Whether it’s playing chess alfresco while soaking in thermal waters, eating a crispy lángos snack of deep-fried dough, or embarking on an epic night out hopping between hip ruin pubs, Budapest offers many activities that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. Among all of the not-to-be-missed experiences to discover in the Magyar metropolis, we’ve rounded up a collection of ten must-try sensations to help you draft the ultimate Budapest bucket list.
Become a master of the Rubik’s Cube
There is no better place to solve the mysterious Rubik’s Cube than within the puzzle’s actual birthplace, Hungary’s capital. Invented by Hungarian architect and professor Ernő Rubik in 1974 as a demonstration for his students, this colorful 3D game has kept the young and old occupied throughout the decades since then, and it’s available for purchase literally everywhere from the United States to India to Australia – and naturally here in Budapest. Plenty of alternative versions have been developed from Rubik’s original idea, and now different varieties feature LED-lit cubes, irregularly shaped forms, and online incarnations, while various contests testify to its ongoing popularity, like the speed-cubing competition (the current record stands at 5.25 seconds, held by American teenager Collin Burns). If you don't already have one, you can get hold of this playful invention at Reflexshop (Budapest 1067, Eötvös Street 39) near Nyugati Square. Other colorful Hungarian inventions worth acknowledging while touring the Magyar metropolis include László Bíró’s ballpoint pen and Dénes Gábor’s holograph.
Attain the key to the exit door of dimly lit rooms and dark cellars while racing the clock by visiting an escape-room game, a relatively recent local invention that spread across the Hungarian capital and beyond. Ranging from secret-agent scenes to horror themes, many different types of enclosed chambers challenge guests to figure out how to break free at many locales all around the city, like the creepy circus-themed e-exit on Nyár Street in downtown Budapest, or Gozsdu Mission within the bustling nightlife zone of , where four haunted rooms await adrenaline addicts. However, it’s not only Budapest’s central districts that are home to these panic-inducing scenes: adventurous souls can try to escape from a bloodcurdling atmosphere with serial killers and bank robbers at the Locked Escape Game on Buda’s Vérmező Road, while Kalózbarlang (“Pirate Cave” in Hungarian) offers a one-of-a-kind treasure-hunt experience in Budapest’s District X.
Sip on fragrant local liquor
For many people, Budapest is revered for its affordably priced alcohol offered across high-class and downscale drinking destinations citywide. Whether we find ourselves ordering a glass of full-bodied red wine to accompany our culinary delicacy at a fancy restaurant, or a glass of sparkling (wine mixed with soda water in varied proportions) in one of the city’s hip ruin pubs, or a pint of locally brewed beer at a casual riverfront hangout, various regional tipples can be found for all tastes and occasions. Magyar-made wines are revered for their quality and diversity, from dark-scarlet Egri Bikavér to sweet golden , and we can sample them at many wine bars across town – notable locales include right across from or in the heart of Pest’s . Alongside Hungary’s centuries-old winemaking traditions, a new culture of small-scale craft beer is rapidly advancing as well, with an increasing number of world-class brew bars opening up around the city, such as within the whale-shaped edifice of beside the Danube. If you long for a high-spirited tipple, don’t miss out on a few shots made of plum, apricot, pear, or grapes; you can sample a good choice of this aromatic drink at 5 cl, located in District VII.
Learn basic Hungarian phrases
Fortunately, an increasing number of local residents speak English in Budapest, and the proportion increases dramatically as we dive deeper into main tourist zones. While almost anyone can navigate around the city for a few days without much hassle, knowing a few expressions of the local language will surely earn many appreciative smiles, along with a few new friends (plus, you can tap into all the aforementioned action with much greater ease). For those who decide to scratch the surface of the Magyar language, the possibilities are endless, ranging from humor-filled Hungarian textbooks to online podcasts to stopping random strangers on the street. To pick up a few basics in a playful and easy way, sign up for Fungarian’s cheerful crash courses, where learning is combined with basic orientation to Budapest’s geography and culture, with an optional walking tour around town covering some of the city’s prime sights. After the session, overhearing the word “puszi” (“kiss” in Hungarian) won’t feel awkward anymore.