Budapest is known for its great architecture and wild parties. But there's more than that, hereby I invite you to check out some hidden gems and to do a day trip once you checked the must-see items.
EuropeHungary3 days / March 2021
Highs & Lows
Caving in Budapest - yes it is a thing here. "Hand of fate" viewpoint in Hollókő
In Hollókő there are likely not as many English speakers, so be prepared with your translator app
As a local, I will recommend a 3-4 day itinerary to do after the main sights of Budapest. It will include two daytrips, check it out and let's see what do you like: caving, drinking wine, hiking a bit or chilling with locals in an art-café.
The Buda side of Budapest has the Gellért hill and the castle district to amaze you. You can have great views of the river and many beautiful bridges there. But now, i want to show you some less-known places.
Pálvölgyi Cave - is approachable by public transportation, it's still in the city of Budapest, and it is a protected area, as part of one of our National Parks. It is part of a 7 kilometre long cave system and will provide you some adventure time! Check the website for booking a tour and prepare your hiking boots! There are multiple tours available, I went on one where we got into some special equipment and had to crawl a bit in narrow corridors. It was a lot of fun!
Kopaszi gát - this place is very close to the city center. Originally it was a dam on the Danube, it used to separate it from a lake, that nowadays doesn't exist. The dam became a city park with a running track and nice outdoor restaurants. It is perfect to chill in the grass on a hot summer evening.
Kelet Kávézó és Galéria - This is my favorite café in Budapest. It is very popular among local people. The reason: they take great care that their coffee and tea is high quality. They source it from Latin-America and Asia. The name "Kelet" means "East" in Hungarian, and to go with that their menu is oriental-inspired. They change it every month creating their own recipes of European and Asian fusion kitchen. Don't expect a very long menu, it's more like a bistro with a few dishes, and they are delicious! On the second floor they use the walls to create a small gallery, so each month an artist has a small exhibition there which is free to check out. They often host cultural events as well, and they are a vital part of the project "Bartók Béla boluevard" this street has the target of becoming the local cultural center of the district and they do an amazing job at it.
Bonus: there are mini statues all around the city, they are the works of the sculptor Mihály Kolodko, you can just search for them in your google maps, and have a walking tour based on these in the city.
Etyek is a village that comes to life every weekend. It has a great wine tradition (dry or semi-sweet white) with lots of small family owned restaurants and cellars. I recommend going in the weekend, because on weekdays most of the places are closed.
You can take a one hour ride with a bus or rent a car go get here (in case of driving, please keep in mind that the driver is not allowed to drink even a glass of wine according to the rules in Hungary). Search for the "Újhegy" street where you will find the cellars and restaurants. You can ask them to show you the cellars as well, most people are happy to do so, if the place is not very busy with guests. I really like the rose and vine garden of the Debreczeni Pince and the outdoor space of the Rókusfalvy Birtok is very nice as well. Check on the internet for events at the day of your visit. If you are lucky they will host the monthly "Etyeki Piknik" "Picnic of Etyek" when you are around.
Hollókő is a village that you can reach driving 100km from Budapest. You can do a daytrip or stay there, if you go by public transportation, I'd recommend staying, because it can be a long ride. By a rented car it's more convenient, and takes about 1,5 hours to get there.
Once you are here you'll find a fully preserved small village from 150 years ago. The locals are very proud of their traditional houses and the traditional folklore arts they keep alive here. Apart from taking a stroll in Hollókő and trying out a Hungarian meal (I recommend the Palócleves, which is a special soup often served in bread) you can do two very short hikes.
Both of them takes no more than an hour. You can visit the ruins of the fortress of Hollókő (Hollókői vár) and the "Hand of Fate" (Kéz kilátó) viewpoint, that is an impressive wooden sculpture in the forest. How to get there? Just go to the main parking lot, and you'll see sings with directions it's impossible to miss.
So there you have it! Some cool places worth visiting inside and out of Budapest.
Q & A
What would you have changed?As a local, I did not have unpleasant surprises. If you're a vegetarian/vegan you'll be fine in Budapest and also in Etyek, but Hollókő is more traditional, I think you are able to find vegetarian options, but keeping a vegan diet might be challenge. Keep it in mind.
Tips you would give a friend?Go for all the touristy things because Budapest is beautiful. Check the castle the parliament and the party district and a thermal spa. But extend your stay with a few days, and explore more it's worth it.
Transportation Tips?Inside Budapest use public transportation. It is good cheap, and has real time update on google maps (as the vehicles are GPS tracked). A car is just extra stress for parking, if you need a car, you can use Share Now in Budapest as well, and for higher rates you can take it to daytrips out of the city. In this case, make sure to buy a highway permission (autópálya matrica) for the car, because they do not have it as default. You can also rent a car of course. For daytrips I recommend having a car because it gives you more flexibility.