Once you have discovered the charms of Inner Pest and the Castle District on Day 1, it is time to broaden the scope with a walk around the Outer Ring Boulevard (körút). Note that as you walk the körút, the name changes from district to district.
Start: New York Palace Hotel.
New York Palace Hotel
The New York Life Insurance Company originally commissioned the building, which opened on October 23, 1894. During the 1900s, its cafe was a center of intellectual life in the city, with writers and journalists as frequent patrons. After many years of remodeling and revitalizing the original eclectic style with a strong Italian renaissance influence, the Boscolo hotel chain reopened the hotel and its legendary cafe in 2006. The detailed reconstruction is worth admiring and returning to see in the evening when lit up.
Walk toward Oktogon, noting the grand turn-of-the-20th-century architecture of Pest. At Oktogon turn right and walk up to Andrássy u. 60.
Terror Háza (House of Terror)
First the headquarters of the secret police of the Nazi Arrow Cross regime, when the Soviets liberated Hungary, it immediately turned into the headquarters for the Communist secret police. This building is the setting of some of the most horrific days of 20th-century Hungary, which lasted for more than 50 years. Hundreds were tortured and murdered in the basement by both regimes. The Nazis’ primary victims were Jews, but the Communists targeted anyone who spoke out against the government.
The building is a museum functioning as a memorial to the victims of both Fascism and Communism and is an everlasting reminder of the effect of oppressive regimes in Hungary. However, it has caused continual controversy since it opened in 2002, especially because the building’s overhang has the word “TERROR” stenciled on it, which is quite striking when the sun shines through it.
Strolling up the majestic Andrássy Boulevard toward Heroes’ Square and City Park, you are taking the UNESCO World Heritage Site tour. The boulevard is lined with trees and a wealth of beautiful apartment buildings, many of which are now used as embassies. In addition, there are restaurants and museums scattered along the way leading to Heroes’ Square. This is Pest’s greatest boulevard.
Once you reach the end of Andrássy Boulevard, adjacent to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Műcsarnok, and City Park, you’ll find:
Heroes’ Square was created for the millennium in 1896 (remember the reoccurring 96), which celebrates the arrival of the Magyar tribes in the Carpathian Basin in 896. The statues represent the chronology of some 1,000 years of Hungarian history. The seven statues on the left side are all Hungarian kings. On the right side, they are all famous Hungarians, but only one was a king. In 1896 during the famous world exhibition, this space was the apex of some 200 pavilions that made up the festivities. Many festivals are still held here.
To your left you will find the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is the main repository of foreign art in Hungary. It has one of central Europe’s major collections and it is considered one of the most important art collections in Europe. Free 1-hour tours are offered by highly trained docents Tuesday through Friday at 11am and 2pm and Saturday at 11am.
Walk through the park and you will arrive at:
The Széchenyi Baths
After a long day, you deserve to rest and relax. Nothing could be better after a day of touring than a soak in a thermal. This is one of the largest spa complexes in Europe and the first thermal bath on the Pest side. Chances are if you have seen photos of men playing chess on floating chessboards, the men were in this thermal. It is mixed men and women and bathing suits are mandatory.
See post “Thermal Baths”.
After your afternoon of thermal bathing, you may want to head back to your hotel to rest, but if you have done so at the thermals, then head out for dinner. You can take the Yellow metro from Széchenyi and go one stop to Mexikói or choose a dining spot from post “Where to Dine in Budapest,” but either way make a reservation.
Some Nighttime Culture
Spend an evening attending an opera at the Opera House. It is a premier venue. The Opera House is magnificently beautiful inside. The fine arts are alive and well in Budapest, and a nighttime cultural event is the way to round out your short stint in the city. Note that performances usually start at 7pm not the customary 8pm.