Free 30+ page travel guide about Budapest, Hungary and bits of Central Europe. Enjoy!
Information correct as of summer 2020. If you find anything incorrect or would like to make requests, suggestions (or just want to say hi), please do that here
! You should also drop by in /budapest
to see past questions and to get advice from multiple people.
I would also greatly appreciate your post-trip feedbacks about whether my recommendations worked out for you or not! Restaurants, clubs can undergo radical changes and it's not always possible to keep track of every single one.
The local charity I support is the Hungarian Food Bank Association
. For every €1 donated they are able to save €30 worth of perishable food and have it reach underprivileged Hungarian families. If you find this guide useful, please consider donating to them!
Some links use URL-shorteners, so I could track how many of you are using this guide. Nothing fishy waiting for you behind them.
See my suggestions in the comments below about: ===CORONA RESTRICTIONS===
The situation is subject to change momentarily, this information is current as of September 2020
. Eastern Europe as a whole has largely been spared from the worst of it, including Hungary, and the risk of transmission is low. Presently foreigners are banned from entry altogether.
Exceptions are in place for people with ties to the country (family members, studies, work, those holding residence permits), and people transiting by car on designated highways.
The situation will be revised monthly, with experts saying the second peak is expected for December-January.
In the country, you need to wear a mask on public transport, inside shops, malls, cinemas, museums. You don't need to wear them inside restaurants, cafes, bars, but they must close by 23.00. Social distancing rules are in place, but largely ignored. ===END OF CORONA RESTRICTIONS===
Hungary has a continental climate with 4 seasons. Summer is the main season, a slightly less busy time to visit is April to mid-June and September to October, but the weather is less predictable. Those uncomfortable with 30+C (>85F) temperatures should visit around then as 35+C (>95F) is not uncommon in the summer. November through March has -5 to 10 (20-50F) and possibly gloomier weather – but fewer tourists.
Currency: the Hungarian Forint (HUF, Ft). Fair exchange rates for Euros is around 330-335Fts, for US Dollars around 300. Only use currency exchanges where the buy/sell spread isn't greater than 5-6Fts for these two currencies!
Citizens of 62 countries
do not require a visa to enter the Schengen Area and can stay for maximum 90 days within a rolling 180-day window. See here
if you don’t know what that entails. EU member countries that are not members of the Schengen Area are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, and the United Kingdom, visits to these do not count toward your 90 days. Non-EU countries part of the Schengen Area are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, visits to these do count toward the cap.
Because we both know you want to do your own research
- WeLoveBudapest, the definitive city magazine in English, from top lists to current events,
- Offbeat Budapest, a new site with the author’s finger very much on the city’s pulse,
- Spotted by Locals, for even more local insight. Their offline city guide is worth $3.99.
- TripAdvisor, a small number of reviews might be bought, but no other site competes with their sheer volume of input. Be skeptical of places with unbalanced (90+% 5-star) reviews, the remaining ones should be accurate.
- Foursquare, with more local input than on TA,
- Wikivoyage, for your encyclopedic knowledge needs,
- Most threads on budapest and a couple more on hungary, which you can search like this,
See the city in 4K
, or with Rick Steves
However nothing beats having a physical guidebook in your hand! Lonely Planet
has the best and most recent issue.
Read up on the concept of coconut and peach cultures
, as sometimes the reserved and distant behaviour of locals can be misinterpreted by ‘peach’ visitors as rudeness – nope! This is a comprehensive itinerary
, but leaves out the best museum of the city: the House of Terror, a solemn museum of the Nazi and Soviet occupation and crackdowns (get the audio guide or be prepared to peruse dozens of pamphlets). There's an attendance limit, so you might need to wait up to 30-45 minutes to get in when it's the busiest. When you are around Deák Ferenc tér, drop by in the Tourinform office
(Sütő utca 2., the small street near the church) to stock up on free maps, printed guides of the city. WeLoveBudapest prints a comprehensive and free one every year around June.
I suggest 4 full days
to discover Budapest, or 3 faster paced ones. Make it 5-7 if you'd like to make a few daytrips (Szentendre - open-air ethnographic museum, cobblestoned, quaint center, Esztergom - Central Europe's largest cathedral and religious center, Visegrád - medieval castle, Eger - medieval castle and wine region). Most of Hungary’s highlights can be visited in 2 weeks. For more details on countryside and international trips, see my comment below
. Meal times
and habits are typical to central Europe: breakfast is usually done at home, not much of a culture of eating out in the morning. But a large number of new wave breakfast places
have popped up in the past years, which offer ample opportunities for visitors, normally from 8am
. Lunch is at midday, after 1pm most places are going to be fairly empty and many will stop serving lunch after 2pm. The standard time for dinner is 7pm
, bookings for later than 8pm are unusual. Lots of restaurant kitchens close at 10pm (with the restaurant following suit 30-60 minutes later), finding a meal after that hour is challenging for anything other than street food. Baths
Gellért is the most aesthetic, Széchenyi the largest and most popular among foreigners (Sparty
can get crazy with lots of drinking, puking and sex going on in the pools, but it is wildly overpriced and 100% aimed at visitors). Rudas is a Turkish hamam with swimwear optional, single-gender weekdays (women-only on Tuesdays, coed and swimwear-mandatory on the weekend). Lukács is plain and personally I’m not a fan of it – tourists only visit it because it’s included free with the Budapest Card. For more details on the baths, see this
For off the beaten path sights, ride the D11 or D12 public boat lines for a cheap alternative to paid cruises (travelcards only valid on weekdays, otherwise 700Ft), check out the Pinball Museum, Hospital in the Rock or check out this section
for a lot more off the beaten path ideas
Hungary has the world’s highest effective VAT (=sales tax) at 27%. Non-EU/EEA tourists are eligible for VAT refund on their qualifying purchases if they complete the paperwork (min. €175 value per transaction, passport+reclaim form stamped by customs official).
The most popular and best accessible mall of the city is WestEnd on Nyugati tér. Arena Plaza is larger by floor area and carries a couple brands that can’t be found elsewhere, but is less centrally located (10min walk from Keleti train station). Don’t expect to find bargains on clothing or electronics, prices are similar to Western Europe and over North American or Asian ones.
For more information on shopping and VAT refund, see here
. Paprika Market
is a decent souvenir shop in the sea of overpriced, terrible quality crap on Váci utca. Magma Gallery
for contemporary and affordable jewelry, ceramics and home decor items by local designers is just one street over on Petőfi Sándor utca.
Check out the antique bookstores alongside Múzeum körút between Astoria and Kálvin tér, some have Socialist-era posters available for sale from 30€ and up, that could be a unique gift/home decor to take home. Ecseri road flea market for more antiques, go early on Saturdays. Hungarian cuisine
is hearty and filling, with a heavy use of meats. Must-try foods are:
- goulash: a beef soup with potatoes and carrots!
- Hortobágy crêpes: Hungary's more sophisticated answer to enchiladas, these savory crepes filled with either stew or minced meat covered in creamy paprika sauce make excellent starters or even entrée.
- pörkölt/paprikás: a thick stew without or with sour cream mixed in and what the rest of the world incorrectly believes goulash is – my favorite is catfish with curd cheese&dill noodles, though beef, chicken and the inferior pork are more commonplace
- roast sausage and blood sausage (hurka-kolbász): the breakfast of champions! Ideally eaten at an authentic butchershop like Pinczi or Balla with a side of pickled veggies, mustard (or horseradish) white bread and cold beer at 8am on a Saturday.
- everyone’s favorite street food, lángos: Hungarians only eat it with salt, garlic, sour cream and/or cheese, the Frankensteinian concoctions with sausage or kebab toppings are 100% aimed at tourists
- Somló trifle: a scrumptious walnut sponge dessert with chocolate sauce and whipped cream
- Chimney cake: a sweet, spiral pull-apart bread baked over charcoal, rolled in the topping of your choosing (typically nuts, cinnamon, vanilla sugar, cocoa, coconut flakes)
For authentic recipes, recommendations for recipe blogs or cookbooks, tips for cooking traditional Hungarian meals, see here
For edible souvenirs to bring home with you:
- Pick winter salami: only choose the original, typically ~6000/kg, comes in sizes of 380, 800 and 1250g and in trays (100 and 250g). The brand has a deli & store (working with regular prices) on Kossuth tér, next to the Parliament, open from 7am on weekdays for breakfast and lunch.
- Tokaji dessert wine: aszú being the premium product with the at least 4 puttony varieties suggesting quality, but they make regular whites as well, so check the label. Should cost at least 3-4000 per bottle. Suggested wineries: Disznókő, Oremus, Dereszla. Avoid: Royal Tokaji
- Premium pralines in lovely, traditional packaging from Stühmer.
Grocery stores include Spar, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl. Avoid CBA and Coop, low quality for high prices. Small convenience stores, many 24/7, also dot the city at higher prices.
The most popular and best accessible mall of the city is WestEnd on Nyugati tér.
Alcohol is sold at every one, but some (mostly residential) districts enact a ban on the sale between 22.00-06.00. The central Pest districts don’t have such limitations in place.
Tobacco is sold at tobacconists (‘nemzeti dohánybolt’
). These shops are also exempt from the evening alcohol sale ban if you find yourself in such a district. Flavored cigarettes are banned in Hungary, so no Black Devils or Sobranies. Budgets (per person)
For reasonable comforts, I would suggest aiming for at least €50 per day excluding accommodation. Hotel prices significantly vary in and outside high season.
Getting around Do not buy the Budapest Card
- Shoestring: <€50 (hostel dorm €10, attractions €5+, meals and entertainment €10+)
- Mid-range: €75-150 (1/2 of hotel room or great Airbnb €30+, attractions €20+, meals and entertainment €25+)
- In comfort: €150+ (1/2 of comfy hotel €75+, attractions €30+, meals and entertainment €50+)
, it is not a bargain, even if every travel blogger seems to think otherwise! You would need to visit at least 3-4 museums a day to break even and the free visit to the pretty plain Lukács Baths could mean you’d deny yourself going to the much more interesting mainstream alternatives, such as Gellért or Széchenyi. The discounted museums are second-rate and typically not what most visitors choose to hit up on their own. Do buy a public transport travelcard
, the 1, 3 or 5-day unlimited options require no validation or ID (common reasons for fines). For week-long stays, the 7-day travelcard needs an ID number and that you have the document on you at all times. Please do not try to get around by using single tickets
The travelcards are economical (from €5/24h to €15/week) and easy to use: no validation, you just show it to the controllers. Validity starts immediately by default, or you can select a later starting date (always from midnight). 7-day and monthly passes require an ID/passport number, and you must have the ID on you whenever you travel, otherwise you risk getting fined!
Groups of 4 or more can also buy the even more economical '24h group travelcard', but all persons must travel together using that. Common reasons for fines
- Forgetting to validate single or transfer tickets
- Entering the subway station without a valid ticket
- Not having the ID on you for the 7-day travelcard or monthly passes (if you are fined for this, you have 2 business days to present it to the central BKK office for a reduced fine)
Ticket inspectors (must have an anonymized badge and armband
) are notoriously brash, speak subpar English. Paying on the spot lets them give you a discounted fine of 8000 instead of the regular 16000 through postal order or wire transfer, they aren't looking to scam you if they offer you that. Fines are pursued internationally through collection agencies, multiplying the original amount once their fees are added.
Cheapest way to get to the city from the airport
is by public transport
. I suggest paying the 900Ft supplementary ticket for the 100E bus. The southern portion of the M3 subway is under reconstruction, during that period the 200E buses go beyond their usual terminus, Kőbánya-Kispest and take you to Nagyvárad tér station, where the subway runs from. The purple ticket machines at the airport and all over the city take chipped cards. Shuttle bus
is a good compromise between price and comfort and depart when full or close to.
Ignore touts walking up to you offering cabs
in the arrival hall, use the official Főtaxi booth
immediately outside the building. Rates are centralized: flagfall 700Ft, 300Ft/km, 75Ft/min
waiting. The fair price to the centre is around 7-9.000Fts. Rides inside the centre are typically under 3.000. All taxi companies have passable reputations with a few horror stories about each, Főtaxi (+36-1-222-2222), 6x6 Taxi (+36-1-666-6666), City Taxi (+36-1-211-1111) are a few. There are some stories of even company cab drivers trying to rip off naive-looking tourists, especially around train and bus stations, so consider legal Uber-alternative Taxify/Bolt (Android
). Uber is banned.
Most companies have apps, but they have terrible design and might set an unchangeable pick up location 5-10 minutes away from you. It’s much better to order by phone, they have English-speaking operators. If you must use an app, choose Taxify. Scams
Cabbies are the only ones eclipsing the ticket inspectors in notoriety. I cannot emphasize enough: DO NOT USE THE ONES WITH ‘FREELANCER’ ON THE FRONT DOORS!!!
These drivers are nicknamed 'hyenas', work independently, they always have rigged meters and are known to sometimes assault customers who don’t comply with their ridiculous demands. If you hail on the street, be absolutely certain you’re getting into a company cab (logo on the front doors).
A known scam by the hyenas, fraudsters and illegal street exchangers is giving you worthless currencies
with similarly high denominations as the Forint – namely the Indonesian Rupiah or the old Belarusian Ruble. Bag handlers at the airport steal from unsecured luggage
. Never put any valuables in your checked luggage!
Overly friendly, attractive women approaching you in broad daylight 'to practice their English' and taking you to scammy cafés where you'll be charged €300 for a bottle of bottom-shelf champagne are also to be avoided. Recently a Redditor reported the same happening to him through Tinder, so be very suspicious of anyone insistent on going to a particular establishment. The scam café was Hajós Café
on Hajós utca. Another known scam location is Café Fidelité
on Révay utca.
Otherwise general safety cautions should be exercised: watch your valuables in crowded spaces for pickpockets, be wary of overly friendly strangers approaching you and introducing the idea of going to a club or bar by their 5th sentence or of people pretending to be authority.
Policemen typically wear dark blue uniforms
and white shirts
, sometimes with a visibility vest and can be identified by the numbered metal badges on their chest and their separate police ID card which you can ask to inspect before complying with their orders. Scammers use fake police IDs to part you with your cash under the guise of inspecting the notes for counterfeits. Always ask to see it first: this
is real, this
is fake – notice where the real one has a serial number, the fake says POLICE. If the issue is anything halfway serious, ask to be escorted to the nearest police station – it will scare away scammers playing dress up.
The emergency number is 112
for police, ambulance or firefighters, there are English-speaking operators (works throughout the EU).
If you get pickpocketed, notify both the police and in case of losing your travel documents, your embassy. Thieves are usually courteous enough to leave papers near trash bins, so walk around in the neighbourhood to see if you can recover them. If you find someone else’s, hand in to the nearest police station. Getting around
the city is easy, Budapest has one of the best public transport systems of the continent. Use Google Maps
for orientation and getting around! Tickets and passes with rates are listed here
All EU/EEA citizens aged 65+ travel for free
on all Hungarian public transport, including trains, distance buses. Picture ID and administrative 0 Ft ticket required. Age 65 is not included. Student discounts are available to full-time students in EU/EEA countries
with a valid student ID. If it doesn’t have it, also carry a picture ID. EU citizenship not required, you only need to study there full-time (not applicable for exchange students unless they get ID issued). The monthly student pass (3450) is cheaper than the 72h travel card (4150) for identical benefits.
The 4 subway lines
are coded by numbers and, unofficially, colour (1-yellow, 2-red, 3-blue, 4-green). The busiest, M3, is under renovation until 2021, but remains in partial operation, see details here
. The entire line shuts down after 8pm and all day on weekends (replacement buses operate), and one section of the line is always out of service. For 2019 it’s the southern segment, between Kőbánya-Kispest and Nagyvárad tér. During this time the 200E airport bus will take you to the more central Nagyvárad tér stop (from where the subway runs) instead of its regular terminus of Kőbánya.
In Budapest driving is not recommended
for the perpetual lack of parking spaces, congestion and because there's really no need to. If you must arrive by car, pick a hotel with parking, use the free parking lot at Kelenföld subway station
, street-parking by StarPark at Podmaniczky utca
at ~€8/24h, or opt for a more central location (such as one of CarE Park’s garages
) at ~20€/24h, €100/week and do not use it for getting around in the city. Public areas are metered in the entire centre, typically charging 1.5€/h with a cap of 3 hours on a ticket.
The Bubi city bike system
is available for anyone’s use. The rates are very favourable (500Ft for 1-day, 1000 for 3 for the pass), but a deposit of €80 will be docked when you register and might take a few weeks to release. First 30 minutes are free, after it's 500Ft/30min on top of the daily pass' price.
Two e-car sharing systems compete in Budapest. I suggest using MOL Limo
, as you can complete your licence verification remotely (do it before arrival, they might take a day or three if they are backlogged). Despite the name, the cars are tiny, automatic VW up!s, the majority electric and all automatic. Age limit 18, min. 1-year old national licence, foreign ones accepted, €20 registration fee and €0.25/min rate. Coverage includes basically every area of note to tourists in the centre, except the Castle and underground garages (as well as the airport). Expansion is planned for the future. You cannot park (leave the car) outside the coverage area, but you can drive through. Sightseeing
The best rated tour bus
company is Big Bus
, Giraffe (aka. the red Hop On Hop Off ones) tends to get mixed-to-negative reviews. Segway tours
also available. Free thematic walking tours
of the city depart in front of the lion fountain on Vörösmarty tér daily. A tip of 2000-2500Ft/person suggested, but they're are chill about it, you can give less if you're on a budget.
River cruises run during the day and the evening, including dinner (usually not great, save for one) or party in the latter case. The most popular is Legenda
, partiers choose Boat Party
One standout cruise is Pannónia Gastro Boat
that goes above and beyond the standard quality of service of other operations and often host guest chefs from innovative countryside restaurants.
Public transport alternative is the D11 or D12 boat lines between Boráros tér going up to Népfürdő utca (or getting off at Jászai Mari tér or Margaret island 1 or 2 stops prior). Tram 2 between Jászai Mari tér and Boráros tér hugs the Danube on the Pest side and loops around the Parliament for a similarly nice experience. Seasonal operations, normally from March through October. Money
The currency of Hungary is the Hungarian Forint (1EUR=330HUF, 1USD=300HUF in November 2019), but I’ve listed prices in Euros (€). Check for current rates here
. Don't exchange Forints at home
, bring USD/EUGBP in cash or a chipped card with you – the withdrawal fee is far smaller than what you’d lose by the atrocious rates available to you at home (exception: neighbouring countries).
With cards, Visa, Mastercard are best, Maestro acceptable. Avoid Amex, Diners Club and other uncommon non-European issues.
CAD/AUD/JPY/CNY will be exchanged at slightly worse rates, but still much better than if you’d exchange Forints at home. I don't recommend bringing currencies other than the ones I've mentioned and those from neighboring countries, but if you do, Tichi Change
exchanges almost every valid currency in the world at as good of a rate as you could realistically hope for. When the ATM asks you if you want to be charged in your home currency, say no and opt for Forints
or you'll lose up to 30% due to the poor conversion rate! Learn more about the rip-off of dynamic currency conversion here
and steer clear of the ATMs operated by Euronet
. Besides the dynamic currency conversion ripoff, they will also prompt you to withdraw ridiculously high amounts of money (equivalent of $500 or more) that you will not be able to spend in 3-4 days. Don't exchange any money with bright orange Interchange
they use ripoff rates (>30% spread). They hava e monopoly at the airport and are also present throughout the city in premium locations, such as Váci utca. Street exchange is illegal and a good way to get scammed.
Tons of fine currency exchanges around the city, the best USD and EUR rates are at Gold Change
but use your eyes: the buy/sell spread shouldn’t be more than 1-3% apart for these, or 2.5-5% at banks. Exchange offices and banks do not take cards! You may only use them for ATM withdrawals. Phones
Make sure to bring an unlocked phone
, ideally a dual-SIM one.
The 3 main carriers are Vodafone, Telekom (T-Mobile) and Telenor. The best prepaid package is Telekom's Domino Fix with the 1/3/30-day unlimited 4G add-on
, costing 990+9900Fts (€32) for the 30-day option. SIM cards need to be activated after purchase, so buy them at brand stores where help is available instead of supermarkets or gas stations.
Roaming fees within the EU have been abolished in 2017, you will be able to use your SIM in any EU member country, but not as if it would be local. I.e. a Vodafone Hungary-issued SIM will be roaming on Vodafone Austria’s network. Some 'reasonable' data caps remain in place, which are determined by the cost of your service.
Outside the EU there are punitive data rates. I once managed to rack up a $90 bill for 5MB by accident. Sleep
Rates are for high season (late April through September, Christmas, NYE), might be 50+% lower on other dates
- For 0 hours (party hostels, from €10): Grandio, Retox, Carpe Noctem Vitae
- On a budget (well-reviewed hostels, dorm, private rooms €10-35, apartments €40-60): Lavender Circus, Maverick City Lodge, Pal’s, The Groove, Loft, standard Airbnbs
- Mid-range (€80-150): Mamaison, Cortile, Memories Oldtown, Casati, upscale Airbnbs
- In style (€150-250): Palazzo Zichy, Bródy Studios, Moments, Prestige, Corinthia, this palatial Airbnb
- Lavishly (€250+): Aria, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons (the gold standard), Kempinski
Location: if you plan on sleeping, the party district (VII., inside the ring road) should be avoided, as well as VIII. outside of it and around Keleti train station for safety reasons/because you can get nicer digs elsewhere. An under the radar gem of an area is VII. between Múzeum körút and the ring road. Buda is nowhere as dead as tourists collectively imagine it to be (especially around Széll Kálmán tér), don’t shun it if you find someplace nice there. Eat at
- Rosenstein (best traditional Hungarian restaurant in the country)
- Két Szerecsen (cozy Hungarian)
- Olimpia (casual fine dining)
- Borkonyha (business casual fine dining, Michelin-star)
- Stand25 (Bib Gourmand bistro - don't miss the goulash and the layered potatoes!)
- Kispiac (modern Hungarian)
- Vén Hajó (restaurant ship with amazing panorama and well-done Hungarian food - touristy, but still memorable!)
- Petrus (French-Hungarian, Bib Gourmand)
- Dobrumba (Arabic)
- Tüköry (traditional Hungarian on a budget)
- Ruben (traditional Hungarian on a budget)
- Bors (soups & sandwiches with a cult following)
- Manu+ (authentic Neapolitan pizza).
For more detailed restaurant recommendations, see this comment
. August visitors, check the restaurants' websites
and Facebook to see if they aren't on holiday!
The quality of service is a common source of complaints, don't take it too hard if it happens to you. Tip is 10% most of the time, unless you’re really dissatisfied or find yourself absolutely elated. Many top end restaurants add a ~12% service charge to the bill, tipping on top of that is not expected, though naturally it will be appreciated.
Neither regular, nor ost fast food restaurants do refills. The only exceptions are all KFCs and a few Burger Kings.
Smoking is banned at all restaurants, bars and basically every facility open to the public. Designated smoking areas can be found outside on the street.
(~40% ABV fruit brandy), Unicum
(herbal bitteaperitif, like Jäger), bikavér from Eger and Szekszárd (lit. ‘bull’s blood’, a full-bodied red), Tokaji aszú
(similar to white Port, made of hand-picked berries with noble rot, named the "wine of kings, king of wines" from the 18th century) or fröccs (spritzer, white or red wine mixed with seltzer – a lifesaver in the summer)!
More details in the shopping section
Or get really
local and ask for ’fény’
, carbonated vodka foam over raspberry syrup. You’ll see the fény
(=light) at the end of the tunnel in no time!
Eat a freshly fried lángos
at market halls (acceptable toppings: sour cream, garlic, cheese, perhaps ham and cabbage - certainly none of that tourist stuff with nutella, Hungarian sausage or kebab...) and fried sausage
from a butcher shop such as 1951 establishment Balla Hús
in Városház utca or the more contemporary Belvárosi Disznótoros
eatery. The gallery of the Hold utca market hall hosts quality street food vendors, Karaván
food truck yard right next to Szimpla. Nightlife
For more detailed recommendations, including strip clubs, casinos and more, see this comment
A casual evening
- Doblo - wine bar
- Élesztő - craft beer pub
- Csendes - bohemian hangout
- Nappali - neighborhood bar with great whiskies
- Mazel Tov
- Pótkulcs (low-key, occasional folk concerts)
Techno Rock and miscellaneous
- Raqpart (seasonal only)
Gay bars Get out
- Dürer Kert
- A38 (a converted Ukrainian barge – a unique experience)
- Barba Negra Track
See train schedules on Elvira
, check for buses on menetrendek.hu
(this site combines bus and train schedules, but has no English version, check for the orange or blue icon on the left side to see which is which). Daytrip
- Szentendre: a bit different from its Scottish peer (lit. 'St. Andrews') quaint, cobblestoned artist town, chock full of galleries, art museums, restaurants – and tourists. The biggest attraction requires a short cab ride out of town, the open-air ethnography museum, Skanzen, with authentic recreations of functioning village clusters (open March through October). Best restaurant, oddly enough, cooks up a Caribbean fare at the hand of the Curaçaoan owner and his Hungarian wife: Mjam. Reachable by the H5 suburban railway from Batthyány tér (requires extension ticket for segment outside city limits - that's after Békásmegyer station, you need a 15km extension)
- Visegrád and Esztergom: a Renaissance castle with a panorama in the first, Central Europe’s largest cathedral in the second – and all this can be done on a scenic hydrofoil or boat trip in season!
- Eger: the location of a key Hungarian victory over invading Ottoman forces, this popular excursion destination is famous for its medieval castle, Baroque center, random museums (Beatles, firefighting and marzipan to name a few), its reputable wineries producing full-bodied, cabernet-like reds (bull’s blood, bikavér) and the limestone terraced natural spa of neighboring Egerszalók. Suggested wineries: St. Andrea, Tibor Gál, Demeter, Bolyki. Eat at Macok restaurant (by the castle entrance), they are excellent!
- Etyek: the nearest wine region to Budapest, they focus on whites. Although not as spectacular as the previous examples, it's a worthwhile visit for wine aficionados in the summer and autumn. Typical varieties include Irsai Olivér, királyleányka and Muscat Lunel (sárgamuskotály).
For multi-day excursions
, including to lake Balaton
and detailed information on car rental, countryside and international tourism opportunities, click here
I ran with a team for the Ragnar Relay: Las Vegas 2015 this past weekend and I'd never seen a recap for a race like this, so I wanted to share with the rest of you to see if you had any similar stories and/or give those considering a Ragnar Relay an in depth (albeit from a probably unreliable first person narrative) recount of events and emotions as they unfolded. I had the idea to do this journal style recap a few days before I left for Vegas. Be warned it was mostly written stream of consciousness style in the notes app on my iPhone during the race (so feel free to berate my grammaspelling/punctuation).
For those unfamiliar with the Ragnar Relay series it is a 200ish mile relay race for 12 person teams. The race is then divided into 36 "legs" and each person is assigned a runner number 1-12 and then run in order. When Runner 12 is done with leg 12, Runner 1 is back up to complete leg 13 and so on. There's a little more to the process involving splitting the 12 runners into two vans and leapfrogging each other and so on, but for this it's not that important. For the bold, there is an option to run the race as an Ultra Team, meaning your team is reduced to six runners. Our team opted for the Ultra version. Conventional wisdom would recommend that for an Ultra, runners simply run legs back to back. This strategy was utilized by most of our team, but I'll get into that later.
The race: Google Earth kmz file of all 36 legs and more Leg maps from the Ragnar website
Me (2nd Ragnar): High school athlete, post college runner (started with Spartan Races, then got into more traditional trail and road races), 1x marathon (4:30) that still keeps me up at night
Jane (7th Ragnar, girlfriend - we met on my first ragnar): Runner since high school (XC and 800m, 2 mi), 2x marathoner (4:13 and 4:06)
Carl (8th Ragnar, BFF of Jane): Post college runner, 2x marathoner (3:59 PR), triathlete considerer
Rachel (4th Ragnar, post college friend of Jane, SO of Buddy): 2x marathoner (sub-4 NYC i think)
Buddy (2nd Ragnar, SO of Rachel): endurance cyclist, got into running by *Rachel asking him to do Ragnar (i think
Captain (6th Ragnar, college friend of Carl): 2x marathoner (PR somewhere around 4:15)
Me: Almost none. was maybe running twice a week from the marathon (7 months ago) until about 3 weeks before we left. To be honest, I fell out of love with running after the marathon. I was dealing with some self diagnosed IT band stuff. My best 10K+ runs were lucky to sniff 9:30 in the weeks before we left
Jane: Ran a half the weekend I ran the marathon. Ran another half in mid september.
Carl: Hasnt run over 9 or 10 miles in 7 months
Rachel/Buddy: Claimed to of not do much training. Buddy had mentioned to me he and Rachel were running 9 miles in the 8:00-8:30/mi range. Its also worth noting that Buddy is very into the nutrient side of recovery. I’d later find out he packed enough powders and chews to open a GNC from the back of our van.
Captain: Probably the most trained. Did some two-a-days 11/5/2015 1730ish
Jane, Carl, and I flew out together and have just arrived in Vegas. Rachel and Buddy we’re going to be arriving around 2200. Captain has been in Vegas for about an hour and just finished dealing with the car (van) rental. We meet up, say hellos, and get on the road. We get groceries/food/snacks/supplies for the race at an Alberstons near the official pre race hotel (Red Rock Casino and Resort). After grocery shopping we get the traditional night-before Olive Garden meal. Service kind of sucked. 20:00ish
After dinner the four of us check into our rooms and go to bed. Jane and I take some Unisom and we’re out before Buddy and Rachel get to our room. 11/6/2015 0530
Everyone slowly wakes. Everyone quickly showers. Our start time is at 0830 and is about an hour or so away. 0655
Leaving the hotel. Another hotel guest tries to board our van thinking we're the shuttle to the airport - "Oh this is for the race? Good luck. Ya'll are crazy." Everyone in the van shares his sentiment. Except Rachel. For some reason Rachel is super stoked. 0658
Hotline bling is already worn out. 0739
Very close to the start now. We’ve started to pass runners that have already started. Where we are driving there's about 8 inches of paved shoulder, and 10 feet of stone/gravel shoulder that blends into the all surrounding desert. Runners are coming down off the mountain at us. We've passed two exchange points. Not sure what #s. 0748
6000' and climbing. We all just realized we didn't prep for any thin air. I had imagined more of running to and from casinos. Casinos have thick air pumped into them right? 0758
8000'. Fun fact: Nevada is Spanish for snowcapped. Makes sense. 0835
8500' and we’re at the start. We missed our 0830 start. 0842
Check in was kind of a pain. Waiting for the 0845 start 0848
I don't think there's an 8:45 start. Jane starts alone. Current temp 20F 0920ish
Jane passes a spot a few minutes ago that we posted up at a few miles in. She's doing well. We go to exchange one to wait for our next sighting. I start warming up. 1015
Been at exchange two for a while waiting for Jane. Everyone else is very casual right now except me. Im about to run and I'm anxious. 7.8 miles ahead of me and the current temp is low 30s 1209
Been back in the van of a while. It wasn't 7.8 it was 9.8 (Part 1 Part 2
- Total pace 9:37/mi). Given my IT band history and the fact the first 5 miles of this double leg is straight downhill, I opt to run on the gravel shoulder off the road. I figured the gravel would provide some more give than the asphalt road. Turns out gravel in the desert is made up of small boulders. I roll my left ankle about 20 minutes in. I still think off the asphalt is the way to go. A few miles in a pass a woman who says “You’re awesome” “No you’re awesome!” is what I should have said, but instead I selfishly point out “I’m doing an Ultra.” I wish I hadn’t said that. I wouldn’t want someone to say that to me. I reach the midway exchange and Jane is there to cheer me on. I mention rolling my ankle. The exchange ends at the bottom of the downhill and makes a U-turn back uphill for about 100 yards and then turns onto a service road. The service road is laid with golfball/softball sized stones. More ankle rolling ensues. I must of rolled my ankles more times than realized because I noticed with about a mile to go my right ankle hurt. Blisters too. There was no water on leg 3 and only one unmanned water station on leg 4 with about two miles to go. I ate a pocket fuel (basically almond butter) from mile 3 until about mile 7. Very hard to eat without water. I finish fairly strong, given the limp, and hand off the slap bracelet to Rachel. The team asks me about the limp. I mention the boulders and ankle rolling. I have a quarter mile limp to the van. 1240
I ate a peanut butter banana and strawberry jelly sandwich. I'm laying down, elevating my foot. I'm not sure if it's the ankle. It's more the foot. No swelling yet. Jane tells me she rolled after her two legs. I've barely stretched. The blister on my arch is in the perfect spot to get to know the thong of my flip flops. Rachel is running now. One 9.5 mile leg instead of running two legs back to back in typical ultra fashion. She'll be handing off to Buddy, who is undertaking the same strategy-no back to back legs. I'm not sure what their reasoning is, but it seems like they're going to run every four hours or so. Not a lot of rest time. We'll see how this works out. I would rate the team moral as apathetic. It’s early. 1306
Van decorations have been completed by adding our names with six adjacent boxes and the mileage under the six boxes. Rachel should be finishing in a bit and Buddy has started stretching. He’s ready to run. I tried to ice the left foot with an instant cold pack. Wouldn't call that successful. Jane is rolling more. I’m laying down. Captain is at the wheel not really interacting. Carl is on his phone. 1324
Rachel is in. We're in the van moving to the next leg. She feels fine. "I just need to hydrate." We'll see how she feels in about 20 hours. 1338
We're kind of lost on the way to exchange 6. Buddy might beat us there. 1347
We’re at the exchange before Buddy. That’s the good news. The bad news is the medical tent at the first major exchange was a joke - I tell the EMT/attendant my symptoms "Could it be your tendons?" "I don't know that's why I'm here" "Do you want some ice and ibuprofen" "I guess" 1401
Buddy handed off to Carl a bit ago. Buddy and Rachel are getting swag from the merch tents. The five of us are going to subway for a proper meal when they return. I’m curious what Captain will do for food, as he'll be running in about an hour. We have agreed that the attitude in the van is very subdued by comparison to the Ragnars done previously. We agree the focus is survival. We’re 6 hours in and most of us have run two thirds of the regular ragnar distance. Buddy wants to stop at Walgreens for coconut water and pickle juice. Buddy is very into the nutrient side of recovery. He has enough chews and powders stocked to open a GNC from his trunk. While he's inside Carl texts us that he's a mile from the exchange. We're 6 minutes away by van. 1505
We should focus less on survival/self preservation and more on getting to the exchanges on time for teammates. Carl had to wait. Side note Captain had a quarter of a bagel with cream cheese right before his run. 1518
We're stopping at a Starbucks. I’ve assumed driving responsibilities in Captain’s absence and need coffee. Jane wants green tea. Carl is being very vocal about the poop stuff he's going to do in the nearest starbucks. Morale seems higher. Poop jokes = morale. My achilles (both) are also starting to ache. I should start to roll. Carl is out of the bathroom and is heading for Del Taco, an endurance running food staple. 1634
We recently met Captain about 2-3 miles before he ends. He’s going strong. I think we're delirious though. That tired type of delirious. 1645
Captain is in Buddy is out. It’s night hours. He's running 5 miles and Rachel is running the next 4 miles. I don't know when they're going to sleep. My right foot is still stiff, but feels better. I have a moleskin on the blister but it's not helping like i expected. 1720
We're waiting for Buddy in a church parking lot. People are singing fetty wop and drake songs. There's no music playing. Delirium. 1731
Buddy is in. He crushed it. We have to hustle to the next exchange to meet Rachel. So far they seem to be doing better mentally than the rest of the van. 1811
1/3 of the way done. Officially. We need batteries for tailamps. Plenty of time to waste. Jane just left for a 12 mile run. 1840
Everyone is trying to nap. Hard to tell if it's self preservation or if energy is low. I haven't slept and I run after Jane's double leg. Plus I'm driving so I can't nap. 1851
Weather: Low 40s, strong breeze. Feels sub 30. Just got back from watering a cactus. Everyone seems to be resting. I’m trying to meet Jane when she gets to the midway exchange. 1910
The first half of Jane's double leg is down. She's drained emotionally. Physically I think she has plenty. I brought her gatorade, clif bloks, and a tiger tail. She really only went for the gatorade. Moving this crib on wheels to the next exchange to get ready for my run. 2146
I'm writing this at 0211. But I finished my legs (Part 1 Part 2
- 7 and change miles - 10:30 something/mi). Another woman and I finished together "I won't walk if you don't.” We finished strong. I went to high five her after the run, but she was busy so I let it go. I guess that’s what i get for being a jerk to the other woman. The rest of the leg was fairly uneventful. Was passed by a lot of people before the first midway exchange. Not so much after. There were some eyes on the mountain side reflecting from my headlamp. I really hope its not a mountain lion with a taste for human. At this pace it’d be on me in a flash. I try to keep my headlamp pointed at it as I run forward. Like a “I see you seeing me. Let’s be cool” kind of way. I finish and Jane asks me how I feel. I complain briefly about my sore quads, the sharp pain in my left foot, and the stiffness of my right foot. I went to sleep immediately. No stretching. No rolling. Probably not the best strategy. - - - You're never totally asleep in the van. I hear Buddy and Rachel finish their legs and relish their mile splits. Their approach of doing one leg at a time instead of back to back legs seems to be working. That or they are much more prepared than I am. Carl gets back from his legs and Buddy drives as Captain heads out. I’m still trying to sleep. Buddy turns the radio on. He either doesn't know I’m asleep or doesn't care. My quads feel as pliable as iron. My right foot feel like it's bound in chains, my left ankle feels full of glass. The bench seats have seatbelts in all the wrong places. Everything is hate. I sit up in my seat. I stare off in annoyance and Jane tries to console me. Futile effort, but not for a lack of care. We've been driving on the highway for what seems like at least 15 miles. This is weird considering Captain only has 11 miles to go. 11/7/2015 0217
The radio is off and we're at an exchange. I want to get out and roll but were parked on a gravel cliff side. It's so windy. You can hear the wind whipping outside of the van. I need to get away from my team and cool down. I dont think they did anything to offend me, I just need some me space. I opt for a portopotty. 0320
The van whips me awake as we take a fast corner. We're at the wrong exchange. Go figure. Buddy is running next. We pick up Captain. I offer him some $2 cup o noodle I picked up at the exchange. I pray he doesnt take it all. Prayers answered. 0346
Back to the exchange we were just at. On the way Rachel says to me "do you want me to take your second leg" (meaning the 6th of my 5th and 6th legs) "not even a little" "ok. Just I don't want you to injure yourself and I really feel fine" "I'll crawl if I have to" Jane pipes in "thanks though". She knows me better than Rachel. 0432
Buddy should be arriving any moment. He texted in his one mike warning. Looking around the parking lot I notice a lot of people limping. This is exchange 24. Meaning everyone at this point is 2/3 of the way done. The majority of these people's mile count is where I was 16 hours ago. 0642
Jane is in from her last run. She’s done. She got lost during the second half. The directions weren’t very clear and she listened to someone else. She was about a mile off course, the opposite direction. We put her back on course. As she hands the snap bracelet off to me, we hug. I think I congratulated her. I’m off on my last legs. Physically and for the race (13.8 mi total - Part 1 Part 2
). Things seem as expected going into it. After about 10 mins I remember Jane was telling me how she opted to walk the .15 mi of every mile. I decide to run for 10 min walk for 2, similar to the 5:1 ratio I’ve read about for typical ultra marathons. This goes one for another 10 minutes cycle before the 10 minute run portions become 8 and then 5 and then just walking with little jogging. My feet are in terrible pain. Everything is uphill. At least its a gorgeous sunrise over Lake Mead. Around 6.5 miles in (1.3 mi until the midway exchange) things seem downhill. I decide that I’m basically a 10K away from finishing, if I can gut out a 10:00/mi pace I can be done in a little over an hour, plus after the midway exchange its all downhill, according to the map. This last mile or so seems good. I’m reminded of a Haruki Murakami passage when he was describing an 100km ultra “I’m not human. I’m a piece of machinery. I don’t need to feel a thing. Just forge ahead.” I get to the midway exchange and Jane and Buddy meet with with an energy chew and gatorade. Comcast calls me while I’m at the exchange “Can you call me later. I’m in the middle of a 200 mile relay race.” Buddy and Jane find this amusing. I hate Comcast, so I dont. I turn to head out for my last bit of Ragnar. The last leg doubles back on the leg i was just on, which was downhill, so i know I’m going uphill for a little. But i’ve seen the map. I know its downhill after. 9.6 miles in since i started my Nike+ watch dies. I immediately turn the Nike+ running app on my phone on. Not because i think im gonna PR. Just because i need to know my time when I’m done. The Murakami passage seems like a bad joke at this point. I’m back to a lot of walking. This machinery feels the glass and bound chains pain in my feet. The pain mile 23 marathon pain my quads. About 2 miles to go there is a water station with clif/kind bars. I take my sweet time. A woman passes me. She did an Ultra Ragnar two weeks ago. She seems to be doing great. 1 mile to go. I text my team. I try to give it the Murakami push. This works until I get to more hills. Everyone i pass/that passes me asks wtf is up with this “downhill leg” Finally i can see the exchange. One thing about the desert of Las Vegas, you can see for miles. I give it everything i have. About 200m from the finish i feel myself on the verge of tears. I’m not sure if it’s pain or the joy of accomplishment or just being so happy to be done. I hold them back on the pretense I don’t deserve to be happy with my performance. Anger replaces the near-tears as i think of all the workouts i skipped, the cheat meals i induldged upon, the idea that i could have tried harder or pushed through more pain. As it would turn out the map on the last leg was entered in reverse so it was all uphill. 500 feet of gain for the total 13.8 miles (Part 1 Part 2 - 14:06/mi) 1000
The self loathing subdues. At least I’m done. If i don’t want to feel this way i should try harder next time. 1001-1730ish
I dont really remember anything specifically after my last leg. I was out of it. We ended up finishing in 32 hours and change.
The only other highlights that come to mind are, in no particular order:
The second to last exchange had a proposal (as the fiance to be approached the exchange several people held up “NAME” “WILL” “YOU” “MARRY” “ME” with the M drawn as the ragnar double R).
Rachel and Buddy didnt seem to be in much better shape, physically, than the the runners that did double legs. I, in my un-board-certified-medical-opinion, believe that any advantage they had was from Buddy’s diligent post run nutrition and supplementation regimen.
Captain, Jane, and I agreed that the quad pain was similar to that of finishing a marathon.
I think i was the only one that came away with a real “injury” (orthopedic appointment scheduled for Friday)
Everyone agreed this would be our last Ragnar Ultra at dinner. By brunch we all decided that a regular Ragnar seems like a bore and we should do an ultra again, but with more training.
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