In Praise of McDonalds
Our first visit to Budapest was an incredible experience. It was much more than we had expected and before we went some friends advised us to be sure and visit the McDonalds at the city’s central station. A quick internet search describes it as a destination worth visiting. What American could pass up a McDonalds?
With over 35,000 restaurants in over 100 countries, there are times when traveling internationally that McDonald’s can seem like a familiar touch of home. While we prefer to eat local, sometimes familiarity, price and convenience win out. While the restaurant’s menu and appearance has a tendency to change based on the country, there are always some common choices. Because I’m supposed to avoid caffeine, in Europe, often McDonalds is my most reliable outlet (okay Starbucks too but they cost a lot more) as Europeans aren’t used to providing decaf coffee.
In Budapest, Hungary, this particular McDonald’s has actually become a travel destination itself. Located in the famous Western Railway Station (Nyugati Pályaudvar) designed by August de Serres and built by the Eiffel Company of Paris, it features some impressive steel and iron work. This McDonalds has the twin advantages of being very large and right in the center of Budapest.
Over the years much of the stations iron structure has been replaced but attached to the right side of the terminal is what has been called the most beautiful McDonalds in the world. This was once the oldest fast food establishments behind the Iron Curtain, dating back to the Soviet occupation of Hungary. This McDonalds occupies a large multi-story space with an ornate colonial ceiling right in the railway station complex and is a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
We visited around six on a Friday and the restaurant was packed. The lines moved quickly with attendants moving thru the lines taking orders on hand-held tablets that printed out an order ticket. Our order priced out a little less than we would have paid back home and featured the usual fare. Placed on a balcony on the second floor overlooking the main seating was the MaCafe furnished with overstuffed sofas and chairs. A true coffee shop it was staffed just to make coffee based drinks and serve from a truly impressive pastry selection. Starbucks – eat your heart out!
While we cannot guarantee that this is the most beautiful McDonalds in the world it is for sure the most beautiful we’ve ever visited.