Expat Bits #May

If you have just moved to Budapest and would like to explore the city, but don’t know where to start, these two pages will be your brief manual to the city, providing you with the basic knowledge you’ll need to master to fulfill the first couple of hard days. Budapest has many faces and you’ll hopefully fall in love with all of them soon. Until then: read on and learn!

Know Your Place

As you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in Budapest, it’s important that you know how to orient yourself: here is a short description of the most important neighborhoods. The Belváros and Lipótváros together form District V, the heart of Pest, where amongst many other sights both the Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica are located. Újlipótváros is located just outside the inner ring of the Grand Boulevard, and is considered by many to be the finest residential area in Pest, thanks to its teeming cultural and coffee life. While Terézváros covers the whole of Andrássy avenue, architectural sights such as the Opera House, and one half of the Party District, Erzsébetváros covers the other half, including much of the city’s famed ruin pubs and the complete Jewish District. On the other side of the Danube you’ll find the Várkerület (District I), Buda’s ancient Castle District, home to the Royal Palace, the Matthias Church and dozens of cozy streets. District II and III are mainly residential areas, but they both have an abundance of good restaurants, nice natural sights and ancient monuments to check out, including 500 year old Turkish baths and 2,000 year old Roman ruins.


Budapest is a sizeable city (with a metropolitan area of over 3,3 million people, it’s the 10th largest urban region in Europe), and many expats don’t have the luxury of renting a car for their stay, so most of you will either use a bike to get from point A to B, or take a deep breath and dive into the world of Budapest’s public transport system. Fortunately, the city has a fairly well developed, if in some regards worn-down system of four metro lines, several suburban railways, blue urban buses (some fully electronic and environment-friendly while others now in their 40s), yellow trams and red trolley buses. What’s more, Budapest also has a cool public transport boat service, which you can use with a regular BKK pass! Although schedules are not as reliable as a couple of hundreds of kilometers to the west in Vienna, at least the tickets are cheap! Do make sure you have your tickets or pass on you at all times while riding one of BKK’s many vehicles, as ticket inspectors can and will check them randomly.

Dare to Escape

Even though now you’re an official expat to Budapest, this title doesn’t require that you be tied down and not leave the city borders until you’re time is up. Instead of staying in one place – travel! Hungary is not a large country, but it has plenty of places of interest to offer: Szentendre (a Baroque Danube-side town with a Balkan atmosphere), Székesfehérvár (the old royal seat of the kingdom), Esztergom (home to one of Europe’s largest cathedrals), Visegrád (the namesake of the V4 alliance, sporting an awesome citadel) and Vác (Baroque mummies!) are all within a one-hour radius of the Hungarian capital by train or bus. Check out Eger, Győr, Sopron, Pécs and Lake Balaton if you have more than a day to spare, they’re all beautiful and favored destinations amongst both inland tourists and expats as well.

New Money

The Magyar Nemzeti Bank introduced new 2000 and 5000 HUF notes with enhanced security features into circulation on 1 March, replacing the notes issued in and before 2016. Apart from a more visible watermark and a yellowish hue on the 5000 HUF banknote, not much has changed on the bills: they have the same historic figures and their production costs are identical to that of the preceding ones. From 1 August onwards, only the new 2000 and 5000 HUF bills can be used for payment. For three years, the old banknotes can be exchanged free of charge in Hungarian monetary financial institutions and post offices. Until 31 July, 2017 all Hungarian banks do the exchange. So if you bump into two differently colored banknotes, don’t worry – it’s not counterfeit! At least not necessarily.

Take the Fun Outside

Now that spring has finally arrived, both downtown venues and Budapesters move out into the open, before the outside temperature gets so hot that once again everybody will be seeking the air-conditioned insides. Although many swear by the green slopes of City Park as the perfect picnic spot, Margaret Island is just as great a venue, if not even better: Medieval ruins, a petting zoo, a music fountain and a huge lido await you, with plenty of greenery as well. If climbing is your everything, conquer the top of Gellért Hill and take in the view from the Citadel, but if you’re more of an aquatic type of person, take a hike to Kopaszi Dam or Rómaipart, both offering romantic riverside spots, a closeness to nature and pretty damn good eats and drinks, ranging from pizza and lángos to cocktails and Belgian brews.