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Editor’s Note: In our “Checking In” series, we interview hotel and B&B proprietors about tips for visiting their city. Today we “check in” with Dr. Ryan James, who runs the BudaBaB, a bed and breakfast in Budapest, Hungary, with his partner Ron Schmitz. Dr. James is also the author of Frommer’s Budapest and the Best of Hungary (7th Edition).
EC: What’s the one thing you simply can’t leave Budapest without doing?
Budapest has a number of must-sees, but you simply cannot go home until you’ve been to Castle Hill and taken a dip in the thermal spas. The best of the spas for mixed groups is the Széchenyi. The others are for men only or women only depending on the day of the week. The Rudas baths are “women only” on Tuesdays and men on all other days.
EC: Where can I get a cheap and delicious meal in Budapest?
The best choice is Koleves Vendeglo (Stone Soup Guest Restaurant at Kazinczy u. 35, District 7). It is run by young Hungarians who have combined the visual appeal of the restaurant with excellent food and at reasonable prices. Another excellent option is the Old Amsterdam at Királyi Pál u. 14 (District 9) where, in spite of the name, the cuisine is definitively Hungarian. Reservations are recommended for both.
Also, for really cheap and good meals, but without any atmosphere, head over to Frici Papa located in District 5 (Király u. 55). Go for an early dinner as they run out of choices by 7 PM.
For more restaurant tips, check out Dr. James’ picks here.
EC: What’s your favorite FREE or cheap thing to do in Budapest?
My favorite free thing to do in Budapest is to roam Margaret Island. The island, “Margit” in Hungarian, is an oasis in the city. It consists mainly of a park with plenty of space for walking, jogging, and biking. On the island, tourists can see the former home of Princess Margit, the remains of a convent where she was sent by her Father King Bela.
EC: What’s your best-kept Budapest secret?
It’s a museum that most tourists never find out about. The Miksa Roth Memorial House has a splendid collection of the stained glass and mosaics by the famous Hungarian artist who has had his work commissioned around the world. He is known for developing the technique of painting on glass. The museum is located at Nefelejc u. 26 (District 7), but it does not open until 2 PM and it’s closed on Mondays.
But, the real local secret – something even many locals are not aware of – are the “Stumble Stones” placed around the city. At various points, you will unexpectedly come across a gold square in the sidewalk. Inscribed within the square is a person’s name, the address where you are standing, the person’s former occupation, and dates.
These “stones” are remembrances poised in front of the last known residence of someone who was taken away and executed during the Holocaust. Only those with no known living relatives qualify for a stone, insuring that they are not forgotten. The dates on the stone are their birth and the date of execution. Some stones are in front of empty lots where a building once existed, but is no longer. Stones have been placed on Raday u. (District 3) and Dohanyi u. (District 2) so far, but more will be added as donations are made.
About our contributor: Dr. Ryan James is the author of Frommer’s Budapest and the Best of Hungary (7th edition) and runs BudaBaB, a bed and breakfast in Budapest. Doubles at the BudaBaB run from €45-55.