While spring was transformed by the pandemic, summer sees Budapest slowly opening up. While many of the season’s signature events simply cannot happen – see you in 2021, Sziget! – you can still splash at the baths, cycle freely around the city and learn how to wakeboard. Oh, and don’t forget to try an ice cream or two… Have fun – but stay safe!
Peruse an exotic garden
If you prefer a little greenery within the city, there are loads of options to escape the bustle of everyday life and find solace in the calm of plants, shrubs, trees and flowers. Margaret Island is home to a lush and spectacular Japanese Garden, with its statue of seated girl overlooking the fish pond, while the ELTE Botanical Gardens in District VIII has everything from cacti to water lilies, lush ferns, towering banana trees and more. The southern slope of Gellért Hill is home to the Buda Arboretum (only individual visits are allowed due to the coronavirus). Finally, the Japanese Garden has just reopened in Zugló, an oasis of authentic Oriental greenery, rife with traditional symbolism.
Admire elegant façades
Warm summer weather is the perfect time for putting on your most comfortable shoes, and exploring the city’s façades with a camera in hand. From iconic Art Nouveau to the remnants of medieval homesteads, the architecture of Budapest is as breathtaking as it is diverse. If the idea of walking all around town is a little daunting, why not rent a bike and see the city from the comfort of two wheels?
Savour tasty ice cream
Summer is not complete without a scoop of your favourite flavour, and Budapest is full to the brim of the cone with ice-cream outlets. From creamy artisanal specialities to light, fresh gelati, there’s something to appeal to everyone’s taste buds. This list of 19 ice cream shops in the city only brushes the surface, so get out there and get tasting!
Work out in the park
Fitness gyms are beginning to reopen in the city, but many are still wary of spending too much time indoors around strangers. Luckily, the open-air parks in the city are the perfect solution: you can get a quality workout in without every setting foot indoors! Plus you get the fresh air, the sound of the birds, and a bit of sunshine for that extra vitamin D. Find your next workout location on this interactive map of the city, which shows all the outdoor fitness locations in the city.
See the sights free of tourists
If you get up on a pleasant summer morning and bemoan the fact that all the nice places in town are going to be swarming with tourists, then this is your year. Places like the Fishermen’s Bastion and Heroes’ Square, normally so cluttered with selfie sticks that it takes ten minutes to walk a few steps, are now completely open. Take a picnic and enjoy the view in peace, but make sure to document the experience with your camera because in a couple of years, no one will believe you!
Watch a drive-in movie
For the time being, although restrictions are slowly being lifted, you can watch classic films and new releases at a number of recently opened social distancing-friendly drive-in cinemas. The most English-friendly are at the Budapest Rooftop Cinema, where screenings take place in the car park of the Westend mall behind Nyugati station – those without cars can hire their own limo for the length of the film. Other locations include Újpest market on Fridays and Saturdays, the Panam drive-in cinema is at the Árkád mall and the Lupa Beach outside Budapest at Budakeszi.
Relax like it was the Med
Sadly, the Mediterranean and its beaches feel even further away this summer. But Budapest has a few streets and spots that provide the wonderful atmosphere that evokes the warmer climes of Spain or Italy in summer. You don’t have to miss out on lounging on lovely terraces or sipping cool cocktails in romantic settings. Our top list featuring Budapest’s most Mediterranean spaces should help you find these kinds of places without having to pack your passport.
Dine by the Danube
Summer can’t be summer without sitting by the river, taking in the classic sights around town or discovering a historic destination on the Danube Bend. There are great spots to tuck into classic Hungarian beach food, such as lángos and fried hake – the Római part is one, with plenty of dining options. We list our favourite restaurants on the Danube Bend here, where you can find everything from seafood to BBQ and traditional Hungarian cuisine.
Take to two wheels
One of the positive aspects of the coronavirus crisis was the establishment of new, temporary cycle lanes on Bartók Béla út, Villányi út, the Grand Boulevard, Tétényi út and Üllői út. The new cycle routes further increased the cycling spirit of those in the capital, with more and more people hopping on two wheels instead of taking the car. Biking is not only a great way to get around in the city, but also an essential summer activity. And with citywide bike hire facility MOL Bubi dropping their prices and simplifying their structure, short hops are even easier.
Cycle and stroll the Danube bank
As announced in May, the Pest embankment between Margaret Bridge and Közraktár utca past Fővám tér will be closed to motorists every Saturday and Sunday until September. Pedestrians, cyclists and skaters can roam around freely along the river, and there will also be community events set up by urban activists Valyo.
Try a water sport
If you’ve been thinking about giving water sports a try, now’s the time. There are more and more options in and around Budapest for activities such as wakeboarding at Omszk Lake and Lupa Beach, while those who wish to rent out a kayak or a canoe should visit the Rómaifürdő SE or the Béke Csónakház, also at Római Part. SUP, stand up paddle, is another great way to have fun on the water –SUP Budapest and Supremium can cater to your needs.
Make a splash at the baths
Sink spritzers on the terrace
One of the first signs that Budapest was opening up was the much anticipated unveiling of the city’s café and bar terraces. The Akvárium right on Erzsébet tér, the Szalonspicc behind the Mammut mall and Bartók on busy Bartók Béla út in Buda were all quick out of the traps when it came to spacing out the tables. Now places can open indoors as well, of course – but hey, it’s nice outside. It’s spritzer season!