25 Oct Unusual activities and sights in Budapest
Budapest’s vibrant culture, arts scene, and nightlife mean that even when you’ve done all the usual touristy stuff, you’ll never be short of other interesting things to get up to. As you search for your very own unusual activities and sights in Budapest, keep these ideas in mind.
We have enough history museums to inspire your mind for days – but if you want to visit some that are uniquely Budapest then the Zwack Unicum Museum is a great place to start. Unicum is a herbal liqueur with which most people have a love or hate relationship.
Created by the Zwack family in 1840, they happily bottled their product until 1948, when the the Communists nationalized the company and the family fled – luckily taking the recipe with them.
In 1988, one of the sons returned to the country and restored the company to its former glory and today the museum gives you an insight into Unicum’s remarkable history and the chance to see the old distillery.
Other local curiosities include Hospital in the Rock – an old hospital located in the tunnels under Buda Castle that survived years of war – and the Pinball Museum, a stunning collection of preserved and playable pinball machines from throughout the ages.
Budapest’s Communist Past
The Communists – in Budapest from after WWII until 1989 – had a huge impact on the city’s development and their influence can be seen and felt everywhere. If you like old statues, then a visit to Memento Park is a must – a graveyard of sorts housing old Communist statues that were dragged out of the city at the end of their rule.
For a more living and breathing look back at Communist life, both Bambi Cafe on the Buda side of the Danube and Wichman’s Pub, right in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, retain the interior design and quirky charm of the time. And, while you’re in the area, pop your head into the courtyard of the Elektrotechnikai Múzeum on Kazinczy Street to check out some old neon signs.
Outdoor Sights and Activities
If you’re more of the active type, Budapest won’t disappoint. One of the most interesting outdoor attractions in Budapest is the Children’s Railway, a multi-stop line staffed and run (almost) entirely by children from local schools. A throwback from Communist times, it was considered an honor to be able to work on the railway and a perk reserved for those kids with the best grades. Today it’s a great way to see some of the city’s surrounding countryside in a unique way.
And for the real adventures, the Buda Hills on the city’s outskirts are filled with caves and tunnels, all available for a little exploring – both the casual walk through type and the sort that involves hard hats, ropes, and absolutely no claustrophobia.
Cool Food Markets
Who doesn’t love a local market for some souvenir shopping or a spot of fresh food? Luckily, Budapest has many – the most popular being Szimpla Farmers’ Market, held on a Sunday inside Budapest’s most famous ruin pub and made all the more cool by musical entertainment from local artists. And for those that like to avoid eating meat, the Vegan Sunday Market in Anker’t is a must see.
Prefer to see a working market? Go to the newly renovated one on Hold Street and browse delicious local meat, produce and snacks to your heart’s content.
Explore the 8th District
Want to see Budapest’ less gentrified area? Head to the city’s 8th district which still has the run-down charm of a previous age. It also happens to be home to a whole bunch of venues and projects setup and welcoming to the city’s young creatives and entrepreneurs.
On your list for the day should be Auróra – a community center meets cafe meets music venue. Other must sees include Csiga Cafe, serving some of the best brunches in the city; and Gólya, Hintaló Iszoda, and Kék Ló – all great bars with an eclectic crowd of local misfits and expats.
Hidden Gems and Courtyards
And, finally, for those that like to wander in search of peace and tranquility, Budapest has plenty of hidden spots you’ll often just stumble upon by chance. Szabó Ervin Library is a great place to sit and contemplate life, while Építész Pince is the perfect spot for a glass of wine in a charming ivy-filled courtyard.
Paloma Design Shop, on the other hand, is where you go if you want to scratch your creative craft itch while supporting local artists and designers, and Massolit Cafe – possibly the hippest coffee shop in the whole city – has a cute little garden if your prefer you coffee alfresco.