The sunny weather of the previous days seemed to desert us as we woke to thick clouds and drizzle. It was fortunate then that we had planned some indoor activities for the earlier part of the day. We started by taking Line 2 of the metro along to Deák Ferenc Square and from there strolled along the elegant Andrássy Avenue which is lined with high-end designer stores and restaurants. Located part way along this road, near to the Opera House, we arrived at Miniversum, one of the largest model rail exhibitions in the world. It’s home is on the ground floor of the former Krausz Palace which was built in 1838 and is now a national monument.
Entrance to Miniversum is HUF 2,700 (£7.38) with a 30% reduction offered to holders of the Budapest Card. The model railway boasts over 5,000 miniature figures, 1,200 vehicles and 100 trains winding their way along 1,300 metres of track through 14 towns and cities and the exhibition is scaled to 1:100 of its original size.
Our arrival time, fifteen minutes after its opening on a Monday morning was perfect as there were few other visitors which gave us plenty of opportunities to view the exhibition. As this was our 5th day in Budapest, we were already familiar with some of the miniature landmarks and we watched in awe, as little trains departed from the Nyugati Railway Station winding their way through the city.
Beneath the layout are 100 strategically placed interactive buttons which are colour coded to allow visitors to control sounds, vehicles, movement and lights. We had so much fun pressing every one of the buttons and then scanning the layout to discover the action we had performed.
Sometimes, it was a tiny resident going about their everyday chores such as hanging out their washing, other times we had set a bus in motion, the blades of a windmill, or the sounds of a plane’s engine. It was absolutely captivating and we spent around one and a half hours in sheer bliss.
The display extends beyond the capital, taking visitors on a journey through the vineyards of Hungary, its countryside, small towns and into a second exhibition hall where the miniature journey continued onto Vienna and Bavaria. In addition to the model railway, there are useful information boards documenting such things as life under communism and the fall of the iron curtain.
Before leaving, we looked into the control room where a member of staff was watching more than 1Km of railway on 18 monitors, ensuring everything was running smoothly and there had been no derailments. Although HUF 2,700 might at first seem quite expensive to enter Miniversum, it’s an enchanting experience and one that bring’s out the child in all of us, irrespective of age.
The rain was continuing to fall as we returned outdoors so we sped along to the Central Market Hall which is located at the end of the main pedestrianised shopping street Váci utca on the Pest side of the Liberty Bridge.
It’s both the largest and oldest indoor market hall in Budapest and was completed in 1897. Under an ornate glass and steel roof we found a huge variety of stalls with the ground floor offering fresh produce, sausages, Hungarian paprika and Tokaj wines.
The upper floor is mainly given over to souvenirs, food stalls and cafes which were all doing a brisk trade as we had arrived around lunchtime. The market is open six days a week but please bear in mind if you are visiting over a weekend that it is closed each Sunday.
Located next to the market hall and overlooking the Danube lies the main building of the Corvinus University of Budapest.
This beautiful neo-Renaissance building was completed in 1874 and functioned as the Customs House during the years of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Since 1948 it has been home to the university’s central services, business and economics departments.
We wandered through the grand entrance of this beautiful, heritage listed building and admired its original marble columns and wood panelling in its entrance lobby. With its idyllic position overlooking the Danube there can be few institutions offering such panoramic vistas. Adjoining the university lies the Fóvám ter interchange station and from a machine in its lobby we purchased a 24 hour travel card as our original 72 hour card had expired. These cards cost HUF 1,650 (£4.50) each and we had delayed renewing our card so that it would be valid for our return to the airport the following afternoon,
We caught a tram along the riverside enjoying the stunning views from its windows and then walked a short distance to Vörösmarty tér, the terminus for the Line One, heritage metro line to take a train to Sźechenyi Fürdö station where we had been for a moonlight walk the previous evening.
The City Park looked just as inviting in the daylight as we explored the area from the Szechenyi thermal baths along to the fairytale like Vajdahunyad Castle which was constructed in 1896 in various architectural styles as part of Hungary’s millennial celebrations.
Finishing touches were being made to a huge ice skating rink in front of the castle which was due to open the following week making a perfect backdrop for the festivities.
Continuing our stroll through the park we strolled alongside a thermally heated pond where sensible ducks were keeping warm, floating in the warm water. Our walk continued to Heroes Square with its millennium monument rising to a height of 36 metres (118ft).
Feeling cold, we hopped on the heritage metro line once again, back towards our hotel. Ticket inspectors seemed to be patrolling this line constantly and on the few occasions that we used it, we observed several people receiving on the spot fines of HUF 8,000 (£21.90) or double if they failed to pay immediately so do please take care to ensure that you are in possession of a valid ticket.
Later in the evening we visited Erzsébet Square near Deák station where a smaller Christmas market was taking place. This square is home to the Budapest Eye Ferris wheel which glimmered in the night sky. We wandered around the small cabins with their welcoming twinkling lights and then warmed ourselves up with mugs of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. The end of another lovely day in Budapest.
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