All about Budapest
Picture this: Széchenyi’s amazing architecture, totally transformed by the light. It’s the SPArty experience, with light effects galore, new-age electro music, and rivers of tasty concoctions. The pool party, redefined by SPArty, is what draws hundreds of tourists at the Széchenyi Baths every Saturday night, from April to November. And how cool is this?
Of course, for the traditionalist, the Széchenyi Baths remain the iconic, over-advertised, spas of Budapest, and for good reason. The benefits of the thermal waters — rich in sulphate, calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate — are undeniable, and the architectural significance of the complex makes this one of the city’s most important landmarks. Spa goers also enjoy here professional massages, sauna, and other spa treatments, like balneotherapy, mud treatments, carbon-dioxide baths, underwater jet massages, underwater curative gymnastics, and even more complex treatments. But with SPArty you can count on the unexpected: dance as therapy, or just as entertainment: as you like it.
Just keep in mind that these parties are designed for people without inhibitions, for those who like to party hard, for those who do not mind loud music. The SPArty atmosphere is always incendiary, and there are always unexpected situations: mesmerizing strobe lights, water splashes, loud cheers. Come prepared to join in, or, if you want to relax, choose a different day to see Széchenyi.
Still, no matter when you choose to visit Budapest’s thermal spa gem, Széchenyi is worth it, because it is a symbol of the city. At the end of the day, the “been there, done that” that seems to come into topics after every trip to unusual destinations is something that will keep your friends interested. And the photo ops at the SPArty are simply fascinating.
Book your stay at one of our two Mamaison, as individual as you, hotels in Budapest, and prepare for the experience of a lifetime in our beautiful city!
Budapest is a complex, multifaceted city, with a wealth of attractions to explore, with lively nightlife, and world-class restaurants. It is a city well known for its spas, for its green gardens, and magnificent, palatial architecture. What Budapest is not well-known for, is its love for sweets and treats, and it’s a pity, because there are countless candy shops, cafeterias and ice cream parlors with a lot to offer in Budapest.
To discover the sweet side of Budapest is to explore its main shopping streets, but also to adventure off the beaten path, for the original, authentic and unexpected. Among the must-see shops for sweets and treats, the following five stand out:
Sugar! reveals itself as a design confectionery and candy store, but it is really much more than you’d expect from an ordinary candy shop. It is a world of colors, and desserts in fascinating shapes and flavors. It has the stuff of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and the appeal of an exotic garden. They have all kinds of treats, for all ages: jelly belly in all possible colors and flavors, sugar figurines, macarons, cotton candy, marshmallows, chocolates, lollies, designer cakes and way, way more. They also have accessories for parties of all kinds, and a great selection of gifts.
On to Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé, the mecca for chocolate addicts, this chocolate factory shop offers a wide variety of artisan sweets, including single origin chocolate tablets made with quality cocoa from Venezuela, bean-to-bar chocolates, Calabria bergamot rinds in chocolate, “rusty chocolate tools,” hot chocolate, delicious whole caramelised hazelnuts sprinkled with ginger and covered with Venezuelan chocolate, and much more.
Szamos is a cultural icon in its own right. They even have their own Marzipan Museum, well worth it of a visit if you find the time. But drop in store for their signature chocolates and marzipan treats. They are also famous for their macarons, plus, if you are feeling peckish, they have a great range of breakfast, lunch and dinner specials. The experience here is truly gourmet.
And then, there’s always Cukorka, the main destination for handmade lollipops. This is a world of bright colors, the stuff of childhood dreams. Just entering their workshop is an experience worthy of Instagram moments. Everything they sell is handmade on site, in a traditional workshop. You can even observe the whole process of candy making if you want. They offer many different treats to taste before you buy. Can you think of a better stop to stock the kids’ stockings at Christmas, for example?
Last, but not least, Zangio is a family-owned chocolaterie, with a tiny workshop, which was founded in 2010. They offers handmade artisan chocolates and bonbons. They have a signature line, but may also offer seasonal specials for Easter, Valentines and Christmas. And, if you want to learn how to make your own chocolates, they do have classes and workshops. Check them out!
And, as an added bonus, check out the Candy Store, which is another favorite of the locals for everything sweet and delicious. They have a good selection of indigenous sweets, but they count more on international items, like Marabou Swedish chocolates, Jelly Belly, Captain Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunchies, Hershey’s, Pop tarts, and so on.
If you happen to be in Budapest for Easter this year, you will enjoy some of the country’s most interesting tradition. A sacred holiday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Easter is, in Hungary, also an occasion to revive ancient, so-called pagan traditions. They have a spring welcoming dance and procession on Easter Sunday, March 27, at the Buda Castle, during the traditional, annual Easter Festival, which will last till Easter Monday, March 28.
The Buda Castle Easter Festival, officially Budavari Husveti Sokadalom, is an occasion for tourists to celebrate with the local, enjoying a rich, diverse program of song, dance, culinary delights, and other forms of entertainment. It is a family event, with plenty to do for young and old. There will be many hands-on activities for children, including Easter egg painting and a fun-filled Easter egg hunt. Little visitors may also pet Easter pets at the petting zoo (lambs, bunnies, ponies) , and enjoy a puppet show, designed for their entertainment. The Easter labyrinth is one of the beloved attractions of the festival, present this year too.
Hand painted Easter eggs from Budapest (Image © mirtya – Fotolia.com)
During the Easter festival, there will be several food stalls with traditional Hungarian Easter fare, plus a wine terrace, where adult visitors can taste several regional wines. Plus, with a ticket to the Easter festival at the Royal Palace on Buda Castle Hill you also gain access to other must-see attractions, including the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
After the festival at Buda Castle, enjoy a romantic, special Easter cruise on the Danube. These are affordable, and usually include live music, welcome drinks, and a delicious food menu.
Easter is also a great occasion to purchase authentic local crafts. The Easter Market on Vörösmarty tér is the most popular option, but there will also be an Easter market at the Museum of Ethnography, where many other programs will reveal more about the local folk traditions. There will be Easter egg painting workshops, Easter-themed arts and crafts, and programs designed for children, too.
Last, but not least, Easter at the Zoo promises to be a fun activity, with the annual Green Easter featuring penguin and elephant feeding, seal performances, and sure, petting Easter bunnies.
Outside of Budapest, the Easter in the UNESCO listed village Hollókő is one of the most interesting attractions. It is famous in the country, and very popular among tourists. Visitors can experience true rural living traditions: a rich folklore program, culinary traditions, folk customs, and concerts, which offer an unforgettable experience to guests of all ages. This year promises an even richer, more colorful and spectacular program than what was displayed during the previous editions of the festival.
Speaking of rich and colorful, guests staying with Mamaison, will enjoy gourmet cuisine at La Perle Noire Restaurant and Lounge, the jewel in the crown of Mamaison Hotel Andrassy Budapest, plus other surprises.
Farsang, the carnival season in Hungary, kicked off January 6, and will last till February 10, just before the Fat Thursday (Torkos Csütörtök). It is a special time for the locals, but also for tourists who can attend a variety of events that celebrate authentic local traditions. Among these, you shouldn’t miss the Busójárás in Mohács, which is well worth it the day trip from Budapest.
This end-of-winter festival takes place at the beginning of February, from the 4th till the 9th. The festival was added to UNESCO’s representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.
The “devils” (Busós) take to the streets of Mohács: fantastic, pagan creatures, who play and dance. There’s music and dance, plus a great choice of local delicacies to tame your hunger, plus busópálinka for the daring ones. This is not only an occasion to party: it is believed that the Busós scare off the winter cold. There will be many interesting events, including pipers and Buso demonstrations, followed by a Busó boat crossing of the Danube. The main amphitheater is set in Széchenyi tér. This is where you can see folk dances, and live folk performances. Here is where the Busós come on horses and on carts, gathering to start the free carnival.
If you are a woman, this celebration may appear a bit strange for you, because one of the main occupations of the Busós is to tease women. The Busós also dance kóló with the girls and the women, and their jokes are not always “appropriate.” Do not feel offended, though: this is not personal, it’s tradition. Embrace the spirit of the party, and have fun. You will never know who is behind the mask of the Busó – it can be anyone. A true Busó never reveals his identity.
The lights are on, the city sparkles, and you feel it in the air: Christmas is near. At Vörösmarty tér the Christmas Market is already busy with shoppers from all over the world, and the cinnamon scent of mulled wine fills up the air. Little children, holding kürtöskalács, run about, from one toys stall to another. The ice rink beckons, promising lots of fun. This market sets the mood for Christmas magic in the city.
And it’s good, because Kézműves Magyar Ízek Vására (Flavors of Hungary Gastro Fair) follows on November 27 at Erzsébet tér, with almost a month of foodie treats for young and old. Hungarian and foreign food lovers will find a wide variety of festive dishes, as well as traditional Hungarian cheeses, meats, beer, mulled wine, sausages, salami, smoked fish, honey, handmade candies, handmade chocolates, and much more. 60 vendors will exhibit here. There’s also a children’s corner, with interesting activities designed just for them.
Szent István tér will get festive beginning November 27 too, when the Christmas Fair by the Basilica kicks off, surrounding the ice-rink with a variety of stalls selling Christmas decorations, toys, arts and crafts, and all the typical Christmas foods and drinks.
Speaking of drinks, don’t miss the New Wine and Cheese Festival, which only lasts two days, on November 28 and 29. To attend, go to the Vajdahunyad Castle, a winter fairy tale, with Christmas concerts, traditional handmade arts and crafts, a “Live Bethlehem” with living animals in the Christmas petting zoo, and many other fun things to do for young and old.
The WAMP Christmas Design Fair is quite worth it, too: it will take place for three weekends in a row, starting December 6th, at Millenáris Park. This year, the event will also include a gastro fair, offering a selection of a chocolates, truffles, cookies, jams, wines, spirits and more.
Last but not least, the Christmas Market at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, at its second edition, promises to be as exciting as last year: an enchanting winter escape with heartwarming Christmas melodies, exclusive Nutcracker-inspired decoration and a collection of items that cannot be found anywhere else.
And, of course, there will be Christmas magic with your two Mamaison hotels in Budapest too: Hotel Andrassy and Residence Izabella. Come celebrate Christmas in Budapest: magnificent architecture gets dressed in a lace of shining lights; hundreds of Christmas trees sprout from nowhere lining up the imperial arteries, and even pedestrian alleys and markets; department-store window displays remind of the land of fairies and elves; and many other holiday attractions pop up around the city, spreading contagious cheer among locals and visitors.
October 23rd celebrates the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which lasted from October 23rd till the 10th of November. It was a student demonstration that begun the revolt, then thousands marched through the heart of Budapest to the Parliament, calling out against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic. The peaceful demonstrators were fired upon by the State Security Police (ÁVH) and a student died. What followed was a blood bath. More than 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict. The sacrifice of the people was recognized only in 1989, after the fall of communism, when at the inauguration of the Third Hungarian Republic 23 October was declared a national holiday, and it has been celebrated ever since all over the country, with cultural and artistic events, music, fireworks and more.
As important as it is for the locals, the day is equally interesting for tourists, as there are festivities organized all over the country. In Budapest, specifically, the festivities begin in the morning, with the raising of the Hungarian flag in Kossuth Square, at 09:00 local time. There will be interesting activities all around the city, but one of the most interesting happens in front of the House of Terror Museum, at Andrássy út 60: a candle light ceremony, commemorating the victims of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Do visit the museum when you are there: it contains interesting exhibits, relating the cruel history of the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in 20th-century Hungary.
From there, do walk over the river, for a free live concert in front of the University of Technology and Economics, at Műegyetem rkp. 3.
October 23 is also the day when the Parliament building can be visited by the public for free, between 10:00 and 16:00. The Hungarian Parliament Building is a popular tourist destination, but very few tourists know that this is also one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings. It is an imposing Gothic Revival architectural gem, with a Renaissance Revival dome, overlooking the Danube. The building is the work of Imre Steindl, a famous Hungarian architect, who is also known for his work at the Hunyad Castle, in Hunedoara, Romania – one of the “seven wonders” of this country.
If you are in Budapest on October 23rd, don’t miss the photo exhibition at Széna Square, which will show cult places of the revolution “then and now.” Any other day, you can visit the Anna Kéthly Square, which commemorates the 1956 Revolution against Soviet oppression. Anna Kéthly was a Hungarian social democratic politician, and an important personality of the revolution.
October is that time of the year when most of the world celebrates harvest, and everything that goes with it. Budapest joins in, with popular food and art festivals, from the first days of the month, till the last. The celebrations begin with the famous Budapest Pálinka and Sausage Festival, at Castle Hill, where pálinka distilleries join to bring you the best of their libations, and local farmers come to pair their homemade sausages with the national drink of Hungary.
The guest spirit of the Pálinka and Sausage Festival 2015 is the gin. Desserts made with pálinka will have their own special place at the festival, including pálinka bonbons and cream desserts. The festival lasts from October 2, till October 4.
The Budapest Design Week is an occasion for city visitors to find authentic local fashion and designs at the Design Terminál and several galleries and fashion shops. The festival begins October 3rd, 2015, and lasts till October 12. The program features exhibitions, conferences and fashion shows, with both local and international participation. Particularly, Dutch designers will be present in the festival this year, as Netherlands is the guest country of the festival. And don’t think food will be absent from this celebration of local tradition: Design Week Gastro brings unique food design projects into the series of events with special Design Week delicacies that are available only during the ten days of the event.
Oktoberfest, a festival celebrated around the world, comes to Budapest from 9 to 12 of October, and takes place at Műjégpálya, the City Park Ice Rink. Although not traditionally a beer festival in Bavaria, where it all started, the festival is today recognized as the main annual event for beer lovers. About 100 domestic and international beer types will be available at Oktoberfest Budapest this year, but the event will also feature an agricultural fair.
The Chimney Cake Festival, a new local tradition, celebrates the Hungarian pastries known as kürtőskalács. The purpose of the festival is to promote the kürtőskalács as a Hungarian pastry; but also to present its original, traditional way of preparation, preserving and promoting Hungarian traditions.
The festival will present various technique of preparing chimney cakes, prepared over charcoal or fried in oil, in many sizes, and different flavors.The highlight of the festival is the great chimney cake bake-off, where participants from the public will learn how to bake these amazing delicacies at home.
For the Budapest Restaurant Week, which lasts from October 12 till October 18, you can expect over 30 restaurants to showcase the best of local and international gourmet cuisine. Each restaurant will offer a special, three course prix fixe dinner and lunch menu for HUF 3,300. You can also dine at Mamaison Hotel Andrassy’s own gourmet establishment, La Perle Noire Restaurant and Lounge, where fine dining cuisine is available daily, at affordable prices.
The Budapest Restaurant Week is the last food festival of the month, but you will discover many other exciting things to do in October when you visit the city. And, if you book your stay at Mamaison Hotel Andrassy or at Mamaison Residence Izabella, check out our special Colours of Autumn offer, for 15% off of our Standard Rate when staying 2 nights.
September is the month to be in Budapest, especially if you are a foodie. Yes, the city has several food and cuisine festivals every season, but no other month is so “cluttered” with gourmet opportunities. Plus, when you stay at Mamaison Hotel Andrassy Budapest you have the opportunity to dine at La Perle Noire Restaurant & Lounge, with its beautiful summer grill terrace overlooking Andrássy Avenue (Reservations at +36 1 555 1545).
The first food festival of September was suggestively called Septemberfest (SzeptEmber Feszt) and used to take place the first weekend of the month at Népliget for the past 15 years. Unfortunately, this year’s festival was cancelled, because of lack of funds. Foodies can still enjoy the first weekend of the month at the Foie Gras Festival (Libamáj Fesztivál), which is organized by the Hungarian Goose Association at Erzsébet tér. It is a gourmet event, however with very affordable treats. Even kids will enjoy it, as there are several programs designed for their entertainment.
The event is followed by the Budapest Wine Festival, which begins September 9th, and lasts till September 13th, 2015, at Castle Hill. 200 wine cellars from 15 countries will participate, giving you the opportunity to enjoy more than just local wines. The cuisine is designed to pair well with this popular drink: cauldron-cooked stews, grilled meats and sausages, sandwiches, cheeses, and more can be found at various food stalls, at bargain prices. Over 60 different cultural events complete the program, including jazz performances, folk dances and music, a Harvest Parade with some 800 people, representing the folk and the Hungarian wine regions.
Last, but not least, who would want to miss the Sweet Days – Chocolate and Candy Festival?
This takes place at the Buda Castle from September 18, till September 20. There are child-friendly programs, but also cooking classes and chocolate-making workshops for adults, tasting events, and live entertainment accompanied by fine liquors and fine artisan wines.
And, if you want an less ordinary gourmet experience, Fridays you can dine in the dark (Láthatatlan vacsora Budapest) at Millennium Népliget, building B, address 1024 Budapest II. kerület , Millenáris Park, Kis Rókus u. 16–20. (B épület).
And remember, La Perle Noire Restaurant is one of Budapest’s finest dining establishments, characteristic of the surroundings. Whether it’s a tangy barbecue in the comfortable garden that appeals to you, or a chef created culinary masterpiece, the restaurant is attuned to gastronomical pleasures.
Noted for its contrasting style, the restaurant beckons guests to partake of a burst of color and flavor against a black and white contemporary backdrop. The effect of fresh culinary creation, so delicately prepared, rising from those level and crisp design surfaces, mimics budding life itself. La Perle Noire Restaurant is a perfect canvas onto which life’s best dining experience is painted each day.
Traditional Hungarian to gourmet French fare, if distinction, La Perle Noire’s chef and staff deliver on vibrant creativity, along with unforgettable service. Seasonal favorites are incorporated into a diverse menu, boasting wonderful staples of timeless tastefulness such as marinated foie gras with quince and boudin noir on toast. Venison and winter asparagus, down to the homemade breads and pastries countless guests have so enjoyed, our fine dining experience is second to none.
August is a full month in Budapest, and one of the busiest times of the year: several festivals make the city a center stage for song, laughter and fun. The largest music festival in the country, and counting among the largest in the world, Sziget Island of Freedom will feature this year stellar names like Robbie Williams, Florence + The Machine, Kings Of Leon, Avicii, Ellie Goulding, Kasabian, Marina and the Diamonds, Interpol, Gogol Bordello, Alesso, Paloma Faith, Rudimental, Hollywood Undead, Gentleman & the Evolution, Passenger, The Ting Tings, Nero, Foxes, The Maccabees, and many others. You can camp at the festival to enjoy its unique atmosphere. If you camp on the area you will definitely need a tent. If you don’t want to come all the way with your own, just get the Sziget Camping set. There are showers on the island, and many other facilities. The festival takes place at Shipyard Island (Hajógyári sziget) between August 10, August 17.
The Festival of Folk Arts (Mesterségek Ünnepe) between August 20-23 is another opportunity to party in Budapest. You will enjoy the best of Hungarian gastronomy, delicious home-made pastries, as well as wine and palinka tasting. The festival is timed to coincide with the St. Stephen’s Day celebrations, the greatest national holiday of Hungary, celebrated with great enthusiasm all over the country. Expect open air concerts, spectacular fireworks, and other surprises.
The ‘Junibor’ Wine Festival is another event that you shouldn’t miss in Budapest this August. It takes place at Szent István tér – in front of the Basilica – on August 27 till August 30, and brings in front of connoisseurs and the general public over 100 varieties of wine from 30 winemakers. Hungarian and international specialties designed to pair with the wines will complete the offer.
Finally, the Jewish Summer Festival at the Great Synagogue ends the stellar line of August events, taking up the first 6 days of September, too: programs include concerts at the Rumbach Street Synagogue and at the Great Synagogue, movie screenings at Uránia Theatre and much more.
If you are in Budapest these days, chances are that you are looking for a place to escape the heat. Beyond popular tourist hangouts, there are also the places favored by locals, and we are going to introduce you to some of them in the following lines. First, a concierge tip from Mamaison Residence Izabella: Mandala Day SPA offers unforgettable experiences for all your senses in the hearth of the 13th district. With body rituals, hammam and a variety of massages, this spa is a must after a day of exploring the city, and, if you stay at one of the two Mamaison hotels in Budapest, ask the concierge for additional information and how you can benefit from a discount.
The Omszk Wakeboard Centrum in OMSZK Park is a wakeboarding practice center in Budakalász, not far from Budapest. It is well worth the trip, for its exceptional services, and programmes designed for both beginners and seasoned practitioners of the sport. Wakeboards and appropriate safety equipment are provided, too. Beginners are advised to book a class in advance by calling +36-70-380-3506. The facility is open from April to late October.
The famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath needs no introduction. It is favored by residents and tourists alike, not only for swimming, but also for its spa services. You can come here any time of the year, as they offer both indoor and outdoor pools with thermal water. Kids will love the outdoor amusement pool with jacuzzi and whirlpool. Medical services available only with a medical prescription, include, among others, underwater jet massage, mud treatment, underwater curative gymnastics, and complex balneotherapy treatment.
Margitsziget, in English Margaret Island, is the green oasis at the heart of Budapest, a beautiful stretch of land on the Danube, covered with parks, and favored by the locals as an outdoors activity haven year round. To escape the heat, you will find here the Alfréd Hajós sports pool, or, for those romantically inclined, a small Japanese Garden with a mildly thermal fish pond. There are also many things to do for children: the “Music Well” and the “Music Fountain,” a tiny zoo featuring a wide range of exotic waterfowl, and several playgrounds. Last, but not least, the Palatinus water park on Margitsziget is the largest open-air swimming complex in Budapest.
For a bit of history, and a healthy retreat, Király Baths are a must: this is a traditional Turkish bath, built by Arslan, the Pasha of Buda in 1565, and his successor, Sokoli Mustafa. The bath offers excellent services, including steam bath, sauna, underwater water jet massage, medical massages, and more. Note that for some of these services you need a medical prescription. Other similar baths you could visit in Budapest include Rudas Baths, Lukács Baths, Gellért Baths, Dandár Bath and Dagály Bath. The later offers 10 pools of various forms and temperatures, as well as children’s pool, thermal sitting pool, fancy pool and teaching pool.
Last, but not least, don’t miss the Oázis Wellness Park, a winter and summer facility, with attractions for all ages. It offers an aqua park with slides and jumping-board (free fall of 2,5 meters into the 3 meters deep water); Jacuzzi; therapeutic pools; indoor swimming pool with heated water; swimming training for nursery-school children, school children, and adults; an aerobic hall; spinning room; and fitness room. They also have courts for tennis, foot-tennis, basketball and handball; indoors tennis and squash halls; and other facilities.
And open-air bath Római Strandfürdő on Rozgonyi Piroska u. 2. offers three pools, filled with karst water with calcium-magnesium-hydrogen-carbonate. The open-air pool was transformed in 2000 in a fancy pool with chute, neck shower and effervescing facility and the children’s basin became a playing paradise.
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