A Couple of Tips for Budapest Visitors


Budapest is ranked amongst the most touristic cities in Europe. Since, as well as about any other touristically attractive destination, the Internet is full of information about Budapest and its popular places, I’m not going to spendback my time writing here about common things that everyone can find on the map, can be advised in the first tourist office, or it takes you just 20 seconds to Google. Those are, indeed, the places worth a visit (usually), but my words wouldn’t have any added value (although they necessarily don’t have to have anyway 😀 ).

Anyway, there are some places that are not so touristy, may be quite hidden or special in a way. I have discovered a few such places and would like to share them with you. Anytime I run into something new, I’ll always add it here.

Buda Hills

To begin with, I have to say I like this area very much. I’m not sure if everybody is aware of the fact that Budapest consists of two parts – Buda and Pest. Yeah, pretty easy, isn’t it? And it’s also easy to recognize them, the Pest side is the one absolutely flat, the Buda side is the mountainous one.

Frankly speaking, I like the Buda side somewhat more. Well, actually I love to come here. I love mountains,

Buda Hills, Hungary

I love hiking and I love nature. This part of Budapest is kind of different, not only due to its relief. I sometimes call it “the boring side” of Budapest but don’t get it wrong, it’s because all Budapest nightlife, well actually any life, takes place in Pest. Only there you can find all the famous bars, clubs, restaurants as well as museums or whatever else. I’ve never heard anyone saying anything about any place located on the Buda side. What you can’t find in Pest, however, is hills and much greenery. Therefore Buda is definitely the nicer side to me, comparing Pest it is, not only thanks to its hills, more verdant, cleaner and much quieter.

Let me tell you a bit more about the Buda hills, along with some tips. First of all it’s necessary to say that so called Buda hills are not only two little clods of earth, as many people may expect, but it’s a larger range with plenty nice places to see. And what is very cool – most of the places are very easily reachable by public transport. In the Buda hills, you can find lots of trails, paths, walking routes, simply lots of places worth a walk. Let me share some of them with you.

The lookout tower (Erzebét killató)

Erszebét killáto, Buda Hills

This interesting monument located on the János hill (János hegy) is probably the most known place among locals and is, especially in the spring and summer months, one of the most popular relaxing places at all. No wonder, it’s a peaceful area in the nature and yet pretty close to the city. It’s also the place where I always take my visitors to see something different from the noisy city. The usual walking route which people take is from the place called Normafa, where you can get by a bus from the Széll Kálmán square.

Normafa is already a spot uphill, where you can be given a nice distant view over Budapest. There is also a restaurant and a few meadows near by, where you can relax if you feel too lazy to walk further. However, it is worth extending your walk to the mentioned tower. It’s about a 25-30 min very easy walk on the horizon. Even though it’s quite rare, considering how close to Budapest you still are, the lookout tower is free of charge and it’s open whole year round till 8 pm, so in autumn you can also get a romantic night view.

Once you have enough of views and the strong wind, which always blows there, since the tower projects beyond the surroundings, you can of course come back to Budapest the same way, which I, however, usually don’t do. I take the red trail and continue straight down the hill. In about 25 min you show up at a bus stop from where you take a bus back to the Széll Kálmán square. There is also a possibility of taking a chairlift (libegő) to Zugliget and afterwards a bus back to the center.

Budapest Parliament from the hills
Budapest Parliament from the hills

In fact, in the surroundings you can find one more mean of transport, which is a little bit untypical. There is a so called Children’s railway (Gyermekvasút). It starts in the place called Széchenyihegy, where you can also get by a cogwheel train (it’s allowed to take a bicycle) from Városmajor (two trams stops from Széll Kalmán tér) and it goes through the whole area of the Buda hills, with a stop at János hegy (actually below János hegy).


In the entire area of the Buda hills, there are plenty of places where you can go for a hike or just short walk. After the most popular ones – Normafa and the János hill, I would like to give you a tip for a nice short trip to another nice, but a bit forgotten place.

Budaörs Hills, Budapest
Budaörs Hills, Budapest

You take the same bus to Normafa but you take number 21, which doesn’t terminate there, but continues a few more stops to Csillebérc (but you can also get off at Normafa and walk already from there). From Csillebérc – the terminal stop of this bus – there is a very nice route leading to a town located right behind the border of the Budapest area. It’s about 1h long, easy walk on the horizon and then down the hill to the town named Budaörs. From the town you take any bus going back to Kelenföld.

I like this place very much. It’s a very relaxed walk with a nice view over the surrounding rocky hills. It’s also cool to have here a picnic and chill. I can recommend it also for a bicycle trip as you can get up to Normafa by the already mentioned cogwheel train that takes up also bicycles, and then follow the same route. From Budaörs there is also a bicycle road going back to Kelenföld.

In conclusion, just a small advice. Do not do it the other way around. It makes it a nice, easy walk also because you can take a bus (or a cogwheel train) that carries you up and then you walk/ride slowly down. If you come to Budaörs and then head to Normafa (or other places), I can assure you that you will sweat a lot. Well, it’s obvious that you will have to go up the hill, but I would like to emphasize that the hills are pretty steep. So, in case you want to climb up to one of the rocky hills, do not do it on the bicycle (like me, idiot 😀 ) or you will cry.

Margit sziget

Margit Sziget (Margaret Island) Budapest
Margit Sziget (Margaret Island) Budapest

Margaret island (Margit sziget) is one of these places where you will never ever occur alone. On Margaret island, you will always find many people, no matter the year season. Margit sziget can be found exactly in between Buda and Pest (not actually sure if it’s fifty-fifty or it’s a neutral land 🙂 ), yes on the Danube, in between both banks. It is actually a big piece of nature, situated basically in the middle of the city. The three kilometers long island is a significant, and perhaps the most popular, Budapest sport place. Thanks to much greenery, a running track all along the island (more than 5km in total) and the relaxing, peaceful environment it offers, it’s favored by running devotees and it doesn’t get crowded only in summer, but even in winter plenty of people come here for a jog or a walk.

Apart from joining tens, or sometimes maybe a few hundreds, of joggers, you can take a swim in one of the pools. The Alfréd Hajós Swimming Pool offers an indoor pool, outdoor pools and even a water polo pool. In sumer you can then cool down and get some tan (together with another 1,000 of people) at the Palatinus beach (Strand).

It’s nice to come here on a bicycle and make a picnic on meadows in the middle of the island, walk through flower gardens, see medieval ruins or a mini zoo. If you want to stay a tourist for some more time, you can rent a bringo car, segway, electric cars, roller blades or a bicycle.

At the very beginning of the island, there is a musical fountain which performs a musical light and water show every hour. As one of  the very few things in Budapest, the fountain is for free.

After you’ve enjoyed your relaxing day on the island, no matter what you have actually been doing, there are a few summer bars where you can grab a beer and sit on a terrace, bench, or simply a shore to watch the flowing Danube and contemplate. Finally, you can finish your day at one of Margaret island clubs – Holdudvar or Zippp Club.

To get to Margit sziget, take tram 4, 6, or bus 26 passing through the island. Have a good time!

City park

Throughout Budapest you can find quite a lot of parks, which are generally, and perhaps surprisingly, pretty well maintained. It’s another thing I like here, when the weather is nice, you have a fairly big selection of relaxing places – parks or other green areas.

The biggest (official) park of Budapest is called Városliget –  City park located at the end of the famous Andrássy avenue and on the Budapest retro metro route. Frankly speaking, to me this park is not the nicest place of Budapest and I personally don’t come to relax here, but there are a few reasons why you may like it and that’s why I’m actually mentioning it.

First of all, even though the location might seem to be a little bit off-track, it’s easy and quick to get there by the retro metro (I devoted a paragraph to the retro metro in “Some Intercultural Shocks“). Full of impressions of the thematic metro, on your way to the city park you also check the Hero’s square (Hősök tere) – considered to be another Budapest “must see” sight.

Város liget (City Park)
Város liget (City Park)

In the park itself, you can find a small Vajdahunyad castle (Vajdahunyadvar), Széchenyi thermal baths, a circus, a zoo and also a technical museum. There also used to be an amusement park but since 2013 it’s closed. But above all, what I find cool in the park is the lake where you can rent a canoe or kayak for (half) an hour, paddle a bit around and relax on the water. In winter times the lake turns to an ice rink, you can borrow ice skates and skate on it. On weekends in some parts of the park a flea market takes place. The park, indeed, has also lots of green areas, where people use to sit and lie in the grass, read, play games or simply relax. In hot summer evenings you can refresh at another famous beer garden called Kertem.

*2015 update: The Hungarian government has decided on investing in renovation of the park in order to create a cultural-recreational-whatever center. The City Park should become a new museum quarter, with completion in 2018.

Kopászi gát 

Talking about places for a relaxing day, I have another tip to add. This isn’t a place which you are usually recommended to visit when sightseeing in Budapest, it’s a very cool place for a lazy weekend day, though. It’s located a bit out of the downtown, so you won’t really meet tourists, however, last years its popularity has been rising and especially in Summer the place is favorited mainly by locals.

Kopaszi gát – Budapest

In fact it is sort of an artificial peninsula – a dam built upon the Danube with a big area of newly planted, very green grass, which is perfect for picnics. At the Kopaszi gát (literally Bald dike) you can find many restaurants, playgrounds and a even beach, although swimming in the Danube in Budapest is officially forbidden due to the bad Danube’s water quality. I’ve already seen people bathing in the Danube, and not only at Kopászi gát, but I really don’t recommend to take a swim there. The beach(es) are on the riverbank that is basically a dead bay with stable water, so just imagine for a while what’s happening when the wind blows towards the dam….

In my opinion, Kopaszi gát is the cleanest and most maintained park in Budapest. Perhaps you may not want to spend here the hottest summer days since taking a bath and cooling down in the Danube is not something you should do here, but it’s a perfect picnic spot to roll on the green grass to read a book and relax.

Hospital in the Rock

Hospital In The Rock Budapest

Budapest has quite a long-term and rich history and has therefore something to offer to everyone. All around Budapest, you can find a historical piece of the Roman Empire (e.g. Aquincum in today’s Óbuda district), the Ottoman Empire (Gül Baba’s TombGül Baba turbeje, which is actually also a pretty hidden place in Buda, not far from the Margaret bridge, or Rudas, Király and Veli bej baths), Austro-Hungarian monarchy (the Vajdahunyad castle, Metro line A etc.), as well as the Communist regime (The House of Terror). As mentioned in the introductory paragraph above, Google a bit or get a guide to find what’s the most interesting for you.

But I would like to recommend you one which I liked and found interesting. It’s called the Hospital in the Rock (Sziklakórház Atombunker Múzeum) and it is what the name says – a hospital in a rock. In other words, originally it was a secret hospital and nuclear bunker built before WW II, which is nowadays open to the public as a museum. As a matter of fact, the hospital is a cave and cellar system constructed under the Buda Castle that used to serve as an emergency hospital to treat wounded soldiers and people during the Second World War, and as a nuclear bunker later.

With a (also English speaking) guide you will be given a great tour through the hospital labyrinth where you will learn more about Hungarian history and thanks to the original equipment and wax figures you’ll put yourself in the soldiers’ or nurses’ shoes and leave the museum with an authentic experience.

Go caving!

No carving, no craving, caving! This city really have everything. Well, except for the sea. People come here to spend a day in thermal baths, visit the castle, climb up the citadel and experience the Budapest nightlife in Szimpla or another popular place. But what about exploring Budapest also from underneath?

Pál-völgyi cave, Budapest

People are not very often aware that under Budapest a pretty extensive cave system can be found. Yes, many caves have been discovered under the Buda hills, whereas only two (as far as I know) are open to the public – the Szemlő-hegyi cave and the Pál-völgyi cave. Apart from a normal, walking, guided tour in the Pál-völgyi cave, for the more courageous ones, there is a more adventurous, climbing-crawling tour. You will be borrowed an overall, get equipped with a helmet and a light and led by a tour guide you will climb on walls and crawl through narrow slots to explore the caving system and experience the real potholing excursion. No previous caving experience needed so dare to experience some adventure!

To visit both the Pál-völgyi stalactite cave and the caving experience under the Mátyás-hegy, you need to take bus 65 or 65A from Kolosy tér.

The Budapest market(s)

If you open any Budapest guide, one of the touristic sights you will find mentioned in it will be the Central Market Hall – Nagy Vásárcsarnok. It’s the biggest (or at least the most popular) Budapest market, a place where greengrocers, butchers or other farmers gather to sell their stuff. It’s certainly an interesting, worth visiting place, particularly if you are not used to such a thing in your country. Besides fruits, vegetables, meat or dairy products, you find here lots of stalls with souvenirs and on the upper floor, eateries serving “typical Hungarian” food are located.

It’s nice to visit the market as a tourist, it’s something you may find interesting, you can take photos and buy souvenirs (which are here, by the way, a bit cheaper than in souvenir shops in the very center ;-)). I’m not a big fan of this place as a “local”, however, simply because Nagy Vásárcsarnok is too commercial. It’s touristy. You can meet retired Hungarians shopping here as well, but mostly you will hear many different languages but Hungarian (if you want to run into Czechs, look for places with food 😀 ).

Nagy Vásárcsarnok (Great Market Hall)
Nagy Vásárcsarnok (Great Nagy Vásárcsarnok (Great Market Hall)Market Hall)

It’s a cool market place inside a very old, stylish building, but similarly to any tourist attraction, if you get “untouristed” and become a common inhabitant, you may want to buy the same stuff more cheaply and, in my opinion, also better quality at other markets throughout Budapest. I personally don’t buy fruits and vegetables or pastries in supermarkets, I always prefer to buy such stuff fresher from small farmers. Although the Great market hall is a market indeed, I don’t find the quality of some products very good and sometimes not even cheap (perhaps because it’s pretty much a tourist place anyway). The market is closed on Sunday so plan your sightseeing tour accordingly.

Area around the National Theater

National Theatre Budapest
National Theatre Budapest

I would like to mention also this place because it’s one of the nice areas where no tourists come and I think it’s a place nice enough not to be skipped. You won’t probably find it in many guides. I discovered it one day, how else than basically by coincidence, when I went for a walk along the river. And this area has become one of my favorites spot for nice walks and refreshments.

However paradoxical it may sound, the building of the theater is the easiest to find at night as it is sparkling. It’s located by the southernmost bridge of Budapest (actually there is one more at the very edge of the Budapest territory, very far from the center), but it’s easily recognizable since the whole building is lit with lights changing the color.

Anyway, at whatever time of the day you come there, you will be given a nice view, from “the south angle”. The whole area is newly renovated in a very thematic way – (musical) art. In the theater garden you can see and take photos with a couple of artists. Except for the musician statues, there is also a zigurrat where you can climb to get a nice view, or get lost for a while in a small yew labyrinth.

National Theatre Budapest
National Theatre Budapest

You will get to the theater with tram 2, or you take a nice walk all the way along the eastern bank of the Danube.

You can find more tips for Budapest including a map with recommended places marked in it here: