. Budapest has more thermal baths than any other world capital, so this is the perfect place to take a spa break. Two of the grandest bathing complexes are the Gellert (www.gellertbath.com), on the Buda side, and the Szechenyi (www.szechenyibath.com), on the Pest side. Both of these spas are fantastic and are a must see and do for any hard working professional. In case you are looking for something unusually exciting and you are not of afraid of adventure, attend a Cinetrip spa party that is organized on a regular basis in different bathhouses of Budapest. (www.cinetrip.hu)
Hungary, like much of Europe, has a great tradition of cultural tourism. Budapest offers a wide range of cultural entertainment all year round. The city boasts many great museums and there are theatre and dance performances and concerts of classical and light music every day. For more detailed information, visit www.culturalbudapest.com or www.budapestinfo.hu.
* Museum of Fine Arts (www.szepmuveszeti.hu)
* State Opera House (www.opera.hu)
* The Liszt Academy of Music (www.lisztacademy.hu)
* For classical and light music, theatre and dance performances, visit Palace of Arts. (www.mupa.hu)
* A personal favorite is the A38 ship, which is the reincarnation of a Ukrainian stone-carrier and also one of Budapest's most important cultural venues. (www.a38.hu)
Getting to know a country and its peoples’ thinking is not only possible by talking to locals, but by reading as well. I would recommend going to one of the foreign language bookstores selling translated works by several Hungarian authors. Visit Libri Studium bookstore at 22 Vaci utca and you’ll have the chance to explore a huge range of Hungarian literary works.
There are countless temptations to get out and shop in Budapest. Whether you are looking for gourmet chocolate, slippers for the spa or traditional Hungarian gifts you have many options to choose from.
Traditional Hungarian gifts include:
* Palinka – If you like moonshine, you will love this beverage that is only for responsible drinkers at 40% proof.
* Unicum – One of the top bitter spirits in the world, it is also a great digestive.
* Tokaji Aszu – The world famous dessert wine of Hungary. You will never forget the taste.
* Goose liver and Pick salami – Both are true Hungaricums.
* Szamos marzipan –Ggourmet chocolate of Hungary
* Porcelain – The Herend shop
Where to buy souvenirs? You have two options - go to the Central Market Hall and buy everything there (food products, spirits, embroidery etc.) or stroll down Vaci utca, which is the main street of the inner city with small stores, boutiques and wine shops marketing the very finest quality Hungarian reds and whites.
* Folkart Centrum 1056 Budapest, Vaci utca 58. (www.folkartcentrum.hu)
* Folkart Craftsman’s House 1052 Budapest, Regiposta utca 12. (www.folkartkezmuveshaz.hu)
* Westend City Center (www.westend.hu)
* Arena Plaza (www.arenaplaza.hu)
* Mammut 1-2 (www.mammut.hu)
Good to know:
For information about entry to Hungary and visa needs, visit www.mfa.gov.hu.
For travel information, contact the Hungarian National Tourist Office. (www.gotohungary.com)
Time zone - Budapest is on Central European time (CET). GMT + 1 hour, 6 hours ahead of EST. Summer time (March to the middle of October) is GNMAT + 2 hours.
Currency - Hungarian forint
All visitors are advised to exchange currency only at accredited places. There are coins to the value of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 forints, and notes for 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 forints.
Credit cards - All the most popular credit, debit and charge cards can be used in banks and in ATM’s to
withdraw forints, and in hotels, restaurants and shops for purchases. Signs are displayed at the entrance showing which cards are acceptable.
Electricity - Voltage in Hungary is 220 volts, and plugs are of the two-pin continental type.
Phone - The international code for Hungary is 36 and the area code for Budapest is 1. To call a number within Hungary, first dial 06. To make an international call from Hungary, first dial 00, then the country code followed by the area code and the subscriber’s telephone number.
Internet - Most hotels have Internet and WIFI access as well as business centers available 24/7.
For the traveler seeking business opportunities & assistance in Hungary, contact Miklos Martin Kovacs, Investment & Trade Commissioner, Chicago,IL. email@example.com - www.itd.hu
You can also contact your Pro QC account manager for additional information regarding services in this region.