Here’s how to get the most from your daytime activities in Hungary’s thriving capital city
Don’t worry, you can fully experience Sziget, while also leaving time to explore nearby Budapest’s charms. First-time visitors are often surprised by the sheer beauty of Budapest—split by the Danube River, Buda’s rolling green hills majestically overlook the grand architecture of opposite Pest, a flat terrain bustling with life. Budapest offers an exciting combination of history and a lively contemporary culture complete with cafés, restaurants, baths, and museums. With the help of local city and restaurant guide Offbeat Budapest, we logged the best daytime activities for those of you interested in exploring the city outside Sziget.
THE MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE POINTS IN BUDAPEST
There is so much to see and do in the Hungarian capital, so besides taking your “compulsory” festival photos, be sure to make lasting memories by visiting its many historic locations, discovering its fun new venues and revealing its multitude of secrets.
10 THINGS TO DO
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Roam around Castle Hill: The charming old town of Buda has not only retained a medieval air, but also offers a picture-postcard view of the Pest side. Walk around here—visiting the Buda Castle, Matthias Church, and the Fisherman's Bastion along the way—for a journey back in time.
Stroll down Andrássy Avenue: Often referred to as the Champs-Élysées of Budapest, this grand and leafy boulevard connects the city center with Budapest’s City Park and Heroes Square (Széchenyi Bath is also nearby). Take a leisurely walk along the pretty pre-war buildings and handsome villas.
Relax in a thermal bath: Budapest’s bathing culture dates back to the Romans, who had already discovered the wonders of soaking in mineral-rich hot water. Each bath has its own unique qualities—some date back to the Ottomans (Rudas, Király), others are inside elaborately embellished buildings (Széchenyi, Gellért). Read on for more details.
Visit the Parliament: Hungary’s largest building stretches imposingly on the Danube’s bank. This massive Gothic Revival structure has 691 gilded rooms, some of which, including the stunningly ornate chamber of the former Upper House, are part of a 45-minute guided tour.
Try lángos at the Great Market Hall: Budapest’s dramatically high-ceilinged indoor market dates back to 1897 and offers a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, charcuterie, and more. There are touristy knick-knacks for sale but the real gem is the food. Grab some paprika-laced salami and ripe seasonal vegetables, or head to the upstairs food stalls for a lángos, an iconic flatbread topped with sour cream and cheese.
Explore the old Jewish Quarter: Today, Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter is a trendy neighborhood teeming with cafés, restaurants, and foreign visitors. Nevertheless, the area has retained some signs of its old Jewish life, including the enormous Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest in Europe.
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Discover the Fiumei Road Cemetery: Are we really telling you to spend your free time walking around a cemetery? Don’t worry, this place, which is a bit outside the city center, feels more like a manicured public park with plenty of beautifully designed limestone tombs and mausoleums where Hungary’s notable statesmen and artists are buried.
Go to a museum: Be it a selection of the best local artworks, an exhibit about Hungary’s tragic 20th-century history, or the story behind the country’s famed Unicum liqueur (which, yes, includes a taste)—museums abound in Budapest. Pick one that strikes your fancy.
Climb up to the Liberty Statue: If you don’t mind a half-hour cardio workout in the form of mounting the verdant Gellért Hill, you will be rewarded with sweeping 360-degree views of Budapest. For the best experience, take the path setting off to the south of the hill, opposite the entrance of Gellért Bath.
Take a river cruise on the Danube: One of the best ways to appreciate Budapest’s beauty in its fullest is to glide up and down the Danube. On one cruise ride, the Chain Bridge, the Buda Castle, the Parliament, and Margaret Island all appear within arm’s reach. Legenda, one of the cruise operators, offers a consistently comfortable experience (and audio guides in 30 languages).
10 CAFÉS & BREAKFAST RESTAURANTS
Eat your way through Budapest like a local: Using our Foodapest Guide, discover the city through typical foods and drinks that locals rely on to get through their days.
Dorado Café: If you are in the trendy Jewish Quarter and looking for excellent specialty coffee, head over to this hip café featuring a sleek interior and free wifi, run by an adorable Spanish-Hungarian couple.
Hehe restaurant: Few people know that Budapest has one of the largest Chinese communities in Europe, meaning that superior Chinese food abounds. You will need to trek out to Chinatown, a 25-minute trip from the city center by public transport, to unearth tasty dumplings, steaming noodle soups, and spicy Sichuan dishes.
Bambi: For a slice of communist-era Budapest, we can't think of a better place than Bambi—not much has changed in this café since it opened in 1961. Go for the toasted sandwiches topped with ham and cheese and the "tejeskávé" milk coffee.
Csendes Társ: Situated by one of the most charming parks in the city, this outdoor café serves up tasty vegetable dips and grilled sausages. They also serve local Hungarian wines that many people order in the form of fröccs, the local wine spritzer.
For more information, head to Offbeat Budapest.