Among the European cities a long weekend away from each other, Budapest stands firmly as one of the top choices for youngsters, couples, and families alike. While the capital of Hungary is full of history, pleasantly tree-lined boulevards and a hefty stretch of riverside walks, the tourism can feel overwhelmingly targeted at young people hitting the town to get drunk on the cheap. But here’s a few budget suggestions to escape the crowds and feel like a visiting local.
Grab a coffee – and maybe buy an antique chair!
If you follow the common advice of staying in Pest, you’ll find yourself somewhere between the fashion and theatre districts. If so, start your escape at Szerpentin Szalon, tucked away just off tourist-frenzied Király Utca. Grab an iced tea with fresh fruit, and have a browse of their antiquities stock: everything, from the chair you sit on to the cup you drink from, is for sale!
Ditch the boat, take a tram!
Budapest is renowned for its Danube boat tours, from which you can admire the sights, while sipping on a vast selection of beers, wines, cocktails, or enjoy dinner and live entertainment. Sadly, these tend to be very expensive and utterly over subscribed. Instead buy a day transport pass (€5) and grab one or both tramlines that run on the opposite banks of the Danube: number 2 for the Pest side, number 19 for the Buda one. If you hop on and off number 2, you’ll be able to admire the famous Chain Bridge with its impressive mixture of metal and stone architecture, the touching memorial to the lives lost during the Nazi persecution, and the imposing gothic-revival style Parliament amongst others. Number 19 will take you past the Citadel, topped by a beautiful statue to commemorate the sacrifices of WWII. You can then check out Buda Castle, guarding over the city just above the Chain Bridge, and the stunning Matthias Church, a white beacon of breath-taking gothic architecture. Jump off again at the junction with Margit Bridge, and check out the massive park on the homonymous island, where you can rest your sweaty muscles if, like me, you go in July when temperatures reach 37+ degrees.
Cool down or steam up in Rudas Baths
End your day with a few hours at Rudas Baths, bigger, quieter and less crowded with tourists than Lukacs Baths. For a mere €12 you can get all day access, and enjoy a swimming pool, a rooftop pool with a view, a thermal area with four differently heated pools and a vast array of saunas, from cooling salt chambers to steaming Finnish rooms reaching 90 degrees. But ladies beware: you’re allowed access to the ancient Ottoman bath with the typical octagonal pool and dome only on Tuesdays! The rooftop provides ample space for sunbathing and a nice view of the city: look ahead to the imposing Erzsébet Bridge, or up to Gellert Hill above you, before finishing off your day with a glass of Hungarian wine at Café Zsivágó, a charming café just off fashionable Andrássy Utca.