Here’s our guide to extra days in Budapest. It follows our Buda and Pest guides which not only include helpful information on how to get into the city from the airport, but also provide a range of options for you to do on both sides of the river. Here we have reviewed a range of other things you might like to do in Budapest which could be especially useful if you have extra days, extra time on either of your Buda or Pest days, or you want to swap out an excursion we have mentioned as it doesn’t take your fancy.
Ornate Hungarian Retreat
There are a range of Spas (to suit a range of tastes and budgets) across Budapest – it is one of the main tourist attractions of the city. We had it narrowed down to two possible baths (Gellért or Széchenyi) and ended up choosing this one primarily due to its close proximity to where we were staying. We didn’t want to be taking a lot of valuables out with us even though we had booked lockable cabins in which to get changed (for a small additional fee). A second reason for our choice of Spa was that men and women were able to mix freely which is not the case for all Spas. Be aware that some Spas also operate a no bathing-suit policy and you would’t want to find this out without prior knowledge. The Gellért Spa is part of a large hotel and as well as the thermal pools contains a swimming pool. Without a bathing cap you are not allowed to use the main pool. If you wish to use the main pool and do not have a bathing cap then we recommend purchasing one before entering the Spa as it will be cheaper than hiring one inside. You can get one in the hotel foyer so you don’t have to go shopping beforehand. Once inside the Spa you will be astonished to see the sculptures and floor to ceiling mosaics. There are also a variety of thermal pools at a range of temperatures up to 40ºC including pools outside. Going in late October we thought the pools outside would be closed and although the larger pools had been drained there was a smaller pool which was a warm and welcome relief to reach having been exploring outside in nothing but our swimming costumes!
Top Tip: Do go outside especially if you are visiting on a cold day especially in the late autumnal afternoon as the steam condensing above the pool as it hits the cold air perfectly complements the moon coming out and the lights from the city.
The Invisible Exhibition
There are only three in the world but it’s the kind of place I think should be in every country so that everyone can have the opportunity to go and experience what we did. We stumbled across this exhibit whilst using TripAdvisor to look for things to do whilst in Budapest. TripAdvisor is a great tool when planning a trip as it allows you to see recent reviews from actual travellers. The Invisible Exhibition provides you with the experience of being completely blind and navigating your way around (with the help of a guide) a range of locations including a flat, a typical high street and even a woodland walk. You are completely deprived of your sense of sight, having to rely on your guide, your own perseverance and bravery to get you around. You may have just read this and been instantly put off but I urge you, if you ever have the opportunity to, go and experience it. Yes, it is scary and yes it makes you feel very uncomfortable. However, what you gain from the experience is so much more and definitely worth it. One thing to note is that you must ring up/email in advance as you need a guide and if you want your tour in English then you have to realise there aren’t many blind Hungarians who speak perfect English. We had no trouble getting a slot the next day with two other couples and had a great (though slightly-terrifying) time.
Top Tip: Don’t go with any preconceptions about what it will be like but be prepared to go for it, be bold, be brave and ask as many questions as you would like.
Shoes on the Danube
Sombre visual memorial
As you walk along the Danube on the Pest side towards the Parliament building you will come across over 50 pairs of metal shoes fixed into the concrete from men, women and children. They give the impression that they were left behind as a line of individuals jumped into the river. This does not make sense nor is it an accurate explanation of what occurred. Instead it commemorates those Jewish victims who were lined up and shot into the Danube en masse at the hands of the anti-Semitic and pro-German Arrow Cross party. Although simple, it is a powerful reminder of the cold horrors of World War Two that scarred so much of continental Europe.
Top Tip: It is not difficult to find nor does it take any notable time so is worth the detour en route to another location. Parliament Metro Station and tram interchange is nearby if required.
Hungarian Parliament Building
Dominant Gothic Architecture
The Hungarian Parliament Building dominates the riverfront on the Pest side of the Danube river. It looks equally impressive both during the day where you can really appreciate its architectural prowess and at night where it it bathed in light showing off its angular features. We enjoyed the building from the outside only but it is possible to book at tour to view the inside too if this is something you are interested in.
Top Tip: Combine seeing the Shoes on the Danube and the Hungarian Parliament Building on the way to another attraction or as part of a self-guided walking tour.
Central Market Hall
Largest indoor market
At the end of Vaci street is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. It seems to sell everything you could want from fresh meat and veg, to tourist tat and even a food hall. We headed straight upstairs and sampled some Hungarian food followed by a wander through the tourist stalls wandering what, if anything, my mother would like.
Top Tip: Head upstairs and try some local Hungarian food – we had lángos which is a Hungarian speciality consisting of a deep fried flat bread served with any combination of toppings you can dream up!
Hungarian National Museum
Historical, Eclectic, Informative
We had never planned to visit this museum but when the Holocaust Memorial Center was closed we headed here on our way back towards Vaci street. We were a little hesitant as there didn’t appear to be much that we wanted to see but we were wrong. There were a lot of rooms that we did wander aimlessly through but there was equally some interesting exhibits on the history of Hungary from ancient archaeological finds up to the horrors of the 20th Century. If you are interested in a wider historical perspective then this museum would be worth a visit.
Top Tip: Put a couple of hours aside if you want to see it all but be prepared there is a lot to see.
They were recommended but we never got round to it:
- Ice Bar – there were mixed reviews about this bar but the one I went to in Amsterdam was a lot of fun albeit very very cold!
- Holocaust Memorial Center – we were hoping to visit here but unfortunately when we arrived we were turned away as they were having power difficulties. If we ever find ourselves in Budapest again though we will try to visit again as contains a museum, synagogue and a glass memorial wall dedicated to more than 500 000 victims.
- Memento Park – it is outside the main part of the city and couldn’t be reached by foot but there were a number of tours that would take you. Shop around for times and prices that suit. It is an open air museum that contains a number of communist statues.
- Hop-on Hop-off bus tour – a great way to get around the city if you haven’t got much time and don’t fancy lots of walking.
- Day trip to Vienna – why not visit neighbouring Austria if you have the time? Again shop around for times and prices to suit or maybe just do it yourself as a next stop after Budapest.