For those who prefer their European holidays a little more intriguing, a little more ‘off-beat’ than simply dining out, sitting in piazzas or visiting cathedrals, Budapest offers some truly unique experiences.
Here are six unusual ideas for things to do in Budapest that will educate, amuse, intrigue and challenge.
This attraction has earned glowing reviews from hundreds of enthusiastic visitors on
TripAdvisor. What started as the personal collection of one man who was fascinated by pinball machines since age five has turned into ‘Europe’s biggest interactive Pinball Museum’. Half of the machines were found in Hungary and the remainder from sixteen other countries.
And you can actually play the 130 machines, some of which are wooden and entirely nostalgic, yet in full working order. If flippers, flashing lights, addictive soundtracks and silver balls are your kryptonite, then you have to get yourself in to the Budapest Pinball Museum.
Beneath the Buda Castle is Hospital in the Rock, built in the 1930s in preparation for World War II. It saw its heaviest usage during the Siege of Budapest which took place in 1944/1945.
Following the siege, the facility was used just once more, in 1956 during the uprising against Soviet rule and then it was repurposed as a nuclear bunker to safeguard hundreds of doctors and nurses who would then be available to attend to the wounded, should a nuclear attack occur. Now a popular museum, it features waxwork recreations of treatments and exhibits including medical equipment, machinery and furniture from the era. Take warm clothes whatever time of year you visit the Hospital in the Rock as it is kept to between 15 and 18 degrees’ Celsius year round.
It seems Budapest is a fan of strategic game playing. Called Escape Games, they challenge players to find their way out of locked rooms purely by using logic puzzles and complex tasks. Escape room adventures have been compelling tourists and locals since around 2011 and venues are popping up – or rather, hiding away – in cellars and backstreets all over the city. One is Exit Point, a series of hidden chambers where players can choose from three games.
There is the Rabbit Hole, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland which features mushrooms, rabbits and a secret door. There are also Mirrors and the third, Madness. TripAdvisor reviewers variously claim that they were unable to make it out of Exit Point or that they were claustrophobic, or used teamwork to prevail. Escape Games are definitely some of the odder things to do in Budapest and only suitable for those who can handle the confined spaces and mental challenge.
Join a group tour at dusk for the Mysterium Tour, a presentation of the city’s dark history that takes you along the cobblestone streets and poorly lit corners of the Buda Castle district. The attraction is a night walking tour accompanied by a charismatic storyteller dressed entirely in black who regales the group with tales of vampires, ghosts and superstitions. The star of the show is the guide whose enthusiasm and knowledge are second to none.
Participants are encouraged to ask questions and the guide has an answer for all. Be prepared for gruesome true tales and recounts of local mythology. It is a compelling way to learn about Budapest’s history while also seeing some beautiful sights at night. The view from the castle takes in a great portion of the city, spectacular in its twinkling lights under the dark sky. Be advised that advance bookings are essential as the Mysterium Tour does not accept guests without a booking number, so be sure to book online.
One of the oldest and most famous cemeteries in Hungary is Kerepesi, founded in 1847 and located just two kilometres from downtown Budapest. With an area of around 56 hectares, it is the biggest outdoor statue park in Europe. It is also one of the most peaceful things to do in Budapest and you can literally spend the entire day there exploring the graves, the gardens, the mausoleums and statues.
It is the final resting place for some of Hungary’s most notable contributors to society including poets, painters, physicists, sculptors, actors, composers, mathematicians and politicians. The graves of at least four Prime Ministers and two Presidents are there as well as that of a Nobel Prize winning chemist. Visitors have commented that you need at least three hours to really walk around and see a good deal of it. Open during sunlight hours, the cemetery is popular on tourists’ lists of things to do in Budapest.
It is possible to see a lot of Budapest for free if you’re happy to put your walking shoes on. Take a wander around the Jewish District and learn about its rich history. Hungary is home to the second largest synagogue in the world and the tour will introduce you to not just the religious traditions but additionally Jews’ significant contributions to art, science and cuisine.
The Communism Walk offers a realistic insight into what Hungarian life was like under Communism and also outlines what has happened since the Iron Curtain came down. Visit the 1956 uprising areas, the eternal flame, the flag with the hole, the bronze bullet memorial and the last Communist memorial. This particular free walking tour is more of a university lecture than a comprehensive sightseeing walk and is hugely attractive to history and politics buffs. Learn about other free walking tours in Budapest..
Commonly-known drawbacks of visiting Budapest include corrupt taxi drivers, pickpockets, petty theft and bar and restaurant swindles. Pay close attention to your belongings, and remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and never accompany strangers to bars or restaurants.
When visiting anywhere overseas, travel insurance* is an absolute must-have - especially when you don’t speak the local language. It is easy to be scammed and you don’t want to be left without money! Be sure to read the PDS of your policy to ensure you are familiar with your coverage.
Enjoy your Budapest adventure!