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All about Budapest

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St. Stephen's Basilica

Staring down at the ebony ribbon of water, seemingly endless to the horizon, two lovers stand entranced by ten thousand dancing lights. Transfixed as statues, looking out over the ever present Danube, the sight of couples on the Chain Bridge in the evening reveals just why Budapest is for lovers, and for magic moments, especially at Christmas, when the city shines even brighter, under the spell of the stars.

Budapest in winter

Budapest in winter. (Image © Horváth Botond – on Fotolia.com)

More than a city blessed by the stars, Budapest is a city that knows how to celebrate light. This year Christmas will be cheerier than ever, with a wealth of activities all over the town, Christmas fairs and festivals that last from late November, till January next year.

Mulled wine stall at the Christmas fair

Mulled wine stall at the Christmas fair in Budapest, Hungary (Image © Annto – Fotolia.com)

The Budapest Christmas Market at Vörösmarty tér is the most popular among the Christmas fairs in the city. Like most events this season, it kicks off November 28, 2014, and lasts till January 5, 2015. There are over 100 stands selling seasonal arts and crafts, souvenirs, toys, and Christmas culinary delights: lángos, kürtöskalács, töki pompos, and mulled wine. On the facade of the landmark Gerbeaud building the city exhibits a giant Advent calendar, which adds to the cheery atmosphere, as every day from December 1st and 23rd the calendar opens a new window, revealing the surprise hidden behind, with a spectacular show of lights and sound. While adults enjoy wine and chit-chat, kids can join in activities designed just for them: artisan hands-on classes, puppet shows, children’s concerts, and more.

Opening on the same date as the Budapest Christmas Market at Vörösmarty tér, the Christmas Fair by the Basilica is an equally enticing event that attracts thousands of tourists to the Hungarian capital. The ice rink at the heart of the Szent István tér is surrounded by arts and crafts stands, but also by food and drink vendors. You can come ice skating, or just come to buy something authentic to take a bit of Hungary back home with you. Don’t miss the seasonal culinary treats. The fair closes January 1, 2015.

Marzipan stall on Christmas
A newer festival, the Advent in Budapest takes place in Városháza Park between November 28, 2014 – January 5, 2015. Its purpose is well served: given the popularity of the two aforementioned fairs, this event aims to add a plus of cheer with cultural programmes for all ages. Live entertainment, including theater, concerts, workshops and Christmas-themed performances are scheduled daily.

Last, but not least, don’t miss the WAMP Christmas Design and Gastro Fair on December 7, 2014, at Millenáris (Building B). This is a place to buy one-of-a-kind designer Christmas gifts, clothes and accessories, as well as fine Christmas treats: chocolates, truffles, cookies, jams, wines, spirits, and much more.

From the cafes and bars along the promenade, to out of the way nooks and crannies, and finally amidst the rollicking nightlife of the notorious 7th District, Budapest will be dressed in light, to entice you to celebrate with the locals. Forget your worries for a while, and enjoy the power of the season: Christmas brings out the best in people.

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Budapest colors

Budapest is one of the best places to be this summer. The city is a blend of ravishing scenery and parties that attract visitors from all over the world. If June was marked by rivers of beer, the rest of the summer opens the stage for music and art.

Czech Beer Festival

Czech Beer Festival in Budapest, the 7th edition.

The annual Czech Beer Festival (Cseh Sörnapok) stretches from June 17 to July 13, enough time to bring hundreds of beer-lovers at the Városháza Park, not only to enjoy a selection of beers from over 25 Czech breweries, but also to savor specific culinary treats, to watch the FIFA World Cup in the VIP tent, and to participate in many other entertainment events.

At the end of the month, beginning June 27, and lasting all through the first week of July, visitors to Budapest can attend the 19th edition of Budapest Pride, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender film and cultural event with a feminist and anti-racist approach. The festival offers discussions, concerts, parties, and more. There will also be a parade on Saturday, July 5, 2014 on the route City Park – Heroes’ Square – Andrássy Avenue – Bajcsy-Zsilinsky út – Alkotmány utca – Kossuth Square.

Keeping up with the cultural trend of the summer, don’t miss WAMP, Budapest’s monthly design market, on June 29, which, on this occasion, will be open from 11 am to 10 pm. In July, WAMP will be held on the 6th, a Sunday, and finally, your last summer chance to buy creations by contemporary Hungarian designers, including art, clothes and accessories, will be August 3. WAMP takes place at Erzsébet tér.

Celebrated in 14 countries connected through the Danube river system, Danube Day is an homage to the river, and to its wildlife. There will be several events for all ages, at multiple locations on the banks of the river. Mark June 29 in your calendar, and don’t miss the events, which have a strong local note.

Vajdahunyadvár Summer Festival

Vajdahunyadvár Summer Festival

Another must-see event of the summer, the Vajdahunyadvár Summer Festival, takes place in the courtyard of Vajdahunyad Castle from July 10 to August 7, 2014. Vajdahunyad Castle (Vajdahunyad vára), is a castle in City Park, built between 1896 and 1908, and designed by Ignác Alpár after the Vajdahunyad castle in Transylvania, Romania. The festival features classical music, swing, klezmer as well as traditional Hungarian gypsy music. Don’t miss the closing concert, on August 7, performed by the 100-Member Gypsy Orchestra.

Nemzeti Táncszínház

More music, this time accompanied by dance, will take place, like every summer, at the Carmelite Courtyard on Castle Hill. The event, titled An Evening of Dance in the Carmelite Courtyard, takes place between July 30 and August 14, and features folk dance, flamenco, tango and modern dance. The event is organized by the National Dance Theatre, Nemzeti Táncszínház.

And what would your Budapest summer be without the Sziget Festival, which attracts over 400,000 people every August? This year, guests staying at Mamaison Hotel Andrassy Budapest and Mamaison Residence Izabella Budapest can attend the festival at the Shipyard Island (Hajógyári sziget) from August 11, till August 18.

End your summer in style, on St. Stephen’s Day, celebrating with the locals Stephen I, the first king of Hungary and founder of the Kingdom of Hungary. The event, held on August 20, is not exclusive to Budapest, but takes place all over Hungary, with day-long festivities (concerts, dance, arts and crafts, beer, cuisine, and more) followed by spectacular fireworks.

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Budavári Sörfesztivál

Budapest is a year round destination, with outstanding events every season. This Summer, you will enjoy some of the most exciting festivals on both sides of the Danube.

Our first recommendation is a treat for your taste: the Budai Gourmet Festival in Millenaris Park. More than 25 of Hungary’s top restaurants will showcase some of their best culinary creations. This year, the festival begins May 30, 2014 and ends June 1, 2014.

Gourmet Fesztivál

Also from May 31 to June 1st, don’t miss the Belvárosi Fesztivál, which take place on Erzsébet tér, Szabadság tér and Zrínyi utca. It is a free music festival, where you can enjoy music in all genres, from live jazz, to rock, pop and folk.

If you like beer, don’t miss Főzdefeszt, the craft-beer festival in Mikszáth Kálmán tér and Szabó Ervin tér, from June 6 to June 8, 2014. 18 microbreweries from all over the country will participate in this edition.

Another beer festival, Budavári Sörfesztivál, takes place at the Buda Castle from June 12 to June 15, 2014, at the Royal Palace’s Oroszlános and Hunyadi courtyards, and the Savoyai terrace. You get to choose from over 200 domestic and international beers.

The cultural quest for the sun culminates in June with the Budapest Summer Festival, with live music at the Margaret Island Open-air Stage and Városmajor Open-air Stage. Don’t miss it if you stay at one of our hotels between June 14 and August 20, 2014.

Don’t miss the Danube Carnival between June 15 and June 23, 2014, an outstanding celebration of art, music and dance, which brings together contemporary dancers, international artists and traditional Hungarian folk dancers. Venues: Danube Promenade, Vörösmarty Square, Margaret Island.

Summers are always filled with beer festivals. Another important event of this kind is the Czech Beer Festival in Budapest, this year at its 6th edition. 25 different Czech breweries will come to tame your thirst at the Városháza Park, between June 17 and June 30, 2014.

For culture buffs, the Night of the Museums on June 22nd is a must. Participating museums, which keep their doors open till 2:30 am, include the Hungarian National Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Budapest History Museum, the House of Terror Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery and many others.

Festivals and special events aside, if you would rather enjoy a lazy walk in the sunshine, or an active day in nature, you don’t need to “escape” Budapest to find the perfect spot. Hike up the Janoshegy to get closer to the burning ball of gas in the sky.

If you want a tan, the Budapest Plage in Castle Hill, an urban beach very popular with the locals, will provide just what you need, if you don’t mind the crowds.

At the heart of Margaret Island, Palatinus Strandfürdő is powered by thermal springs. Albeit touristy, this is the place to come to unwind after a busy week, sightseeing the historic heart of Budapest.

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Mamaison Teszedd

Mamaison Hotel Andrassy Budapest and Mamaison Residence Izabella Budapest, as well as La Perle Noire Restaurant and Lounge at Hotel Andrassy, are now participating in an important social responsibility initiative, the 4th TeSzedd Mozgalom (YouPick) campaign organized by the National Waste Management Agency of Hungary. This campaign is part of the larger Europe-wide Let’s Clean Up Europe initiative, organized with the financial support of the European Commission.

TeSzedd Mozgalom

The TeSzedd Mozgalom is a volunteer event, and it takes place, since Friday, May 9, in the City Park, one of the most popular gathering places for the locals in Budapest, and all around the city. Volunteers from all around Budapest, gather trash from the streets, and collect it in green TeSzedd bags. Organizers provided everything needed, including gloves and bags.

Mamaison Teszedd 2014

The three Mamaison properties volunteering for the activity joined forces with other local businesses and institutions, including the Őrség National Park, Magyar Post, MTI the National News Agency, and many more.

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Girl with flower wreath, on a swing.

May 1st is an occasion for Hungarian people to welcome spring in style. They party in the streets, in parks, they gather together for a barbeque or for a picnic, they sing and celebrate for days. For our guests staying at Mamaison Hotel Andrassy Budapest and Mamaison Residence Izabella Budapest, we have several suggestions of venues and events that will allow them to experience May Day like and with the locals.

Peter Besenyei

Peter Besenyei of Hungary flies during a demo flight to announce the return of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship 2014 in Putrajaya, Malaysia on October 7, 2013.

Most of the events and festivals on May Day are free to attend. If you walk on the Danube bank in Pest, head towards the Chain Bridge in front of the Hungarian National Academy around 13:30. The folks gathering there are waiting for the Air & Race Car Show, the “live” part of the programme, which begins at 08:00 in the morning with a race car exhibition in front of the Hungarian National Academy. The acrobatics show, featuring the famous Hungarian aerobatics pilot and world champion air racer, begins at 13:45 at the Danube embankment in front of the Parliament. The performance will be followed by the Flying Bulls old timer aeroplanes at 14:30.

Formula 1 & WTCC Touring Cars can be seen on the route Erzsébet tér – Chain Bridge – Clark Adam tér from 14:00 to 17:00.

Don’t miss the Danube regatta, a spectacular event, with rowing and dragon boat racing, open air cinema on the lower quay, DJ programmes in the evening, live music, as well as contests and surprises for young and old.

As usual, Budapest’s largest park, the City Park (Városliget), will host a large open air festival, with music, crafts, competitions, fair and children’s programs. Outdoors events will take place on the superb Margaret Island as well. The third outdoor area to celebrate Labor Day is in the 1st district of Budapest, in Tabán, between Buda Castle and the Gellért Hill. The festival here is filled with live concerts from early afternoon till late night.

In fact, Budapest celebrates the entire month, with its Urbitális Majális festival, which kicks off tomorrow, and lasts till May 31st. This year’s theme is “Budapest as a Creative City.” Numerous venues around Budapest, including the Holnemvolt Park (the former Amusement Park), will participate, an occasion for visitors to admire, and buy, local arts and crafts. Don’t miss the concerts at Secessio Cafe in the Szecessziós Múzeum (Art Nouveau Museum).

Dagály Strandfürdő

Dagály Strandfürdő

Gellért Fürdő and Dagály Strandfürdő are open on May 1st too, although some of their services may not be available. Both sites are very popular with the locals.

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Millennium Tandem Team

Budapest is a city of outstanding beauty, with remarkable architecture, and important tourist landmarks, well advertised in travel brochures, and guides of all kinds. Besides its over-mediatized baths and spas, music festivals, cuisine, and cultural events, Budapest offers visitors a wealth of other attractions, not many people know about. Although the city is not seen as a Mecca for adrenaline junkies, Budapest does offer a lot to those who enjoy more “extreme” activities.

Aquaworld

Aquaworld Budapest – Ramada Resort

Already famous with locals and tourists, Budapest’s Aquaworld offers the ultimate family experience, but it is also a must for thrill seekers. Strip down to your swimsuit, and book a lesson at the surf school – yes, you can learn how to ride the waves in one of Europe’s most romantic inland cities. Those in search of treetop thrills will find enough to challenge their skills at the Adventure Park, part of the same Ramada Aquaworld.

Location: Íves út 16.
Phone: +36 1 231 3760

Challengeland Kalandpálya

Challengeland Kalandpálya is closer to nature, in a real Hungarian forest, and offers a richer experience for all ages, including nighttime climbing, individual rope course for all ages; dual rope course, for adults and children to race together; racing rope course; an earthy obstacle course known as the Giant Labyrinth; a log castle, ideal for family fun; and so much more.

Location: Konkoly Thege M. Út 21.
Phone: +36 20 599 8501

Orczy Kalandpark

Similar to Ramada’s Adventure Park, and the Challengeland Kalandpálya, the Orczy Kalandpark is especially recommended for younger thrill seekers. It has several racing courses designed exclusively for children, as well as activities for adults, including camping, laser tag, and even go-karting.

Location: Orczy út 1.(Nagyvárad tér)
Phone: +36 20 236 1214

eXbox

eXbox Adventure Park, is the largest extreme indoor adventure park in Budapest, so you can enjoy adrenaline rush rain or shine. It’s not the same as flying along the wires in nature, but you are still suspended far above the ground, and you have 20 obstacles challenging your completion of the course. If a ropes course is not enough, you can test your climbing technique, conditioning, and technical skills at the climbing wall. Inside the same park, the Lab Skatepark challenges BMX, roller skaters, and skateboarders. You will discover many other adventures for young and old.

Location: Hunyadi János út 4.
Phone: +36 30 232 5108

Millennium Tandem Team

Nothing quite compares with the intense rush provided by a 200 km/h free fall and parachute descent from 3500 metres, and yes, Budapest can accommodate cloud riders too! Tandem Skydiving offers the closest skydiving location to Budapest, at Dunaújváros (Kisapostag) Airport, about an hour drive from the city center. The company offers transfer to customers, plus excellent prices, and even your own tandem skydive video if you want to keep the memory alive.

Location: Dunaújváros Airport Highway no. 6 – at 76th km (close to Kisapostag)
Phone: +36 20 341 2704

One of the newest attractions for active pursuits in Budapest is the G1 Kart Center, a facility designed for experienced drivers, who can test their skills driving GT5 go karts in a sound proof, safe environment. Drivers wear professional racing overalls and helmets for safety, but also for a complete, professional experience.

Location: Róbert Károly körút 54-58.
Phone: +36 30 2390743

Budapest offers many other opportunities for active travelers who enjoy nature. There are several companies that offer canoeing and kayaking tours on the Danube, wakeboarding, bicycle tours of the city, and especially hiking on the Buda side of the Danube River. No matter who you are, no matter what outdoor pursuits you like, there are thousands of different ways to discover this noble city.

The Budapest Spring Festival celebrates its 34th anniversary this year. It is the largest cultural festival in the city, and counts among the most prestigious in this part of Europe.

Held from 21st March to 6th April 2014, the festival invites visitors to enjoy excellent programmes, and show, by acclaimed Hungarian and international performers. Among the stellar performers of the festival, we’d like to count the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hungarian Radio Symphonic Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and many individual performers, like Leila Josefowicz, Piotr Sałajczyk, Alison Balsom, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Andreas Scholl, to mention just a few.

The festival counts concerts, dance, folk music, and theater performances on its schedule, and employs over 50 venues, including the Palace of Arts – Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, the new Budapest Music Center, Centrál Theatre, Radnóti Theatre, the St. Francis Parish Church, the Palace of Arts – Festival Theatre, and many others.

Among the programmes for young audiences, the most interesting are offered on the World Puppetry Day, with many free performances at several spots in the city.

For lovers of art, there are several exhibitions during the Budapest Spring Festival:

  • SPRING – Contemporary Arts Exhibition
    Venue: Balassi Institute, Budapest Somlói út 51. district I., Tel: (+36 1) 381-5124
    Date: 16th March – 30th April
  • Muses on Theatre Square
    The Pest German Theatre (1812-1849) was founded 200 years ago
    Venue: Budapest History Museum, Buda Castle, Szent György tér 2., building “E”
    Tel: (+36 1) 487-8800
  • 30th Hungarian Exhibition of Press Photography
    Venue: Hungarian National Museum, Múzeum krt. 14-16., district VIII.,
    Tel: (+36 1) 327-7773
    Date: 24th March – 6th May
  • Art Deco and Modernism, Interior design in Hungary 1920–1940
    Venue: Museum of Applied Arts, Üllői út 33-37. district IX:,
    Tel: (+36 1) 456-5107
    Date: 16th March – 30th September

There are two Mamaison hotels in Budapest, which offer excellent conditions for travellers visiting Budapest during the festival: Hotel Andrassy and Mamaison Residence Izabella.