Best Sight Seeings:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Budapest "Most Livable City of Central Europe"

Aquincum, originally a Celtic settlement, was the direct ancestor of Budapest, becoming the Roman capital of Lower Pannonia. Magyars arrived in the territory in the 9th century. Their first settlement was pillaged by the Mongols in 1241-42. The re-established town became one of the centers of Renaissance humanist culture in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács and nearly 150 years of Ottoman rule, development of the region entered a new age of prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Budapest became a global city after the 1873 unification. It also became the second capital of Austria-Hungary, a great power that dissolved in 1918. Budapest was the focal point of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, Operation Panzerfaust in 1944, the Battle of Budapest of 1945, and the Revolution of 1956.

Regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, its extensive World Heritage Site includes the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes' Square and the Millennium Underground Railway, the second oldest in the world. Other highlights include a total of 80 geothermal springs,[20] the world's largest thermal water cave system, second largest synagogue, and third largest Parliament building. The collections of the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts are also significant.

The city ranked 3rd (out of 65 cities) on Mastercard's Emerging Markets Index (2008), and ranked as the most livable Central/Eastern European city on EIU's quality of life index (2009). It attracts over 20 million visitors a year. The headquarters of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and the first foreign office of the CIPA will be in Budapest.

Buda Castle

Buda Castle (Hungarian: Budai Vár, Turkish: Budin Kalesi) is the historical castle complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, Hungary, first completed in 1265. In the past, it was also called Royal Palace (Hungarian: Királyi-palota) and Royal Castle (Hungarian: Királyi Vár). Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill, next to the old Castle District (Hun: Várnegyed), which is famous for its medieval, Baroque and 19th century houses and public buildings. It is linked to Adam Clark Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular. Buda Castle is part of the Budapest World Heritage Site, declared in 1987.

Andrássy Avenue

Andrássy Avenue is an iconic boulevard in Budapest, Hungary, dating back to 1872. It links Elizabeth Square with the City Park. Lined with beautiful Neo-renaissance palaces and houses featuring fine facades, staircases and interiors, it was recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2002. It is also the home of numerous shops, restaurants, and museums, as well as luxury boutiques including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Armani, D&G, Ermenegildo Zegna and others.

Millennium Underground Railway

The Metro 1 (Officially: Millennium Underground Railway or M1) is the oldest line of Budapest Metro. It is the third-oldest underground line in the world, it was built from 1894 to 1896. In 2002, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site].

This is one of the 4 metro lines in Budapest. The original purpose of the first metro line was to facilitate the transport to Budapest City Park, although the capital always opposed any surface transport on Andrássy Avenue – this has since become one of the most elegant roads of Budapest, part of the World Heritage. The National Assembly accepted the metro plan in 1870 and the German firm Siemens & Halske AG was commissioned for the construction starting in 1894. It took 2000 workers using up-to-date machinery less than two years to complete it. This section was built entirely from the surface (with the cut-and-cover method). Completed by the deadline, it was inaugurated on May 2 1896, the year of the millennium (the thousandth anniversary of the arrival of the Magyars), by emperor Franz Joseph. One of these original cars is preserved at the Seashore Trolley Museum.

The train ran along Andrássy Avenue, from Vörösmarty Square (the centre) to City Park, in a northeast-southwest direction, but its terminus was the Zoo (this has since been replaced). It had eleven stations, nine underground and two overground. The length of the line was 3.7 km at that time; trains started in every two minutes. It was able to carry as many as 35,000 people a day (today 103,000 people travel on it on a workday).

Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool

Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool, also called Gellért fürdő or Gellért Baths, are a bath complex in Budapest, Hungary, built between 1912 and 1918 in the (Secession) Art Nouveau style. They were damaged during World War II, but then rebuilt. References to healing waters in this location are found from as early as the 13th century. A hospital was located on this site during the Middle Ages. During the reign of the Ottoman Empire, baths were also built on this particular site.

The Gellért Baths complex includes thermal baths, which are small pools containing water from Gellért hill's mineral hot springs. The water contains calcium, magnesium, hydrocarbonate, alkalis, chloride, sulfate, and fluoride. There are two different thermal baths, according to the signs on the walls of the baths, one is around 36°C and the other around 38°C. The thermal baths are decorated beautifully with mosaic tiles. The complex also includes saunas and plunge pools (segregated by gender), an open-air swimming pool which can create artificial waves every ten minutes and an effervescent swimming pool. A Finnish sauna with cold pool and children's pool is also enclosed within the complex. Masseuse services are available.

Gellért Baths also offer a range of medical services.

Fisherman’s Bastion

“In a city of superlative views, some of the most memorable can be had from the landmark Fisherman’s Bastion.”—Adrian Bridge, travel writer, Daily Telegraph. Neo-gothic and neo-Romanesque structure built at the turn of the 20th century; seven towers, walking paths, and unobstructed city views from the terrace. Located on the Buda side, behind Matthias Church on Castle Hill. Fee in summer.

Gerbeaud Café

One of the city’s oldest cafés, noted for its fine cakes and pastries. Can be crowded at times, particularly at weekends, but in the summer the spread of its tables reaching into the lively Vörösmarty Square eases the congestion, while providing a fine place for watching the world go by. V. Vörösmarty tér 7.

Dohány utca Synagogue

“A neo-Moorish extravaganza that embodies the confidence and prosperity of the Budapest Jewish community at the end of the 19th century.”—Adam LeBor, Budapest-based author and journalist. Europe’s largest synagogue has a fantastically rich and spectacular, basilica-like interior, with carved pulpits, massive organ, and glittering chandeliers, all fully restored. Fee. Tip: The entrance ticket also gives access to the Jewish Museum next door and the Holocaust memorial courtyard to the rear. VII. Dohány utca 2-8 (corner of Dohány utca and Wesselényi utca).

Hungarian National Gallery

“An outstanding treasure of old and modern Hungarian fine arts of the long ago and more recent past.”—Erzsébet Marton, senior editorial staff member, Múzeum Café. Main building of the former Royal Palace, Castle Hill; tel. +36 1 439 7325.

Statue Park

Several Soviet-era statues and monuments—Lenin, Marx, Engel—were moved here in the early 1990s after the fall of Hungary’s communist regime. Impressive and sometimes, as intended, overpowering works of art. XXII. Corner of Balatoni út and Szabadkai utca; tel. +36 1 427 7500; fee.

St. Stephen’s Basilica

Budapest’s largest church houses the Szent Jobb (Holy Right Hand), the mummified hand of Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen. Organ concerts on Mondays, July-October. Tip: Take the lift to the cupola, from where can be had a grand bird’s-eye view of the Pest side of the city. V. Szent István tér.

Széchenyi Baths

One of Europe’s largest spas includes 15 pools for swimming, massaging, and soaking, including year-round, outdoor thermal pools. Neo-baroque building constructed in 1913 and recently renovated. Watch the locals play chess on a table floating in the steamy water. Állatkérti körút 11; tel. +36 1 363 3210.

The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath in Budapest (Széchenyi-gyógyfürdő) is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Its water is supplied by two thermal springs, their temperature is 74°F/23°C and 77°F/25°C, respectively. The bath can be found in the City Park, and was built in 1913 in Neo-baroque style to the design of Győző Czigler. It is also a station of the yellow M1 (Millennium Underground) line of the Budapest Metro. The bath was named after István Széchenyi.

Hungarian National Museum
“Great spirits gave it birth at the same time as the British Museum and the Louvre were established.”—Erzsébet Marton. Permanent exhibition about Hungary’s history with English descriptions. VIII. Múzeum körút 14-16; tel. +36 1 338 2122.

State Opera House

Top performances in one of the most sumptuous opera buildings in the world. Gustav Mahler was the director for three years from 1888. Prices still relatively low by international standards. VI. Andrássy út 22; tel. +36 1 331 2550.

Academy of Music
“Hungarian cultural heritage in a nutshell … pupils of founder Liszt were teachers of Bartók and Kodály, whose pupils now teach here.”—Judit Petrányi, freelance journalist. The Academy’s concert hall plays host to outstanding musicians from Hungary and around the world. VI. Liszt Ferenc tér 8; tel. +36 1 462 4600.

Palace of Arts

“Its superb acoustics make it one of the most sought after concert venues in the country.”— László Harkányi, editor, Fidelio music program guide. IX. Komor Marcell utca 1; tel. +36 1 555 3001.

Budapest Spring Festival

March. A long-established annual cultural event involving top-class Hungarian and foreign artists. Takes place over several days in March, particularly in the second half of the month. The varied program includes ballet, music, opera, theater, and folk dance performances as well as special exhibitions.

Sziget (Island) Multicultural Youth Festival

Mid-August. Budapest’s version of Woodstock is central Europe’s largest pop/rock/world music festival. Staged on Óbudai Island.

Summer on the Chain Bridge

July-August. On summer weekends the Chain Bridge closes to traffic at each end of the bridge. Free, live music performances ranging from classical to jazz and ethnic, take place trhroughout the day.

Festival of Folk Arts

Mid-August. Displays and sales of folk art and crafts from different regions of Hungary. Held in the Castle District.

Jewish Summer Festival

Late August to early September. Concerts, films, book displays, food days, and exhibitions celebrating Budapest’s Jewish culture and community. Held in the city’s main synagogue and elsewhere.

Night Life

Fonó Budai Zeneház

“The key venue for all folk musicians and dancers.”—László Harkányi. Mostly Hungarian, Gypsy, Balkan, and klezmer, with occasional Irish, Indian, and Cuban nights. XI. Sztregova utca 3; tel. +36 1 206 5300.

Trafó Kortárs Művészetek Háza
“The place in Budapest to see contemporary dance and avant-garde theater, local and from elsewhere. A place to dance, watch, and be seen.”—Alenka Dorrell, dance teacher, American International School of Budapest. IX. Liliom utca 41; tel. +36 1 456 2040.

Nyitott Műhely
Intimate jazz club, performing and visual arts venue, and a friendly tearoom in one. Comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. XII. Ráth György utca 4; tel. +36 1 214 0676.



Budapest Ferihegy International Airport, which has 3 passenger terminals: Ferihegy 1, which tends to serve the many discount airlines now flying to and from Budapest, Ferihegy 2/A and Ferihegy 2/B. Terminal 3 is planned to be built. The airport is located to the east of the centre in the XVIII. district in Pestszentlőrinc.


Budapest is the most important Hungarian road terminus; all the major highways end there. Budapest is also a major railway terminus.

Ring road M0 around Budapest was recently completed and allows people to go around Budapest from East to West and from North to South, however there is no way from West to North - you must go around to the South.

Public transport

Budapest public transport is provided by BKV, the company operates buses, trolleybuses, trams, suburban railway lines, the metro, a boat service, a cogwheel railway and a chairlift, called Libegő.

Budapest's tram network is extensive, and reliable despite poor track infrastructure and an ageing fleet. Routes 4 and 6 combined form the busiest traditional city tram line in the world, with the world's longest passenger trams (54-metre (177 ft) long Siemens Combino) running at 60 to 90 second intervals at peak time and 3–4 minutes off-peak and usually packed with people.

Day services operate from 4:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. each day. Night traffic (a reduced overnight service) has a reputation for being excellent.

There are three metro lines and a fourth is currently under construction. The Yellow line, built in 1896, is one of the oldest subway lines in the world, following London Underground and the Istanbul Metro that were built respectively in 1863 and 1875.

Special vehicles

Beside metros, suburban rails, buses, trams and boats, there are a couple of less usual vehicles in Budapest:

  • trolleybus on several lines in Pest
    the Castle Hill Funicular between the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle
    cyclecar for rent in Margaret Island
    the Budapest Cog-wheel Railway
    children's railway

The latter three vehicles run among Buda hills.


Hungarian main-line railways are operated by MÁV. There are three main railway termini in Budapest, Keleti (eastern), Nyugati (westbound), and Déli (southbound), operating both domestic and international rail services. Budapest was one of the main stops of the Orient Express until 2001, when the service was cut back to Paris-Vienna. There is also a suburban railHÉV. service in and around Budapest, operated under the name


The river Danube flows through Budapest on its way to the Black Sea. The river is easily navigable and so Budapest has historically been a major commercial port (at Csepel). In the summer months a scheduled hydrofoil service operates up the Danube to Vienna.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Aruba "An undying faith in the power of beaches, turqoise waters and the bright Caribbean sun"

Formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba lies just north of Venezuela amongst a splash of Caribbean waters. Since its gold and oil industries have both come to a halt, Arubans have turned to tourism with a seemingly undying faith in the power of beaches, turqoise waters and the bright Caribbean sun to draw visitors. So far, their faith has been rewarded with large tourist numbers. Aruba's beaches are reportedly the best in the Netherlands Antilles; unfortunately, this translates into packed sands, making a private holiday experience in Aruba something of a fib. But for many travellers, the large numbers of tourists have actually been an added bonus, granting the island an energetic party vibe. For them, the chance to get down and dance to Caribbean music is enough to make this a destination they will come back to year after year.

Aruba is a 33-kilometre (21 mi)-long island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, 27 kilometres (17 mi) north of the Paraguaná Peninsula, Falcón State, Venezuela. Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles.

An autonomous region within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba has no administrative subdivisions. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. It has a land area of 193 square kilometres (75 sq mi) and lies outside the hurricane belt.

Eagle Beach

Eagle Beach is a beach and neighborhood of Oranjestad, Aruba. The neighborhood is famous for its many low-rise resorts and wide public beach. It has soft white sand and has been rated one of the best beaches in the world.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach, Aruba is a city northwest of Oranjestad, capital of Aruba, and is home to the high rise hotels and a new shopping district that would be finished in 2009. Since the boom in the tourism industry several five-star hotels have opened in the area and some upscale malls and shopping centers have been developed as well with at least two being scheduled for opening in late 2009 or early 2010.

Multiple time-share ownership and full-time ownership condos have been or are being built in the area as well.

Boca Prins

Boca Prins are massive sand dunes, constantly changing because of the trade winds. 'Dune sliding' is a popular sport. The dunes lie behind a narrow stretch of beach along the coast.

Boca Mahos

Boca Mahos is a bay known for its strong winds and rough waters. 1km/0.6mi west of the bay is a ruined inn.


Malmok is a small settlement with a pleasant beach. This is a favorite spot for swimming and snorkeling with calm waters much of the time. The wreck of the German freighter "Antilia," run aground at the beginning of WWII, lies just offshore.


Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba. The older buildings are in Dutch Colonial style, but the Spanish influence of balconies and gardens, and the Caribbean influence of bright colors makes them unique to The Netherlands Antilles.
The city has many historic sites and museums, as well as gardens and a busy shopping street.

Archaeological Museum of Aruba
The Aruba Archaeological Museum closed temporarily to the public while relocating to a historic complex.

Atlantis Submarine

The Atlantis Submarine takes visitors on a tour through the Barcadera reef to see the marine life, coral formations, and ship wrecks. Although the tour is just under two hours long, guests spend only 45 minutes in the submarine.

Butterfly Farm

The Butterfly Farm in Oranjestad houses butterflies from around the world in an enclosed tropical garden. Displays at the site illustrate each stage of a butterfly's development from larva to adult.

Floating Market
(Local Name: Schooner Markt) From their boats, merchants sell Venezuelan fish, fruits, vegetables and spices along the dock.

Fort Zoutman and King Willem III Tower

The King Willem III Tower stands at Fort Zoutman. It was built as a lighthouse and to sight pirates. On Tuesday evenings from May to December the Bon Bini Festival welcomes guests to enjoy Aruban cuisine and entertainment.

The King Willem III Tower also houses the Historical Museum.

Strea Charters

Strea Charters offers cruises and snorkeling excursions out of Oranjestad. A typical trip involves a morning sightseeing cruise with stops for snorkeling, along with a lunch. The company also offers private charters with a captain and crew.

Wilhelmina Park

The park is best seen in June, September or October when the tropical foliage is in bloom. The park was created in 1955 in honor of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. There is also a marble sculpture of Wilhelmina, the queen mother, created by Arnoldo Lualdi of Italy.

Alto Vista Chapel

The small Alto Vista Chapel, sometimes called the Pilgrim's Church, was built in 1750 by the Spanish missionary Domingo Antonio Silvestre. The stations of the cross mark the road leading to the chapel.

Aruba Ostrich Farm

The Aruba Ostrich Farm is home to both ostriches and emus. Visitors can tour the farm and get up close and personal with the birds while learning about their habitat and behavior. There is also a gift shop with African art and restaurant on site.


Large boulders adorned with Indian paintings make up this odd rock formation known as Ayó. There is a path for visitors to get around and see the rocks.

Natural Bridge at Anicouri

The 30m/100ft natural bridge stands 7.3m/25ft above sea level. Wave erosion caused the formation of this structure. The area is good for a picnic, but swimming is not recommended.

Casibari Boulders
Diorite boulders weathered by trade winds are strewn throughout this area. At the Casibari Boulders visitors may walk the trails and steps winding through the rocks to reach a good view at the top.


The Bushiribana Ruins are the remains of a 19th C gold smelter. The old stone walls are picturesquely located along the ocean front.

Arikok National Park

The island's best preserved Indian carvings adorn the boulders at Cunuco Arikok near San Fuego. The park is an excellent hiking opportunity and has a small number of jeep routes. Wildlife includes parakeets, goats, butterflies, hares, iguanas, and wara-wara (read-beaked eagle).

Natural Pool

The Natural Pool is just that, a protected area, fenced in by rocks but filled by ocean water. Visitors can swim and snorkel here although the area is really not that big. The challenge comes with getting to the natural pool which is accessed by four wheel drive vehicle down a rough road. Visitors can either do this on their own, although the road is not well marked, or hire a guide.

North End of Aruba

The north end of Aruba is best for relaxation. Here is the seven mile stretch of white sandy beach, an 18 hole golf course and a concentration of hotels.

California Dunes and Lighthouse

At the northern tip of the island, is the California lighthouse, a common sight on postcards and brochures of Aruba. This area is rugged and beautiful with sand-dunes, cacti, and even some goats. The spot is a good place to compare the calm waters of the western shore with the rough waves of the east. The lighthouse is closed to the public.

Arashi Beach

Arashi Beach can be a good spot for swimming and snorkeling and is somewhat secluded. The beach is located at the northwestern end of the island near the California Lighthouse.

South End of Aruba
The south end of Aruba is good for sporting activities. The windward side gives ample challenge to the expert windsurfer, while the leeside offers protected bays for beginners. There are also good hiking routes to historic sites.


Hooiberg is a cone shaped 'mountain' that stands alone in the center of the island and rises 165m/617ft above sea level. After climbing almost 600 steps to the peak, on clear days visitors are able to see the coast of Venezuela from the summit.

Seroe Colorado

At the east end of Aruba is Seroe, once occupied by oil refinery employees but now a ghost town. Today there is a lighthouse with views across the dry landscape, the beach, and the ocean beyond.

St Nicolaas
St Nicolaas is the second largest city in Aruba. It has been home to the oil refinery since 1929.

Amerindian Caves
These Amerindian Caves were once the dwellings of the Arawak Indians and Caribs. Some caves contain pre-Columbian petroglyphs, stalagmites and stalactites. Nearby is a Chinese garden, as well as a small museum with native wildlife.

This is the site of the 19th C gold mining industry. Nearby, at Frenchman's Pass, are the ruins of the old gold smelters.

The neo-gothic St Anna Church
The neo-gothic St Anna Church was opened in 1776. The carved oak altar, originally made for a church in Curaçao, was mistakenly sent to St Anna. The parish kept the altar, but needed to cut church's roof to accommodate it. The tombs in the neighboring cemetery have been painted pastel colors.

Rancho Daimari

Rancho Daimari offers horseback riding tours, ATV tours, and Paint Ball games. The ranch is located on the site of a former coconut plantation, originally established in the 17th Century. The scenery here is beautiful and visitors can explore the area either on horse or ATV.


By Plane

Flights arrive and depart at Queen Beatrix International Airport (UAU). Aruban based Tiara AirCuracao, Bonaire and Punto Fijo in Venezuela. Many other airlines serve Aruba from several countries in both North America and Europe. Martinair and KLM have direct flights from the Netherlands, while Condor flies there directly from Frankfurt. Air CanadaToronto, while a number of United States based airlines have flights to cities like Miami and New York. Aruba is well connected with neighbouring islands and countries like Suriname, Dominican Republic and Colombia. has flights from Aruba to has flights to and from

By Boat

Apart from flying, your only options are to get there by boat. Unfortunately there are no (more) ferry services between Aruba and any other island in the Netherlands Antilles, nor is there any connection with other countries like Venezuela, although there used to be services to both. Yacht and cruise (and maybe cargo) ships are your only option really.

Getting Around

By Plane

Apart from some helicopter services, there are no options of getting around the island through the air.

By Car

Aruba is a perfect island to explore on your own by car. Roads are generally in good condition and there are a dozen or so of international and local car rental agencies located in the airport, Oranjestad or one of the biggers hotels. Your national driver's licence is valid on Aruba, but you have to be 21 years of age (sometimes even 25, and there is a maximum age of 65 to 70) to rent a car. Driving is on the right side of the road.

By Bus

Arubus is a local busline company which has inexpensive, comfortable and reliable transport to some parts of the island, except the most northern parts and the interior, where you really need your own wheels. The main route runs from San Nicolas to Oranjestad and the major hotels along the beach on the north-west coast. Prices start at around $2 return tickets and make sure you have the right change before you board. The buses run each half hour from Monday to Saturday 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. They also run on Sunday running each hour.

For other destinations, you can arrange a taxi which has fixed rates (Aruba has taxi zones, so you can calculate your price). Some drivers double as guides if you like.

By Boat

The only regular passenger services are ferries departing daily to De Palm Island from the mainland. Crossings run every half an hour between 9 am and 6 pm.

Google It:

Custom Search