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50 best things to do in Budapest in summer

Summer’s here and you’re in Budapest! Here’s where to find the best festivals, the buzziest outdoor parties, the splashiest pools and all the big-name concerts. In between, chill in City Park, ride the Chairlift, take in a panoramic sunset – and even learn how to surf.

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Ride panoramic tram 2

One of the most panoramic tram journeys in the world, the rattling old-school streetcars of tram 2 are a beautiful and cheap way to see the sights of Budapest. Scooting alongside the Danube, the trip showcases the historic landmarks above the Buda bank, all for a price of a regular transport ticket. Starting at Jaszai Mári tér by Margaret Bridge, the route skirts past Parliament and the five-star hotels of the Pest embankment, taking in Chain Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge and Liberty Bridge, before heading south past Petőfi Bridge to the National Theatre.

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Laze around a pop-up park

On a cobblestoned square in the heart of Budapest, a pop-up park has opened for summer, beckoning passers-by to chill on colourful wave-shaped wooden seats. Designed by the creative crew of Hello Wood, this rainbow-coloured recreation zone on Városháza Park makes lazing around cooler than ever. Accessed free of charge, dotted with palm trees and sunshades, the park offers ping-pong, Teqball and a street-workout facility with a rubber floor. More details

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Bask in a Budapest sunset over a panoramic cocktail

Offering breathtaking views of Budapest landmarks, rooftop hangouts across the city come to life in summer. Some are located atop luxury hotels, others above historic buildings at prestigious locations. These include the 360 Bar on Andrássy út, the High Note Sky Bar crowning the Aria Hotel and the Intermezzo occupying the roof of the Hotel President. Overlooking Chain Bridge on the Buda side, LEO allows you to take in the Pest cityscape while sat amid lush greenery. Quality cocktails feature throughout – and top-notch reds and whites at the St. Andrea Wine & Skybar. More details 

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Make a splash on Lupa Beach

For the third year running, palm-lined, sandy Lupa Beach brings the seaside closer to Budapest. Spread over two kilometres of waterfront near Budakalász, this leisure park offers a real holiday experience. Like any seaside resort, there are sports a-plenty, including beach volleyball and handball, but you’ll also find street workout and teqball. There’s also the biggest wakeboard centre in the region, flyboarding, diving, plus any number of buffets, restaurants and cocktail bars.

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Devour lángos

It’s what a Hungarian summer’s all about. Two thousand calories, irresistible enjoyment and instant regret crammed into a deep-fried dough – this is lángos, a national dish and the superstar of local street food. Devoured all-year round, the lángos sees its popularity peak in summer when long queues stretch around the snack stands at lidos. Drenched in as much oil as the body can possibly handle and slathered with a messy assembly of calorie-busting toppings, it’s as irresistible as it sounds. More details

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Ride the Chairlift over the Buda hills

When summer in the city becomes overwhelming, you can escape the crowds with an easy day trip to the Buda hills, where the Zugliget Chairlift will take you up the side of János Hill in about 15 minutes. From here, the Erzsébet Lookout Tower, the highest point in Budapest, can be reached after a calf-strengthening uphill walk. It can be reached by taking bus 291 from Nyugati station to its final stop. Whether for a special date or just a relaxed outing in Buda – a trip on the Chairlift is a unique experience.

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Take a VR tour through the Castle District

A unique VR tour allows you to take a trip back in time and explore the eventful past of Budapest’s most historic neighbourhood, the Castle District. Battles, sieges, wars, revolts and terror are all brought back to life – you just need to don the goggles. Beginning at the office on Lánchíd utca, the tour guides you through the seven most important eras of Hungarian history, from the 13th century to the 1956 Revolution, so that you can relive it all first-hand. When you stop and put your goggles on, you travel back in time to watch it all happen right where you’re standing. More details

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Sip a top-quality G&T

Summer isn’t summer without a G&T – and a new specialist spirits bar in Budapest’s party quarter, Schrödinger macskája can provide a number of high-end brands to sip and take the edge off the heat. Cool and sleek, Schrödinger’s Cat is overseen by owner-bartender Martin Schlnágl, happy to guide you around the world of top-quality spirits at this District VII venue. Served in 3- and 5cl glasses, drinks here are ideal for a warm-up before a big night out. More details

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Party on the Pride March

The Budapest Pride Festival is a month-long extravaganza set up to celebrate LGBTQ culture and to generate support. More than 100 events, including concerts, performances, talks and workshops, all feature before the festival is brought to a colourful conclusion by the grand parade, the Budapest Pride March, on 6 July. The procession normally spans City Park and Kossuth tér by Parliament, the crowd marching all along Andrássy út, the city’s showcase avenue, while music plays and people parade in costumes. After the procession, an alfresco Rainbow Party awaits revellers at Budapest Park. For more details and the full schedule, check out the Budapest Pride website. More details

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Take the plunge at an outdoor pool

Budapest is a city of spas, best enjoyed in summer, when these baths become family-friendly lidos, with slides, wave pools and sunbathing zones. Many feature freshly added amenities, some, such as Csillaghegy and Dagály, have been overhauled completely over the last year. The outdoor plunge zone of the Palatinus on Margaret Island is as synonymous with a Budapest summer as lángos and ice cream while the legendary Széchenyi in the City Park fills to the brim – though this won’t stop old regulars playing chess in the water. Many open until late, the main ones until 10pm. More details

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Cool down with a delicious ice cream

Budapest specialises in natural, traditionally made, quality ice creams and you’ll find something to your taste in almost every part of town. Enjoy rose-petal shaped inventions at Gelarto Rosa (‘Give in to temptation!’), superfood variations at popular Fragola and creative combinations at three artisanal ice-cream outlets opened in recent months – including up to 100 varieties at Fagyi. All kinds of sprinkles, cones and sauces are also on offer, as are lactose- and sugar-free options. More details

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Party alfresco with live sounds

Summer sees Budapest, and its party spots, move outdoors. If you’d rather not pay for a concert ticket, you can always catch live sounds on the top deck of the A38 Ship, a music venue and events boat moored near Petőfi Bridge, or at popular party spot Pontoon near Chain Bridge. Near Nyugati station, alfresco drinking hangout Zsiráf also stages live sounds. Upstream from the A38, the TRIP Boat has its own cultural agenda, while party organisers Random Trip stage a regular Tuesday music sessions on the terrace of Akvárium, right in the city centre. On the Buda side, you’ll also find live music on Tuesdays, outside the Hadik coffeehouse, close to the constant terrace bustle of Bartók Béla út. More details

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Ride the Children’s Railway

Timeless and charming whatever the season, connecting some of the loveliest spots in the Buda hills, the Children’s Railway (Gyermekvasút) is one of Budapest’s most unique attractions. The line runs from Széchenyi Hill to Hűvösvölgy, crossing with the Cogwheel Railway and serving Normafa and János Hill. The lookout points, forest playgrounds, places of pilgrimage and other hilly attractions lie close to stations, making the Children’s Railway the ideal jumping-off point for a day’s outing. And, of course, it’s staffed by schoolchildren, who check tickets and act as guards. Grown-ups do the driving.

We just can’t keep Sting away from Budapest. After a successful free show with Shaggy a few months ago on Heroes’ Square, the former Police frontman has another Budapest concert lined up for the summer. On 2 July, the Grammy-winning singer brings his retrospective My Songs tour to the Papp László Aréna, where he will be taking the stage with his own band. From Englishman In New York to Every Breath You Take, the set should include Sting’s biggest hits for everyone to sing along to. Tickets are currently still available from 12,900 forints on the Live Nation website. 

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Take a hike

To get close to nature and possibly scale a panoramic lookout tower at the same time, Budapest and surroundings can offer a number of hiking trails and destinations, most snaking over the Buda hills. Favourite choices include Normafa and János Hill but take bus 65 from Kolosy tér in Óbuda to the Fenyőgyöngye restaurant and you can join the National Blue Trail, with its outstanding views. More details

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Tuck into classic Hungarian cake

Simply irresistible any time of year, Hungarian cakes are renowned for their fine, decorative confections, influenced by Austrian and French pastry making with that unique Magyar touch. From the caramel-glazed Dobos torte to the masterfully layered zserbó slice, classic cakes are essential to local gastronomy. You can sample the cream of these delicacies at traditional pastry shops around the city centre or at sweet spots known only to locals. More details

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Try an exciting new sport

For 2019, Budapest is European Capital of Sport, and what better way to celebrate this than try out a new sport at all kinds of scenic locations across the city. There’s indoor skydiving, paragliding, even surfing. Within easy reach of the city centre, you can also find caving, wakeboarding and mountain biking. In nearly all cases, equipment can be rented on-site, and basic training is given. More details

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Find a hidden terrace for summer lunch

By a park, at the foot of a hill, alongside a pretty garden, there’s nothing better than beating a retreat to a restaurant terrace and escaping the heat of the day over an affordable lunch. While the city centre is full of busy terraces, there are a handful of lesser-known places only locals know, where a tranquil daytime meal can be had by all. More details

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Take a free walking tour

Discover Budapest on foot, always the best way to explore any city. Follow local guides who volunteer to show the city’s key landmarks and hidden secrets as part of a group tour. Many companies offer this tip-based service daily, in English and other languages. Free Budapest Walking Tours run two generic and a couple of themed trips. Booking is not required, just show up with a smile at the meeting point by the Budapest Eye.

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Relax in the National Museum gardens

One of Budapest’s major landmarks, where demonstrations took place as part of the 1848 Uprising, the stately Hungarian National Museum has long needed a brush-up. The constant traffic along this section of the Small Boulevard that takes its name has taken its toll over the decades. Now, after a major revamp, the gardens at the National Museum have reopened, providing the perfect spot to bask in the summer sunshine. New benches and water features sit amid urban greenery, five minutes from focal traffic hub Astoria. Small fountains complete the picture, while the side nearest Pollack Mihály tér is still being worked on, with a café due to open. More details

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Enjoy summer spritzers in the heart of town

Where there once was a bustling bus station, there are now two key venues where you can indulge in Hungary’s ultimate summer drink: fröccs, wine with bubbly soda water. Occupying pedestrianised Erzsébet tér, Fröccsterasz specialises in this seasonal cooler, just find a place on the spacious terrace. The other side of the communal water feature, Akvárium is more than just a late-night live-music venue and DJ club. The terrace tables on the huge staircase are packed from noon until the late hours with intertwined couples and chatty friends communing over the national tipple.

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Set up an impromptu picnic

During summer, Budapest’s green urban spaces spring to with life – couples share romantic moments, children run around playgrounds, and elderly people relax on a shaded bench. Passing by these spots of greenery, you might be inspired to spread out the picnic blanket and break out a few tasty treats for an improvised open-air feast. Options include Károlyi-kert in the heart of town, close to the National Museum and the student quarter, and Szent István Park, overlooking the Danube in up-and-coming District XIII. More details

23/50

Soak in a rooftop jacuzzi

At the foot of Gellért Hill, the panoramic jacuzzi and sun deck on the roof of Ottoman-era Rudas allows bathers to soak and gawp at the cityscape at the same time. A 21st-century overhaul and modernisation have been kind, retaining the Ottoman atmosphere while this lofty feature. Night bathing takes place between 10pm and 4am on Friday and Saturdays, though the sauna area only operates between 8am and 10pm. The Rudas is single-sex during the week (ladies on Tuesdays) and co-ed at weekend.

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Tuck into an alfresco meat-free meal

Set in Budapest’s party quarter, food-truck hub Vegan Garden is back in full swing for the summer, bringing chili non carne, magic mushroom burgers and aubergine shakshukas to the meat-free dining crowd. First launched in 2018 and aptly called Vegan Garden, this convivial culinary space provides a permanent parking spot for outlets selling culinary delights from around the world, Mexican, Indian and Hungarian, all of them plant-based. More details

25/50

Go for a spin on Budapest’s big wheel

A huge Ferris wheel in the middle of Budapest provides carnival fun and a fine panorama over Deák tér, Andrássy út, the Basilica and the Buda hills. A total of 42 six-person cabins reach a height of 65 metres and a ticket is valid for three complete revolutions of the wheel. Open from mid morning until way after dark, the Budapest Eye becomes an illuminated backdrop to the city’s nightlife, and even those who don’t take the rotating ride can still enjoy admiring the LED-lit spectacle after the sun goes down.

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Do lunch at the Downtown Market

Killing two birds with one stone, at Budapest’s Downtown Market you can shop then tuck into quality gastro fare for lunch. Renowned chef Lajos Bíró initiated this gastronomic transformation, expanded by Michelin-starred chef Tamás Széll at the Stand25 Bisztró, winner of a Bib Gourmand from Michelin. In recent months, marketgoers have been able to sample sushi at Husikám, have a champagne breakfast at Champoint 4 monkeys and enjoy a specialty coffee at By Beans. More details

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Take a Danube cruise

From sightseeing trips along the city’s downtown waterway to thrilling speedboat rides, Budapest boat companies offer a cornucopia of voyages. Run by the Mahart riverboat services, the Duna Corso cruise takes passengers on a one-hour leisurely tour several times a day. Trips start at the Vigadó tér docking station and shuttle between Margaret Bridge and Rákóczi Bridge.

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Try top tipples at the Budapest Wine Festival

Hungary’s grandest wine gala takes place in the majestic location of the cobblestoned terraces surrounding the Royal Palace in the Castle District, where four days of imbibing, folk music and dancing are backdropped by unbeatable views over the city. Hungary’s top winemakers and some of their global counterparts gather to sample their year’s work. Meet the most famous names in the business while the warming rays of September sunshine envelop these historic surroundings. From 5 September. More details

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Go rowing in City Park

Városliget (City Park) has been attracting generations of locals seeking green space and tranquillity for over a century. Once the main venue for the 1896 millennial celebrations, today this urban oasis contains two lakes, one immediately behind Heroes’ Square, the other by Vajdahunyad Castle. If you don’t fancy taking a rowboat out with your loved one, you can just sit and feed the ducks and enjoy cool shade by the water.

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Take the kids to Budapest Zoo

Budapest Zoo opened its gates in 1866, making it one of the oldest of its kind in the world. As well as a menagerie, the zoo is also an architectural wonder, the Art Nouveau buildings of the early 1900s designed by Károly Kós and others. Visit the Palm House for its tropical birds and wildlife from the Americas. All tolled, some 1,000 creatures can be observed – look out for new-borns and feeding times. Other attractions include Holnemvolt Castle, which combines vintage rides with a petting zoo, and a recently installed Shark School, showing young marine predators interacting with trainers and other aquatic animals.

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Go alfresco and see a show on Margaret Island

The city’s green heart, Margaret Island lies in the middle of the Danube between Margaret Bridge and Árpád Bridge. Nearly everything here is geared to relaxation in some way or other – the Hajós Alfréd National Sports Swimming Pool, the popular Palatinus lido, the petting zoo, the musical fountain and the Japanese Garden. Featuring a rubberised jogging track nearly five kilometres long, pedalo rental and cycle paths, not to mention any number of picnic places, Margaret Island is ideal for a summer’s day. Towards the north end of the island, in the shadow of the Water Tower, an open-air concert venue hosts the Budapest Summer Festival. This year it features star violinist Nicola Benedetti on 4 July, an opera gala on 20 July and the National Georgian Ballet on 16 and 17 August.

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Admire sunset from Citadella

From almost any point in Budapest, look up and you see the statue of Lady Liberty, a palm frond raised high above her head. Set atop Gellért Hill this emblematic symbol of Budapest stands before the Habsburg-built fortress of Citadella. As well as a vantage point for Austrian forces, this lookout point is a prime location for wedding photos, couples backdropped by the beautiful bridges straddling the curving Danube. Once the last buses have whisked away the tourist hordes, Citadella is the ideal destination to bask in that slowly setting, orange-glowing summer sunset as it illuminates one of the world’s most gorgeous cityscapes. It’s a steep climb up, or let bus 27 do most of the work from Móricz Zsigmond körtér to the Búsuló Juhász (Citadella) stop within easy reach of the top.

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See the fastest race in town

Always in the height of summer, the Formula 1 circus comes to Budapest when the Hungaroring hosts the Hungarian Grand Prix. Venue for the event since it was established as Formula 1’s first venture behind the Iron Curtain in 1986, the Hungaroring is located outside Budapest in Mogyoród. Given the balmy conditions and the city’s penchant for a party, the Hungarian Grand Prix is always a fans’ favourite, with special events taking place across the city. For those who can’t make it out to Mogyoród by car, free shuttle bus, taxi or helicopter, the Grand Prix is broadcast live at numerous sports bars around Budapest. The event takes place during the first weekend in August – buy tickets .

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Scale the dome of the National Gallery

Open during the warmer months, the cupola hall of the National Gallery allows visitors to climb the narrow staircase that winds up to a panoramic terrace. Here, by the somewhat discoloured green dome of the Royal Palace visible from around the city, you get far-reaching views over Buda, the Danube bridges and the Pest cityscape. It’s an attraction that even few locals know about. Inside, the cupola doubles up as an exhibition space. More details

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Tuck into a good ol’ Budapest barbecue

What’s summer without a good old barbecue? BpBARbq is a veritable feast for carnivores, who come from far and wide for the famed Reuben sandwich of smoked brisket and sour cabbage, the monster burger or the pulled pork sandwich. Zsolt Serényi and Roland Urbán cook up a storm with their D-Oven Pit Box, working with charcoal and small chunks of wood for that all-over smoke-infused flavour. The ‘D’ stands for duck – the famous Peking variety can be hung up in the oven with hooks. They don’t water down the sauces, either, putting into practice the complex yet thrilling skill that is BBQ technology rather than just something that is squirted out of a bottle. More details

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See the fireworks on August 20th

Every year on August 20th, fireworks blast across the night sky over Budapest. For the spectacular pyrotechnics show that evening, thousands gather at prime spots by the Danube, or even on the Danube itself, booking tables in alfresco restaurants or even rooms in hotels. During the day, processions, gastronomic gatherings and concerts are held at city landmarks, while major museums and Parliament offer free admission to visitors. The national holiday celebrates Hungary’s first king, St Stephen, and the foundation of the Magyar state. More details

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Catch all kinds of live music for free

Zenélő Budapest is a summer-long music initiative around Budapest, involving local virtuosos playing at 16 iconic locations around the city. Anyone passing the Várkert Bazaar, the Hungarian National Museum or Millenáris Park at the right time can look forward to live classical music, jazz or rock, all being performed for free. The series runs until 18 August. Among those taking part are the National Philharmonic, the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra, folk performers, jazz bands, Gypsy musicians and renowned choirs. More details

38/50

Soak away at a historic spa

Budapest’s historic thermal spas encapsulate centuries of bathing culture and provide a soothing experience at the same time. Making use of the natural thermal waters that make this city the spa capital of Europe, baths such as the Lukács, the Gellért and the sprawling Széchenyi allow you to relax tired muscles and soak away your worries,

39/50

Browse and dine at the Chinese Night Market

Beside Budapest’s Chinatown, the Monori Centre trading zone in District X, the aroma of exotic spices mingles in the air as unpretentious stalls do a roaring trade. At the regular Night Market set up each day after 5pm in summer, these eateries come together in a communal cooking party under a marquee, transforming the tent into a street-food spectacle. Hot pots, yakori dishes, spectacular seafood and bubble teas await, along with ginger-infused tripe, hot crayfish and spicy pork trotters. Expect an Oriental culinary jaunt and delightfully organised chaos near the Kőbánya railway overpass. More details

40/50

Zip around Budapest by electric scooter

For a trial period until 30 July, 200 lime-green electric scooters are available for zipping around Budapest. In a shared scheme also seen in Paris and London, you download an app to get one started. Find a scooter in the green area on the app’s map, between Gellért tér and Batthyány tér, and Bartók Béla út to Móricz Zsigmond körtér on the Buda side. On the Pest side, it’s between Boráros tér and Fővám tér, plus Kálvin tér. You can leave the scooters over a wider area indicated in red. The price varies – pay an initial 250 forints, followed by 50 forints per minute, usually up to around 1,000 forints. More details

41/50

Let loose at a ruin bar

Ruin bars and Budapest are now synonymous. This after-dark trend took off in the empty residential buildings and urban wastelands of District VII, where skip-found furniture, bohemian décor and DJ decks created a new genre of nightspot. Pioneered by the Szimpla Kert, elevated to industrial-scale proportions by the Fogas Ház/Instant complex, Budapest’s ruin bars buzz all summer long – although mainly with a foreign clientele these days. More details

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Spend the weekend at Liberty Bridge

Friends hang out in hammocks, musicians give impromptu concerts and couples canoodle and lovebirds tie the knot – the Liberty Bridge picnics are running again this summer. Since 2016, the city’s historic central span has turned into a car-free public hangout on certain weekends. This year, during every Saturday and Sunday in July, take a picnic, bring a guitar and be prepared for some spontaneous yoga. And it’s all free! More details

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Catch a major act at Budapest Park

With a line-up including Iggy, Ziggy Marley and 30 Seconds to Mars, the city’s prime outdoor concert venue Budapest Park is stronger than ever this summer. For the new season Budapest Park is looking funkier than ever, with a revamped design and graphics evoking the atmosphere of the 1990s. Offering a lot more than just a place to party, Budapest Park has installed three Skyboxes and two lounge terraces for those who want to chill and catch a top act at the same time. And after the show, you can dance till the sun comes up. An easy hop on trams 1 or 2 to Közvágóhíd, Budapest Park hosts 30 Seconds To Mars on 23 July, Iggy Pop the next day and Ziggy Marley on 30 July. More details

44/50

Observe animals in the great outdoors

Just past the Budapest city boundary, the Budakeszi Wildlife Park spreads over nearly 30 hectares, with watch posts and lookout towers to help you observe residents such as pheasants, steppe eagles, lynx and bear. Although this sprawling outdoor attraction mainly focuses on species native to Hungary and Carpathian Basin, creatures such as moose and bison have made their way here. Recently, they were joined by a new resident: Bella the snowy owl, from Ostrava in the Czech Republic. Usually at home on the northern tundra, snowy owls are rarely seen in Central-European zoos. To see Bella and her friends, take bus 22, 22A or 222 from Széll Kálmán tér and alight at Szanatórium utca. From there, it’s a 15-minute walk through the woods. More details

45/50

Go beserk to banging techno

While the biggest summer festivals around Hungary attract some of the world’s top pop and rock acts, hardly any focus purely on electronic music, particularly techno. This situation is resolved by the Katlan Festival, being staged 12-13 July, half-an-hour’s drive from Budapest at the Tarnoki Stone Quarry. A collaboration between the city’s Premier Club, the local Der Morgen techno events team and Rattus (‘Rat music for rad people’), Katlan promises hard and fast techno from the likes of SPFDJ and Terence Fixmer.

46/50

Watch a gravity-defying circus

Acclaimed Hungarian contemporary-circus company Recirquel have been highly active around Budapest since bringing home their critics’ award from the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. At the prestigious Müpa Palace of Arts on 7 July, Recirquel give two performances of Paris de Nuit. Influenced by Hungarian photographer Brassaï, the show recreates Paris between the wars, the audience sat on café tables around the gravity-defying cast. Spectacle is the word you’re looking for. The company return to Müpa on 13-14 September to stage Edinburgh smash, My Land. More details

47/50

Get active in the park

Budapest has the role of European Capital of Sport for 2019. Many of its parks and recreation zones have been renovated recently, most notably City Park, where sports courts are complemented by an outdoor public gym, a four-lane athletics track and an illuminated running course. While in term-time, local schools are given first priority, in summer you can usually play football, basketball and streetball to your heart’s content. Elsewhere in town, Normafa and Margaret Island have excellent rubberised tracks for jogging while Városmajor even has a parkour course. More details

48/50

Admire a Renoir masterpiece

On view until 20 August in the Michelangelo Hall of the revamped Museum of Fine Arts, Renoir: Reclining Nude celebrates the purchase of this famous painting. First displayed at the National Salon in 1907, the painting by foremost Impressionist Auguste Renoir wasn’t kept in Budapest then as there weren’t the funds to pay for it. Recently, more than a century later, this situation was rectified and Renoir’s masterpiece now has a permanent home here. The reconfigured Museum of Fine Arts is a must-visit in any case, with its magnificent Roman Hall and priceless items in the da Vinci Hall. More details

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Sip coffee at a historic coffeehouse

Budapest’s gilded palaces of coffee and cake, its coffeehouses are forever linked to the Hungarian literary heyday at the last turn of the century. The classiest coffeehouses in town include the New York on the Grand Boulevard, the Művész on showcase Andrássy út, theGerbeaud on focal Vörösmarty tér and the downtown Centrál.

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