Hungary’s eclectic capital city is known for its artistic edge, vibrant nightlife and beautiful architecture. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Little Paris of Middle Europe’, step off the beaten path with our guide to the hidden gems of Budapest.
A city on the rise, new places to visit pop up constantly in Budapest. Popular with tourists for its affordability, spas and nightlife – including the now infamous ruin pubs – amongst other attractions, there’s an underground and undiscovered side to the city which offers an alternative experience. Join us as we disover the lesser known sights of Budapest!
1. Ride the Zugliget Chairlift
For stunning panoramic views of Budapest, you can’t get much better than the tallest viewpoint in the city. Located on the Buda side of the city, János Hill is the highest in Budapest. At the top stands the Elizabeth Lookout Tower, from which you can enjoy breath taking vistas of Budapest and beyond. You can either hike to the top, or take the Zugliget Chairlift for a more relaxing ride.
2. Head to Varkert Bazar
Built in the late 1800s, this neo-Renaissance building complex stands on the Buda side of the city on the banks of the river Danube. Standing below the Royal Palace, at the foot of Castle Hill, the architecturally stunning complex fell into disrepair during the 20th century. The World Heritage Site has recently been restored to its former glory, and visitors can check out the flower garden, park and even ride an escalator up to the Royal Palace!
3. Visit the Thermal Baths
Often called the ‘city of spas’, Szechenyi and Gellert are two of Budapest’s most famous thermal baths, both worth a trip for the beautiful architecture and large size. However, to avoid the tourist crowds head for one of the city’s lesser know spas in Buda. The recently reopened Veli Bej Bath was built during the Ottoman empire and is a well hidden gem; in District 2 stands the Király Bath, another product of Ottoman times. Both offer an affordable spa experience off the beaten path. Alternatively, head to the more modern Rudas Baths for a rooftop hot tub with views over the city.
4. Explore the Underground Caves
Did you know that underneath Budapest lie around 200 caves of varying sizes, just waiting to be explored?! Thanks to the same thermal waters which form the city’s baths, a caving complex of over 120km can be found. Take a guided tour around the Szemlő-hegyi cave, or visit the larger Pál-völgyi cave system: both are accessible to cavers with little to no experience. You can also check out the Cave Church, which can be found inside Gellért Hill.
5. Try an Escape Room
The idea is simple: you’re locked in a room, or a series of rooms, and it’s up to you to figure out how to get out. Clues are left for you, and there’s a time limit before you’re locked in…forever! OK, not quite – but the escape room craze is rapidly gaining popularity and Budapest is definitely the place to experience one. The city’s rugged buildings are the perfect locations for these exhilarating games based on the use of logic and mental strength.
6. Discover the Tomb of Gül Baba
Built in the 1540s, a combination of Ottoman and Hungarian architectural styles make this a unique must-see which few visitors to the city even know exists! Reachable by walking up a steep hill from Margaret Bridge, the tomb houses Ottoman Bektashi dervish poet Gül Baba. Worth the trip for its fascinating history and the amazing views it affords from its hilltop position.
7. Relax in the Park
Aside from the popular – and therefore, often crowded – Margaret Island, Budapest boasts a number of peaceful green spaces perfect for al fresco dining under the sun. Kopaszi Dam is one of Buda’s newer parks having been recently renovated. Located next to Rákóczi Bridge, it’s a great place to take a picnic. Alternatively, head to Lake Feneketlen (the Bottomless Lake). Situated in Budapest’s 11th District, the surrounding park is a calm oasis away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Want to experience more cities off the beaten path? Check out our secret and unusual guides to Paris, Berlin and other destinations around the world.