It can be difficult to maintain an exercise routine while visiting an unfamiliar city, but that’s not the case here in Hungary’s capital – from panoramic jogging trails to lap pools at thermal baths to public bikes citywide, Budapest boasts many facilities for sporty excursions. All of the following fitness-boosting activities are available amid many of Budapest’s postcard-superstar sights, and several of them are free for everyone to enjoy while admiring landmark views.
Swim laps at thermal baths
While most visitors to Budapest’s world-famous thermal baths are simply interested in slothful soaking, some historic spas feature dedicated swimming pools where guests can get in a few laps before and/or after letting their muscles melt in hot mineral waters. The Széchenyi and Lukács spas both feature outdoor lap pools, while the Gellért Bath (pictured) features a gorgeous indoor swimming pool with a huge sunroof, fanciful porcelain fixtures, and intricately carved columns. However, if you want to use lap pools at Budapest’s thermal baths, make sure to bring a swim cap or be prepared to buy one, as anyone with hair must wear one in the water.
Hike in the Buda Hills
The forested mini-mountains of the city’s Buda side provide plenty of paths for healthy hiking while enjoying beautiful views along the way. For the best vistas over Budapest, take one of the trails leading up Gellért Hill, where sweeping perspectives over downtown await by the Citadel at the summit, and several stopping points also offer far-reaching perspectives over the city’s bridges and landmarks. More serious hikers can embark on various daylong outings amid the woodlands of Széchenyi Hill, János Hill, and Hármashatár Hill, all featuring trailheads accessible by public transportation and historic belvederes at their panoramic peaks.
Bike around Budapest
Hungary’s capital is a bike-friendly city with many well-defined cycling paths, and pedalling around Budapest is a preferred form of everyday exercise for both locals and sightseers. Some major roads with bike paths include Andrássy út, Bajscy-Zsilinszky út (beside the Basilica), and the Small Boulevard, while both the Buda and Pest riverbanks feature long bicycle lanes with moving views over the Danube – and another lengthy riverfront trail takes two-wheelers all the way to the lovely town of Szentendre north of Budapest’s city limits. Bike tours are a popular option for active sightseeing, while Budapest’s public-bike system features docking stations citywide.
Go running on Margaret Island
Budapest’s most popular parkland, Margaret Island, is ringed with a 5.3-kilometer-long rubberized running track providing panoramic views over the Pest skyline and Buda Hills within a single jogging session. The track’s official starting point is beside the Margaret Island Athletic Centre, and features a clock so that runners can time their extra-long lap, which begins by passing under Margaret Bridge with a framed vista of Parliament before heading north along the Pest-facing shoreline. The track bends back south after passing Margaret Island’s northern tip, at which point sweeping downriver perspectives over undulating Buda enhance the runner’s high.
Do active spelunking in the Pál-völgyi cave system
The revered thermal waters that fill Budapest’s baths slowly carved out innumerable caves beneath the city over eons, and now these deep caverns provide adventurous subterranean explorers with plenty of passages to explore. At the Pál-völgyi cave entrance found in the hills above Óbuda – part of Hungary’s Duna-Ipoly National Park – the public is welcome to join English-language caving tours that require amateur spelunkers to climb, squeeze, and slide their way through chasms and rocky chambers, equipped only with a jumpsuit, a headlamp-mounted helmet, and their own muscles. These three-hour underground excursions are exhausting but exhilarating.
Visit panoramic fitness centres
Budapest has a few gyms with a view, where workout machines are mounted in front of picture windows overlooking city scenery to feast your eyes on while burning calories. Sited on a hillside above Buda’s Tabán parkland, the Oxygen Wellness Centre not only features treadmills and exercise bikes looking over the Pest riverfront, they also have glass-walled saunas providing vistas of Gellért Hill. The recently refurbished gym at the Budapest Marriott Hotel is perched above the Danube Promenade with amazing perspectives over the Castle District and Elizabeth Bridge, while the Kempinski Hotel’s fitness centre is a lofty lookout point by Fashion Street.
Eat at healthy restaurants
While classic Hungarian cuisine can hardly be called “health food”, modern-day Budapest features quite a few restaurants providing calorie-conscious diners with healthy dishes that just happen to taste delicious. Just a few steps away from Váci utca – Budapest’s most historic strolling street – Oh My Green is a hotspot for luscious light meals like chicken wraps with salad, Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and granola, and an assortment of fresh salads. Vegetarians and vegans can now choose among a growing number of specialty eateries in Budapest, including Great Bistro near Szabadság tér, Las Vegan’s at Karaván, and the two Napfényes locations.
Take long strolls citywide
Budapest is an excellent city to discover on foot – especially on the flat Pest side – and anyone with a good pair of walking shoes can explore all kinds of hidden courtyards and fascinating side streets here simply by following their curiosity. The broad sidewalks of the Grand Boulevard and Andrássy út accommodate thousands of walkers at a time, while pedestrianized lanes like Váci utca and the Danube Promenade stretch long distances amid successions of amazing sights. On the Buda side, the entire downtown riverfront is lined with a pedestrian path featuring sweeping panoramas over the river and urban skyline, as well as close-up bridge views.
Race in the Budapest Marathon
Hard-core fitness fanatics can sightsee speedily throughout the Magyar metropolis by participating in the annual Budapest Marathon, coming up on October 6-7 in 2018. The race begins and ends at Heroes’ Square, and in the long run participants pass Budapest postcard superstars like the Opera House, the Buda Castle, Várkert Bazaar, Margaret Island, and the Chain Bridge, just to name a few landmarks along the way. However, while this contest is a true test of physical endurance, it is not Hungary’s longest major running race – that honour belongs to the 196-kilometer-long Lake Balaton Supermarathon circling Central Europe’s biggest lake each spring.
Dance the night away at Budapest clubs
Okay, Budapest’s wild nightclubs are certainly not fitness havens, but for those who love to let loose on the dance floor and shake it for hours on end – which indubitably qualifies as vigorous aerobic exercise – this city has plenty of options. Some of the most popular disco scenes in downtown Pest are Ötkert (pictured) and BOB near the Chain Bridge, AETHER in Goszdu Udvar, Tesla on Kazinczy utca, and the many places to trip the light fantastic within the huge Instant/Fogas Ház ruin-pub complex. Budapest visitors can also get down to groovy live music almost every night aboard A38, the ever-rocking pleasure boat moored on Buda’s southern bank.