The city of Budapest, Hungary was only established in1873, however, civilization can be traced back to the 4th century BC when it was occupied by the Celts. Romans lived in the area for a small period of time until the Bulgarians established their presence, dividing the area into two—Buda and Pest—where two fortresses were constructed, one opposite the other. For centuries, Hungary and Bulgaria fought in a series of wars making it difficult for the city to prosper. It wasn’t until the 12th century did Budapest begin to flourish. The 14th century was the time when palaces were built, and Buda became the epicenter of royal Hungarian power. 400 years later, Buda and Pest merged into Budapest and a bridge to connect the two was built. Although the two World Wars caused a lot of changes in the City, especially after Soviet occupation in the second half of the 20th century, Budapest was able to reemerge as a strong, independent city and become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world welcoming an average of 30 million tourists a year.
For those of you heading to this magical city, here are some of our favorite hidden gems we love to explore.
Budapest has a lot of underground caves to explore, one of which is the Panoptikum, a network of passages underneath Castle Hill where Vlad Tepes, also known as Count Dracula, was imprisoned in 1463 for 14 years. For several Euros, you can explore the tunnels—you’ll come across one that’s completely dark and another one of which houses a coffin inside the cell where Vlad was held. Panoptikum is an adult activity and not recommended for children.
Gellért Hill Cave
Another underground gem is Gellért Hill Cave, a church beneath the ground on the side of Gellert Hill (thus the name). The cave features an altar, chairs and icons including a Black Madonna, all of which are cared for by the Pauline Monks. When communism swept the nation, this church was closed off and the monks were either killed or sent to camps. It wasn’t until 1989 that the wall put up in the 1950s was torn down. If you decide to explore the Gellért Hill Cave, please make sure to wear shirts that cover shoulders (for women), and don’t come in wearing flip-flops and inappropriate attire.
Budapest is surrounded by hills and trees, which allows locals and tourists to hike and explore the outdoors without having to go far. If you need a break from the busyness of the city, head to Buda Hills where you’ll discover trails and spectacular views of Budapest. You can even take the Zugliget Chairlift up to the top if you don’t want to or are unable to climb up to János-hegy (the largest hill in Budapest).
Arany Sas Patikamúzeum
Arany Sas Patikamúzeum, or Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum, is a small yet special museum dating back to the mid-1900s with collections dating back to the Middle Ages. Arany Sas Patikamúzeum is set up as though it’s the 1700s and features a variety of medical objects ranging from books that are hundreds of years old, chemists’ tools, small crocodiles in glass jars, herbs, dried bats and other unique finds that transports you back in time. Tickets cost less than $3 USD but you can check this museum out for free on a few national holidays including the 5th March, 20th of August and the 23rd of October.
Százéves Étterem, which translates to “Hundred Years Old Restaurant”, is the oldest restaurant in Budapest dating back to 1831. The place is somewhat small with room for only 80 people indoors and 40 outdoors—reservations are highly recommended by calling +36 (06) 1-230-0329 or emailing them. It’s perfect for friends, family or even a date where you can dine on traditional Hungarian dishes as well as international options by candlelight. To help set the mood, Gypsy music plays every evening from 7pm to 11pm. If you’re in Budapest during the summer you can enjoy your cuisine outdoors on the terrace while sitting under the starry night. It’s a must at least once.
Budapest is a grand destination with tonnes to explore on both sides of the city. From museums and restaurants to underground caves and the lush hills, we hope this guide will help you enjoy all that Budapest has to offer.
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