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Visitor’s guide to Budapest for FINA 2017

Photo: FINA Budapest 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017 — We Love Budapest

The 17th FINA World Championships kick off in Budapest on July 14th, enticing visitors to Hungary’s capital and the Lake Balaton shore through August 20th, when the competition ends with the last day of the aquatic-sports competition’s Masters tournaments. Those who come to Budapest to support swimmers can dive into our handy guide filled with lots of tips about where to sleep, eat, drink, and cheer during the events, with many of the locations that we recommend found close to the FINA venues. In addition, we outline public-transport alternatives that take passengers to the competition sites.

FINA competition venues

Photo: FINA Budapest 2017

During FINA 2017, competitions are simultaneously organized in Budapest and in Balatonfüred, located on the northern shore of Lake Balaton 130 kilometers away from the Magyar metropolis – for more details about the FINA events at Lake Balaton, check out our sister website welovebalaton.hu. However, let’s focus on Budapest for now, where competitors hit the water at four iconic locations: the Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Complex, the Danube Arena, Buda’s Batthyány Square, and at Városliget Lake in City Park; each of these venues are easily accessible by public transport.

Found on the city’s expansive Margaret Island parkland, the Alfréd Hajós Complex is served by bus line 26, departing from Nyugati Railway Station, but we can also reach this key venue for major water-sports competitions by taking tram line 4-6 and getting off at its Margaret Island stop, from which point a 10-minute walk takes fans to the building. 

Pest’s newly built Danube Arena near Árpád Bridge is one of FINA’s main venues, and passengers can get there by taking the M3 metro line to the Forgách Street stop, or by taking tram line 1 to Népfürdő utca – the swimming pool’s entrance is a 10-minute walk away from either of these public-transport stops, while bus lines 15 and 115 drop passengers off near the building at the Dagály fürdő stop.

Besides these two permanent pool complexes, FINA 2017 awaits water-sports fans with two temporary pool facilities – Buda’s Batthyány Square will be complete with a new panoramic pool that’s set up here for High Diving contests. The scenic spot is easily accessible by its own stop on the M2 metro line.

Meanwhile, on the Pest side, City Park (“Városliget” in Hungarian) will be transformed into a unique venue for synchronized swimmers, where a pair of temporary swimming pools are built atop Városliget Lake. The best way to reach City Park is by taking the M1 metro line – the city’s historic Millennium Underground that traverses subterranean Budapest since 1896 – to either of the Hősök tere or Széchenyi fürdő stops.

Photo: FINA Budapest 2017

FINA World Championships

500 - 8500 HUF
Friday, July 14, 2017 9:00:00 PM
Sunday, July 30, 2017 12:00:00 AM

@ Budapest
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In addition, FINA’s Danube-front venues are also available by a special boat service provided by Budapest’s Mahart riverboat company, with ferries departing every 20 minutes to transfer passengers to the Dagály, Margaret Island, and Batthyány Square locations of the championships, while newly added docks will serve Pest’s Vigadó Square, the Palace of Arts, and the Budapest University of Technology. Best of all, ticket holders of the FINA World Championships can use dedicated parking lots and boat services free of charge.

Whether you have tickets or not, everyone is welcome to visit the two Aquatics Fan Parks – also called FINA Market Streets – located outside of the Danube Arena and Margaret Island FINA venues. Here spectators are free to watch the competitions screened live while admiring displays of Hungarian culture, among other attractions. What’s more, downtown Pest’s popular Terasz Budapest open-air bar and restaurant is transforming into an unofficial fan zone during FINA, where guests can also watch the competitions live on a big screen.

To provide assistance throughout the FINA Championships, from June 29th through August 22nd, a hotline provides visitors with English- and Hungarian-language information at +36/1-907-0500. This number will be available 24/7 between July 6-30th, while from June 29-July 5th and from July 31-August 22nd the hotline operates from 6am and 10pm. 

To learn more about how to get around Budapest by public transport, check out our BKK guide, and for additional information about the championships’ venues and transfer options, log onto the official website of FINA 2017. or the main FINA website.

Accommodations during FINA

Photo: Norbert Juhász/We Love Budapest

While the world’s biggest aquatic-sports contest attracts vast numbers of visitors to Budapest through July and August, as of press time, rooms are still available at some of the city’s major hotels, with many accommodations actually providing discounted rates for guests. Several city-center hotels provide a five-star lifestyle for visitors, including the award-winning Aria Hotel Budapest near St. Stephen’s Basilica, the riverfront InterContinental Budapest, the elegant urban palace of The Ritz-Carlton Budapest, or the Oriental-themed Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest near the city’s Váci Street. Meanwhile, District VII’s Continental Hotel Budapest, Hotel President adjacent to the delightful Downtown Market, or the Prestige Hotel just steps away from the Chain Bridge, also provide deluxe experiences.

For those who want to stay close to the happening hubs of the championships, the Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget offers a convenient stay amid the same parkland where the Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Complex is found. Meanwhile, art’otel Budapest, Lánchíd19 Design Hotel, and Danubius Hotel Gellért all flank the same tramline as Batthyány Square. Found a healthy two-kilometer-walk away from the Danube Arena, the Danubius Hotel Helia still has rooms left during FINA, while on the other side of the Danube, the five-star Aquincum Hotel Budapest awaits guests near Árpád Bridge.

As of press time, within the three-star category, District VIII’s Bo18 Hotel Superior, Hotel Rum in downtown, Casati Budapest Hotel Superior on District VI's Paulay Street, and Ibis Styles Budapest Center are all among the accommodations with free rooms during FINA.

Restaurants around the FINA venues

Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest

Thanks to Budapest’s gastronomy revolution in recent years, several excellent eateries surround each location of the championships, offering a diverse selection of mouthwatering meals for gourmands and gourmets. Near Margaret Island, close to the Pest side of Margaret Bridge, Babka serves lunches and dinners with Middle Eastern influences, while on a side street near the Buda side of Margaret Bridge, KicsiZso offers breakfasts and midday meals made with regional ingredients.

In City Park, found just steps away from Városliget Lake, Pántlika is a super-retro open-air restaurant selling burgers and beers, while Robinson offers a deluxe dining experience with succulent steaks and a panoramic terrace, overlooking the park’s freshwater scenes. For trying classic Hungarian cuisine amid scenic settings, ascend to the upper floor of the palatial building of Városliget Café, located just steps away from the temporary pool that’s set up at FINA’s City Park location. 

Found a short walk away from Batthyány Square, fine Hungarian wines and seasonal dishes are made with impeccable ingredients at the upscale Csalogány 26 eatery, but guests who just want to grab a quick sandwich or some sweets can pop into Steamhouse Café, occupying the upper level of the red-brick market hall on Batthyány Square. 

Although the Danube Arena is found outside of downtown, that doesn’t mean we can’t find outstanding hangouts nearby: on the Pest waterfront, the laid-back rowing-themed Céltorony provides succulent barbecued-meat specialties and excellent beers, but for those who are up for a time-bending dining experience, Kéhli Vendéglő serves traditional Hungarian meals amid a setting unchanged for a century, found within a historic section of Buda’s Óbuda district, found just across Árpád Bridge from the Danube Arena. 

Historic and new-wave cafés

Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest

Hungary’s capital boasts a centuries-old coffeehouse culture, and some of the city’s traditional hangouts still tower above Budapest’s streets, enticing modern-day visitors to sip cups of caffeinated sensations amid stately settings. Serving as a progressive hangout for the city’s intellectual crowd since 1887, Centrál Café earned a prime spot in many Budapest guidebooks for its century-old legacy that is now tastefully blended with modern flair. Similarly, the iconic Gerbeaud Confectionery is an in-demand attraction for its masterful style and excellent selection of sweet pastries. If you want to get a caffeine kick amid a gilded interior design, order a latte macchiato at the city’s imposing New York Café, which dates back to the 19th century. 

However, it’s not only these majestic hangouts that help preserving Budapest’s thriving coffeehouse culture, but numerous small cafés that are scattered citywide, offering a selection of conventional and artisanal brews, including Hollán Ernő Street’s Madal Café or My Green Cup, both located within walking distance from Margaret Island. Meanwhile, the Andrássy Avenue branch of Budapest’s MagNet Bank is complete with a cozy hangout full of lush plants and stylish furniture, located just a convenient walk away from City Park. 

Wine bars serving local libations

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi/We Love Budapest

Watching swimmers reach new heights is a spirit-lifting experience, and sipping a glass of fine Hungarian wine after the contests is a similarly high-spirited activity – across the city, several bars offer intoxicating Magyar wines for sampling, and some of these hangouts are found in the same neighborhood where the FINA venues are located. From Batthyány Square, just walk 10 minutes on the Buda riverfront towards the Chain Bridge to find the historic building that houses Andante, a panoramic bar proffering one of the city’s best selections of Hungarian wines poured by the glass. Meanwhile, found just at the Pest side of Margaret Bridge on Balassi Bálint Street, Drop Shop is a perfect spot for tasting fine Hungarian (and international) tipples in a professional environment, while oenophiles who take tram line 4-6 from the Margaret Bridge and get off at Nyugati Railway Station can walk to the St. Andrea Wine Bar, a Budapest outpost of a high-class Eger-based winery, housed inside the beautifully restored Eiffel Palace.

In addition, wineries abound in the city center, where we find such gems as District VII’s Doblo offering rare Hungarian libations, the colorful Kadarka Bar named after a Magyar grape type, or DiVino, which presents heavenly nectars made by some of the country’s most promising young winemakers at two locations. 

This article is sponsored by the Bp2017 Nonprofit Kft.

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