what to do in Budapest - quirky city guide

Quirky city guide: What to do in Budapest, Hungary

If you’re looking for what to do in Budapest, you’ve come to the right place as this is a Budapest city guide with a difference. On the surface, it may not seem that the elegant and romantic capital of Hungary has many quirky attractions, but delve a little bit deeper and you’ll find the city’s full of them – underground ruin pubs, old men playing chess in the city spa, a chapel hidden in a cave, and even a UFO hanger.

What to do in Budapest:

Enjoy a spa disco

OK so you’ve heard of pool parties, but have you ever heard of a spa disco? Budapest is known as the ‘City of Baths’ being built on top of more than 100 natural hot springs and is home to more than seven public baths and many spas, so it’s not surprising to find that at least one of them is a little bit different. Better known as a ‘sparty’, you can book your ticket to a spa disco complete with an audio-visual thermal bath show, DJs, air-based performers, laser effects, fire shows and even belly dancing.

Disco in a spa, Budapest | Max Pixel
Disco in a spa, Budapest | Max Pixel

Visit the Marzipan Museum

In addition to the Currywurst Museum in Berlin, the Instant Noodle Museum in Tokyo and the Chocolate Museum in Barcelona, this has to be perhaps one of the tastiest museums in the world. If you’re looking for what to do in Budapest, then look no further than the Marzipan Museum, located in the old Buda side of the city. It details the history of this sweet almond treat, as well as showcasing marzipan figurines – everything from Disney characters to the Flintstones. The other side of the museum deals with everything chocolate, where you can learn about the origin of chocolate, the way it was prepared by the Mayans, and the way in which it is grown and produced today.

Visit the Marzipan Museum in Budapest | Pixabay
Visit the Marzipan Museum in Budapest | Pixabay

Play Chess in a Spa

Spas are for relaxing and unwinding, with possibly a bit of scrubbing and massaging, but for the local men of Budapest spas are for gathering with your mates and playing chess. The Szechenyi Bath and Spa is Europe’s largest and one of Budapest’s oldest spas. It houses over 18 pools of varying temperatures both inside and out. In the largest outdoor pool a number of permanent chess boards are set into stone and moving your pawns through the warm bubbling water is a popular pursuit.

Men playing chess in Széchenyi spa, Budapest | ©me / Wikimedia Commons
Men playing chess in Széchenyi spa, Budapest | ©me / Wikimedia Commons

Vist a chapel in a cave

Not content with an ordinary church, then why not spend Sunday mass at the unique Cave Chapel located high above the city on Gellert Hill? On your way up to the ancient Citadel on the Buda side of the Liberty Bridge you’ll come across a large opening in the rock and the entrance to the Cave Chapel. Once the home of hermit monk, Saint Istvan, who cured the sick with thermal waters from the cave, the area was turned into a church in 1926 and further enlarged in the 1930s. For a small fee visitors can enter to see the quirky rock-built alter and religious statues.

Have a drink in a ruin pub

If you’re looking for what to do in Budapest, you can’t go wrong with a visit to a ruin pub. Housed in derelict buildings, old factories and abandoned houses, Budapest’s quirky ruin pubs are now ‘the’ in places to hang out in the city. With peeling paint, mismatched furniture and homemade artwork decking the walls, the first ruin pub, Szimpla Kert, only sprung up in the city around 10 years ago and it has changed very little since. Today the ruin pubs have become the headquarters for a revival of Hungarian folk music with the younger generations – underground dens, which from the street look nothing more than dilapidated houses down a dimly-lit street, but inside are filled with raucous music, traditional dancing and cosy candle-lit corners.

Szimpla Ruinpub, Budapest | ©John W. Schulze / Flickr
Szimpla Ruinpub, Budapest | ©John W. Schulze / Flickr

Spot UFOs at Area 51 Project

Sci-fi types and those for a penchant for the bizarre may be interested in visiting what claims to be Europe’s first UFO hanger. Here you can learn about the history of UFO research through exhibits and videos, enter a flying saucer, see meteor fragments and models of other UFOs that have been spotted. There are also weekly lectures on alien kind and other-worldly experiences. Make sure you book in advance if you require a guided tour in English.

A38

Named as one of the best bars in the world by Lonely Planet, the A38 is actually housed in a giant ship floating on the River Danube. Built in 1938 the ship used to ferry stones from the Ukraine and was dragged all the way to Budapest, where it underwent extensive reconstruction. Today this is one of the trendiest bars in the city, featuring a restaurant, theatre, lounge bar and roof terrace. It also plays host to some of the world’s most renowned DJs and the hottest bands.

A38 nightclub, Budapest | ©Texaner / Wikimedia Commons
A38 nightclub, Budapest | ©Texaner / Wikimedia Commons

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