Your non-tourist guide to a great Budapest weekend
By Rebeka Kancsar
This gem of a city in the small country of Hungary in the heart of Europe is a popular getaway destination for young adults, partly due its eye candy architecture and affordable flights and hotels. Now, you could google ‘things to do in Budapest’ and figure that catching the hop-on hop-off and going from Fisherman’s Bastion to Heroes’ Square might be your best, or you could focus slightly less on the tourist hot-spots and explore some of these not-so-hidden treasures of Budapest.
Road to Ruins
Take a city known for its history, add craft beer, and you get ruin pubs—filled with antiques, flacking lights and art. Notoriously in District VII, buildings—or rather, their remains—can look like what you’d expect to see on urbex blogs, graffiti and fallen pieces of concrete, where you can easily walk past a ruin pub without realising. Considerate to neighbours nearby, it’s an unofficial rule that you have to be quiet on the streets and near the entrance, but once you walk through the gates of Szimpla Kert and into the courtyard, you’ll find yourself in another world, consisting of chill music, laidback atmosphere, projected silent movies, multicolour lights and wall art, filled with thrift-shop gadgets that serve no purpose but are fun to twiddle. Bikes wrapped in fairy lights hanging from the ceiling as chandeliers, old square TV’s mounted onto the wall, disco balls, broken road signs and an old Trabant car covered with graffiti with a table in it—a perfect playground for young adults. Speaking of adult playgrounds, it’s also close to the Pinball Museum, where you can play with over 130 vintage and new machines.
If you ever came across a photo of Budapest, chances are you’ve seen Buda Castle on it. You could take the £40+ walk inside the castle, or you could opt for a walk in the Castle Gardens for free and see historical architecture and a panoramic view of the Chain Bridge and Parliament Building over the Danube.
Another skyline spot on the Buda side of the city is right next to Gellért Thermal Baths—which is worth spending a day in if you’re one for spas, soaking in warm waters that are believed to be healing, although it’s crowded with tourists during holiday season, but Ryan Gosling apparently enjoyed it too. Climbing up above the Cave church, you can sit on a bench surrounded by trees in the middle of the city, overlooking its skyline AND Buda Castle.
Fiumei Road Cemetery & Memento Park
Cemeteries are generally not included in holiday plans, but here I give you Fiumei Road. Being the largest and one of the oldest cemeteries of Hungary, it houses the mausoleums of national heroes, politicians, poets, artists and the famous Anonymous’ Statue in a green, tree-filled park. Creepy, sure, but its architecture and statues are something worth seeing if you’d rather avoid the tourists. If you’re into statues but you’d rather opt from creepiness to a longer drive, Memento Park is right outside city with 42 pieces of art from the Communist era of Hungary, meaning you could have a picnic next to the massive statues of Lenin and Marx—which is, you know, less creepy.
Food & Sustenance
One wonderful thing about Budapest is that wherever you go, there will be a kebab/gyros/pizza place around the corner, where you can get a slice for as cheap as 300 forint, which is around 80p (yes, you read that right). But if you feel fancy, you could visit the New York Café and its Italian Renaissance glamour for a champagne breakfast. You could also try Gozsdu Courtyard for a variety of bars and restaurants, where you can enjoy a huge range of traditional and international foods outdoors.
You want to avoid the hop-on hop-off—not only because it takes away the genuine excitement of exploring a city, but because Budapest has pretty good public transport, especially the tram network. Tram 2, 4 and 6 serve not only get you from one place to another, but you’ll have the best views of the city’s buildings. There’s always a stop within a short walking distance and you’ll avoid the crowds and stairs of the tube.
Most tourist leave with an I love Budapest t-shirt, and while you’re free to do that, why not leave with something better, if you really insist on souvenirs? Budapest has a number of amazing vintage shops, such as Szputnyik D20 and Anfifactory, where if you’re lucky, you can find brands such as Vivienne Westwood and Versace for ridiculously low prices.
So, booked your plane ticket yet?
Image: Rebeka Kancsar