What to do on Monday?

Many guests ask us what to do on a Monday when most of the museums and tourist attractions are closed. To assist them in maximizing their stay, I have compiled a list of some suggestions to kick off your Monday, but of course this is not comprehensive. 

Does this picture provide a clue as to what you can do?

When you find your own fun things that occupied your Monday, don't forget to send them to us to share with others. Be prepared, this is a long one.

Budapest ZooBudapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens 

It is one of the oldest in Europe and conveniently located in City Park just past Heroes Square. The zoo has been instrumental is breeding test tube babies including a hippo. They also had triplet leopards, a rare occurrence, but even more so in captivity. They have done quite extensive remodeling, making it a better home for endangered animals. There is a link in English when you click here. Yes, they do have polar bears.

Dohany SynagogueDohány Synagogue and Jewish Museum

VII. Dohány utca 2, Metro: M1, M2, M3 Deák tér, Bus 7, 7A, 78, Tram 47, 49, Open: 10am-5pm Mon-Thu, 10am-3pm Fri, 10am-2pm Sun, Closed Saturday.

Housed in a wing of the Central Synagogue, Budapest's Jewish Museum was built on the site where Theodor Herzl, the famous Zionst leader and novelist was born. Containing mostly 18th and 19th century art treasures, exhibits are arranged in three main rooms according to their ritual significance i.e. Sabbath, holidays and life cycle ceremonies. A fourth room, which covers the Holocaust, gives a harrowing insight into the fate of an estimated 550,000 Hungarian Jews murdered by the Nazis and Hungarian Arrow Cross fascists during the final years of WWII.

Franz LisztFerenc Liszt Museum

VI. Vőrősmarty utca 35, Metro: M1 Vörösmarty u, Open: 10am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm Sat,  Website: Click here.

The former home of Hungary's most famous composer Ferenc Liszt, who lived here for 5 years from 1881 until his death in 1886. The three room apartment displays original furniture and other personal possessions. Recitals take place most Saturday mornings. For some unknown reason, at times, the museum will open on a Sunday, but close on Mondays. Generally, this is only one month a year, but best to check the website.

 Art GalleriesGalleries

Liget Gallery XIV. Ajtósi Dürer sor 5, Tel: 351-4924, Tram 74, 75, Open: 2-6pm Mon, Wed-Sun Website: Click here. One of the smallest galleries in Budapest which concentrates on film and photography.

 Trafó Gallery IX. Liliom utca 41, Tel: 215-1600, Metro: M3 Ferenc körút, Tram 4, 6, Open: 4-7pm Mon-Sat; 2-8pm Sun, Website: Click here

LiberationLiberation Monument

XI. Gellérthegy, Bus 27, Website: Click here.

Felszabadulási emlékmű is the Hungarian name. A short walk from the Citadel is the 14-metre high liberation monument commissioned by Admiral Horthy, Hungary's pre-war and World War II dictator. Zigmond Kisfaludy-Strobl's original design, which featured a female figure holding an aircraft propeller, was commissioned after the death of Horthy's son István who was killed in a plane crash during World War II. It's said that when the Red Army arrived in 1945, a palm replaced the propeller and the monument came instead to symbolise liberation from Fascist rule. In truth, the Russian version of the monument is a different design by the same sculptor. Ironically, the statue of the Red Army soldier that stood guard at the foot of the monument has been unceremoniously carted off to Memento Park on the outskirts of the city.

Margaret IslandMargaret Island (Margitsziget)

The 1½ mile long Margaret Island, which is connected to both Buda and Pest by the Margaret and Árpád Bridges, is one of the most beautiful open spaces in the city. Visitors wanting to take time out from the noise and bustle of Pest will enjoy the serenity of the island's park, which was established over one hundred years ago (1869). The island was named after the daughter of King Bela IV (1235-1270) who lived in a Dominican convent here during the 13th century. The ruins of the convent can still be seen today on the island's east bank.

Heading south from Árpád híd along the Pest side of the island, you'll find two spa hotels situated in close proximity to each other (they are actually linked by an underground tunnel). The first is Miklós Ybl's attractively designed Grand Hotel which shares its facilities with the relatively modern Thermal Hotel. A short distance away is the island's distinctive and colorful rock garden, which leads on to Szent Mihály templom, a 20th-century reconstruction of a 12th-century church.

There are two public baths on the island - the first being the sprawling Palatinus strand, which can hold up to 20,000 people in the summer (with both cold/warm water pools and an artificial wave maker). The smaller Hajós baths to the south is named after Hungary's first Olympic gold medalist in swimming.

Mary Magdalene TowerMary Magdalene Tower 

I. Országház utca/Kapisztrán tér, Metro: M2 Moszkva tér, Várbusz

Today, all that remains of the 13th-century Franciscan church which once stood here is the Mary Magdalene Tower. Both the chancel and nave of the church were destroyed during allied bombing raids in World War II and although the tower itself is largely a post-war reconstruction, the building has a rich turbulent history. For a short time, under Turkish occupation, it continued to hold Christian services, with Protestants using the nave and Catholics the chancel. Eventually, it too was converted into a mosque, although following the expulsion of the Turks in 1686 it reverted back to a church in which Franz I was crowned here in 1872. later on it served as the garrison church for men stationed at the neighboring army barracks.

Matthias ChurchMatthias Church (Mátyás Templom)

I. Szentháromság tér 2, Varbusz, Open daily 9am-5pm, Website: Click here.

At the very heart of Buda's Castle District is the Mátyás Templom. Officially named as the Church of Our Lady, it has been popularly named after King Matthias Corvinus (Good King Mátyás) who ordered the construction of its original southern tower. In many respects, the 700 year history of the church serves as a symbol (or perhaps a reminder for Hungarians) of the city's rich, yet often tragic history. Not only was the church the scene of several coronations, including that of Charles IV in 1916 (the last Habsburg king), it was also the site for King Mátyás' two weddings (the first to Catherine of Podiebrad and, after her death, to Beatrice of Aragon).

Any Hungarian historian of note will tell you that the darkest period in the church's history was the century and a half of Turkish occupation. The vast majority of its ecclesiastical treasures were shipped off to Pozsony (Bratislava) and following the capture of Buda in 1541 the church spent life as the city's main mosque. To add insult to injury, ornate frescoes that previously ordained the walls of the building were whitewashed and interior furnishings stripped out.

Although following Turkish expulsion in 1686 an attempt was made to restore the church in the Baroque style, historical evidence shows that the work was largely unsatisfactory. It was not until the great architectural boom towards the end of the 19th century that the building regained much of its former splendor. The architect responsible for this work was Frigyes Schulek.

Not only was the church restored to its original 13th century plan but a number of early original Gothic elements were uncovered. By also adding new motifs of his own (such as the diamond pattern roof tiles and gargoyles laden spire) Schulek ensured that the work, when finished, would be highly controversial. Today however, Schulek's restoration provides visitors with one of the most prominent and characteristic features of Budapest's cityscape. 

Inside, visitors tend to head straight for the Ecclesiastical Art museum which begins in the medieval crypt and leads up to the St. Stephen Chapel. The gallery contains a number of sacred relics and medieval stone carvings, along with replicas of the Hungarian royal crown and coronation jewels. However, this is what has been closed the longest for renovations inside. If this is important to you, ask before paying your admission fee.

mementoparkMemento Park 

XII. Balatoni út, Bus 50, Open: 10am-dusk daily Website: Click here.

This was formerly Statue Park (Szoborpark). Without a hint of irony, the old lady selling tickets to this curious outdoor museum puts on a tape of stirring Soviet music as you pass through the main entrance. Visitors to Szobor Park seem to fall into two categories - those intrigued by the idea of a dumping ground for Soviet and Communist statues and others making a bizarre sort of pilgrimage to wallow in what remains of the good old days of 'goulash communism'.

Back then, the statues represented, albeit superficially, a powerful symbol of Soviet strength and unity. Today, stuck out on the edge of town, they've lost much of their dignity, instead being brutally exposed as the idealistic follies that ordinary Hungarians always knew them to be. Worth a look, but indulge in the tour or you will miss 90% of the representation of the layout and other "hidden" messages. It was well worth it. There is a package tour from the city center, but you will be rushed through without time to watch the old spy training film they uncovered. To me that alone is worth the trip.

ThermalsThermal Spas are great relaxation

There are plenty to choose from. Click on the Thermals link for more information. If you did not pack a swim suit, you may want to choose one of the segregated thermals where a suit is not needed.

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