Spring has sprung and in a city as crazy about sport as Budapest, there’s no excuse for not going out and trying your hand at something unusual or even extreme. There’s indoor skydiving, paragliding, even surfing. Here are ten activities to test mind and body, all within easy reach of the city centre.
Carved by the city’s famous thermal waters, numerous cave systems hide beneath Budapest’s surface – and here you can plunge underground to climb, crawl, and squeeze through incredibly narrow subterranean passages directly beneath residential areas. Anyone who is not claustrophobic can explore the undeveloped Pál-völgyi Cave during a three-hour spelunking adventure led by qualified caving guides, with your helmet-mounted lamp being the only source of light. For a less strenuous underworld journey, head to the neighbouring Szemlő-hegyi Cave, made easily accessible with paved walkways.
Opened near Széll Kálmán tér in 2018, the Gravity Boulder Bar has been designed by experts to test climbers to the limit – or give beginners a little thrilling exercise. What started out as an underground community with secret spots and its own slang is now a mainstream sport. At Tokyo 2020, climbing will make its Olympic debut. Aware of this trend, the team at Gravity created the Boulder Bar at just the right time.
To reach it, take the lift of the Mammut 1 mall to the fourth floor. A red staircase leads to the gallery, where you can find the reception and bar, changing rooms, sauna and equipment shop, as well as the ends of the climbing routes.
Descending into a climbing arena confined by walls 4.5 metres high, each route is assigned different colours. Each increases in intensity, starting from the entrance and children’s wall with animal figures, and ending with a 60-degree overhanging panel. There are no safety harnesses here, but a thick mattress would soften the highest fall.
You can also rent all the necessary equipment, such as chalk powder and climbing shoes, at the gym.
Kayaking & SUP
Life in Budapest revolves around the Danube, with many opportunities for active recreation on the river. You can rent a kayak or canoe at the Római Part in Óbuda – there’s a club near the waterside Fellini bar, for example. Closer to home, a student club regularly practises kayaking and SUP (‘Stand-Up Paddling’) at Margaret Island – see kajaksziget.hu (Hungarian-only) for details. Experienced members can also instruct newcomers in the ways of the kayak or stand-up paddle. According to long-term kayaker Márton Fülep: “All you need is to be a confident swimmer and then learn the basics in a stable sea kayak. Admiring the panorama, the breathtaking sunsets and the illuminated bridges as you drift down the Danube will be a truly exceptional experience”.
Large swaths of undeveloped woodlands crown the Buda Hills, creating perfect terrain for mountain biking up and down a variety of gnarled forest paths. Cross country or downhill, marked paths are perfect for a bit of adrenaline-boosting or you can plan out your own course, say from Vérmező to János Hill or from Normafa to Hármashatárhegy. Bikebase Budapest near Nyugati station includes a couple of mountain bikes among its premium rentals.
An active community of paragliders frequently takes to the skies from the Buda hills, where updrafts are perfect for this high-flying fun and the views are spectacular. Even if you’ve never tried it before, anyone can enjoy tandem paragliding with a skilled local – after a brief coaching session, pilot and passenger are attached to a special harness together and, after a short run, the wind takes them up into the heavens in the blink of an eye. While airborne, the pilot controls the journey, so passengers can focus on admiring the panorama. Since this activity is highly dependent on the elements, it’s recommended to plan and book the adventure a few days in advance, checking the weather forecast with organisers. More details here.
You don’t have to go way out in the forest to practise with your gun – right in the city centre, in theatre-lined Nagymező utca, there’s an indoor shooting range for
beginners and professionals. In two soundproofed rooms equipped with ventilation systems, you can try weapons such as high-powered shotguns or various precision firearms, old-fashioned revolvers, guns – even an iconic AK-47. And there’s training for all levels. As co-owner Péter Jójárt says: “60% of what you see in American movies is nonsense, while the other 40% is totally dangerous!”. Budapest Shooting works with small teams that start every two hours, so it is highly recommended you book ahead. If you just walk in, you may find a slot with the next group, but there’s no guarantee.
If you want to experience free falling without having to jump out of an aeroplane, and under controlled conditions, Skyward is your place. All you have to do is throw yourself onto a 200 km/h airflow and enjoy weightlessness, flying and falling. Although it really sounds a breeze, first you will have to take part in a half-an-hour training session, where you are taught the right body movements and hand signals for communication. Helmet, goggles are provided – wear casual clothing and training shoes. The facility is set amid the industrial clutter of Csepel – take the HÉV train from Boráros tér to Szent Imre tér and walk through the factory complex.
Budapest may not be California but you can surf – in fact, you can learn how to surf from next month. Three-day evening courses begin at the Palatinus baths on Margaret Island, held all summer long by SURFinPALA, local enthusiasts currently building a growing surfing community in Budapest. Although tuition is in Hungarian, the instructor should have enough English to help you – or just follow what the others are doing. Surf’s up!
Boing, boing! Budapest has several trampoline parks where where you can bounce around and execute double backflips like a pro. Superfly in District XIII mainly caters to teenagers but on Friday nights it fills with UV lights and DJ music, awaiting everyone above 16 for a bouncy party. Weekend mornings are given over to youngsters aged three and above, with adult supervision, of course. At the ÚjBuda Center, Cyberjump is the largest trampoline park in the region, with 12 courts, battle beams and slamball. Children under the age of ten are welcome on weekend mornings. Tickets can be combined with access to the nearby Elevenpark, with trampolines, slides and a climbing wall on the second floor of the mall.
Wakeboarding? In Budapest? Although swishing up and down the Danube is a no-no, up in Budakalász towards Szentendre, Omszki Lake and nearby Lake Lupa await wakeboard lovers a short hop by HÉV train from the centre. Both championship-level exponents and beginners can take part in the fun, with an electric-powered tow-cable system pulling people through a variety of ramps and rails. Experienced wakeboarders can dive straight into the action, while newbies can take private lessons or join group courses with professional instructors. Trainees are provided with all necessary equipment, so no need to invest in all the accessories before falling in love with the sport.