Underground adventure: Roundup of caves in Budapest
Photo : Caving Under Budapest
17/2/2015, 11:02 AM●4-minute article
Budapest is famous for its thermal spas, but the legacy of this hot bubbling water coursing under the city over millions of years is that it’s carved out a complex network of caves and caverns. The section where the Buda Hills and the Great Plain
meet at the Danube is near the site of a geological fault line, and this is where the famed thermal mineral waters sprung, resulting in the formation of numerous caves – around 200 in total. If you’re eager to explore the truly underground side of the city, here are the caves open to visitors.
Tucked up in District II, these show caves are a part of the Duna-Ipoly National Park and are known for their beautiful stalagmite and stalactite formations. The Pálvölgyi Caves are easy to reach by public transport and are open to visitors via guided tours running each hour, lasting around 40 minutes. For those wanting to try some caving in Budapest it’s important to know that the tours involve going up and down ladders and steps, but there is no need for any special equipment.
In 2001, the connection between the Pálvölgy Cave system and the caves under Mátyás Hill were discovered – together making a 30 kilometre network of caves. This is the second longest underground cave system in Hungary! Getting into these caves is a little trickier since they’re undeveloped, but if you’re willing to put on a jumpsuit and get down and dirty with a spot of spelunking, then you can take part in a memorable Budapest caving trip that runs out of the Pálvölgyi visitors centre.
Open: Tours are arranged on an individual basis, but the minimum number of participants is 5. Contact Caving Under Budapest tours to schedule an excursion. Price: 6 000 HUF (adults) / 5 000 HUF (children) Address: 1025 Budapest, Szépvölgyi Road 162 Phone: +36 1 325 9505
These caves might be in the same neighbourhood as Pálvölgy and Mátyás Hill, but unlike the Pálvölgyi Caves, you won’t find any stalactites or stalagmites here. Rather you’ll find steep cave walls lined with crystals and minerals. This crystal cave has even earned the nickname the “Underground Flower Garden” for its floral mineral forms. The Semlőhegyi Cave system is also accessible for wheelchair users as well.
Underneath Buda Castle there are a network of natural tunnels, chambers and secrets lurking below that were once inhabited in prehistoric times. However, there are some dark tales haunting these caves. One famous legend is that Vlad Tepes, known better to you and me as Dracula, was once tortured and imprisoned here. A visit to the Buda Castle Labyrinth offers a rather campy trip, complete with smoke machines and wax figures, but for an extra spooky experience come back after 6, when you can explore the caves by just the light of an oil lantern. Spooky!
Even though Hospital in the Rock joins onto the Buda Castle Labyrinth, the tunnels here are actually man-made. It once functioned as an underground hospital in WWII, most notably during the Siege of Budapest, but it also became a secret nuclear bunker during the Cold War. Today, the Hospital in the Rock museum is an immersive trip back in time that you can take by guided tour.
Open: Every day 10am – 8pm Price: 3 600HUF (full-price) / 1 800HUF (discount) Address: 1012 Budapest, Lovas Street 4/C Phone: +36 70 701 0101
The Cave Church at Gellért Hill
Gellért Hill is a famous for its views from the Citadel, but if you’d rather see it from a different angle, then head down to the cave church in St. Iván’s Cave. You can access it opposite the entrance to the Gellért Baths. The caves housed a monastery in the 1920s, until the Soviet Red Army sealed them up in 1945. Since reopening in 1989, the caves function as a church. The Cave Church is worth visiting when you explore the rest of the Gellért Hill.
Open: Monday – Friday and Sunday, 8:30am – 8pm Price: 500 HUF (full price) / 400 HUF (reduced) Phone: +36 20 775 2472 Address: 1114 Budapest, Szent Gellért Rakpart 1.