I’ve been in love with Budapest for years. Maybe that’s why writing about it is a real challenge. While I was working in this wonderful city myself for some time, I started writing an Insider Guide to it myself. But I gave it up early – no article could fit in everything I wanted to say! So finally I decided to delegate this task and asked one of my local friends for help. He listed for us some of the secret gems of this city.
The best place to start exploring the non-touristic side of Budapest is a very interesting exhibition called Láthatatlan Kiállítás Budapest. There you will live a life of a blind person for approximately one hour. The exhibition imitates an apartment, a city street, and a bar environment – with the only difference that you don’t see anything because there is absolutely no light. But don’t fear, an experienced guide will save you from hitting your head on the wall! This is an amazing experience, which allows you to understand how it feels to not see anything, using instead every other way of perceiving this world.
If you are not that intrigued by the darkness, try going to Szentendre. It’s a small town just near Budapest. You can easily get there by HEV trains (you can find the schedule here) just in half an hour. But, I hear you say, it’s just a small place, what’s interesting there? Oh, a great many things! First of all, the center of the town, with its pretty houses and small churches is completely charming. Secondly, the Hungarian Open Air Museum is located there. It’s the most famous ethnographical museum in Hungary and it allows you to see a traditional Hungarian village. It’s divided into eight zones, each of them illustrating a different region of the country. You can enter every house there, touch the furniture and even such small things as dishes. And of course, as it’s a village, there are cattle! So if you wouldn’t mind feeding cute little Hungarian sheep, schedule a trip to Szentendre.
A trip to Szentendre is a great idea, but it works only on a sunny day. If you aren’t very lucky with the weather in Budapest, then prepare sacks with sand, as my friend says, ‘cause flood is coming! Rain is a serious business here. Or alternatively, you can find a nice place to dine out. The cozy café called “Marika Néni Kávézója” works perfectly in such cases. The name is translated as “Café of Auntie Mary”, and apart from coffee, they serve amazing burgers which are super huge and super tasty, I can vouch for that! Besides, there is an interesting story to this café. When auntie Mary (which is the real name of the owner!) was opening this place, she made up a secret password and gave it to just ten locals, who then spread the word among their friends. A person could use this secret password to get a special burger at a very “tasty” price. Now, nearly ten years after the café was opened, this password is still valid! The locals don’t like to share it with others, but we got it just for you, dear readers. Here it is – “Bekeburger”. You are welcome!
If you are more of a drinking places fan, Budapest has something absolutely unique to offer you too! For example, there is a whole bunch of ruin pubs. They are just stunning. You find them in old, shabby, half destroyed buildings with a very underground atmosphere. Naked brick walls are very common in such places, for example. The major part of the visitors is young people who are looking for something different from perfect bars with new furniture and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere there. If you share their desires, here’s two highly recommended ruin pubs: Iskola and Romkocsmak.
And the last advice from our local guide: if you are going to Budapest in summer, schedule your visit for August 20th. This day marks the start of the annual celebration honoring the founder of Hungary, Saint Istvan. If you are lucky enough to visit the city during this period, you will see breathtaking fireworks over the Danube. This is a memory you’ll cherish forever.