Ruin bar in Budapest
Love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that Budapest really breaks the mold. Of course, many visitors miss out on what makes the city truly special. Without someone to show the way, it’s just too easy to walk past some unforgettable cafes, art shops, and ruin pubs. In that spirit, we’ve put together this list of 10 unique spots you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
By Eric Halsey
1. EXPERIENCE MEXICAN FOOD, A BAR, AND A FUNKY THRIFT STORE ALL ROLLED INTO ONE
Enjoy a burrito and beer in a thrift shop
Yes, you read that right. At El Rapido Grill and Tequila Bar, you can combine three things you never knew would go together so perfectly. Enjoying a burrito and a beer amidst relics of Budapest’s bygone days of Socialism has something only bars in Budapest would have.
2. TASTE THE LOVE AT “GRANDMA’S PLACE”
Taste the love at “Grandma’s Place”
While this restaurant is sadly no longer with us, the unique atmosphere and even love that it exuded was too great not to reminisce about. Inexplicably tucked away on the second floor of an old building a block from St. Stephen’s Basilica, this place seemed a world away from the overpriced tourist-laden restaurants which dominate the area.
For just 900ft, an elderly couple would cook you a delicious home-style meal. How could it not taste homemade, when the kitchen was simply the kitchen of an old late-19th century apartment? The key ingredient was always love, after all. To its most loyal patrons, this restaurant was always “grandma’s place.”
3. TAKE A RONALD REAGAN / COMMUNIST MONUMENT SELFIE
Just turn the camera around for a classic Budapest shot
Sure, the world may have plenty of statues of the 40th president of the United States, but how many stand proudly next to an enormous memorial to the Soviet Union’s liberation of Hungary in 1945? One, to be precise. At Liberty Square (Szabadsag Ter), you’ll find a lifelike Reagan striding confidently alongside the monument. Combine the two in a great shot, and you’ve checked off another ‘Budapest to do.’
4. ENJOY A MILLION-DOLLAR VIEW FOR FREE
Sitting on one of the many rocky outcroppings of Budapest’s Gellért Hill is a rare chance to enjoy a spectacular view of one of Europe’s great cities, while enjoying a few beverages purchased at a local shop. Sitting along the Danube, this hill provides stunning views of the city and river at night, along with many places to sit and relax. Just be sure to get there early enough to find a good place!
5. RELAX IN AN OTTOMAN BATHHOUSE AT 3AM
While it’s far from the most famous of Budapest’s bathhouses, the Rudas Baths offer a unique atmosphere, alongside some interesting hours during which you can enjoy it. On Fridays and Saturdays, the baths stay open until 4am. It’s one of the best places to spend your weekend in Budapest.
What about the baths themselves? Their main sections seem to have hardly changed since they were constructed during Ottoman rule in 1550. Such a bathhouse is rare enough, but it’s only in Budapest that you can spend the early hours of your Saturday sweating out whatever you just drank.
6. FEEL THE WORLD’S SECOND-OLDEST METRO UNDER YOUR FEET
Don’t be alarmed to feel something rumbling below Budapest.
Budapest proudly boasts the second-oldest metro in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s been running continuously since 1896! Of course, in those days, it hardly seemed necessary or feasible to busy a metro line deep underground, so you’ll find the tracks hiding just below the street.
The result is that beyond providing a unique historical experience (while London has the oldest metro in the world, it certainly doesn’t offer the antique experience this line does), it also provides for some interesting picnic opportunities. Lay in the grass under the line somewhere in the City Park and you’ll feel the trains rumbling just below you. Try bringing along some friends without telling them about this phenomenon, just to see if they think there’s an earthquake.
7. STEP INTO THE PAST FOR A CUP OF COFFEE
The Book Café (Lotz Terem) Ceiling
If you’ve ever fantasized about stepping from one world into another, Narnia-style, this is the cafe for you. Lotz Terem is hidden behind the well-stocked but otherwise quite normal-looking Alexandria Bookstore on Andrássy Avenue.
But once you step through the doors at the back of the store, your jaw will drop as you enter a magnificent room with every centimetre painted in full 19th-century splendor. The leather chairs are plush and the prices surprisingly affordable. There’s nothing quite like it.
8. ENJOY A BEER WITH THE UNIQUE CROWD OF A TRUE WORKING CLASS BUDAPEST BAR
Enjoy a Beer with the Unique Crowd of a True Working Class Budapest Bar
Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in downtown Budapest’s hipster world that you can forget there’s a whole other city farther out. One odd example is Blikk Söröző – a mixture of slot machines, interesting hours (approximately 05:00-23:00, when they’ll kick you out), and colorful crowd.
You may not share a language, but don’t be surprised if you end up sharing more than a few beers and shots of Unicum with whomever you discover here. It’s just another slice of the seemingly endless oddities Budapest nightlife has to offer.
9. VISIT A SHRINE DEDICATED TO A 16th CENTURE OTTOMAN DERVISH
The Tomb of Gül Baba in Budapest
Though many aren’t aware, Budapest was part of the Ottoman Empire for around a century during the Middle Ages. There aren’t many remnants of this time left today, but besides the Rudas Baths, you’ll find this tiny oasis of calm hidden away in Buda.
The Tomb of Gül Baba is dedicated to this soldier, poet, and holy man who died here in 1541. He is known as “Father of the Roses” (the English translation of Gül Baba) for introducing roses to Hungary for the first time. The shrine itself has beautiful rose bushes and a nice view of the city.
10. EAT MONTENEGRIN FOOD AT 5AM
Even in Montenegro, this is surprisingly hard to do. However, Budapest has you covered. Montenegrói Gurman is open 24/7 and serves pljeskavica, csevapcsicsa, andustipak just like Mom used to make. It’s the perfect way to end any day experiencing everything Budapest has to offer.
What do you think is totally unique about Budapest? We’d love to hear what we missed in the comments.
About the Author: Eric Halsey has been living and traveling in Europe for nearly five years, being based in cities like Budapest and Sofia. He’s always on the lookout for the strange and unique in every place he goes, preferring to stay with locals, learning history and languages along the way. He shares his stories and insights with Pissup.