While visiting Budapest, there are a number of places where regular guided tours will not take you, either because they are considered to be too far out, or not a part of the mainstream tourist sights - but this should not hold YOU back from going and experiencing it all!
Excursion 1: The Budapest Flea Market
Address: Disctrict 19, Budapest, Nagykőrösi út 156.
The main second-hand market of Budapest, the Ecseri Piac (Piac means Market) is an exciting, bustling place, a cavalcade of old and new, where every object on sale has it own story. The market's atmosphere and size can be compared to Portobello Road in London, or the Paris Flea Market. Besides the occasional sellers, most prestigious antique shop owners with shops in downtown Budapest also have little booths here. The market is located in the outskirts of Budapest and offers both high quality antiques and objects of smaller value for those seeking gifts.
It is best to visit the Ecseri Market on a Saturday morning, because that's when the market is at its busiest. A very important aspect of shopping here is that you MUST bargain with the seller - it's all part of the show; accepting the price right away is not customary. You can go there even if it's raining, as nearly the whole area is covered. Take Metro line # 3 to Határ út, and from there take bus # 84E, 294E and 194 to the market.
Excursion 2: János Hill lookout Tower, Chairlift
Address: Zugliget bus terminal
It is true that Budapest is a bustling metropolis of 2,000,000 people, but luckily, it's easy to escape from the cars, the crowds and the suffocating world of commerce. So let's travel to Buda, and use the Chairlift to get to the highest point of Budapest, where the 529-metre high János Hill lookout tower provides an amazing view of not only the city but entire Pest County. You should choose a nice, sunny day to do this, because the better the weather, the farther you can see from the hill.
To get there, take bus # 291 to the terminal in Zugliget, and take the Chairlift. After a 15-minute upwards gliding, you arrive to the top, from where it's another 5 minutes walk to the lookout tower. This part of Budapest is a strictly protected natural reserve area, so make sure not to litter (heavy fines!). When all space runs out on your camera's memory card, take the Chairlift and the bus back into the downtown area.
Excursion 3: The Communist Statue Park
Address: District 22, Budapest (South Buda), corner of Balatoni út and Szabadkai
When Communist systems collapsed in Eastern Europe in 1989-90, the vast symbols of the dictatorship were removed from the streets everywhere in what seemed like a blink of an eye. Throughout the Communist block, the statues were melted or sold as scrap metal - but not in Hungary.
The city fathers looked at possible options as to what to do with the statues, and finally accepted Eleőd Ákos's proposal, which set up Europe's first Communist Statue Park just outside Budapest, the most exciting outdoor museum in Hungary. The statues are placed in thematic order (you may rent an audio-guide to learn the history and the former location of the items), and there is a small shop where you may buy small relics of the Communist age (medals, military clothing etc).
How to get there: Direct bus transfer to Memento Park from downtown every day at 11. A.M.
Public Bus Transport to Memento Park
From “Ujbuda-kozpont” – corner of Fehervari ut – Bocskai ut (Allee Shopping Mall) with BUS No.150 to Campona.
To access Ujbuda Kozpont (the corner of Fehervari ut – Bocskai ut) take one of the following means of public transportation:
- from downtown (Deak ter, Astoria, Kalvin ter, Fovam ter – Central Market Hall): TRAM No.47.
- from “Grand Boulevard”: TRAM No.4
- from Batthyany ter, Calark Adam ter (Siklo-Funicular), Gellert ter: TRAM No.41.
- from Buda-inn: TRAM No.18
Excursion 4: The Roman Ruins of Aquincum
Address: III. Szentendrei út 139
The former Roman provincial capital, Aquincum includes ruins of the settlement and a large amphitheatre. Mosaic floors, a diorama depicting Roman nobles, murals and a restored water organ can be seen at the museum.
This large archaeological park in Hungary has been open for over a century for visitors. The Civil Town of Aquincum dates back to the 2nd century AD, whose ruins are on display here. Motorway # 11, which links the centre of Budapest with Aquincum, has ruins of Roman aqueducts, which were once used to establish the flow of thermal water. So-called chronoscopes are installed in various parts of the park, to provide a glimpse into what the buildings originally looked like.
The museum has permanent and various temporary exhibitions.
Excursion 5: Margaret Island
Locals in Budapest cherish their Margaret Island, and for good reasons: the 100-hectare park in the middle of the city on the Danube is a car-free haven for joggers, bikers and visitors alike.
The best-known sights on the island are the Centennial Memorial, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the unification of Buda, Pest and Óbuda; the Japanese garden featuring a thermal fish pond; a little zoo park with exotic birds among other things; the Music Well, which is a small concert hall near the Árpád bridge; the Music Fountain, which plays music and produces a light show in the summer, and the Art Nouveau-style 57-meter tall Water Tower, which serves as a lookout tower today.
The island got its name from Árpádházi Szent Margit, daughter of Béla IV, who lived her whole life in a Dominican cloister on the island - during the Tatar invasion, the king made a pledge that if the country survives, his daughter will serve as a nun. The ruins of the cloister are next to one of the main roads.
There are two luxury hotels on the northern tip of the island, should you wish to be based here while visiting Budapest. There is a thermal bath complex shared by the two hotels.
From springtime till autumn, there are a number of cultural festivals and sports events held on the island. We definitely recommend a visit. To get there, take bus # 26 from Nyugati tér.
Excursion 6: City Park (Városliget)
The City Park (Városliget in Hungarian) is packed with things to do and places to see. The park was the main venue of the millennium celebrations in 1896.
Behind Heroes' Square lies the ice-skating rink which is a lake in the summer with boats for rent. Since 1996, the ice-skating rink gives home to speed-skating championships.
Along Állatkerti körút (Zoo Boulevard), to the left from Heroes' Square, the first building is the Gundel Restaurant, built in 1894 (until 1910, it was called Wampetics Restaurant). Gundel Károly has taken over in 1910, and turned it into the best place for fine dining in Budapest.
Next to the Gundel is the ornate Art Nouveau entrance to the Budapest Zoo, which opened in 1866.
Walking past the Zoo walls, the domes and towers of the Széchenyi Thermal Bath come into view; the bathhouse is one of the largest bath complexes in Europe. The thermal spring underneath it was discovered in 1879.
Across from the bath is the Municipal Circus, where the first performance was held in 1891 - since then, 125 shows were held, with 15500 performances and over 25 million viewers.
Next to the Circus is the Amusement Park, which in today's form has been operational since the 1950's.
The Vajdahunyad Castle, originally built of cardboard and wood for the 1896 World Expo, was rebuilt from stone at the end of the expo. It is a copy of three other buildings from the Hungarian countryside, showcasing Hungary's predominant architectural styles.
Excursion 7: The Gellért Bath Experience
Budapest has over 100 hot springs, from which cca. 40 million litres of warm thermal water gushes forth daily, as the geological fault between the Buda Hills and the Great Plain is directly beneath Budapest.
Everyone recommends that you should visit a Budapest thermal bath - but how to really do it, which is the best one for a visitor to go to, what to take with you? Well, a bathing suit, shampoo or soap (for showering after the bath), towels, (hotel towels are perfect for this) and a pair of slippers is supposed to be your core gear.
The most popular bath in Budapest is the Gellért, built in 1918 in Art Nouveau style together with the second oldest hotel in Budapest. The bath entrance is from Kelenhegyi út (you can't use the hotel entrance to access the bath unless you are staying at the hotel). Stepping into the ornate hall, you can immediately smell the sulphuric scent of the thermal water. The ticket offices have a price list in English and German on display, next to the counter.
Your first decision to make is whether you'd like your own cabin for changing clothes, or you'll be fine with just a locker in the common dressing room. Getting a cabin is about EUR 2 extra per guest, but it's worth the money. After getting your ticket, go forward and turn to the right, where a double staircase takes you under the swimming pool of the bath - there are circular windows, through which you can see the people swimming. After changing into your bathing suit, head for the small thermal pool first. If you are lucky, there will be a free seat under one of the stone lion gargoyles, where you can get your neck and back massaged by the strong flow of thermal water. Do not stay more than 20 minutes continuously in the hot water.
The long swimming pool has a bubble-bath starting every hour; getting tickled by the bubbles is an interesting sensation, give it a try!
On the upper floor is a buffet with sandwiches and cold/hot drinks. This is where you can access the outdoor part of the bath, open from May through October. There is a thermal pool, and a wave-pool, which generates fearsome waves every hour - a perfect opportunity to behave like children with impunity.