Budapest Ruined: Find Out What The Locals Are Doing In Abandoned Buildings
November 26, 2015
Welcome To Budapest
Budapest has been becoming more and more popular in recent years due to the abundance of river cruises sailing down the Danube. It’s a great spot to relax, explore and soak up the local bohemian atmosphere.
But what is there to do in the city famed for its beauty other than, well, staring at it?!
Read on for our guide on how to make the most out of your visit to Budapest.
Spas and Baths
Budapest sits on top of lots of thermal springs and for centuries has offered bath houses where you can swim, bathe and relax in the mineral rich waters. This won’t be like some of the hotel chain spas you may have been to in the past – as waters can reach temperatures of 40c or be as cold as 10c and contain minerals that rejuvenate skin… but with dozens of spas all over the city – which one should you visit?
Szechenyi are the most famous baths in the city and the site has been running since 1881 and is in fact the largest spa complex in Europe. The spring pools containing calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulphate will give your skin a refreshing boost. The locals will sit and play chess in the water, others will lounge in the mud baths whilst children can enjoy the whirlpools and large outdoor swimming areas. The baths are open all year round with a discounted price in winter months. In summer entry price is around £10. There’s also nearby gardens and a zoo, an amusement arcade as well as a small, local market.
Gellert are the second most famous baths in Budapest and are known for having beautiful pillars, art nouveau tiling and lounging areas. If you wanted to go all out and have spa treatments such as massages you’d be better off having them here – as these baths are less busy than Szechenyi. These baths sit on the Pest side of the river.
Did you know? Budapest used to be split into the Buda and Pest side and the two areas developed almost completely independently from each other until the 1800s. This means that each side has a distinct feel to it – and you’ll find different styles of buildings, traditions and customs on each!
Alternatively, why not head to the Rudas baths instead? They are far quieter but have beautiful Turkish style bath areas. Lie back in the pools and stare at the starred ceiling or sit in the rooftop pool that has stunning views over the Danube. Entry price is also lower here and will cost you around £7.
Whichever spa you choose you’re sure to have a blissful afternoon of total relaxation as you soak your troubles away…
Top Tip: Be aware that some bath houses have a series of baths outdoors so these are best visited during the summer months! Whilst the pools are heated they aren’t quite as much fun if it’s raining…
Head To The Top Of The Hill
If getting all pruney isn’t your idea of fun then you might want to head to the Buda side of the river and climb the hill to the Buda Castle District. Awaiting you up the top are stunning views, interesting museums and a variety of shops and restaurants.
If you stand at the top of Fisherman’s Bastion you get a fantastic view of the Danube and the Hungarian Parliament. As you wander around take a look at the seven towers which represent the seven Magyar tribes who settled in Budapest over a thousand years ago. Whilst here, visit the small shops dotted around nearby which sell everything from art to tourists trinkets, homewares to local cloth. From the other side of this hill you can look out at the Pest side of the river and the picturesque hills and districts nearby.
Buda Castle isn’t just a castle as it’s also home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the National Library. The art lovers amongst you will love the Gothic Altar pieces and Hungarian artists. For the most interesting of the art collections (which include 20th century art or Baroque pieces) then head to the top floors of the gallery!
Did you know? Buda Castle also offers wine tastings in the Faust Wine Cellar. You’ll be able to sip a wide range of fine Hungarian wines in the relaxed medieval setting! It’s recommended that you book in advance.
Budapest has lots of bridges – which you’re sure to notice if you sail through the city on a river cruise! Each of the nine bridges is a little different and the most famous of these is the Chain Bridge.
It was the first permanent bridge to connect the Buda and Pest sides of the river and serves as one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Walking along the Chain Bridge gives you a great view of either side of the river and is a great spot to take some photos from.
This hedonistic city has been made famous by its bizarre bars that are uniquely weird and wonderful. Ruin bars have been built in the last decade and a half inside of abandoned buildings with most of them being found in the old district of town. Previously unused spaces have been transformed, with no rules for design leading to trendy unique hubs.
Expect bars with sewing machines plastered into the walls, drinks served from campervans, outdoor bars with rowing boats instead of stools to sit on and tables made from parts of cars. You can see more of the trippy interiors in the video below!
If you only have time to visit one then we’d recommend a trip to Szimpla-kert which has five different ruin bars inside. It’s always busy with locals and tourists and serves up a great atmosphere to relax with drinks, new found friends and local beer. There’s also a little photo booth inside for you and your companions to get your picture snapped! Depending on what time of year you visit there may also be a food market, film festival or live band playing here.
Jump on a Tram
The cities yellow trams rattle along all over the city and are an easy way to get around. A day pass only costs around £3 and trams run until midnight.
If you can’t face navigating them (although you really shouldn’t be put off – it isn’t too hard!) then a taxi here is fairly inexpensive. Look out for taxis that have meter prices on the side – this means that you will pay by the meter and there won’t be any hidden costs.
Alternatively, hop on a Boris style bike that you can rent for the day. You can’t miss the bright green florescent bikes that whizz around the city and they’re a great, cheap way to get around the city. You’ll enjoy the first 30 minutes of your bike ride for free and pay £5 for a three hour ride. You can pick up a bike from one of the 76 docking stations over the city.
Top tip: Remember that the Hungarian currency is initially a little hard to get your head around. The current conversion rate is one British pound to 442 Hungarian Forints. This can make paying for things a little difficult as some people assume prices are extremely high (when they aren’t) or think that 100,000 forints isn’t a lot (when it kind of is!) Download a conversion app for your phone to keep you on track of your spending.
On the Pest side of the river there’s a set of steep steps up to the castle district. You can either climb them or you can wait in line to take a funicular (a tram like car) up to get to the top. It’s also more scenic to take the car than the steps as the path takes you through the forest whereas the cars give you a great view of the Danube for around £4 return. Alternatively side step this problem (literally) by heading up along the road instead of the steps for a less steep climb which will take you right up to Fisherman’s Bastion along a less harsh gradient.
If you’re really feeling adventurous you could try a Segway tour of the city and spend three hours whizzing around the Pest side of the river. It’s a great way to get around some of the steep hills and allows you to see around the inner pest streets – without walking a step! You’ll pick up your Segway from a designated meeting point and be escorted round by an enthusiastic tour guide for around £40 per person.
Enjoy a Bit of Culture
Many tours in Budapest will take you to the Opera House for an impressive show or to walk along the iconic Hungarian Parliament but where else in the city can you go to soak up a bit of culture?
Travel to Memento Park and see the Soviet Communist statues which have been erected to remind people what it was previously like to live in communist Hungary. The collection of propaganda posters give you a stark and interesting insight into the city as you walk around the statues that were removed from around the city once the regime had fallen.
Similarly, a visit to the Shoes on the Danube will give you a sobering but worthwhile trip. Here iron shoes have been left on the shoreline to honour Jews who were ordered to take off their shoes on the shoreline before being shot.
For something a little less heavy you could visit the Basilica of St Stephen. After visiting the vast gothic building you should definitely try some of the local restaurants nearby. A visit to Hungary wouldn’t be complete without trying some of the local paprika! Rezkakas Bistro serves particularly fine traditional food including goulash and local musicians play whilst you eat.
If you have to give something a miss on your trip to Budapest then you can afford to leave a visit to the Central Market Hall. Whilst widely advertised as a great way to spend an afternoon, the produce is actually fairly overpriced and despite being in a large indoor market the wares being sold aren’t particularly unique.
Do you agree with our thoughts on Budapest? Have you been before? Do you want to go?
Let us know in the comments below!
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