You’re in Budapest and you’ve already seen the main tourist attractions or you’re not really in the mood to do so. It happens sometimes… and that’s ok! Especially in Budapest where there are plenty of ways to usefully spend your time in ways that will not leave you feeling like a lousy traveller. So how do you still soak in some culture and history?
Walk by the ‘shoes on the Danube promenade’
In Pest, on the banks of the Danube, there is an interesting memorial in honour of the Jewish people who were killed in Budapest during WWII. They were ordered to remove their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies would fall into the river and were carried away. I found this a moving piece of art, well worth a detour.
Cure yourself at the Thermal Baths
Treat yourself to a soothing and possibly therapeutic afternoon at one of the 15 public thermal baths of Budapest. The city’s has been famous for its medicinal thermal springs since the Roman Empire (more on that here). Till this day, the inhabitants of the Budapest use these bath-complexes to heal, relax and spend some quality time with friends, family and fellow chess players.
Some of the bath complexes date back to the 16th– 17th century. Pick your favourite for some R&R in the hot water pools, cold water pools, saunas… Most complexes even offer massages. I spent a snowy afternoon in the Széchenyi bath, one of the largest spa complexes in Europe. Switching from one 39C° bath to the next was quite challenging, with an outside temperature of -5°C. The contrast of the natural hot water and the freezing air made the experience truly memorable. I mean, how often does one get to bathe in the snow?! It’s good for the blood circulation, they say. Of course you can choose to bathe indoors too!
Have afternoon tea at a historical Café
There are several renowned cafés which have been around for decades. The most famous and popular ones being “Gerbaud’s” and “Ruszwurm”. Be warned, the prices are quite steep, but in return you get a slice of pastry that has been perfected over the course of 80 years or more. Order a coffee or hot chocolate if you don’t have the means to indulge in afternoon tea! Sit back, enjoy whatever you can afford and let yourself get transported to the late 19th century.
Sunset at the Parliament
“More beautiful from the outside than from the inside”; normally a phrase that evokes negative feelings. Not in this case though. The Hungarian Parliament may well be the most photographed building of Budapest. Its architectural beauty is best admired from across the river. Bring drinks/snacks and marvel at this architectural beauty as it changes hues with the setting of the sun. Be warned, you’ll be sitting near a busy motorway, so don’t expect peace and quiet.
Shop for paprikas and souvenirs at the Central Market Hall
As a huge fan of markets, I had a wonderful time snooping around the central market of Budapest. There is nothing like getting lost in the numerous aisles of produce, cured meats, cheeses, spices, pastry, and endless supplies of paprika. It’s a great way to taste and learn about traditional Hungarian cuisine at its freshest. On the second level, you can browse through hundreds of crafts and tacky souvenirs.
Have a couple of drinks at one of the many ruin bars
A ruin bar or a kert is a temporary bar set up in a deserted building or factory. Sort of an underground pop-up bar, if you will. Some last only through the summer while others stay in business for several years. They are equipped with an eclectic mix of rejected and recycled furniture, works of local artists, graffiti… They have a certain edginess which makes them so popular with locals and tourists alike. Some of the bars serve cheap pizza during a couple of hours a night, others offer carrots with your drinks… “Why not eat a healthy snack with your beer”, the waitress said. TOUCHÉ!
“Szimpla kert” is one of the most famous and well renowned kerts. Up to date information on all the kerts in Budapest can be found here
Pizza at Marxim
Ever wonder what it was like to be a part of ‘the resistance’ during communist times? Ever wanted to feel that underground vibe? Well, you can! Marxim is a pizza restaurant/bar on the Buda side of town where you can -more or less- relive those days. How about a “pizza à la Stalingradsokje” or a “Red October pizza”? Why not even try a “Papa Marx’ favourite”? The décor is entirely communist themed and with a little bit of imagination; you’d think you were tele-transported back in time. Although, I doubt they had pizza back then.
Hang out at Fisherman’s Bastion
Yes, this is part of the classic attractions in Budapest, but it’s such a beautiful and fun place, it deserves a hangout visit! Ideal for a romantic rendez-vous, playing hide and seek, a photo shoot or a walk around the oh-so-quaint neighbourhood. Bring a scarf, hat and gloves on cold days, the wind up there is brutal.
Spa-rty at one of the oldest thermal baths
If you’re into the party scene, this will probably be a highlight for you. Cinetrip organises audio-visual parties in unique locations i.e the thermal baths. Party in a 200year-old turkish bath surrounded by lasers, smoke and international dj’s… It’s no surprise these parties are rapidly gaining popularity. Not my cup of tea (anymore?), but not to be missed for those of you who want to give aqua-twerking a go!
Discover the Hungarian cuisine and wines
While it’s not an internationally renowned cuisine, hungarian staples are quite tasty. I was surprised at their ability to turn something as simple as fried mushrooms with rice into a scrumptious dish. The food is very flavourful and hearty; weight loss is not a probability here. Spend some time looking for restaurants serving authentic dishes or take on of the widely available cooking class. Try goulash soup, chicken paprika and stuffed savoury crêpes. The sweet pastries are divine and much cheaper than in France. I found the cherry strudel to be particularly tasty.
Have you been to Budapest? Have you done any of these activities while there?
The post “How to spend the weekend in Budapest (when you’ve already done the sightseeing)” first appeared on Travel Cake.