Leaves will soon start falling, but not the number of things to do in Budapest. Autumn brings new chocolate desserts, the local version of the Bavarian Oktoberfest and works by Francis Bacon to the city, a vibrant destination to discover any time. Public ceremonies, a contemporary art festival and an attraction focused on black food are also coming up in the months ahead. See our seasonal guide for how to enjoy Hungary’s capital during autumn.
Admire a major exhibition
While the current exhibition at the National Gallery keeps visitors flocking for Frida Kahlo, the museum is getting ready to host another major attraction. From October 9th, works by Bacon, Freud and The School of London will highlight figurative painting techniques as opposed to avant-garde styles. Meanwhile, travelling exhibition Mummies of the World provides a window into lost civilisations by presenting well-preserved bodies from South America, ancient Egypt and even Hungary. Then from September 20th, the World Press Photo Exhibition unveils winning global stories to the Budapest audience.
Try a new Hungarian-style restaurant
In the wake of Budapest’s gastronomy boom, Hungarian cuisine is also experiencing its renaissance and a growing number of restaurants are focused on recreating old favourites. Recently opened Zuzu revives stuffed pepper and breaded chicken legs with the use of modern-day techniques. Its cutting-edge kitchen run by Tamás Széll of Bocuse d’Or fame, newly launched Stand includes goulash and somlói sponge cake on its tasting menu. Even the legendary Gundel restaurant now features a revamped menu, taking goose liver and chicken stew to greater heights.
Dive into Budapest’s own Oktoberfest
Between September 27th and 30th, the city’s Kincsem Park racetrack is transformed into a boisterous beer festival for Oktoberfest. Ale remains the focus while yodelling entertain drinkers late into the night. A mini fun fair, horse and greyhound races add to the festival vibe, and food trucks provide fine bites. Oktoberfest tickets are available on the event’s website and on the spot. If you come by public transport, alight at the Pillangó utca stop on the M2 metro line.
Spend Sunday around a Roman villa
Once belonging to an unknown member of ancient Rome’s upper one percent, the Hercules Villa is a unique construction equipped with luxuries such as running water, heated floors, a sewer system and varied chambers for private use and entertaining guests. This Óbuda site was unearthed by labourers in 1958 during construction works for a then-new school building. The most stunning feature is the mosaics, showing delicately crafted characters ranging from Cupid to a bleeding boxer. This restored Roman-era site is open to visitors every Sunday until October 28th between 11am and 1pm.
Learn about tea at speciality hangouts
The season of soul-warming cuppas is fast approaching. Offered at several prime hangouts, Zhao Zhou is now considered a leading tea label in Budapest and in the brand’s showroom, guests can sample ancient Asian leaves, black, green, white or oolong. Regular tea schools and workshops provide even more insight. Across town near City Park, Teavolution warms hearts with similarly high-quality brews, sourced directly from China, Taiwan and Japan. Meditation sessions with tea tasting and workshops also feature. Then there are many deluxe destinations offering afternoon tea with fine bites – here’s a guide to the best of these locales.
Take a hike around Sas Hill
Autumn lends itself to a hiking around the Hungarian capital. Surrounded by a verdant nature reserve, a triple-peaked rocky mini-mountain towering above central Buda is just a short bus ride away from the city. Spanning 30 hectares, Sas Hill is a dolomite-covered landmark with a panoramic pathway, home to the rare Hungarian barberry plant, foxes and lizards. A lookout point provides wraparound views over much of Buda and Pest, including far-reaching vistas over the Danube, Buda Castle, Parliament, the Budapest Eye, Citadel and Margaret Island. The visitor centre is open until November 4th. To reach it, take line 8E from Ferenciek tere and follow the instructions featured in this article.
Do a good deed by eating out
Dining and doing good go hand-in-hand in Budapest. During September and October, three of the city’s Marriott-branded hotels will donate one euro to charity for every lunch and dinner served to guests. Deák St. Kitchen in The Ritz-Carlton, Peppers Mediterranean Grill in the Marriott Hotel and Oléo Pazzo Mediterranean Bistro in the Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center are all part of the You Eat, We Give initiative, aiming to raise 400,000 euros for youth charities across Europe in 2018. The funds will benefit underprivileged young adults through the Youth Programmes of the SOS Children’s Village. Meanwhile, Budapest’s Empathy Café run by the Hungarian Red Cross is a year-round destination for philanthropic activities.
Join public ceremonies on October 23rd
On October 23rd, historic Budapest locations welcome the public with free events to honour the heroic insurrection by Hungarians against the oppressive Soviet regime in 1956. From a solemn flag-raising ceremony on Kossuth tér to free guided tours around Parliament and special displays at the House of Terror Museum, diverse attractions evoke Hungarian history and highlight events and locations of the Uprising. Also on this day, other major museums offer free admission to visitors.
Eat inventive sweets
The country’s traditional creamy pastries are being reinvented at classic and modern confectioneries. As Gerbeaud celebrates its 160 years in business, this iconic outlet has introduced the newly blended Cacao Barry Or Noir 1858, a dessert created in collaboration with French chocolatiers. New-wave confectionery Desszert.Neked has recently invited the acclaimed pastry chef of the High Note SkyBar to create a new treat for them, the pyramid-shaped Elvis Presley. This sweet fantasy contains hazelnut, banana and bacon. Meanwhile, a new Szamos cake made with white chocolate and grapes has just received the title of Budapest’s Best Dessert at a recent competition.
Discover the Black Food Festival
Those who visit Budapest can come over to the dark side as coal-coloured food and drinks star at a new festival. On November 4th, Flow Specialty Coffee Bar hosts the city's first Black Food Festival, featuring chocolate, beans, rice, garlic, ice cream and crisps – all black, of course. In line with the bar’s principles, the treats served here will not contain any ingredient of animal origin. DJs spin hits during the event that runs from 3pm to 9pm. By the end of this one-day fiesta, a jury will select the Black Food and Black Drink of 2018.
Attend the CAFe Budapest Festival
From jazz to pop music, and from video exhibitions to contemporary-circus shows, diverse events take place at various locations citywide between October 5th and 21st for the CAFe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival. Stage performances brighten major Budapest locations, including the legendary Liszt Academy, contemporary Palace of Arts, the state-of-the-art Budapest Music Center and the A38 Ship, a one-time cargo boat. Performers include Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds and the local Recirquel company, The Hungarian National Gallery, Ludwig Museum and numerous independent institutions welcome the public with displays of art.