Summer is here, and we can’t get enough of spending time outdoors. The pleasant weather is drawing us out with magnetic force, and public places are crowded with sun-soakers – but is there any space out there to escape the urban hustle and bustle? Sure there is! Take an active hike out in the hills or chill poolside above it all; pedal a boat on the silent Danube backwaters or fly a kite in a wide-open airfield – all of these cool adventures and more await at hidden attractions found all around town.
Chill at a downtown rooftop pool
Sometimes we just need a bit of pampering without getting too far from the happening hub. For an urban panorama and a refreshing dip above the city, head up to the Roof Garden of the Continental Hotel Budapest on Dohány Street in District VII, sporting a lavish rooftop pool in the middle of Pest. This small downtown oasis is definitely a unique hideaway when it comes to maintaining mind, body, and soul. However, this exclusive treat isn’t free: use the pool and the saunas for 3,500 forints on weekdays and 5,000 forints on weekends, or pay a little extra to also include the Jacuzzi and the gym in your sun-splashed therapy.
Find inner peace in a historic Japanese garden
It would be nice to say that visiting Margaret Island’s Japanese Garden always provides a tranquil journey of Far Eastern serenity, but oftentimes the crowds here continually interrupt a proper state of nirvana. However, the Japanese Garden of the Márton Varga Horticultural School in District XIV is a genuinely peaceful place for musing about (city) life while getting closer to flora and fauna through rustic bridges and winding stone-paved pathways. It takes awhile to get there from downtown, and the park’s lake had no water during our last visit, but it’s still worth a trip there for some serious “me-time”. Take tram 3 from Örs Vezér Square to the Jeszenák János utca stop, walk an additional block to Mogyoródi út, take a left, and the school is a few meters further on the right-hand side at Mogyoródi út 56-60; a 500-forint admission fee will take you to Zen mode.
Savor the city’s top organic market
Every Saturday morning, a health-conscious crowd congregates at this lesser-known open-air organic market found just a stone’s throw away from MOM Park. From pesticide-free seasonal produce to eco-friendly household detergents to the freshest GMO-free meats to dairy and bakery delights made without additives, you can fill your stockroom with all the nourishing stuff we need for a fit lifestyle. Since product sources are regularly checked by the market organizers, shoppers rest assured that they’ll get high-quality goods. Early birds can kick off their weekend here at 6:30am, and it remains open until 1:00pm. Get there by tram 61 from Móricz Zsigmond Square, getting off at Csörsz Street.
Hike the National Blue Trail segment in Budapest
Out of the lush 1,100-kilometer-long National Blue Trail, a good 14-km route runs through the Buda Hills along the periphery of Districts II and III. The path is fairly close to the city’s residential areas, but far enough to enjoy some remote moments enveloped by pristine nature. This part of the Blue Trail is not very challenging, so it can be easily conquered by first-time hikers. Get started at the terminus of Children’s Railway in Hűvösvölgy (get there by tram 61 from Széll Kálmán Square) and follow the blue trail markers heading up Hármashatár Hill and Virágos-nyereg, ending your tour at the Rozália Brickyard; from there bus 218 takes exhausted hikers back to Óbuda’s Szentlélek Square, where the HÉV train goes back downtown.
Ride a water bike on the Danube
The river’s quiet Kis-Duna branch hides some secret spots at the city outskirts. Nature lovers and seekers of mild adventure can get on the water with peace of mind by renting a streamlined water bike to pedal along this romantic canal all the way up to Molnár Island. Alternatively, rowing enthusiasts can explore the sublime waterways in a kayak or canoe. Get there by taking bus 23 or 23E from Boráros Square to the Pesterzsébet felső stop, walk a few meters further to take a right on the Csepeli átjáró road towards Gubacsi Bridge; at a small marina near the Pest side of the bridge, the Kalóztanya Yacht Club offers water-bike rentals.
Fly your kite at Mátyásföld Airfield
When the wind is just right, all sorts of vibrant kites fill the gargantuan open space of Mátyásföld Airfield, where young and old kiting aficionados share tricks and tips within this freely gathering community. Bring along your DIY piece made of newspaper or the graphite-mounted stunt kite that you spent a fortune on – everyone is welcome to try reaching some serious heights. By the way, if you want to raise your kite against child abuse, make sure to be here on July 5th to participate in the Painting The Sky movement, a globally widespread event created to raise awareness with this high-flying activity for all ages. To get there, hop bus 45 at Örs Vezér Square and ride to the Diósy Lajos utca stop, walk back two intersections to go left on Légscavar utca, and follow that road all the way to the airfield.
Drink with locals in District VIII
When it comes to grabbing a good meal or having a few drinks, there is life beyond the golden triangle of Districts V, VI, and VII. A herd of trending bars lines up around pleasant Mikszáth Kálmán Square and Krúdy Gyula Street, unexpectedly tucked in otherwise-gritty District VIII, a couple blocks away from the National Museum, Kálvin Square, and the beginning of busy Üllői Avenue. Here in this pedestrianized hidden pocket of downtown, everyone is welcome to enjoy a chilling beer, iced coffee, or just a tree-shaded bench to escape the summertime heat. This is an up-and-coming spot for inexpensive high-quality dining, gallery hopping, and hunters for local handicrafts.