Budapest has an old-world charm combined with the modernity of the present era that distinguishes it from many other cities around the world. From the era of empires and kingdoms (Mongols, Ottomans, Turks, Habsburg) and their invasions, the bygone era of communism, the tragedies of war, Budapest has witnessed several twists and turns of history and yet retained its unique allure. The historic invasions have also left their own distinct cultural stamps on the city and a visit to Budapest offers an opportunity to witness several different cultural influences.
The city of Budapest was officially formed in 1873 and gets its name from its two districts or mini-cities in their own rights: Buda in the West and Pest in the East. Separating the two is the Danube River across which are several bridges built to connect Buda and Pest, the most noteworthy being the chain bridge - pretty as a picture!
Public Transport: Budapest is a really big city and can be fairly hot in spring and summer; hence it is a great relief that the city is very well-connected by Metro, Buses, and Trams.
There are three Metro lines (Yellow, red, and blue) that connect most places across the city.
Fun Fact: The Yellow Line Metro, also called the Millennium Subway, is the oldest underground train system in Europe. It was opened in 1896 when Hungary celebrated its 1000th anniversary and it connects the city center with City Park through its eleven stops.
There are also thirteen Trams/Trolley-buses that connect Northeast and Central Pest and offer majestic views of the city.
Fun Fact: The trolley line 70 was opened on Dec. 21, 1949, the 70th birthday of the soviet dictator Stalin - hence the number 70!
There is also an extensive bus network connecting main areas of the city as well as the suburbs.
Caution: When traveling through any means of public transport, be sure to buy a ticket. Sometimes you may find the ticket machines on the metro stations may not work, in which case, try to find a Metro/Rail employee to help you. There are many, many ticket inspectors and they really swarm the exits of main tourist destinations, and if found without a ticket (for any reason) the fines are hefty (anywhere from 10,000HUF onwards). Most inspectors do not speak English and will not accept any excuse (even broken ticket machines) so ensure to keep your ticket with you until you exit the mode of transport you have chosen.
You can reach Budapest through several international carriers, as well as low cost European airlines (if flying from Europe itself). The Budapest Franz Liszt International Airport is situated about 15 km from the city center.
The airport is well-connected to the city by train, tax, and minibus (shared cabs). The train station near the airport is called Ferihegy and there are regular bus connections from this station to the terminals. The train to the city center will cost about 375 Hungarian forint (HUF). The taxis cost anywhere between 8500to 10,000 HUF. The minibus fare ranges from 4000 HUF to 6000 HUF.
Budapest is very well-connected with most countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Majority of the international trains arrive at the Budapest Keleti station.
If you are traveling within Hungary, there are several buses from different cities and often offer discounted prices. If traveling from other European countries, Eurolines offers some connections.
To arrive in Budapest by boat over the Danube River can be a beautiful experience. However, it depends on weather and boat services are offered only from Vienna and Bratislava. Usually the services run between April and early November (depending on seasonal weather).