10 Summer Activities To Try In Budapest
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A landlocked central European city might not seem like the intuitive destination for a sun worshipper, but as we've discovered, Budapest has more than a few tricks up its sleeve. With the Danube at its core, numerous thermal spas, and a vast assortment of quirky sightseeing tours, the Hungarian capital punches well above its weight as a summer haven.
Below you'll find 10 activities well worth including on any Budapest summer itinerary. Take a trip to the beach, party on a river boat, see the Hungarian Pompeii, and more.
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1) Take A Trip Up To Lupa Beach:
- Where? - Tó Utca 1, Budakalász, 2011 | Learn More (Hungarian).
When it comes to summer activities, there aren’t many demands that Budapest can’t satisfy, except, you would assume, a beach by the seashore. This may be the case in the city centre, but ride the metro to Budakalász-Lenfonó and you'll find yourself with walking distance of Lake Lupa. Along its western rim runs the 2.5 kilometer long Lupa Beach. White sands, deckchairs, bars and palm trees all combine to create a startlingly authentic sun and surf experience.
Two ticket categories divide the beach into premium and standard sections. The former costs 3000 HUF while the latter is 1000. The only major difference between the two is the quantity and quaility of the facilities on offer, as well as the fact that the standard beach is chlorinated. Standard tickets provide access to basic amenities such as toilets, changing rooms, deck chairs and buffet stalls. Premium tickets unlock beach games, slides, playground rides and more.
Regardless of the amount you choose to spead, a variety of clubs and bars can also be found on both halves of Lake Lupa's coastline.
Aerial view of Lupa Beach | Credit: Lupa Tó Official.
2) River Danube Party Cruise + Pub Crawl:
- Where? - Paulay Ede u. 33, 1061 | Learn More.
This activity combines two things you can't afford to miss during Budapest's long summer days: the iconic 'Ruins Pubs' and a cruise on the River Danube. Revelries kick-off at 20:30 outside Ankert Bar (Paulay Ede u. 33, 1061) every Friday and Saturday.
A pub crawl is the first order of the night. Led by a local nightlife expert you'll experience Budapest's hipster take on the dive bar phenomenon. The 'ruin pubs' as they're known combine artsy decor, rustic architecture and open-air courtyards to create drinking venues that look as if someone fused Alice in Wonderland with an East German car manufacturer. Coincidentally, psychedelic Trabants do make an appearance at Szimpla Kert - probably the most iconic name on the itinerary.
Afterwards, you'll be guided to an awaiting party boat on the banks of the Danube. This club cruise lasts an hour and a half, and concludes with skip-the-entry to a popular nightclub.
Revellers enjoying the Danube Club Cruise.
3) Soak Up The Rays At Szechenyi and Gellert:
- Where? - (Állatkerti krt. 9-11) and (Kelenhegyi út 4) | Learn More.
Whether you're suffering a hangover or just need to unwind, you won't find a much better city to cater to your needs. Budapest is famed for its ancient bathhouses, chief amongst which are Széchenyi and Gellért.
Széchenyi's outdoor pools on a sunny summer's day.
Since their foundings in the early 20th century both spas have undergone extensive renovations and have been retrofitted with modern facilities. While they may appear similar on the surface Széchenyi and Gellért each offer a slightly different bathing experience. The outdoor pools of the former are more extensive while the latter provides a more sophisticated indoor atmosphere, with its Art Nouveau trappings and palatial spa rooms.
Helpful staff at Széchenyi's exclusive Hungaria Koncert welcome desk.
4) Plunge Into A Lukács Bath Party:
- Where? - Frankel Leó út 25-29 | Learn More.
Széchenyi and Gellért may help alleviate a hangover, but wind the clock back 12 hours and there really is only one alternative - Lukács Bath. Every Saturday night this thermal spa transforms into an aquatic party venue. It's located near the Buda bridgehead of Margaret Bridge. Other amenities on offer include an underwater traction-bath for men and women, carbon dioxide baths, underwater water jet massages, aroma massages, saunas and more.
Lukács Bath summer pool party.
5) Explore Budapest City Park By Segway:
- Where? - Tárnok u. 15, 1014 | Learn More.
There's no shortage of novel ways to explore Budapest during the summer months, but this one takes particular advantage of the season's good weather. The City Park Segway Tour lasts 1 hour and is led by a professional English-speaking guide. After a short orientation session outside the Tourist Information Office (Heroes' Square) you'll set out to discover the sights of Városliget.
Spanning over 300 acres and riven with leisurely foot paths, City Park weaves together some of the capital's most recognisable attractions. At the northern end you have the Széchenyi Baths and Budapest Zoo, in the middle you have the stately Vajdahunyad Castle, and at the southern end you have open recreation spaces.
Over the duration of the tour you'll hear interesting tales concerning the park's monuments, accounts of its museums and attractions, plus an overview of its yearly cultural events.
Guide and Segway tour participants in Budapest City Park.
6) Visit Budapest Zoo:
- Where? - Állatkerti krt. 6-12 | Learn More.
Established in 1866, Budapest Zoo is one of the Hungarian capital's oldest and most frequented visitor attractions.
From its gorgeous butterfly garden to the 'America Tropicana’ there’s a wealth of animals to see and plenty to do. It boasts over 1000 species, such as the Indonesian Komodo Dragon and the Australian Wombat. In its early years, Budapest Zoo mostly housed endemic Hungarian species, but this expanded over the decades to encompass rare species of camels, monkeys, parrots and more. One exception is their resident giraffes, a species that has featured at the zoo since Emperor Franz Joseph I donated one in 1868.
Even its beautiful architecture is worth noting. Pay special attention to the Art Nouveau entry gate, the elephant’s building and the owl’s castle, which is the oldest original structure still standing. Another unique aspect of Budapest Zoo is its summer evening concerts. Jazz, klezmer, and other light music sessions serenade passers-by on warm Wednesday evenings. Classical tunes, exceptional surroundings, a light breeze… what else do you need on a lazy summer evening?
Budapest Zoo's Art Nouveau Entrance | Credit: Wei-Te Wong (Flickr).
7) Experience Sziget Festival On Óbuda Island:
- Where? - Hajógyári Island | Learn More.
Each summer one of Europe’s largest music festivals intices thousands of international revelers to the banks of the River Danube. Sziget Festival as it's known takes place every August on Óbuda island, which lies a short distance north of Budapest city centre.
Many visitors camp on-site, some just travel in for a day, but all of them are ready to party! It's a must-see event if you're a fan of live music. Famous names that have performed in the past include Robbie Williams, Kings of Leon, Ellie Goulding, Lily Allen, Avici, Fatboy Slim and more. Entry tickets range from around 60 Euros for a one-day pass to nearly 300 Euros for a seven-day pass.
Sziget Festival '14 | Credit: Sylwia Sarama (Flickr).
8) Do A Budapest TukTuk Tour:
- Where? - Varies By Tour | Learn More.
See Budapest’s landmarks and hidden gems by morning or afternoon aboard a fun three-wheeled rickshaw. Your guide, who is also your driver, will fill you in on Budapest’s major attractions and historical events as you zip around town. It's an ideal option if you'd like to take photos and admire the sights while avoiding heavy crowds and touristy buses.
See Buda Castle, the Hungarian Parliament and Liberation Monument on the 1 hour riverbank tour (€19 per person). Or if you'd like to see more, do the extended 2.5 hour city tour (€49 per person).
Visitors doing a summer TukTuk tour of Budapest.
9) Visit Hungary's Pompeii:
- Where? - Szentendrei út 135 | Learn More.
Aquincum was an ancient Roman city initially founded as a military base around the 1st century AD. It's location roughly corresponds to the site of modern day Budapest, making it an ideal place to explore Hungary's pre-Magyar period.
The purpose-built Aquincum Museum puts the ruins in perspective, with a vast collection of frescoes and everyday objects. Among them is the replica of a 3rd-century portable organ called a hydra and the mock-up of a Roman bath, which was discovered in the area in 1931.
Roman slave market at Aquincum Museum Budapest | Credit: Aquincum Museum.
Reenacting a ritual sacrifice at Aquincum Museum, Budapest | Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
10) See Budapest From The Air:
- Where? - Request hotel pick-up | Learn More.
At the end of the day, if buses, bikes, segways and tuk-tuks just won't cut it, you can always take to the skies. Every day from 09:00 till 16:00, AirCruise Budapest takes adventurous passengers on a 30 minute sightseeing flight high above the Hungarian capital. These take off from Budaörs Airport south-west of Budapest, though all bookings inlcude pick-up and drop-off from hotels throughout the city.
Budapest Aircruise from Budaörs Airport.
Budapest summer sightseeing flight.