Exploring Budapest

March 20, 2010

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY, Mar. 20, 2010/ Troy Media/ – There are so many things to see in Budapest that it is best to start your visit with taking an overview ride on the Number 2 tram, from which you will give you able to see most of the best tourist attractions. And all for the price of a tram ticket!

Start at the northern end of the route at the Pest end of the Margaret Bridge. By the way, it was only in 1873 that the towns of Buda and Pest, along with Ã’buda, were amalgamated into one city.

The tram ride will take you past the Parliament Building, the pedestrian-friendly embankment known as the Korzo, the Royal Palace, and the Central Market Hall. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from simply getting off the tram at any point for a closer look at any of these historic landmarks.

Thermal springs

One of Budapest’s special attractions is its thermal springs, situated right in the center of the city. Budapest has been known as a spa destination since ancient times, enjoyed by Romans and Crusaders, Kings and Queens, and modern day tourists and residents equally.

There are over a hundred springs and bore holes that supply the city’s spas and baths with millions of gallons of warm water daily.

The Romans built baths everywhere their empire spread. One of the reasons the Romans colonized this area was to utilize and enjoy the thermal springs. There are still ruins visible of the baths they built here. More baths were built in the Turkish period of the 16th and 17th centuries, some of which are still in use to this day!

Men and women can enjoy the Gellert Baths , which is located downtown at the venerable hotel of the same name. The public entrance is around the corner from the entrance to the Hotel. You don’t have to stay in the hotel to enjoy the bath experience.

There is a modest entrance fee. You will be given a locker in the men’s or women’s locker rooms where you can change into “proper bathing attire” – your swim suit. There are indoor and outdoor pools and thermal spas. It’s a fun way to spend a late afternoon after a long day of sightseeing.

The Szechenyi Baths  complex is in the Varosliget, or City Park, which is a short ride from the Pest side of the center of town on the historic Number 1 subway line. The Szechenyi Baths are one of the largest bathing complexes in all of Europe. The indoor and outdoor pools are open to men and women.

The Rudas Thermal Bath  is one of the oldest baths still in use. It is near the Gellert Hotel on the Buda side of the Danube. The real jewel here is the old Turkish bath which was built in the 16th century. Other pools are housed in buildings with architecture also dating from the Turkish period.

Traditionally, Turkish baths were open to men only, but the Rudas Thermal Baths are now open to female bathers, without swimsuits, on certain days of the week. And both men and women can now enjoy these baths on Saturdays and Sundays but, on those occasions when there is mixed bathing, you must wear your swimsuit.

Most of the buildings of the Kiraly Thermal Baths also date from the Turkish period. As far as we know, they are still men only. They are on the Buda side of the river near the Margaret Bridge.

Whether you experience any miraculous cures by taking the waters or not, just to experience the Budapest thermal baths is great fun and a wonderful cultural experience that you might not find at home.

Of course, as in any great capital city, there are plenty of museums to choose from – from art museums, history museums, to the Aviation Museum, which is filled with old planes that you just never will see at home.

Budapest Aviation Museum

The Aviation Museum , part of the Kozlekedsi Transportation Museum which is located in Varosliget Park, is in a separate building called the Petofi Csarnok (Petofi Hall).

The Museum, a permanent exhibition of the history of flight, displays a plethora of Hungarian and foreign aircraft – from antique airplanes to gliders and helicopters – along with a display of engines and other aviation-related equipment.

It includes a Junkers F-13, the first airplane in the world with metal frame-work; a Yak-18; the space capsule of the first Hungarian cosmonaut; a Hansa-Brandenburg B.1, which was an unarmed military reconnaissance bi-plane in the First World War, designed by Ernst Heinkel, a German aircraft designer and manufacturer who also built the Heinkel He 178, the world’s first turbojet aircraft and jet plane, and the Heinkel He 176, the first rocket aircraft; a Hungarian Lloyd Prototype 40.01 (1914), a clumsy looking biplane set altitude records on her first day of flight – 4,120 meters (13,517 ft.) with two passengers; and a Repulogepgyar Levente II (1942-43), a Hungarian two-seat trainer and liaison aircraft used during the Second World War.

Varosliget, or City Park, is easily accessible from the city center via that historic Metro subway, the second oldest underground Metro system in the world. It was built between 1894 and 1896 and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002.

The Aviation Museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Hours are shorter during the winter. The museums are closed on Mondays.

Underground city

It is in Buda, the hilly part of Budapest, where you will find some 200 caves. There are cellar caves under almost every house, running deep into the hill. Once such cave system you can visit is the Labyrinth of the Buda Castle.

The Domus Vinorum Hungarorum  houses the House of Hungarian Wines, at which you can taste your way through Hungary’s 22 wine regions. However, it is relatively difficult to find: look for the little sign out front, and then walk downstairs into what used to be an old coal cellar.

It won’t take more than one visit to Budapest to make it one of your favorite cities.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all Troy Media columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Troy Media.

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