Articles | 2019-04-09 -James
Budapest is already renowned for being a cheap party city - with street food starting from just over a euro, accommodation from less than ten euros a night, and pints starting from less than two, affordability is the name of the game in this beautifully unspoiled, fun-filled destination. But in case you’ve:
Lost all your bankcards on the last pub crawl
Spent all your money on booze and boat parties
Just a bit of a mess financially
Don’t fret, there are options abound for free cultural activities to keep you busy whilst Mum and Dad send some moolah through Western Union to get you back to travelling (and partying). So, without further ado, let’s delve into the stingier side of this fair city that we call Budapest.
TAKE A STROLL THROUGH CITY PARK
One of the iconic sights of Budapest, the park is fronted by some of the most spectacular statues to be found in Eastern Europe, and is a perfect spot for those cheeky holiday selfies. The park itself covers an area of over 300 acres and includes a number of scenic spots to keep you interested during your meander. Some of the sites you may wish to see are:
Szechenyi Spa: the largest thermal bath in Europe, with beautiful Neo-Baroque architecture and over 15 different pools - unfortunately this one is not free, but it’s still worth a visit if you have any pennies lying around, especially if the club last night has left you with a naughty hangover.
Vajdahunyad Castle: a purely decorative castle constructed to celebrate 1000 years since the settlement of the Hungarian people - an eclectic mix of architectural styles, a must visit spot if you’re touring the park.
City Park Ice Rink: Unfortunately only open during the winter months, until the warm weather melts it into nothingness, this is the largest ice rink in Europe and one of the oldest, having been opened in 1870 - if your travels bring you here during December/January time, pop down for a skate and a hot chocolate
ON THE FIRST SUNDAY OF EVERY MONTH, ENJOY FREE ENTRY TO THE HOUSE OF TERROR
This museum documents the multiple atrocities committed during the Soviet occupation of Hungary between 1949 and 1989. Although harrowing, the museum itself provides an important insight into what many Hungarians living today had to live through whilst under foreign occupation. And, on the first Sunday of every month, entry is free for anyone from an EU country who is under 26 (sorry non-EU backpackers). If you’re keen on your history, and aren’t too squeamish, then we strongly recommend a visit to the cellars below the Terrorhaz. And, if you find yourself here at the wrong time of month, the following museums are open every third Sunday:
The Museum of Fine Arts: with collections consisting of over 100,000 pieces of art, this museum would take days to see in its entirety, but you may have to settle for an afternoon.
The National Museum: displaying the history, art and archaeology of Hungary, a fantastic museum to understand the culture behind this great nation.
The Hungarian National Gallery: similar to the museum of fine arts, but focussing on more modern and contemporary Hungarian artists.
WATCH THE SUNSET FROM FISHERMAN’S BASTION
One of the best viewpoints in the whole of Budapest, Fisherman’s Bastion is supposedly so named due to the fish market that takes place at St. Matthias church just next door. The seven fairytale-esque towers represent the seven Magyar tribes who settled to form modern-day Hungary, and to this day it retains its UNESCO status as one of the best viewpoints in Europe. Regardless of the etymology and the history, the obscenely beautiful panoramas make this a must-see for any self-respecting tourist or traveller. Head down around sunset to really make the most of the sights available, and enjoy the lights of the city coming on and marking the beginning of the Budapestian nightlife. Also nearby, you can find:
St. Matthias church - the oldest church in Budapest, and renamed after King Matthias in the 19th century, this building features some of the most exquisite and priceless roof tiles that you will see here or anywhere in the world.
The Citadel - constructed during the Austrian occupation of Hungary during the 1850’s, this is another wonderful viewpoint to see the city from. Also on display are a collection of heavy weapons from the second world war.
The Liberty Statue - somewhat less impressive than the Statue of Liberty in New York, this bronze statue stands 14 meters tall, and was constructed to commemorate those Hungarians who gave their lives in defence of the liberty and prosperity of their country.
PICNIC ON MARGARET ISLAND
Acting as a central point between the two parts of Buda and Pest, Margaret Island is the perfect area for an afternoon picnic. Spanning across close to 250 acres, it’s easy to find a nice secluded spot in which to chill out with a bottle of cheap wine and some pastries - bring some music and a deck of cards and you have yourself a wonderful afternoon. And in case you still haven’t experienced enough culture to fill your boots, the island also features the following landmarks:
The centennial memorial: built in 1973 to celebrate the unification of the two cities, Buda and Pest, into one, modern day Budapest.
The water tower - originally constructed to be functional, but now serving as a viewpoint and exhibition hall.
Church ruins: ruins of several churches dating back to the 13th century when the island was settled upon by the Knights of St. John.
ENJOY THE HAUNTING SERENITY OF KEREPESI GRAVEYARD
A sprawling 56 hectares of well-preserved pantheons, gravestones and plantlife, and located a short metro ride away from central Budapest, a wealth of famous Hungarian dignitaries, statesmen, actors, artists, and other notable figures have had the honour of being buried beneath this hallowed ground. You’d be forgiven for forgetting that this is a place of burial, as the ornate and intricate statues and mausoleums seem like something out of a children’s story. With a rich and controversial history (part of the graveyard was sold off by the Soviets to a rubber factory and subsequently destroyed), the Kerepesi graveyard is an eerily beautiful area through which to wander.
With a bit of luck, this list of activities and things to do in Budapest will keep you occupied whilst you get your finances back in order. And when you do, be sure to check out the bars, clubs and restaurants on offer around the city, the nightlife is truly something special. And if you need any more advice on slightly more fun, and slightly less PG-13 events, be sure to check out our other blog posts and articles!