10 tips for the solo traveller in Budapest
Crowds buzzing around the District VII party vortex, couples taking selfies on the Danube Promenade, families riding aboard the scenic tram 2 line. These are everyday scenes in Budapest, a city gaining international fame for its one-of-a-kind vibe. However, Hungary’s capital is equally enticing for those who land here without a travel companion and offers many attractions to the solo holidaymaker. From preparing your own lunch in a restaurant to exploring the city on a (self-)guided walking tour and doing yoga alfresco, there’s so much to do in Budapest, a city where you’ll never feel alone.
Indulge in a luxurious pampering at a historic Budapest spa
When in Budapest, submerging in the city’s spa culture is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. If hanging out in thermal-heated waters all by yourself doesn’t sound too appealing, then why not sign up for any of the many in-house treatments offered at these city baths. Following a refreshing aqua fitness at the iconic Széchenyi Baths, indulge in a rosemary-scented full-body massage or a rub with oils concocted from Hungarian wine. Meanwhile, Rudas on the Buda riverfront holds relaxed single-sex days, providing the entire facility with pools, saunas and massage halls to ladies only on Tuesdays and for men on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Fridays.
Make your own meal on an English-friendly cooking course
If sitting in a restaurant solo while waiting for your meal is one of the most dreaded parts of your journey, then Budapest Makery has got you covered. At this District VII eatery, guests cook for themselves. Whether it’s Hungarian lecsó vegetable stew or Italian-style tagliatelle with prawns, you can’t mess it up, even if you can barely microwave a dish. After choosing an item on the menu, guests are delivered all the prepped ingredients alongside a tablet, featuring a video recipe that guides you through the cooking process. But you can also find many food-focused tours around Budapest, where you are accompanied on a culinary journey by local experts.
Go to a concert at a ruin bar
After a few local musicians set up the stage for open-mic nights a few years ago in Budapest, the city’s locales offer even more unpredictably entertaining evenings out. During these free-spirited shows, sitting by a table for one at Szimpla, nursing a single beer won’t feel so awkward. But there’s another added benefit to these musical activities. For open-mic night, any performer is welcome to take the stage for a few minutes, regardless of their experience or skill level, so if you are in Budapest accompanied by only your talent, confidence and instrument, here’s your chance to shine (and make new friends). For the weekly schedule, check out the event’s website.
See an exhibition at your own pace
Sometimes museums are best visited alone. Especially those with a wide-ranging collection that make visitors vanish from the outside world for hours as they walk through centuries, if not millennia, of creativity. Such an institution is the Hungarian National Museum, featuring a huge amount of artefacts ranging from thousand-year-old coronation relics to Communist-era propaganda posters. To immerse yourself in a rich presentation of fine art, ascend to the Castle District for the National Gallery, displaying the best of historic Hungarian art. Seasonal exhibitions at the museums have seen the likes of Picasso, Modigliani and Monet. Kunsthalle and Ludwig Museum are great bets for modern art.
Take a walking tour
Many of the city’s landmarks are easily accessible on foot as many key sights are not far from each other. If you have just two days in Budapest and hopping on and off the bus is not your style, then you can always embark on a self-guided tour to walk between attractions such as St.Stephen’s Basilica, Parliament, the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle. Check out our article that provides tips about how to see Budapest in 48 hours. But then there are guided tours that you can join, too. Free Budapest Walking Tours are tip-based and run every day at designated time slots to provide local insight into city life through themed strolls. Other suggestions can be found in our free printed Guide, distributed around the city or online here.
Catch a movie at an art-house theatre
English-friendly movies screen year-round in Budapest, but the best place to see one is an art-house theatre. These special city-centre cinemas often show films that are artistic or experimental rather than merely entertaining. Once home to a nightclub, gilded Uránia is one of the most stunning of these movie palaces. Then there is Puskin, an excellent destination for watching new independent films and ground-breaking blockbusters. Buda’s bijou Bem cinema screens classic films with Hungarian subtitles and occasional documentaries.
Before buying tickets, check at the box office to make sure that your film selection is being show in your preferred language, or has appropriate subtitles.
Enjoy exercise alfresco
Budapest’s scenic settings allow you to exercise in stunning locations, especially during summer. In the warmer months, many of the city’s open-air rooftop bars welcome visitors not just with views and drinks. A selection of these elevated locales offers yoga sessions to practise asanas alfresco. These include 360 Bar atop the historic Paris Department Store, High Note SkyBar at award-winning Aria Hotel Budapest and at the Intermezzo Roof Terrace of Hotel President. Then there is the Danube that provides the ideal platform for SUP stand-up paddle-boarding, kayak or canoe sessions.
Use a community office
Whether you are in Budapest on a business trip or a last-minute project calls you during your holiday, you can always rent a temporary workstation with a desk and internet access in a co-working office. Lively Mosaik in District XIII offers day passes for using shared desks and free WiFi, and the fee even grants you access to occasional community-building events. Loffice works with a similar concept and has multiple locations citywide. And if you are really just looking for a desk, coffee and internet, then Buda’s UrbanFood should be satisfactory. Here, you pay by the hour and your pass even includes unlimited consumption of tea, coffee and cordials.
Discover second-hand bookshops
Hungary’s capital can be equally astonishing for bookworms, who can spend hours searching for real rarities in one of the many outlets stocking second-hand novels, guidebooks, even volumes with poems printed in various languages. Dating back to the 19th century, Központi Antikvárium on tree-flanked Múzeum körút offers the largest variety of used publications, but here you can also stumble upon pre-war posters and postcards. There are other, smaller vintage bookshops found nearby and you can come across a few more on Király utca, too, on the other side of the Grand Boulevard.
Linger around Margaret Island
This eye-shaped parkland stretching from Margaret Bridge to northern Árpád Bridge is a year-round destination for locals. Activities are manifold, especially during summer, where the grassy expanse provides an ideal space for sunbathing, meditating, running, even practising tai-chi outdoors. The island’s musical fountain is one attraction you can certainly enjoy without a travel companion. On the hour from 10am to 10pm, the aquatic jet sprays water up high in sync with music ranging from Vivaldi’s Spring to Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. A Japanese Garden with a burbling fountain and lush vegetation helps you slow down.