A city of constant buzz, Budapest takes things up a gear in spring, the season of culinary fairs and community-based festivals. Touring town during the upcoming months may take you to a sunlit cocktail bar, an exhibition honouring Renaissance master Michelangelo or to a little-known vantage point in Buda Castle. Here’s what’s on in Budapest this spring.
Enjoy the first rays of sun on a café terrace
Café terraces in Budapest already offer the chance for guests to bask in the first rays of sunshine. Chairs and tables are now out at central live-music venue Akvárium Klub, café-and-flower shop fusion Smúz by Parliament and riverfront cocktail bar KIOSK. See here for more locations, featuring sun-splashed terraces for alfresco lounging.
Admire inspiring images for the Budapest Photo Festival
Through 20 April, the Budapest Photo Festival honours Hungary’s pictorial heritage with a showcase of this diverse art from classic to contemporary. Dozens of galleries host exhibitions covering landscape, food and press photos. Most notable is a display of the works by cult American filmmaker David Lynch, on view at the Kunsthalle.
Cross Budapest’s bridges for essential sightseeing
A city of grandiose spans, Budapest is widely recognised for guidebook-star Chain Bridge connecting downtown Pest with Castle Hill. Another prominent crossing is curvaceous Liberty Bridge, the link between the Great Market Hall and Gellért Baths. Serving the island of the same name, Margaret Bridge is also worth discovering while you are in Budapest.
See Budapest turn off the lights for Earth Hour
On 30 March, lights illuminating Buda Castle, Chain Bridge and Parliament will be turned off for Earth Hour, a planet-friendly initiative run by global conservationists WWF worldwide to shine a light on climate change with an hour-long power cut starting at 8:30pm. This powerful campaign is also joined by restaurants that close their non-essential lights and organise candlelit dinners – a list here shows the participating venues.
Relish an unbeatable panorama from the National Gallery
When touring the National Gallery, visitors can go up to its colossal cupola for the dome terrace, providing far-reaching views over Buda, the Danube bridges and the Pest cityscape. This little-known vantage point is open between April and November, weather permitting. Meanwhile, if you want to make the most of your tour of the gallery’s permanent show, see this article.
Sip coffee at the reopened Lotz Hall
Elaborate frescoes by renowned Hungarian painter Károly Lotz decorate one of Budapest’s most elegant cafés, the Lotz Hall, that recently reopened as the Café Párisi on showcase boulevard Andrássy út. Guests can sip melange and sample the Hungarian Dobos cake beneath Belle-Époque chandeliers and amid grandiose mirrors at this former department store of classic elegance.
See Michelangelo at the Museum of Fine Arts
A big-hitting exhibition is coming to the Museum of Fine Arts, recently revamped and reopened. On loan from the Louvre, the Uffizi and the British Museum, 80 drawings by Michelangelo will be on view from 6 April for nearly three months until 30 June. The Triumph of the Body display should draw bumper crowds to the museum to see works by the genius of the Italian Renaissance.
Enjoy breakfast served by robots
Recently opened Enjoy Café works with artificial intelligence by having a fleet of human-sized robots as part of their staff, a brand new phenomenon in Budapest. To host and serve guests, a trio of digitally controlled creatures provide a virtual taste of the future during any breakfast time here. Smaller robots offer more entertainment by doing push-ups and performing dance steps.
Buy a ticket for the Budapest Spring Festival
A dynamic series of world-class concerts, edgy exhibitions and shows, the Budapest Spring Festival is a contemporary urban celebration. Topping the bill for this event in April is American dance troupe BANDALOOP, who present an aerial performance on the Müpa façade and later onstage. Also confirmed for the festival are acclaimed composer Eric Whitacre and Manchester electronica band GoGo Penguin. See here for programme details and ticket information.
Be part of the Sakura celebrations
Every year, crowds congregate under blossoming cherry trees at the ELTE Botanical Garden (Füvészkert), hosting the Sakura Celebrations. Inspiration for the festival comes from the age-old Japanese Hanami traditions of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers amid outdoor gatherings. Join the picnic and accompanying Asian-style events on 6-7 April or a week later.
Visit exhibitions during Budapest Art Week
Between 9 and 14 April, a special wristband grants access to many of the city’s museums and art galleries, featuring abundant exhibitions and cultural events for Budapest Art Week. Meet the artists, join gallery tours and see newly installed displays over this enlightening series spanning six days.
Sign up for the spring half marathon
Margaret Island is the starting line for Telekom Vivicittà, a two-day jogging event calling on runners to challenge themselves over diverse distances, including the ten-kilometre Vivicittà and the 21-kilometre half marathon, both taking place on Sunday, 14 April. The day before, you can sign up to join less onerous races. For 2018, runners came from 85 countries.
Sample sweets from all over the world
In recent years, Budapest has become a melting pot for international cuisine, even when it comes to cakes and bakery. Pastel de nata and pampilho are on offer at Lisboa, a Portuguese bakery in Gozsdu Udvar. Party central is also where you find a sweet taste of Iran by trying Persian-style baklava, sticky bamieh and flaky zaban. For Scandinavian croissants, sweet, savoury or stuffed, head to Freyja.
Join the I Bike Budapest mass-cycling event
Promoting cycling in town, I Bike Budapest prompts thousands to hop on a two-wheeler and pedal through the city centre with a like-minded crowd. For the event, taking place this year on 28 April, roads covered by the itinerary are closed to cars. This mass-cycling attraction is also being staged to raise awareness of the need for better biking conditions in Budapest.
Ascend János Hill by chairlift
An alternative mode of transport in the Buda hills, the Chairlift (Libegő) whisks passengers up towards the summit of János Hill in about 15 minutes. Operated by the BKV transport company, this open-air conveyance provides panoramic views of the Buda surroundings, while it's also the most fun way to reach Elizabeth Lookout Tower. Bus 291 takes 25 minutes to run from Nyugati station to its final stop at the lower terminus of the Chairlift.
Celebrate the Bauhaus centenary for Budapest100
On 4-6 May, historic Budapest buildings are open to anyone to take a tour inside for a closer view of their distinctive architecture and design. For 2019, Budapest100 unveils lesser-known details of the city’s Bauhaus buildings, constructed according to the architectural style founded in Germany a century ago. English-friendly guided tours are also available and all events are free.
Indulge in hedonistic pleasures at the Gourmet Festival
Paprika, beer and crusty bread are the three main themes for this year’s Gourmet Festival, an annual deluxe picnic offering prime eats created by top Hungarian and international restaurants, and their chefs. The event is hosted by Buda’s Millenáris Park, where over 50 restaurants set up stalls from 16 to 19 May.
See what the future holds at Brain Bar Budapest
Are we getting addicted to information? Will our diet destroy the planet? Brain Bar 2019 should provide the answers to all of these questions, and more. Speakers at this grand festival on the future include accomplished marketing guru Frank Cooper, palaeontologist and Jurassic Park advisor Jack Horner and Ben Goertzel, the co-creator of humanoid robot Sofia. The event takes place at Corvinus University on 30-31 May.
Eat and drink to your heart’s content at the Food Truck Show
On 3-5 May, the Kincsem Park racecourse transforms into a huge communal barbecue for the Budapest Food Truck Show. Zesty burgers, succulent seafood and Asian noodles are served from special vehicles equipped with facilities for cooking and selling delicacies, including vegetarian and vegan treats. Horse- and greyhound racing add a touch of adrenaline to this gastronomic gathering.
Catch Muse rocking Budapest
As part of their Simulation Theory world tour, British rock icons Muse hit Budapest. Winners of multiple music awards, including two Grammys, the performers of Supermassive Black Hole and The Dark Side tread the boards at the Budapest Aréna on 28 May. Tickets for the show go for 14,900 forints on the Live Nation page. Visit the Muse website for more details.