Top 6 Must Do Activities In Budapest

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1)  Romantic Folklore, Dinner and River Cruise down the Danube:

The art of folklore dance is very popular in Hungary and some colleges study the art of folklore dance as a degree.  We were fortunate to experience an evening that incorporated some traditional Hungarian Foklore dancing and music in the Duna Palace followed by a dinner cruise on the Danube with the Hungaria Koncert. The Folklore concert was entertaining and lively.  The fitness level and skill of the professional dancers on stage was inspiring to watch, while the fifteen piece band played their hearts out, exuding so much passion into the performance.  Between each dance number , the band played on.   Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the performance. From this experience you can get a true taste of the Hungarian traditions and their heritage.

After the concert we were escorted to the river and onto our boat for a dinner cruise along the beautiful river banks of the famous Danube river (a UNESCO world heritage site).  We were welcomed with a glass of bubbles (sparkling wine) and escorted to our table.  Once everyone was aboard, the boat pulled away from dock and we began our steady cruise up the river.  As we softly glided along the river, the traditionally Hungarian dinner was served via buffet style.  Out the windows we could see the brightly lit famous landmarks that line the banks of the Danube.  A river cruise is a must see activity during the day, but also after dark as the buildings come alive from the glow of lights.  The evening cruise provides a romantic setting as you take in all the views of the lights and beautiful architecture that Budapest has to offer.

This particular experience was very memorable one and we would recommend it to couples who are interested in some culture and romance while visiting Budapest.  We enjoyed our date night on the Danube courtesy of Hungaria Koncert Kft.  We recommend their programs as we found the entire evening to be very well organized and professionally executed.  Hungaria Koncert Kft offer a variety of programs for every type of interest.

Insider Tip: Try to stay closer to the front of the group on the walk from the theatre to the boat.  The people that board the boat first have a better chance of scoring a table along the window.

2)  Ruin Pubs

The Ruin Pubs of Budapest are a craft beer and bar lovers utopia as the options are plentiful and each one provides such a uniquely different experience.  Most of the pubs are housed in run down warehouse type buildings situated in various parts of the city, but the concentration of them are in the 7th District and near the old Jewish part of the city.  The pubs are furnished with just about anything that can be found to eclectically fill the space.   The pubs are filled with graphite, old toys, bicycles, used computers and creative furniture pieces (ex. bathtubs for lounging).  Most of the pubs have large outdoor seating areas with random furniture and art.

Some ruin pubs have live concerts and DJ’s in the evenings or during special events.  During the afternoons, Julie and I enjoyed visiting the pubs to take in the atmosphere, and catch up on our blogging/editing of photos whilst having some amazing Hungarian craft beers.  Most of the ruin pubs we visited had very few tourists, which added to our experience as we got to see first hand how the Hungarians socialize and live their lives.  As an avid craft beer connoisseur, I was impressed to see that they always had a pint in hand and at times a shot glass of grappa/schnapps while socialising.  Check out this local blog to learn more about the history of these unique pubs and where to find them on your next visit to Budapest.

Insider Tip: Ruin Pubs are great places to relax and stay connected.  All the pubs we visited offered free WIFI and decent internet speeds.

3)  Wine tasting in the Countryside

Having a wine tasting trip to the countryside is a true treat if you are able to do it.  We were fortunate to spend an afternoon in Etyek with the most hospitable Hungarian family.  During our trip to the countryside, we visited three wine estates, enjoyed some local wine tasting and devoured a traditional Hungarian BBQ.  Hungary is well known for its white wines and we found the wines to be earthy, fruity and sweet.  Seeing some of the old wine cellars/caves passed down from family members/vineyards around the town of Etyek was very interesting and unique to the wine culture of Hungary.

Insider Tip: If you find a wine that you enjoy, purchase a bottle or two before leaving the wine estate.  Many of the wine estates in the Etyek region only produce enough to sell at their Cellar Door.

4)  Panoramic views from Mattias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and Castle Hill

The panoramic views overlooking the Danube from the hilltop on the Buda side is magically romantic for any couple, especially for sunset.  The scenes in the late afternoon from these view points are breathtaking to see.  Be sure to take in all the  surrounding historical buildings, church bells, and classical music which is played at one of the restaurants in the Fisherman’s Bastion.

Insider Tip:  There are a lot of tourists in this area so arrive early if you want to get a nice location to view the city lights as well as take some great time-lapse photos of Budapest.

5)  Thermal Baths/Spas

Hungarians are famous for their love of the thermal baths/spas around the city, in fact, Budapest is affectionately referred to as “the city of spas.”  There are several thermal baths located throughout the city; we visited the Szechenyi Bath at the recommendation of our local friends.   Most of the thermal baths around Budapest offer massage packages and wellness centres.  The Szechenyi Bath has three larger pools outside and twelve indoor thermal baths.  The pools and baths have temperatures ranging from 28-38°C (82-100°F).  As it was a beautifully sunny and warm afternoon the day we visited, we spent our time in the outdoor pools enclosed in the beautiful surrounding architecture.  If you don’t like being around strangers in warm water and wet, humid locker rooms and indoor pool rooms, this is probably not the place for you.  This was not one of Julie’s favorite activities.  With that being said, we do feel this is a cultural experience where you can take in what the locals like to do and is worth the visit.

Insider Tip: Take shower shoes/flip-flops to wear around the pool areas and in the locker rooms!

6) A night at the Budapest Opera House

We had heard that attending an evening performance at the Hungarian State Opera house was an experience not to be missed.  We decided to see what all the buzz was about so we purchased last minute tickets to the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra.  It was fantastic!  The Opera house was opened back in 1884 and it has been beautifully maintained.  We purchased tickets three days before the performance online for a mere $3/ticket for box seats just above the stage.  While our seats would not have been preferred for a theatrical performance, they were ideal for watching an Orchestra, as we could look down on the musicians and watch the rhythmic flow of their movements over the instruments.

Insider Tip: Attending a performance is a great alternative to an afternoon tour of the Opera House.