Budapest never sleeps but the city is even more alive during the warmer months. In spring, activities start flourishing citywide, many of them taking place alfresco. Beginning on March 23rd, a handicraft fair draws browsers to focal Vörösmarty Square, and a month later a cycling crowd conquers major thoroughfares for the I Bike Budapest festival. Meanwhile, a myriad outdoor thermal pools welcome soakers late into the night. The upcoming months also bring you English-language theater shows, new organic wines and much more. Find out how to fill your calendar for the weeks ahead.
Admire artistic images during the Budapest Photo Festival
Through April 20th, renowned representatives of the photographic arts congregate in Budapest to honor Hungary’s pictorial heritage through exhilarating exhibitions, workshops and photo-shooting sessions. Camera aficionados can admire the collection of classic and contemporary images collated for the Budapest Photo Festival, distributed across art galleries and institutions citywide. A highlight of the event is temporary Kunsthalle showcase Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters. The display features pictures by American star photographer Sandro Miller, taken of long-time friend and Hollywood legend, John Malkovich and his iconic transformations. A snappy event to find people you click with.
Submerge under steamy starlight at the city’s baths
Several thermal baths keep their naturally heated zones open long after sunset to please night owls. The outdoor pools at guidebook-superstar Széchenyi Baths are always open until 10pm, and from the beginning of March, the indoor thermal area with a dozen pools, steam cabins and saunas also welcome visitors until the same time. Rudas Baths in Buda offer late-night soaking every Friday and Saturday when the pools are accessible until 4am, while the panoramic hot tub on the rooftop is open until 10pm every day. As part of a special series of events, on March 23rd, bathers can enjoy the hot-water pools and range of healing amenities at the Lukács Baths until 2am.
Buy handmade souvenirs at the Budapest Spring Fair
Between March 23rd and April 22nd, wooden stalls enhance central Vörösmarty tér that transforms into a grand bazaar for offering a wide variety of handcrafted merchandise. The Budapest Spring Fair presents creative pottery, fashion accessories and delicate Easter decorations. In addition to providing plenty of opportunities for shopping, Magyar artisans invite browsers to admire live demonstrations as they present how these items are made. But you can also come here to savor local flavors such as goulash and cabbage-based dishes prepared on-site. Concerts and folk-dance shows make this alfresco event complete.
Watch an English-language theater show
An ever-growing number of cultural hotspots welcomes English-friendly plays in Budapest. Between April 10th and 29th, troupes from around the world gather in Hungary’s capital for the annual Madách International Theater Meeting, attracting acts from Italy to Estonia and from Belgium to Russia, most shows playing with English surtitles. In May and June, the local DramaWorks English-language school for budding performers shows musicals presented by casts of a broad age group. Meanwhile, the Erkel Theater, Katona József Theater and Trafó are among the venues presenting locally produced performances and adaptations of international productions also suitable for English-speaking audiences.
Taste Hungarian street food at recently opened eateries
As a gastronomy boom has been transforming the city’s culinary scene, a cornucopia of street-food treats has been popping up across town. Hungarian dishes are keeping up with this urban revolution, where everyday local fare appears in new shapes and sizes, also suitable for enjoying on the hoof. One of these new grab-and-go hangouts is Pöriző near Arany János utca metro station, where chicken and beef stews are filled into soft pancakes. Meanwhile at Paradicsom, a lecsó stew of tomatoes, peppers, onion and paprika comes to you in a handy paper cup. But if hunger strikes while immersed in the city’s party vortex, you can stop by Lángosh until late at night to grab a disc-shaped, deep-fried dough slathered with sour cream and cheese, topped with cabbage or filled with creamy carbonara sauce.
Join the city’s biggest bike festival
On April 22nd, the major thoroughfares of the city will be cleared of cars to welcome cyclists of all ages for the I Bike Budapest procession. Coinciding with Earth Day, the festival kicks off at Tabán at 3pm, where the participating masses set off to cross to the Pest side of town by pedalling over Elizabeth Bridge. The planned route released by festival organizers also incorporates Chain Bridge, Andrássy út and Buda Castle Tunnel. The fiesta then concludes at City Park, where exhausted bikers can join a public picnic event with music, food and drinks. This immensely popular mass-cycling event began in Budapest in 2004 and attracts a growing number of participants to celebrate pedal power and draw attention to the continuing need for creating better bike routes in Budapest.
Stay at newly opened hotels
As visitor numbers rocket in the Hungarian capital, setting up new accommodations in the city has never been as crucial as in recent years. In this regard, the opening of Hotel Clark was a highly anticipated event. The four-star property just steps away from the Buda side of Chain Bridge is complete with a modern restaurant, a panoramic fitness room, and 24-hour concierge services. Then in March, District VII added a futuristic lodging: from booking to checking-in and controlling room temperatures, everything can be managed through a mobile app at KViHotel. And for those who want to stay close to the city’s major air transport hub, Ibis Styles Budapest Airport provides soundproofed rooms, an international eatery, and most importantly, easy access to Terminal 2.
Tour classic buildings during Budapest100
Many of the city’s historic buildings house residential apartments or offices, which means they are closed to the public on ordinary days. However, thanks to an intriguing initiative that takes place in Budapest every year, a fair number of these edifices becomes accessible to anyone for a weekend, so individuals and groups can take a tour inside for a closer view of the distinctive architecture and design. This spring, the Budapest100 events on May 5th and 6th are mostly concentrated around 24 of the city’s squares. Activities taking place for the occasion should unveil lesser-known detail of the buildings located at these hubs.
Try one (or more) innovative sweets
Long gone are the days when Budapest’s dessert selection was restricted to Hungarian classics such as Dobos cake or somlói galuska. Thanks to the city’s sweet-toothed entrepreneurs, many local treats are now made with a twist. Hungarian kürtőskalács (chimney cake) is an old-time Magyar favorite and a small shop on Andrássy út called Street Cakes continually reinvents this staple food by adding a wealthy mix of calorie-boosting fillings. Then there are those hangouts you’ll appreciate for their creative take on sweets that have earned their popularity outside Hungary. Are you into bubble waffles? At Waffle & Love you can enjoy these Instagram-star confections drenched with chocolate, vanilla sauce or whipped cream. Do you feel you can’t live without Dutch poffertjes? Thanks to Waffle Dog, these mouth-watering mini pancakes are now available in Budapest.
Sip organic wines at Gozsdu Udvar
With a focus on Hungarian labels, popular Budapest hangout DiVino is now presenting red, white and rosé wines by young domestic winemakers. This fine selection has been made according to the specific requirements that make these wines readily categorized as organic. At its Gozsdu Udvar location, the bar has recently introduced new bottles containing wines made according to organic cultivation processes from all over the country, including the sun-kissed slopes of Villány, the premier vineyards of Tokaj, and Etyek, a rustic community 30 kilometers from Budapest. Some producers have gone the extra mile and are gradually introducing biodynamic farming into their daily procedure, including holistic concepts, into the cultivation process. Ask DiVino staff to recommend a wine suitable to your taste.
Party at the best Budapest clubs
The Heineken Budapest Nightlife Awards selects the city’s best party hangouts every year. Voting online, local bargoers choose their favorite hangouts in select categories that include late-night destinations for dancing. In 2018, Ötkert topped the list for Best Big Club. This popular District V hangout was followed by runner-up Akvárium Klub on bustling Erzsébet tér and District VII electronica hotspot Tesla on the third place, all awaiting revelers with pulsating music and top parties. If you fancy letting your hair down at lesser-known locales, then techno-focused AETHER, underground LÄRM and BARhole Music for acoustic attractions should be in your itinerary, especially after each earned top rankings in the Best Small Club category.