Beware! The suggestions you’ll find on this list won’t be given away to you by tour guides. I lived in Budapest for one whole year and here are all my suggestions for those who wish to have a taste of my glocal Budapest: oh and by the way, Hungarian words that start with “sz” are pronounced as “s,” and the words that start with “s” are pronounced as “sh.”
1Try “palinka” and “unicum” @Szimpla Kert.
Palinka, the national drink of Hungary, is a fruit liqueur that tastes similar to vodka. I like the apricot palinka, but plum’s a popular flavor too. “Unicum” is also a traditional Hungarian liqueur that’s similar to Jagermeister. And Szimpla is popular chain of bars around the city. Whether you wish to spend some alone time with a laptop and wi-fi, or play foosball with your friends – you’ll enjoy the atmosphere at Szimpla.
More Tips from Locals: Top 10 Things to do in Florence.
2See a concert at A38.
The A38 is a restaurant, exhibition center and an event venue. But beyond those, it’s a ship that is located under the Petofi Bridge and you’ll need to cross to the Buda side to get there.
3Have a medieval dinner @Sir Lancelot.
They do not serve you forks at the Sir Lancelot Restaurant. All they’ll bring you is a meat knife and a bib. You’ll have to go downstairs to a vault-like room with only a few very long tables and the menu you order will arrive carried by at least two people. Medieval entertainment follows with a belly dancer and a man who swallows fire… Don’t forget to reserve a spot!
4Party at the Lukacs Spa!
Budapest is famed with its thermal pools. Initially built as a Turkish bath, the Lukacs Spa throws crazy spa parties every month or so – don’t miss it if you’re around for one!
5Go see a Roma (gypsy) concert!
The Roma music scene in Budapest is very lively. Among the “czigany” bands, Parno Graszt and Szilvasi Gypsy Folk Band are local celebrities. They frequently have concerts around the town. Click here to see where and when.
6Cool down or Sweat at the Széchenyi Baths, the choice is yours.
Remember the scene in the movie “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” where guys chess in a hot thermal pool? This is a scene you can easily run into at the Széchenyi Baths. There are two indoors (rather cool) and three outdoors (quite warm) thermal pools at the Széchenyi and the place is open all year. (Don’t forget to bring slippers.) You have to admit, it’s quite an interesting experience to swim in a 40°C pool as it’s snows on you. Oh, and not to forget the whirl pools, they’re so much fun!
7Óbudai-sziget (Hajógyári Island) is the party capital of Budapest!
Once a shipyard, this large island is home to the famous Sziget Festival every August. But that’s not all, there’s a couple of really large clubs that can accommodate thousands of people partying to electronic dance music. The island is even more fun in summer, as you’ll find people paddling around small the river on the island, or ships turned into clubs.
8Before you make plans, check out the Pestiest!
Pestiest is a free weekly guide of events and attractions in Budapest. Easily found in almost all cafes and bars, it tells you on a day to day basis what’s on and how much it costs. On the downside, it’s entirely Hungarian – but very well organized so even if you don’t speak the language at all, you can still browse and understand the most important stuff. Check out the online version at est.hu
9Visit Cafe Gerbaud for dessert and have dinner at Gundel.
These are two of the oldest and most respected places in Budapest. Have a cup of coffee accompanied by dessert at Cafe Gerbaud. And try traditional Hungarian dishes at Gundel: goulash soup, goose liver, chicken paprikas and Gundel pancakes are only a few of the delicacies to feast on!
10Go watch some opera!
Spare a night to visit the Hungarian State Opera House: not only is it magnificient on the outside, but the inside is amazing, too! And if you’re in a country that has given the world great classical composers like Bela Bartok and Franz Liszt, you should get some opera tickets and just enjoy the show. Don’t forget to order some sparkly in the meantime!
11Take the day out to visit Egri, Lake Balaton or Szentendre.
If you’re in Budapest already, you might want to visit what’s around: Lake Balaton is quite fun as you can take the day off to swim or eat fish. Szentendre is a historical village about an hour from the city, easy for a day trip in a medieval atmosphere. Egri is better when the weather is warmer, as it is an “open-air winery.” Most of the restaurants that produce their own “house wine,” and are great for wine-tasting would be closed in winter. But do visit the Egri Castle while you’re there.