Budapest is the capital of Hungary and consists of two parts. On the east bank of the Danube lies predominantly flat Pest, on the west bank hilly Buda. It is a beautiful city with splendid medieval building, narrow streets, colorful houses, ancient bathhouses and interesting museums. But there is also a modern Budapest with fancy shops, expensive restaurants and luxury hotels. The city is also called the 'queen of the Danube'.
A quarter of the country's population, 2.5 million people, lives in Budapest.
Budapest is located beautifully on the river Danube, which not only crosses Budapest, but also runs straight through Hungary. The city is situated in the north of Hungary, not far from the border with Slovakia. Some 230 kilometers to the north-west of Budapest lies the Austrian capital Vienna.
After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the economy of Budapest suffered enormously, but it still is the beating heart of the country's economy with shipyards, textile factories, machine industry and chemical companies. Trade and transport are other important pillars.
Tourism is very important to the city. In recent years the number of foreign visitors has risen tremendously.
To the east of Budapest lies the international Budapest Ferihegy Airport. There are connections to virtually all European capitals. The airport is also used a lot by budget airlines. Every half hour there are special buses from the city center (Erzsébet tér) to the airport.
Public transport is very extensive: buses, trolley buses, trams, metros and also a cogwheel line (to the Fortress hill in Buda). The metro is perhaps the most convenient form of transportation. There are three lines, and a fourth one is being built, which will be opened in 2009. In Buda - where there are only a few metro stations - the tram provides a good alternative.
Budapest has a number of train stations. The most important ones are Keleti (east), Déli (south) and Nyugati (west). Check carefully from which station your train departs. It may not always appear logical to us. For example: the train for Vienna (which lies to the west of Budapest) departs from the train station in the east of the city!
Traffic and Parking
Budapest can be pretty busy. It is only during the Summer holiday that traffic is relatively calm. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to make a left turn on large boulevards. Plan your route carefully to avoid having to make unnecessary detours.
Car drivers are often pulled over by the police, usually because they are looking for illegal immigrants. Stay calm and hand them your papers. They will let you leave quickly. Something to bear in mind: in Hungary you are not allowed to drive when you have even a single drop of alcohol in your blood.
The city is divided into zones with different parking rates. In these zones you have to pay between 8 am and 6 pm on weekdays, and from 8 am to noon on Saturdays for parking in the street. The maximum parking time varies between 2 and 3 hours. If you want to park longer. There are P+R areas. You will find them near important metro stations and bus terminals. Even better (and safer!) would be to park your car in a car park. Wherever you decide to park, never leave anything of value in your car, in particular your documents.
The city is the traffic junction of Hungary. All important motorways begin in Budapest: the M1 to Vienna, de M3 to and Debrecen, the M5 to the Serbian border and the M7 to Lake Balaton and the Croatian border.
Budapest has plenty of hotels. There are simple rooms in private residences, bed & breakfast accommodations, good mid-range hotels, and a few 5 star hotels. Some of them are very modern, others with a long history and atmosphere to match.
Compared to Western Europe, the hotel rooms are very reasonably priced. To be sure you have a hotel room in a certain hotel, we recommend you book in advance.
For more information about Budapest, we recommend Google, and the following sources: