There is something eerily exciting about descending deep into the Earth to venture along strange passages. Caves weave through Buda, from the Castle Hill to distant Pál-völgy. To mark the recent World Cavers’ Day, we explore the city’s three main underground attractions.


Castle Hill

Topped many of the city’s most notable landmarks – Buda Castle, Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion – below ground, Castle Hill looks something akin to Swiss cheese. Under the streets, three levels of cellars descend to a natural labyrinth. This joins a man-mad cave that houses the Hospital in the Rock, a museum of wax figures telling the history of this fascinating attraction, a bunker in the Cold War and filled with injured casualties during the Siege of Budapest and the Uprising of 1956. You can also take one of the regular tours offered by the Duna Ipoly National Park, exploring the tangled natural and political history of the cave system. These are Hungarian-only but you gain access to dark corners you would never find otherwise.


Szemlő-hegyi Cave

Tucked into the hillside above Kolosy tér in Óbuda, Szemlő-hegyi Cave features stone roses, pisolite and gypsum crystals, supporting the thermal water origin of the cave. Thanks to the air’s nearly 100% humidity and 12- degree temperatures, speleotherapy sessions have been held here since 1990. The entrance area is now surrounded by a buffer zone, where hikers can enjoy slides, a jungle gym, benches and a geological study trail. All kinds of obstacle courses can be tried, such as rope technology or ‘Climbing the Needle’, but the less brave can also choose from a variety of interactive attractions. The cave, partly accessible for the physically challenged, can be visited only within the framework of an hourly tour. You may buy a combined ticket to continue your adventure at the nearby Pál-völgy Cave.  


Pál-völgyi Cave

It was a clumsy sheep who discovered Pál-völgyi Cave in the summer of 1904, happily grazing away before disappearing into depths that extend for 30 kilometres. This opened up the system for explorers, citizens escaping war-time bombing, bats, elephants and crocodiles, the last two being stalagmite formations. There’s a shorter illuminated section for casual visitors, with cool temperatures and excellent acoustics, but those who want to don a jumpsuit and a headlamp can join a three-hour expedition – and be prepared for some serious crawling.