1. Hungarian People Refer to Themselves as Magyars
Magyar is not only how citizens refer to themselves, it is also the Hungarian name for the language. The word is derived from the most prominent Hungarian tribe called Megyer.
2. Most People are Pronouncing Budapest Incorrectly
The correct pronunciation is Boo-da-pesht not boo-da-pest. “Pest” is similar to the Hungarian word for plague and this is not what Magyars want to associate their capital city with.
3. Budapest Was Formed in 1873 When Buda Joined With Pest
In all, there are 23 different districts that make up the city. Districts are marked with Roman numerals and are numbered clockwise in widening circles like Paris’ arrondissements.
Tip for visitors: Districts I (Castle District) and District V (Inner City) straddle the Danube and are where visitors will spend most of their time. Buda and Pest are separated by the Danube River. Buda is on the hill that is home to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. Pest is the flat district which makes up 2/3 of the city and is home to Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica.
4. The Hungarian Language is One of the Hardest Languages in the World to Master
The language is a descendant of what was spoken by Huns and is most closely related to Estonian and Finnish. There are 44 different letters in the alphabet and 14 vowels.
Tip for visitors: Fear not, everyone we came across in Budapest spoke English.
5. Hungarians Don’t Clink Their Glasses When Toasting
Hungarians vowed not to clink their glasses for 150 years after the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against the Habsburgs. Austrian’s celebrated the executions of Hungarian generals with clicking their beer glasses after each execution.
Tip for visitors: Raise your glass and look into the eyes of your companion while saying “egészségedre”, which means cheers.
6. Budapest Has One of the Oldest Metros in the World
Built at the end of the 19th century the M1 or Millennium Underground was the first underground train line in mainland Europe, second in the world behind London.
Tip for visitors: Take a ride on the M1 which runs from City Center to City Park and is a convenient way to get to Széchenyi Thermal Bath, one of the most popular bath houses in Budapest. A one-way metro ticket will cost 350 HUF (~$1.24 USD).
7. Hungary Currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF)
Although the country has been part of the EU since 2004 the country has yet to convert to the Euro. The switch was supposed to happen back in 2008 but at this point, it still looks several years off.
Tip for visitors: Give your bills a good look before handing them over as you don’t want to mix up 10,000 (~$35 USD) for a 1,000 ($3.54 USD) note.
8. Budapest Has Many Nicknames
Nicknamed the Pearl of the Danube or Queen of the Danube, Budapest is a popular stop on European river cruise itineraries. Other nicknames include Paris of Eastern Europe, Heart of Europe and City of Baths.
9. The Hungarian Parliament is the Largest Building in Hungary
The Parliament building is the icon of the city and sits along the Danube. The gothic revival style was submitted by Imre Steindl who beat out 18 other contestants in a contest to design the building. The vast building is symmetrical and consists of two identical parliament halls, 691 rooms, 12.5 miles of stairs!
Tip for visitors: Check out the crown jewels by booking a guided tour of the Parliament. Tours last about 45 minutes and are offered daily in a variety of languages. Adult tickets are 5,400 HUF (~$19 USD) for non-EU citizens and 2,200 (~$8 USD) for EU citizens. It is wise to purchase tickets in advance online.
10. Hungarians Brought us Many Great Inventions
Hungarian-born inventors created the Rubik’s cube, ballpoint pen, Ford Model T, vitamin C, electron microscopes, the hydrogen bomb, binoculars, safety match, soda water machine, modern electric transformer, holography, digital computing and much more.
11. Hungary is One of the World’s Leading Paprika Producers
Paprika contains more vitamin C than citrus fruit. It is the prominent spice in many Hungarian dishes including goulash, halaszle (fisherman’s soup), and chicken paprikash. There are eight different kinds of the spice ranging from sweet to spicy.
Tip for visitors: While in Budapest be sure to try a paprika-flavored dish. Take home a taste of Budapest by buying some paprika which makes a cheap and practical souvenir.
12. You Might Cross Paths with Ronald Reagan
A statue of Reagan was erected in 2011 in Hungarians celebrate the former US president and credited him with ending communist rule in their country.
Tip for visitors: The Reagan statue is just off Liberty Square as you head towards the Hungarian Parliament. Reagan is positioned to keep a close eye on the Soviet War Memorial, the US Embassy watches from the other side.
13. Hungary Was One of the First Communist Era Countries to Oppose the Soviet Occupation
In 1956 there was an uprising that lasted 19 days and killed over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops. To bring attention to the matter Elvis Presley sang Peace in the Valley on the Ed Sullivan Show. Budapest honored him in 2011 by making him and official citizen of Budapest.
Tip for visitors: Across the street from Hungarian Parliament look for the Ministry of Agriculture building. On the façade, you can see markings of the bullet holes from the 1956 uprising.
14. Budapest Has a Most Unusual Holy Relic on Display
The mummified right hand of Saint Stephen the Great, the first Hungarian king, is paraded around the city each year on August 20th, a holiday known as St. Stephen’s Day. The right arm mummified naturally and was pronounced a miracle worthy of canonization. Parts of the mummified arm are scattered throughout St. Stephen churches in Europe.
Tip for visitors: You can see the holy relic on display at St. Stephen Basilica. While at the Basilica, head to the cupola for sweeping panoramic views over the city.
15. Hungary Has a Popular Spa and Bath Culture
Visiting a bath house was the most memorable experiences of our visit. No matter where you are in Hungary you can find a place to take in the healing waters since the country has around 1,500 thermal water springs and 450 public baths. Some bath houses even date back to the 16th century.
Tip for visitors: No trip to Budapest would be complete without experiencing bath culture. Head to Gellért Baths, which is the most photographed, or Széchenyi Baths, the largest. Better yet, set aside a day to do a bath crawl after a bar crawl at the ruin pubs. The thermal waters are said to be the best cure for a hangover.
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