Hi! I'm Saskia, an adminstrator here at QuirkyAccom.com and a second year Liberal Arts student at Warwick University, although my family home is in Spain. This Summer I went interrailing around Europe with my friend, and decided to pick out Budapest as the place to write this blog about as it was my favourite.
After having wanted to go for years and having heard so many positive things, this summer I finally visited Hungary's beautiful and lively capital, and I was not disappointed! I have written about the aspects that particularly interested me about the city in this blog entry and hope they can help to plan an entertaining and quirky trip.
There is no better way to get to know the city than by exploring it by foot. A walk along the Danube is nice at sunrise, during the day or in the evening when also Budapest´s inhabitants come here to relax. Near both sides of the river are the main attractions. Starting from the St. Stephen´s Basilica, walking up to the impressive Parliament, past the Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial and crossing the river to then visit Castle Hill with the Fishermen´s Bastion, the Matthias Church and Buda Castle is a very nice walk. Beautiful views over the city are everywhere here, but they are particularly stunning from the Liberation Monument, overlooking the city from the hill next to the Royal Palace and from Gellért Hill. Gellért Spa and the Rudas Baths are also extremely popular.
Looking from the Fishermen´s Bastion across the river to the Parliament
Yet what I particularly enjoyed about this vibrant city was its hidden, always interesting and sometimes funny and slightly macabre facet.
So my recommendation is: do visit the main tourist attractions – there are also plenty of options to book walking tours – but don´t be scared to get lost in the small side streets and discover the city for yourself. Take your time to try traditional dishes like the goulash or paprika chicken and the delicious desserts in some of Europe´s oldest Coffee Houses, and don´t miss out on the more unusual side of this amazing city! Find out about some of the small things that actually make Budapest so unique here:
Quirky Budapest: 5 Must-Do´s
1. A quirky walking tour: Some of Budapest´s most surprising artefacts and sights are particularly unexpected because they are hidden behind the biggest tourist attractions. Knowing about their existence can therefore make a walk through the city so much more entertaining.
Start, for example, by taking a moment after observing the beautiful cupola of the St. Stephen´s Basilica to look for the Holy Right Hand: allegedly St Stephen´s 1000-year-old mummified hand. A number of superstitions and stories of various thefts and deaths surround this hand, which is the reason it is still kept on display. Once a year, on the 20th of August, the Hand is also taken on a procession through the city. While you are there, you can also climb up the viewing tower instead of leaving the Basilica again straight away, and enjoy a view of the inner city of Pest very different from the view from Castle Hill.
Not that overcrowded by tourists but also worth a visit and knowing some of its interesting history is Vajdahunyad Castle, one of Hungary´s most charming castles, but only around 100 years old, built for the 1000th Birthday of the Hungarian State. Originally it was only built as a memorial made of wood and cardboard and only later, due to its popularity it became a “real Medieval Castle” made of stone. It is in the City Park and often hosts concerts, festivals or other events.
Finally, one more place I will mention that is often ignored by tourists is the beautiful Epreskert Garden. It is hidden a few streets away from Andrassy Ut. and brings together an impressive collection of art from the last centuries, since it used to be a centre of cultural life. Emperor Franz Joseph frequently visited and the garden itself was beautifully designed in the 18th Century. The area around it is part of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts and also hosts interesting exhibitions.
2. A train operated only by children… Break out from the hassle of the city with a walk through the beautiful countryside surrounding Budapest, and forget that you are in one of Europe´s most popular capitals. But don´t just go on any walk, get to know one of the most unique and hidden attractions in Budapest: the Gyermekvasut. The Gyermekvasut is a small train that goes through the hills and stops at some small villages. What is unique is that no adults work at these stations, only children from local schools. You can buy your ticket and get information from 10-14 year-olds and also buy handmade necklaces or small souvenirs from them. If the train journey through the forest wasn´t in itself already worth a visit, this definitely adds the cute-factor! This daytrip is also a great occasion to explore Budapest´s green lung, go on long walks, bring food for a picnic, or find one of the many viewing platforms as we did.
It is easiest to get to one of the stations by car, but it is also possible with public transport; how, is described here http://www.gyermekvasut.hu/english_eng/how-to-get-there/
To the left: The view from one of the hills surrounding Budapest
To the right: Children directing the Gyermekvasut
3. Nightlife and Ruin Pubs: For those of you looking for a bit of nightlife, be it a nice quiet bar or a big club, Budapest will not disappoint. Like every other big city there is wide variety in music, type of bar or club, and also in price, so there is bound to be something for everyone. However there is nothing more quirky and necessary than a visit to one of the Ruin Pubs that have emerged as the result of a new trend. The ruins of mansions, average houses or industrial buildings are renovated and prepared as a bar or club, but keeping as many of its original features as possible and not losing the feeling of having a beer or a cocktail between ruins. I would particularly recommend Szimpla Kert. On two different floors, with an interior garden, street art on the walls and an apparently random collection of artwork and everyday objects, sofas and bathtubs to sit in and sip your drink, it is a unique experience. You can also have dinner in here. In the streets around it, you can explore similar, smaller pubs. We visited bigger clubs in former villas as well, the biggest one being “Hello Baby”, and they were maybe a less quirky experience, but still different from the average club at home and definitely a fun night.
On the left: Hello Baby, one of the biggest Ruin Clubs in the 6 floors of an old villa.
To the right: One of the rooms in Szimpla Kert – not quite the average bar…
4. Try an Escape Room: 60 minutes to find hidden clues and escape with your team from a locked room – in a completely safe environment of course – that is an Escape Rooms. They have become extremely popular in the last few years and, yes, many cities offer this experience now. However, Budapest is where Escape Rooms are originally from and in no other city you will find so many different options. From Harry Potter to prison or horror-movie themed rooms you can find everything. If you have thought about trying the experience, Budapest is the place to do it!
5. And for the most adventurous: Go caving in the Labyrinth under Buda Castle! Don´t just discover Buda Castle from around and from inside, but venture into the maze below, built into the hill. This is only possible with trained guides, and there are different levels of difficulty: From a relaxed walk that is also safe for people with claustrophobia to an actual caving tour that you should only join if in good physical condition.
I hope you will love Budapest and its small quirks as much as I did, and to complete your unique Budapest-experience, check out these beautiful, unusual places to stay:
- The Aquamarina Boat Hotel is a historical padel steamer moored in the scenic Budapest: http://www.quirkyaccom.com/aquamarina-boat-hotel
- Hotel Moments Budapest is perfect for those looking for a more luxurious feel, situated on the World Heritage Site of Andrassy Avenue: http://www.quirkyaccom.com/hotel-moments-Budapest
- The Soho Boutique Hotel is perfect for exploring the city by foot and is very quirkely decorated: http://www.quirkyaccom.com/soho-boutique-hotel-budapest