The key to memorable travel isn’t hitting all of the biggest destinations and sites like a grocery list, checking them off one-by-one with a snapshot at each as if you were on an errand across the ocean. No, the key to memorable travel is living an experience entirely out of your everyday ordinary—reveling in the moments that don’t translate culturally. Stumbling into something unique, strange, surreal, and hopefully, eye-opening.
Take, for example, the city of Budapest. Sure, it has historically significant structures galore–but so do most cities and towns. The Great Synagogue, Parliament House and the Fisherman’s Bastion are equal parts regal and picturesque, but if they’re the sole things you’re looking forward to discovering, you’re doing Budapest wrong. Consider pairing some of the above with some of the following Budapest hidden gems.
Few countries can match the luxe public soaking offered by the city of Budapest. Whether or not you believe in the medicinal benefits of the historic thermal waters, a dip in one of the modern-day pools makes for a memorable moment unmatched in other worldly travels. The go-to for most visitors are the outdoor Széchenyi Baths, but be warned: It is crowded. For a quieter soak, try the Rudas Baths. Built in the 16th century by the command of Ottoman pasha Sokollu Mustafa, the bath chamber today feels like a time machine to the bygone era. The hot tub on the roof of the establishment is a newer addition that feels significantly more modern in concept, but the view is equally enchanting.
While just about anywhere else in the world you would steer clear of ruin, in Hungary, you seek it out. Ruin pubs are drinking establishments that have blossomed up in ruins of dilapidated buildings, peculiar hubs of livelihood in otherwise forgotten settings. Szimpla Kert is the king of ruin pubs, having started the trend in 2001 with a hodge-podge of thrift-store furniture and DIY decorations amongst a maze-like structure—but is frequented predominately by tourists these days. For more authentic ruin pub crawls, consider heading to Fogas Ház or Instant. The former is part-ruin pub, part-artist’s studio and part-bike shop, while the latter is an entire apartment complex turned into a mega-dance-club.
Whether you’re an appreciator of the popular pastime, or just looking to spend a few hours somewhere novel, it’s likely that you won’t find a more thorough collection of pinball machines in all your travels. Discretely located in the basement of a residential building, the Flippermúzeum is home to 150 pinball machines, some dating all the way back to the 1800s. The best part? The entire museum is interactive—for the cost of admission, you can play pinball until the museum closes at midnight.
Should your travels to Budapest coincide with the holiday season, the city’s Christmas Markets make for an utterly magical discovery. Popping up in the city’s squares, rows upon rows of stalls offer all sorts of traditional Hungarian staples and fares—be it everything from blown glass to homemade candles. Coupled with the warm glow of Christmas lights and the delectable treats of mulled wine and chimney cake, and you can easily spend a day savoring the festive atmosphere.
Eager to begin a trip to Budapest? Consider speaking with one of our travel agents. Not only can they provide insider insights to the best surreal discoveries of a city, but they can provide exclusive perks and amenities with leading names in travel—such as Crystal Cruises. Couple your discovery of Budapest hidden gems with equally thrilling discoveries of Spitz, Krems, Vienna and Bratislava for a vacation truly outside of the ordinary.