If you want to get off the beaten path and find some hidden gems in Budapest, this article is for you. After spending almost a week in the Hungarian capital and having covered all of the main attractions, we searched for some of the more secret places in Budapest. In this article, I’ll be sharing what we discovered.
Budapest is a diverse and beautiful city, bursting with life, culture, history, nightlife, and awe-inspiring architecture.
Naturally, if it’s your first time in the city you’ll want to cover all the significant landmarks. Attractions such as the Fishermans Bastion, Hungarian Parliament Building, Thermal Baths and Ruin Bars are quintessential Budapest experiences.
However, if you’re spending longer than a couple of days in the city, I suggest checking out some of Budapest’s hidden gems as well. You might not find them on your average Budapest travel guide or blog, but that’s what makes them so appealing.
To help you plan your off the beaten track adventure, I’ve collated this list of the weirdest and most unusual things to do. Slot these into your Budapest Itinerary for a truly unique and authentic experience.
So let’s get to it; it’s time to break the silence on our favourite hidden gems in Budapest.
Table of Contents
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16 Secret Hidden Gems in Budapest – Off the Beaten Path
From underground caving adventures and eerie gothic castles to meandering the cities alternative district, here are 16 quirky and unusual hidden gems in Budapest.
1. Alternative Budapest Tour
It makes sense to kick off the list with a mention of the best-selling Alternative Budapest Walking tour.
This tour will take you off the beaten track on a 3-hour walking tour of the cities alternative neighbourhoods.
On this tour, you’ll see beyond the usual tourist spots and through the eyes of a local. Here’s what you can expect from the tour:
- Discover Budapest’s graffiti and street art scene and learn about the local artists
- Find hidden cafés, bars, galleries, design shops, studios, music venues and hangouts
- Learn about Budapest’s minority cultures such as LGBTQ+
- Visit Budapest’s infamous ruin bars
- Explore Budapest’s Jewish District
- Check out a local market
2. Vajdahunyad Castle
Despite its prime position in City Park, Vajdahunyad Castle remains somewhat of a hidden gem in Budapest. This is surprising as it’s one of the most beautiful castles in Budapest.
Just like most of the architecture in Budapest, Vajdanhunyad Castle looks like a scene straight out of a fairy tale. Only, you can imagine this one belonging to the villain of the story.
The amalgamation of Gothic-Renaissance and Baroque architecture creates an almost eerie scene. Ironically, legend has it that the castle once imprisoned Count Dracula.
It is free to enter the grounds of Vajdahunyad Castle, so even if you do not wish to go inside, it is worth taking a romantic stroll through the courtyards.
Inside, there is a museum and other interesting artefacts, but in our opinion probably not worth the entrance fee.
Entrance Fee: Free to enter the grounds/HUF 1600 to go inside/ Allow: 1 hour
3. Explore Budapest’s Underground Caves
Interestingly, some of the best-hidden gems in Budapest are located underground. Budapest is the only European capital where there are natural caves in the heart of the city.
When you’re exploring the likes of Buda Castle, it’s hard to believe that over 170 caves are running beneath you.
There are various caving adventures you can have in the city. For example, The Labyrinth in Buda Castle allows you to explore the caves where Vlad the Impaler, better known as “Count Dracula”, was held and tortured. It’s a spooky one and not so kid-friendly.
For those keen on an adrenaline-pumping adventure, there’s the Palvolgyi Cave tour. This 1-hour long escapade leads you through the longest and most beautiful cave in the Buda Hills. Not for the inexperienced or the faint-hearted.
Or, if you’d prefer something a little more family-friendly, you can check out other caving tours such as Szemlőhegyi Cave.
Tour Price: HUF 2200/Allow: 1-2 hours
4. Hospital in the Rock
I’ll be honest; I only found out about this museum while researching for this blog. But it’s a pity, as it’s one of the few museums in Budapest that I think sounds interesting enough to pay the entrance fee.
Hospital in the Rock is another one of Budapest’s underground attractions, which was once a secret hospital and nuclear bunker.
The hospital, built in a 10km long natural cave system underneath the Buda Castle, opened in 1944. Its purpose was to protect injured soldiers and civilians during further bomb attacks on the city.
Today it’s the largest waxwork exhibition in Hungary where wax figures and authentic machinery depict the reality of those tumultuous times.
Entrance: 4000 HUF (Includes a guided tour)/Allow: 1 hour
5. Gyermekvasút (Children’s Railway)
Would you have ever imagined riding a train operated solely by children? No, me neither. That is until I discovered this quaint hidden gem in Budapest.
From the outside, the Gyermekvasút railway appears like any other railway line. However, the train that journeys through a quiet patch of Hungarian forest is run solely by children aged 10-14.
Don’t worry; this isn’t some kind of twisted child labour scheme. Instead, it’s a commemoration of a tradition that began in the 1940s.
At the time, it was an honourable position for young men and women and a way to learn important life skills and lessons.
The scheme continues to educate a number of local children to this day while attracting locals and tourists alike.
6. The Cheapest Danube River Cruise
Possibly the best way to view the sights of this magnificent city is on the water. With many significant landmarks set upon the banks of the Danube River, it’s the perfect way to take it all in without the pressure of crowds.
When it comes to choosing a river cruise, there is no shortage of options. Vendors swarm the banks of the Danube, waiting to sell you the ‘Best Danube River Cruise‘.
But be careful as many tours are overpriced. In our experience, it’s cheapest to book in advance and online.
The cheapest Danube river cruise, however, is the public transport boats. It will be a no-thrills experience, but the incredible views will ultimately be the same and it costs just a fraction of the price.
I know, you’re thanking me for this travel hack right now, and you’re welcome.
7. Zugliget Chairlift
Another interesting mode of transport in Budapest is the Zugliget chairlift. The chairlift transports passengers between Zugliget and the lookout tower on János Hill – the highest peak in the city.
The journey up takes around 15-mins each way and provides stunning panoramic views over the city. Undoubtedly one of the more exciting ways to navigate Budapest.
8. Gellert Hill Cave Church
As the name suggests, you’ll find this unusual cave church, tucked beneath Gellert Hill on the Buda side of the river.
Historically, the cave is said to of been the home of a hermit monk, who used the nearby thermal springs to heal people of their ailments. Nowadays it belongs to the Pauline Monks and is one of the more hidden places in Budapest.
Thanks to its unique setting inside a natural cave, the Church Cave is one-of-a-kind. The church has no grand decoration like other architecture in Budapest; however, its unique charm makes the structure well worth visiting.
For a 500 HUF (£1.20) donation, you can enter inside the church which includes an audio tour.
9. Szimpla Kert by Day
Szimpla Kert is Budapest’s most famous ruin bar by night and a cultural/artistic centre by day.
Famed for its wild party vibe and trippy decor, many visitors add the bar to their list of things to do at night. However, to truly appreciate the creativity and quirkiness of Szimpla Kert, you need to experience it during the day as well.
There is nothing not to love about this bar. From their eco-friendly initiatives, cheap drinks prices, and the whacky themed decor, walking around Szimpla Kert feels like getting lost in a twisted Wonderland.
In my opinion, you should stop by during the day to wander around and take some photos, then return in the evening for a boozy night out.
Alcohol in Budapest is relatively cheap if you stick to the local brands; however, it’s easy to get carried away. Before you know it you’re $50 and a shoe down with a nasty hangover to boot.
10. Street Art Hunting
In deep contrast to the grand and elegant architecture found elsewhere in the city, alternative Budapest hides an edgier side. A side where street art, quirky food haunts, hipster stores, and a trendy nightlife scene prevail.
You’ll find this scene centred mainly around the Jewish District. A spot that holds a turbulent history, but has risen from the ashes as the trendiest and most cultural spot in all the city.
Historically, this area was considered the ghetto of Budapest, and Jews were confined to living here during the Nazi occupation of Hungary.
The Jewish influence remains prominent to this day, with various synagogues, kosher restaurants, and memorials. However, the hidden gem amongst it all is street art.
We felt like we were in an open-air gallery as we marvelled at the murals created by a mix of local and international artists. The subjects range from Hungarian history and local culture to various worldwide events and controversies.
You can follow this map of Budapest street art to find the best artwork in the city.
11. Langos at Retro Langos Bufe
Langos is a traditional Hungarian dish, consisting of round deep-fried dough, that resembles a pizza, but is thicker and heavier.
Traditionally, langos were brushed with garlic and sprinkled in salt, and it was job done; however, today’s evolving culinary scene sees them topped with all kinds of delicious ingredients.
The most popular duo is sour cream and cheese, which I can confirm is divine, but you can also choose from a variety of vegetables and meats.
While Langos is an iconic street food dish to Hungary, finding a good one in Budapest is harder than you might think.
To ensure you’re getting a Langos of the best quality, we insist you go to Retró Lángos Büfé. One of Budapest’s hidden culinary gems where you can guarantee your food will be hot, fresh, and delicious.
12. Unusual Pubs & Bar
Unsurprisingly, some of the best secret places in Budapest are bars. With so many eccentric drinking holes around the city, what else do you expect?
Of course, Budapest’s ruin bars are famous for being a little off the wall; however, there are other quirky bars in the city worth checking out as well.
Offbeat bars in Budapest, include the Blind Mice Exchange Pub. A multi-room establishment, where you buy your spirits according to the stock value on the television screen.
Another is Red Ruin Bar – A communist themed bar with a sense of humour about the political past. Check out this guide to Budapest Nightlife for more awesome nocturnal things to do in the city.
13. Flipper Museum
If you find yourself rained off from sightseeing, this retro museum of pinball machines and arcade games is the ideal distraction.
As for the machines themselves, the diversity is enormous, spanning different eras and styles. Most of them are very well-maintained, and if you’re an old skool gamer, you’re sure to leave feeling nostalgic.
At 3000 HUF (£8) the entrance fee isn’t all that expensive, and it can be great fun for all the family. Once you’ve paid the entrance fee, gaming is free, and you can stay for as long as you want.
14. Shop at a Local Market
If you’re serious about getting off the beaten path in Budapest, a great place to start is to go where the locals go. On this occasion, I’m talking about the local markets.
(And when I say local, I don’t mean the Budapest Central Market, which by all means you should visit, but it’s as touristy as they come.)
No, I’m talking about the lesser-known markets, which are admittedly smaller but only by size. Most have a lot of character, and their unpopularity only adds to the charm.
Interestingly, they hold most of the local markets on a Sunday, which is ideal if you’re spending the weekend in Budapest. But not so much if you’re there in the week.
The first of the Sunday markets I recommend you visit is at Szimpla Kert. A local farmers market, whereby every seller is an authentic local producer, who only bring what they grow and make by hand.
Another is the Flower & Vegan Market at Anker’t – another of Budapest’s infamous ruin bars. And finally the Antique Flea Market at Klauzál Square is well worth a visit if you’re on the hunt for some rare gems.
15. Urban Exploring in Budapest
When you think of Urban Exploring, Budapest is the last city that probably comes to mind. Or maybe you don’t even know what Urban Exploring is. In which case it’s basically exploring abandoned buildings or areas within a city.
If urban exploring sounds like something that might be up your street, I recommend checking out this article relating to some interesting abandoned buildings in Budapest. Including a former power station and an old bunker, secret Budapest doesn’t get better than this.
16. Karavan Street Food
Located in Budapest’s hip & happening party district, Karavan is an outdoor food court, that gives home to a variety of food trucks and international fayre.
Conveniently set next to Szimpla Kert, the cities most famous ruin bar, you can expect a variety of cuisines including Italian, Mexican, and Indian. Not to mention Las Vegan who cater solely to vegans.
Whether it’s a 3 am feed up after a heavy night of drinking, or a cheap and cheerful dinner one evening, you won’t be disappointed by the food on offer.
Unique Hotels in Budapest
Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of accommodation options in Budapest. You can click the button below to search for hundreds of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in the area.
But while we are on the topic of secret spots in Budapest, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the more unique hotels in the city – the hotels that reflect the cities more alternative side.
If you’ve not booked your accommodation already, you’re definitely going to want to check these out.
$ T62 Hotel – T62 Hotel.First on our list of cool and quirky places to stay in Budapest is T62 is a budget to mid-range hotel, with chic & stylish decor, including graffiti-style walls, with rooms that are simple yet modern. With a central location close to all the major attractions, an enjoyable stay is guaranteed.
$$ Bohem Art Hotel – bohemian style hotelThis is one of the trendiest spots in the city. Each room features the eclectic artwork of local Hungarian artists while combining all the modern features of a hip hotel. I even read that they serve wine with the American style breakfast buffet, so if that doesn’t persuade you, I don’t know what will.
$$$ Baltazár Budapest – You’ll find this hip boutique hotel on the Buda side of the river. It’s a small yet cosy hotel boasting only 11 bedrooms; however, this adds charm to its already edgy character. The hotel decor reflects Budapest’s artistic and bohemian side, with individually decorated rooms that range from urban modern to shabby chic.
$$$$ Aria Hotel Budapest – Aria Hotel Featuring a panoramic rooftop bar, luxurious rooms & suites, and 5* facilities, is the ideal place to treat yourself during your stay in Budapest. The design is chic and modern, mirroring the hipster vibe of the city. And guests can enjoy ample facilities such as a fully-equipped spa, swimming pool, and state of the art rooms.
Enjoy Secret Budapest!
Well, that concludes our list of non-touristy things to do in Budapest. We hope you enjoy exploring these weird and wonderful Budapest hidden gems.
If you have any questions or feel we have missed anything, please reach out to us. We love hearing from you!
Stay Adventurous & Happy Travels.