It is always hard to leave a city; there is never enough time to explore the streets and buildings and shops and food… so much to see and taste and so little time.
However, my Rail Europe pass keeps me on schedule so I have no choice but to check out of my beautiful Kempinski suite in Vienna, wave goodbye to the fabulous staff, jump into the Kempinski elegant chauffeured transportation, and in a few moments, I am personally and smartly delivered to the Vienna train station.
Explore the Keleti
Train travel is the fastest and most comfortable way to get from Vienna to Budapest. In approximately 3 hours, I arrive at Budapest’s’ Keleti palyaudvar, the largest of the three main railway stations, located in the 8th district on Baross Square.
The Keleti station is a fabulous 19th century architectural gem which, at the time, was one of the most modern railway stations in Europe. The project planners were Gyula Rochlitz and Janos Feketehazy. Rochlist was born in 1827 in Eperies, Hungary and studied architecture in Vienna. He served in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. When it was over he immigrated to Western Europe returning to Hungary for work on the construction of the Hungarian State Railways. Inspired by the Lehrter Station in Berlin, Rochlitz’s most important work is considered to be the Main Hall of the Keleti station.
Next to the station gate are statues of James Watt and George Stephenson (both worth a view). Watt invented the steam engine and the steam locomotive and Stephenson, an English mechanical engineer, is known as the Father of Railways. The murals inside the station are by Hungarian artists Karoly Lotz and Mor Than. Lotz, born in Germany, is known as the Prince of Hungarian Artists.
The Keleti station is the busiest in Hungary for both national and international links and services more than half a million visitors annually. It is the gateway to all neighboring countries including Belgrade and Bucharest and sleeper trains extend service throughout Europe.
Reserve Ground Transportation
The most efficient way to transit from the train station to the hotel is to arrange with the hotel to have a car and driver waiting at the train platform. Spotting your name on a card at the end of a journey means that you can relax; no worries about the location of the hotel, whether the driver speaks your language, or the possibility of going astray. Car service fees are frequently charged to your hotel account and if there is a dispute the conversation is between you and the hotel manager – and not the taxi driver.
Go to Sleep
Csaba Varga, General Manager, Radisson Blu Beke Hotel
I spent my few precious Budapest days at the Radisson Blu Beke Hotel, located on a busy urban street that offers dining options from early in the day to late at night. Conveniently located near public transportation, the Radisson suites are so large that a map or GPS is helpful and enable you to can find your way to the bedroom and living room. The delicious assortment of welcome goodies is just what a hungry, tired traveler covets: wine, chocolates, small sandwiches and cakes.
The Radisson Blu Beke is expertly managed by Csaba Varga who took the helm of this property in 2014. Varga’s career started with the Danubius Hotels Group after he graduated from the Budapest Business School, College of Commerce, Catering and Tourism. His first stop on the Danubius hotel management ladder was in the Human Resources (HR) department, moving through the system into operations management. From 1995-2001 he was the Training Manager and HR Director at the Danubius Health Spa Resort, Margitsziget. He was briefly involved with Aquaprofit Engineering, Consulting and Investment Company, moving into the position as Senior Associate at Raiffeisen Economic Tax Advisory Ltd. In 2007 Varga returned to Danubius as the Manager of the organizations Health Spa Resort Sovata. Four years later he became the leader of Organizational Development and Training.
Kempinski Corvinus Budapest
For visitors preferring a location closer to high-end shopping and the business center of Budapest, reserve accommodations at the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest.
Stepping into the London-based Maria Vafiadia designed lobby, c-suite executives and luxury-level guests immediately know they are where they should be…surrounded by elegance and good taste that quietly places quality at the forefront of comfort and beauty. The glazed ceiling rises high above the lobby providing an abundance of sunlight during the day and starlight in the evening.
The interior designer for the property selected a beige and turquoise color palette and the furniture reflects the New Empire style (traditional with a modern spin) with fabrics from Turkey, Belgium and Austria.
Kempinski Corvinus Hotel, Budapest, Hungary
The lobby is a terrific place for relaxing after an arduous day of spending and meetings – but also leads visitors to the sexy and sensuous Blue Fox bar staffed by Attila Felhosi who is not only product savvy but anxious to share and compare his knowledge of wines and spirits. Engage Felhosi in a conversation and he will design a smart cocktail – just for you. The bar is a must stop on the way to gourmet dining at ES Bisztro and Nobu.
With gourmet guests as their focus there are so many wonderful treats at ES Bisztro there is no reason to dine anywhere else. The menu selections are awesome. Traveling with family or a business group; arrange for a suckling pig (go whole hog). Missing Hungarian delicacies? Order the lung and tongue stew (szalontudo) or the Tafelspitz with three courses (beef broth, marrow with toasted rye bread and meat with garnish). Preferences for more traditional palates include aged steak (fillet, rib or sirloin), deer or lamb chops, and 48 hour marinated pork ribs – the options are endless and the memories delicious.
My personal favorite is the rib-eye steak from Austria. It’s the softest, most succulent, slightly fatty but certainly most irresistibly enjoyable part of the animal. After maturing to dry, it is cut in 400 gram slices, coated in suet, richly herbed and perfumed in basil, lavender and other aromatic herbs like thyme and tarragon. It is presented on a wood-heated slate tile.
In keeping with the elegance of the property and the Kempinski commitment to supporting the work of contemporary Hungarians artists, public space and rooms feature original lithographs by such talents as Aaron Gabor and etchings by Istvan Orosz.
The Kempinski Spa should be declared a national treasure. Guests find their way to this oasis after a long day and enjoy the heated indoor pool, Finnish and aroma saunas, fitness center, and an array of treatments especially the Hungary Holistic – which is 90 minutes of total relaxation and only available at this property. Unique to this experience is the use of HungaryMud. It is delivered to the spa in its natural state (derived from sun dried mud that is ground and filtered). It has been part of the 100-year history of Hungarian health treatments and used to improve skin function, elasticity, cell structure and stimulate blood circulation. It is certified as curative by the Hungarian National Health Service and has a unique ability to heal.
Budapest remains in memories because it is:
There are more thermal springs in Budapest than any other world capital. The city boasts that 70 million liters of thermal water rise to the surface every day. The hot springs are available to visitors through medicinal baths and the bathing culture dates back to the Romans.
2. Easy for moving around
With the oldest subway-line in Europe, Budapest is an easy city to explore using public transportation. Taxis are readily available – but drivers are sometimes motivated to take visitors to their destination using the longer rather than the shorter route. The least expensive and fastest way through the city is on public transit.
Religious explorers will put a visit to the largest synagogue in Europe on this must-do list; the Dohany Street Synagogue has space for 3000 visitors. Built 1854-1859 in Neo-Moorish style, this place of worship is located in an old-part of the city where kosher restaurants and antique shops are hidden is behind dark windows and in small alleys. It may be a challenge to find (signage is not clearly visible) – it is still worth the effort.
Budapest is also the northern – most holy place of Islam. The Turkish dervish, Gul Baba, is buried in this city. He came to Hungary in the 16th century during the Turkish invasion and died in 1541. His tomb is located in Buda and has become an Islamic sacred place and pilgrimage site. The chapel (1543-1548) is one of the few remaining Turkish buildings in Budapest.
Schedule at least a week to explore this terrific city.
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