The Culture of Budapest: Trade, Tourism and Trying New Food

Simon Tasker

by Simon Tasker

17th July 2014

This year, we joined an impressive number of other international businesses at Chemspec Europe 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.

ReAgent’s exhibition stand was held on the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) stand and we spent our time at Chemspec Europe networking and making some international contacts. In addition to meeting potential customers, we were also able to chat with some possible new suppliers for ourselves.

As well as delving into the business world during our time in Hungary, we also had the chance to experience the beautiful culture of Budapest and do our fair share of sight-seeing around the city.

Because of Hungary's central location in Europe, it relies on trade with other European countries

Because of Hungary’s central location in Europe, it relies on trade with other European countries

It was interesting to discover the reasons why Chemspec Europe was held in Hungary this year, and it was fascinating to be able to visit distinctive landmarks and taste a totally new culture.


Because of Hungary’s central location in Europe and its lack of natural resources, it depends on the continuous and reliable trade between itself and other European countries.

On an economically positive note, Budapest is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination, particularly for backpackers and more recently hen and stag parties. Building on the influx of visitors to Hungary, Emirates Airline will add a service from Dubai to Hungary in October 2014. Emirates expects the new route to be popular because “markets in Asia are playing an increasing role in Hungary’s foreign economic growth targets”.

Budapest is continuing to work on increasing trade, which is why the city applied to host Chemspec this year. It is trying to raise its international trade by hosting a number of trade fairs across multiple industries over the next 12 months.

With this plan in place, alongside an increasing number of tourists attracted to the culture of Budapest, we may be able to expect further developments in Hungary.


St Stephen's Basilica, containing St Stephen's right hand

St Stephen’s Basilica, containing St Stephen’s right hand

When the event was over, we had some spare time and so took the chance to wander around Budapest and soak up the history, which is all on display through the beautiful architecture and tourism attractions. We left the trip feeling educated and having a good feeling for the culture of Budapest. Here are some of the monuments that caught our eye:

St Stephen’s Basilica

Named after the first king of Hungary, St Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic Basilica and currently stands as the largest church building in Hungary. St Stephen was also the founder of the Hungarian state, and the long history of this Basilica has given it status as a significant tourist attraction in Budapest.

After its construction, the Basilica was considered so sturdy that important artworks and documents were stored there during World War II bombings. Inside is a room known as the ‘Chapel of the Holy Right’ which contains St Stephen’s right hand; thought to be Hungary’s most sacred relic.

Stunning detail on the ceiling in St Stephen's Basilica

Stunning detail on the ceiling in St Stephen’s Basilica

Hungarian Parliament Building

The Hungarian Parliament Building is placed along the Danube embankment. It was built as a symbol of new-born Democracy in Hungary and to provide a home for the government. It is one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings, and tourists can visit when Parliament is not in season.

The design was partly inspired by the Palace of Westminster. It was constructed in a Gothic-Revival style, which incorporates features including decorative patterns, scalloping and arches. The façade includes 90 statues, while the interior walls have 152 statues and are decorated with local flower motifs.

Hungarian Parliament Building: a symbol of newly found democracy in Hungary

Hungarian Parliament Building: a symbol of newly found democracy in Hungary

Chain Bridge

The Chain Bridge  is located over the river Dunabe and provides the link between Buda and Pest. The bridge hangs on two iron chains, which is where the name derives from.

On the photos here, you may notice the “protecting” lion statues, there to symbolically guard each bridgehead. The legend goes that the sculptor of the lions, Marschalko János, forgot to carve out their tongues and became so distressed about this mistake that he jumped off the bridge into the river Dunabe.

At the end of World War II, all of the bridges in Budapest were blown up by German troops. Only the pillars of the Chain Bridge remained intact, and the re-build was completed by 1949 – exactly one hundred years after the bridge was initially introduced.


The legend goes that the sculptor of the lions forgot to carve the tongues, leading to him jumping off the Chain Bridge

Opera House

The Opera House in Budapest is a Neo-Renaissance building that was opened in 1884, complete with paintings and statues of leading figures of art at that time. It was built as a symbol of the Hungarian operatic tradition which has been around for over 300 years.

Known for its exceptional acoustics, the Opera House seats about 1200 people. Renowned international artists have graced the stage, including Pavarotti and Gustav Mahler, whom was also the director of the establishment for three seasons.

The Opera House is a symbol of the 300-year-old Hungarian operatic tradition

The Opera House is a symbol of the 300-year-old Hungarian operatic tradition

Pubs and Football

The trendy local pubs around Budapest are known as “ruinpubs”. They were created around the beginning of the 21st century following the closing of factories, cinemas and houses. The furniture from the previous tenants was used to equip the new pubs, creating an eclectic and retro vibe that gives these pubs their own cultural stamp.

On top of learning about the culture of Budapest, we also managed to fit in some football-viewing to our visit. We were there right in the midst of the World Cup 2014 excitement and even though Hungary didn’t qualify for the tournament this time around, local bars around Budapest were showing the football matches.

It was great to watch a world tournament with people from countless different countries, where we could all join together and support each other’s teams for a few hours.

Trying New Food

Places to dine in Budapest covered the whole range of the food spectrum. You could sample traditional Hungarian foods, or popular cuisines from other countries such as Indian, Italian and Japanese. For the less daring, Budapest even has fast-food restaurants including McDonald’s and KFC.

The local food was really tasty and we enjoyed sampling meals similar to what the residents of the area would eat. One popular dish is goulash; a thick mixture of beef and vegetables, somewhere in between a soup and a stew.

Other typical Hungarian dishes include pörkölts and paprikás (popular meat dishes), libamáj (fried goose liver) and túrógombóc (cottage cheese dumplings).

One other customer in a particular restaurant received quite a shock, when their meal was served with a crispy fried chicken’s foot sitting on top of it! We weren’t brave enough to taste this delicacy, but here is a step-by-step guide to cooking chicken feet – with photos – should you ever feel the need to taste them.

A warning; it may make you feel queasy rather than hungry.


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