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The best non-touristy things to do in Budapest

Budapest is the capital, as well as the most populated city of Hungary. Its name came from the merger of three towns, namely, Obuda, Buda, and Pest. Budapest is such a beautiful city – from its buildings to the atmosphere. I have a great time every time I visit Budapest. There are many places worth the visit and I have visited every single place from my Budapest bucket list and you should also do the same. You shouldn’t miss the Parliament, Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle and other popular sights.
As always, this is not enough for me and that’s why I was exploring Budapest off the beaten path. I will share a list of 10 non-touristy things to do in Budapest. Of course there is a lot more to do in Budapest, but with limited time in the city I couldn’t explore more of it.

EXPLORE BUDAPEST WITH A TRAM – NO. 2

Do you use public transport when you travel? I always do, so that’s why I’ve used it in Budapest too (let me mention that the public transport in Budapest is excellent – I will tell more about this in my Budapest guide). Ride on the tram 2 is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe. Don’t expect that you’ll be blown away, but the ride is still scenic and it is totally worth the ride.

The yellow tram will take you alongside the Danube river and the best time to go for a ride is when there is sunset – the city looks really charming and picturesque.

Budapest tram

Good to know: the tram goes from Jászai Mari tér to the Közvágóhíd station. The ride isn’t long, it takes about 20 minutes. I’ve done this ride a few years ago and I thought that the tram will cross one of the bridges and go to the Buda side (yes, I didn’t do a research before). I didn’t get off the tram till the last station and then I had to wait for the next tram there. It wasn’t so so bad, but there is absolutely nothing to do and you should get off before the last station.

VISIT ERVIN SZABÓ LIBRARY

Ervin Szabó is Budapest’s largest library and if you love books, you won’t want to leave this place. I stumbled upon this place on Instagram and I am glad I did. The most of the library is standard, but study rooms on the 4th floor are drop dead gorgeous. Keep in mind that the visit is not free and you have to pay 1500 HUF (around 4€). When I came back home, I have read that you can sign up for a library card for 200 HUF, so you can check if that is possible too.

SHOES ON THE DANUBE BANK

The Shoes on the Danube is a memorial to Jewish citizens rounded up and executed on the banks of the Danube in 1944-45. The victims were ordered to remove their valuable leather shoes before being shot and flung into the river. There are women’s, men’s and even small children’s footwear, reminding visitors how the fascist regime didn’t show mercy to even the youngest of victims. Even now, visitors still bring flowers and toys to fill the shoes.

Shoes on the Danube
Shoes on the Danube Bank

VISIT THE VAJDAHUNYAD CASTLE

Most people only visit the Buda Castle. Behind the Heroes Square there is another castle and I find this one better than the one in Buda. It is an enchanting castle with a beautiful park where you can walk around and enjoy in the nature.

Designed by architect Ignác Alpár in 1896, the castle was originally a temporary exhibition made of wood and cardboard. The castle has four sections – each showcasing a different architectural style including Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, and Romanesque. 

If you want to spend more time in the nature, you can visit a nearby Budapest Zoo. The zoo is located in the upper part of Városliget, which is the city park.

WALK AROUND MARGARET ISLAND

Margaret Island or Margitsziget is Budapest’s green oasis – an island in the middle of river Danube that runs through the city. The island is a public park, connected to the city by Margaret Bridge. To get there, take the tram 4/6 to cross the Margaret Bridge and get off in the middle (you can also walk but it is easier to take tram).

It’s a popular place for Budapest locals to spend an afternoon, relaxing, doing sports or simply walking around. Visiting the island is free and it is a great place to hang out for a while.

GO FOR A NIGHT STROLL ALONG THE RIVER

The river was once seen as the separation of two places, Buda and Pest, but now it is the glue that holds Budapest together. Put on your walking shoes and get ready to explore the fascinating city. You’ll get the best experience in this city on your feet, but be prepared – there is a lot to see. If you will stroll along the river you will get gorgeous views of the city and its landmarks. I strongly recommend you to go for a stroll in the evening or at the night. The city looks absolutely stunning and you will get some amazing views. If you don’t fancy walking, you can rent a boat and cruise down the river in style, but I wouldn’t say that this is a non touristy thing to do in Budapest.

Budapest at night
The view from Elisabeth Bridge

I did the walk during the day and at the night and I must admit that the night walk was even better. I’ve used the metro line M2 from Kossuth Lajos tér to the Batthyány tér and went all the way to the Elisabeth Bridge, crossed the bridge and the went back to the Parliament building (I’ve decided to stay in this District this time and my Airbnb had an excellent location).

STROLL DOWN THE ANDRÁSSY ÚT

Connecting downtown Pest to City park, Andrássy út is Budapest’s main boulevard, lined with trees, shops, cafés, theaters and locals living very well. People of Budapest like to think of Andrássy út as the Champs-Elysées and Broadway rolled into one. You should allow yourself an hour to do this walk (not including time to enter the sights).

Andrássy út is divided roughly into thirds. The most interesting first section (from Deák tér to the Oktogon) is the focus of this walk, the middle section features one major sight, the House of Terror and the final third offers fewer sightseeing opportunities.

The M1 (yellow line) runs every couple of minutes just under the street, so it’s easy to skip several blocks ahead.

WATCH THE SUNSET FROM GELLERT HILL

Take a stroll up to the top of Gellert Hill for ultimate panoramic views over Budapest. This is certainly one of my favourite spots in the whole Budapest. The views are always amazing, but sunset time is the best time to go.

Find it south of Buda Castle hill, between Elizabeth Bridge and Liberty Bridge (the white and the green bridge). Walking up Gellert Hill is a wonderful way to spend some time in nature, to exercise, and to enjoy gorgeous views of the Danube river, the bridges, and Pest side. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes (this is necessary for exploring Budapest and also the rest of the Europe, if you ask me).

GO CAVING

Budapest is the capital of caves. It is the only capital in the world which has caves of significant size and length underneath its buildings and streets. More than two hundred caves are known under the Buda side of the town. However these caves also have a special place in the world because of their unusual thermal water based development. Not many people know about the extensive cave system situated under the city of Budapest, and fewer know that you can actually go caving through the system.

You can book a caving experience, but you have to be in a good physical health to participate.

EXPLORE THE ROMAN RUINS

Did you know that in Budapest you’ll find the ruins of the Roman city of Aquincum? Founded about 2000 years ago, its remains are now one of the biggest archeological sites in Hungary. Before the Huns took over the region, the Romans have settled here between the 1st and the 5th century. Personally I didn’t even know about this site until my trip to Budapest, but I find it pretty interesting, especially for archeology lovers.

BUDAPEST NON TOURISTY THINGS TO DO – BONUS: VISIT THE RUIN BARS

After WW 2 and the cold war years, many buildings in the old Jewish Quarter had been left to rack and ruin. Later then a number of enterprising individuals began to transform these buildings and courtyards into the perfect character-filled underground bars and pubs – the ruin bars. They are underground, hard to find, unique yet insanely hip. You’ve just gotta know where to find them. The most famous is Szimpla Kert but there are many others and they should be on your Budapest bucket list for sure. There is a lot of travelers there, but this place really gives a vibe of a non touristy thing to do here in Budapest.

If you are not into that, you should check out my post on best cafés & patisseries in Budapest.

If I have to tell you which city is my favorite, I would still say Istanbul, but Budapest is also very high on my list of favorite places. There are many beautiful popular spots and also there are many great spots off the beaten path.

What do you prefer – popular places or do you often go off the beaten path? How about other non touristy things to do in Budapest in your opinion? I’ll be happy to get any advice on what to do the next time I visit Budapest.

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