Budapest is probably one of the coolest Eastern/Central European capitals to visit at the moment. Well, Warsaw is better, but we might be a bit biased about that due to obvious reasons. In any case, despite being visited by over 21 million people in 2016, we’re getting the feeling that not everyone has discovered all the awesome things to do in Budapest.
So we thought – why not help you guys explore new areas that might not always be in the guidebooks? Here’s what the Hungarian capital is hiding amongst all the palaces and parks!
#1 The Szabo Ervin Library
Before the time when the first free public library was established in the mid 19th century, the only places where you could find these endless halls of knowledge were in the mansions and palaces of the aristocracy.
Bookworms (and architecture lovers) looking for things to do in Budapest will absolutely love the Szabo Ervin Library. Formerly known as the palace of Count Frigyes Wenckheim, everything from the dining room to the smoking room has now been “decorated” with bookshelves. If you ever wanted to feel like a count or countess while diving into a good book, the winding halls and comfy leather chairs of the Szabo Ervin Library are awaiting.
#2 The For Sale Pub
While not actually for sale, this pub holds within its walls bits and pieces of special memories of travellers from all walks of life. We mean this quite literally. After serving from the hearty Hungarian cuisine or brew selection, visitors are encouraged to pin a small memory on any surface (ceiling included!) This can range from pictures and notes all the way to drawings, paintings, and even business cards.
It’s one of those things to do in Budapest that leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. By the way, don’t be surprised by all the peanut shells you might find on the floor. They’re offering them for free for guests and people tend to playfully throw them at each-other with nobody to stop them. There should be a peanut-related pun somewhere around here, but the For Sale Pub is wacky enough as it is.
#3 Gyermekvasút (Children’s Railway)
Have you ever thought what it would be like to wake up in a Peter Pan-like world? Well, you can pretty much book your ticket through Neverland with this quirky attraction. The Gyermekvasút isn’t named that way because only children are allowed to ride the train. On the contrary, the whole crew (including the captain) are kids ranging between ages 10 and 14.
The ride was created during the Communist years of Hungary and renovated in 1990 after the fall of the regime as a way for kids to learn a respectable trade. Of course, they’re still supervised by adults – but then again most people have their own bosses to worry about. Regardless, it’s one of the most fun things to do in Budapest, for the whole family. Nature lovers will especially appreciate the serene Hungarian forest the train passes through.
#4 Cave Church
This interesting Pauline church is built into the side of Gellert Hill on the Buda side of the capital. It is often overlooked by visitors because it’s not very well sign-posted. Still, it is very much worth it to discover this holy place with a rich history you can discover from the audio guide inside the venue.
For one, there are rumours going around that there is an expansive network of underground tunnels connected to the church. Otherwise, it also holds a replica of a Polish Black Madonna of Częstochowa. The Black Madonnas are representations of the Virgin Mary (whether in painted or sculpted form), which through some inexplicable events have turned black.
They are also said to be miraculous in nature. Legend has it that a Pauline church was saved from a disastrous fire by its Madonna, and so the monks hold it in very high regard.
#5 Béla Lugosi Bust at Vajdahunyad Castle
This one is for fans of Dracula and Ed Wood movies. Béla Lugosi was famous in the 20s and 30s for his performance as Dracula on stage and on camera. Of course, this fame also lead to him being typecast as a horror movie villain and eventually ending up in the horribly delightful movies of Ed Wood (Plan 9 from Outer Space comes to mind). Since many of the things to do in Budapest will involve trips to various monuments and palaces, take the time to visit the famed actor’s bust at the Vajdahunyad Castle.
It is interesting to note that the sculpture was not part of the castle plans (obviously, since it was built over a century before the bust itself came to be). Instead, artist Hartmut Zech snuck it up on a ledge with the help of a few of his friends back in 2003. Funnily enough, it’s actually quite fitting to the aspect of the building. The City Council didn’t deem it disrespectful to have it around, so it’s become an integral part of the history of the place.
#6 Flipper Muzeum
No, this is not a museum dedicated to the famous movie dolphin (though that would be an interesting idea.) Instead, two pinball aficionados started this place out of their immense passion for the colourful buzzers and scoreboards of previously forgotten pinball machines. It is the largest exhibition of its kind in entire Europe and has literally rows upon rows of machines that are properly maintained and ready to be played.
BBC News did an interesting report on the museum, where you can observe the variety of games that are available to visitors. They even have machines ranging back from the end of the 19th century! In the end, if you need to get rid of some spare coins before leaving for home, then add the Flipper Muzeum to your list of things to do in Budapest. Who knows, maybe you’ll become the next Pinball Wizard…