Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East
November may not be warm, but it takes the chill off travel to the Hungarian capital of Budapest, one of the world's most romantic cities. The autumn atmosphere allows the visitor an authentic glimpse of a city as hard at work as it is at play while taking advantage of off-season hotel rates â€“ some lowered as much as 20%. A long weekend can start with a direct flight to Budapest Ferihegy (BUD) airport direct from major cities in the U.K. and U.S., followed with accommodations at any one of Budapest's hotels near the central hub of the city, Roosevelt tÃ©r (square), and the Danube River.
Budapest Romance on Foot
The "twin" cities of Buda and Pest straddle the banks of the Danube like two sides of a warm jacket on a cold day. A series of Budapest's bridges, among them the famous SzÃ©chenyi Chain bridge, invite the visitor to crossover on foot as part of the routine of Budapest's 1.7 million residents. In fact, Budapest is ideal to wander around on foot, bundled up against the snap in the air, inviting retreats from the street to enter cozy cafes, chocolate shops and savory restaurants.
Falling leaves may have left branches bare, but the lack of foliage reveals the true character and beauty of Budapest's architecture. The Hungarian capital's 19th century neo-Gothic government buildings and 20th century belle Ã©poque residences are exquisitely preserved. Guided tours by bus, boat, and bike are the most common and widely available; but intimate walks are recommended, utilizing a vibrant public transportation system in the form of the 130 yr. old Millennium Underground, the original metro of its kind in Europe. Metro line 1 runs the length of AndrÃ¡ssy Ãºt, a major boulevard for points of interest.
A quaint tram runs along the Buda embankment of the Danube, at the foot of Castle Hill, home of Hungary's rich and romantic royal history. Directly in front of the Buda mouth of the Chain bridge, a funicular carries visitors up to the Castle ramparts for sweeping views of the Danube below.
Autumn Hotel Rates Lowered
Any of the hotels within 1.5k of Roosevelt tÃ©r offers the perfect location for a weekend getaway. The Four Seasons Gresham Palace at the Pest entrance to the Chain bridge is a testament to Budapest's elegant past, while the affordable Starlight Suiten hotel around the corner on MÃ©rleg utca (street) offers the latest high tech amenities. Autumn rates are lower, but the VAT tax in Hungary remains 20% above the EU norm. The local currency, the forint (HUF), is equal to 0.0055 U.S. dollars (Nov. 09). The euro, U.K. and U.S. credit cards are accepted.
Budapest's Autumn and Winter Festivals
November coincides with several festivals in and around Budapest. Hungary celebrates its rich museum collections with the MÃºzeumok Oszi FestivÃ¡lja, Oct. 1 â€“ Nov. 15, 2009. Most of the major exhibits of Hungary's 160 museums are located in Budapest, offering 800 programs during the festival. The Budapest TÃ©li FesztivÃ¡l (Winter Festival) debuts Nov. 3, 2009 to include all of Budapest, and runs through the 28th of Feb., 2010.
At the center of the newly expanded festival is the annual Christmas Fair held in VÃ¶rÃ¶smarty tÃ©r from Nov. 20 through Dec. 29, 2009. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily except Sundays and Christmas, the fair hosts over 600,000 visitors arriving each year to warm their spirits with hot mulled wine and pastries and to browse through unique holiday gifts offered by local folk artists in leather, wood, wrought iron, glass, silver, and beautiful embroidered fabrics. Holiday bargains are not limited to the fair, for VÃ¶rÃ¶smarty tÃ©r is the heart of a broad network of pedestrian-only streets winding through shops and restaurants of central Pest.
Budapest residents and tourists alike share a special interactive relationship with the arts. Statues, like that of politician Imre Nagy and poet Attila JÃ³zsef, stand at eye level on the very sidewalks and park corners they frequented in life. The Opera House on AndrÃ¡ssy Ãºt offers one of the most affordable opera programs in the EU. During the Winter Festival, music, dance, and theater take to the streets, enriching an already lively ticket within theaters and concert halls. Don't be surprised if a late night walk back to the hotel is accompanied by a young violinist serenading his sweetheart.