Hungary’s capital is the epicenter of hot happenings during the sun-splashed months with several animated attractions awaiting citywide. Revelers rock out at vibrant festivals, urban dwellers claim a stupendous Danube span for weekend picnic events, passengers hop on heritage rides to get around town, sunbathers soak up seaside scenes at a refreshing beach hangout – and during July, water-sports fans from across the world will flock here to cheer at the FINA World Championships. Get ready and mark your calendar with the most exciting events that Budapest boasts during the next three months.
In the past few years, a soaring phenomenon started popping up citywide, turning many of Budapest’s rooftops into bustling bars that offer far-reaching vistas in addition to fine selections of intoxicating drinks. Some of these elevated hangouts are now so popular that it can oftentimes be a challenge to find an available table, so those without a reservation might end up taking a head-swirling stand at these dazzling hangouts. Occupying the entire rooftop of Pest’s historic Paris Department Store, 360 offers uniquely lofty wraparound views of the city’s sights, and this all-encompassing Budapest landscape serves as a beautiful backdrop for theme parties that start during the day and end late into the night. Considered as one of the city’s most deluxe destinations, High Note SkyBar crowns Aria Hotel Budapest, and it boasts 360-degree views over many of Budapest’s major landmarks, while the food and drinks served here are now enhanced thanks to the hotel’s fresh gastronomical partnership with the Gerbeaud House. Finally, Budapest’s Váci Street welcomes the highly anticipated St. Andrea Wine & Skybar this summer, which is expected to become a must-try locale atop the historic building of Váci1.
Last summer, when the city’s statuesque Liberty Bridge was closed to car traffic, some Budapest dwellers jumped at the opportunity to reclaim this open space within the blink of an eye, and soon afterwards this breezy spot became a go-to location for impromptu picnic events. However, this unprompted project came to an end as the bridge opened again to motorized vehicles, but luckily, this summer city authorities decided to give Liberty Bridge back to picnickers on four summer weekends. Therefore, during June 17-18 and 24-25, and August 5-6 and 12-13, the bridge will once again become a heartwarming hangout for groups of friends, cute couples, and amateur musicians – best of all, anyone can join this cool crowd! Thanks to the movement by Valyo (an acronym for “Város és Folyó Egyesület”, which means “City and River Association”) that’s behind the picnic project, this year Liberty Bridge will be complete with trash-collection points, public toilets, and a bikeway, while the association also organizes plenty of cultural programs to accompany these events. For more information visit the Szabihíd Facebook page.
Take a time-bending journey aboard vintage vehicles
On weekends, several antiquated conveyances traverse the city’s roads, rails, and the Danube, all operated by Budapest’s BKK public-transport company throughout the summer months to provide budget-friendly city-sightseeing trips to passengers on board. The itinerary of these time-transcending rides are tailored to take travelers in front of key Budapest landmarks on both sides of the river: every Saturday, a vintage streetcar pops up along the panoramic path of tram line 2, while those who would like to ride on the Buda side can hop on a graceful wooden tramcar that pushes past many of Buda’s famous thermal baths. The heritage fleet is complete with an Ikarus 180-type articulated bus and an Ikarus 630-type convertible bus, both cruising around the center of Budapest, while a century-old ferryboat provides romantic voyages as it sails by many of the city’s guidebook-superstar sights. This distinct service also attests that modern-day developments and old-time relics blend very well in Budapest.
Hungary doesn’t boast a seashore, but while Lake Balaton is referred to as “the Hungarian Sea”, it was just a matter of time for Budapest to assign one of the city’s freshwater spots to become an in-demand beachside destination for urban dwellers. Found just beyond Buda’s northern border in Budakalász, Lupa Beach attracts crowds of sunbathers with its white sand, turquoise water, and comfy sunbeds, and those who head out here for tanning and frolicking don’t have to travel armed with a basketful of edibles, as guests can devour classic beach food sold on-site while sipping refreshing beverages at the waterfront bars or at the gastro promenade. However, Lupa Beach is not only for those who want to soak in the Budapest sun – this summertime hotspot will offer several water-sports facilities for guests during the warm months, including canoeing, sailing, flyboarding, a wakeboard center, and a diving center. What more can we ask for a one-day vacation in Budapest?
Every year, a special night is dedicated to museums in Hungary, when some of the best exhibition venues stay open until long after the sun goes down. Happening this year on June 24th, the Night of Museums attracts great interest countrywide, including in Budapest, where culture aficionados can visit all of the participating institutions with one all-inclusive wristband – and at many of these locations, special programs await visitors, including concert performances or various workshops. Some of the city’s outdoor exhibition spaces also join the event series, including Memento Park as it inaugurates a newly acquired relic that will be added to the museum’s collection of communist-era statues, while the recently reopened Aeropark near the Budapest Airport is now complete with freshly installed attractions; a journey out there will be a high-flying excursion during this educational extravaganza.
Sample ice-cream specialties across town
The sizzling Budapest sun can wear out urban dwellers during the peak summer months, but there are many chill zones in the city where we can cool down with a unique scoop (or a roll) of a frozen delicacy. Proffered at Budapest’s Karaván food-truck court, Rocketice sells exceptionally creamy liquid-nitrogen-churned ice cream in seven different flavor combinations, including Popcornero, made with popcorn, caramel, and butter biscuits; in the city’s District XIII. N’iceroll prepares Thai-style rolled icy delights, including one of the parlor’s most popular desserts, the “Super Tropical”, made of coconut chips and mango ice cream with chia seeds, while the place’s extra dish is the Roll Dog, a sweet and hot butter bun with a roll of ice cream inside. Finally, in addition to offering a collection of ordinary flavors, the city’s legendary Damniczki confectionery treats valiant guests with garlic or popcorn-flavored frozen fantasies.
With its fascinating flora and fauna, the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden attracts a large number of visitors all year round, while during the summer months this animated destination is complete with a high-flying attraction: a vibrant space becomes home to more than 20 species of butterfly that flutter around a 260-square-meter enclosure located behind the zoo’s Palm House. As we walk amid hundreds of extraordinarily patterned specimens, we feel as if we suddenly journeyed into Alice’s wonderland. However, the Butterfly Garden’s main attraction is the chrysalis cabinet holding numerous cocoons – from here, adult butterflies emerge continuously to join those who hatched earlier, adding even more charm to this vibrant locale.
In 2017, Hungary hosts the FINA World Championships, a biennial aquatic sports event with contests organized at several venues in Budapest and at Lake Balaton. In the Magyar metropolis, competitions are happening at four iconic locations: at the Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Complex on Margaret Island, at Batthyány Square, at Városliget Lake in City Park, and at the newly built Duna Arena near Árpád Bridge, all attracting fans of diverse categories of water sports, including synchronized swimming, water polo, or high diving. During the event, the FINA Market areas on Margaret Island and by the Duna Arena provide cultural entertainment to guests, including concert shows, gastronomy gatherings, and family-related events, while competitions are broadcast live on big screens. Passes to most of the contests are still available at the official FINA website, which also presents a detailed timetable along with location guides.
FINA World Championships
Savor Hungarian meals at Buda’s hidden terrace hangouts
Founded in 1935, the countryside-style Fenyőgyöngye (Budapest 1025, Szépvölgyi út 155) is a concealed dining destination at Szépvölgyi Road’s 65 bus terminus, while the restaurant’s main appeal is its pleasant terrace bordered by a lush green garden – the menu presents traditional Hungarian meals, like Legényfogó soup (a creamy ragout soup with meat cubes and vegetables) or the creamy ‘vadas’ beef meal, while an irresistible offer is the eatery’s three-course lunch special that comes in five variations every weekday and sets you back only 990 forints. Tucked between residential homes in Buda’s District II, Náncsi Néni’s romantically rustic terrace-seating area is filled with families and couples during weekends as they feast on delicious dishes made according to old-time Hungarian recipes, like golden chicken broth, crispy fried duck, or Somlói galuska (a soft sponge cake covered with creamy chocolate sauce). Those who fancy venturing as far out of downtown as Budakeszi can sample the seasonally changing fusion meals at Budai Gesztenyés Nagyvendéglő (Budakeszi 2092, Szanatórium út 2) – during summer, the restaurant’s Mangalica pork or rabbit-based delicacies are all served in the tree-shaded courtyard.
All summer long, classic and newly premiering flicks screen amid panoramic settings at a duo of Budapest’s alfresco bars, providing English-friendly entertainment for movie maniacs. The Budapest Rooftop Cinema series opened the season on June 12th atop downtown’s Corvin Club, where a collection of international and Magyar-made films are presented on the big screen from Monday to Friday with every movie being played with original audio and English subtitles. Tickets to the events can be purchased in advance for 900 forints, and all you need to do is sit back with an intoxicating drink in hand after sunset and enjoy the show under the starry sky. At another spectacular location near the city’s iconic Chain Bridge, Pontoon serves colorful cocktails and entertains movie buffs with classic films and Hungarian-made productions that are shown with original English-language audio or English subtitles – for more information about movie screenings at this riverside location, visit Pontoon’s Facebook page.
Everybody needs to let off steam sometimes, and Budapest’s biggest summertime jamboree is the perfect place to get to a surreal state of mind amid pulsating music and vibrant scenes. Happening this summer between August 9-16, the annual Sziget Festival rocks Hungary’s capital with rowdy concert shows, creative cultural extravaganzas, ability games, and much more, while those who want to lounge between the programs can pass out any time at many of the festival’s psychedelic hangouts. This year’s lineup boasts names like Pink, Wiz Khalifa, Rita Ora, Major Lazer, George Ezra, White Lies, the Kills, or Glass Animals, all hitting the stage amid many other local and international performers of diverse genres. Passes are selling out fast, so hurry up if you want to become a “szitizen” at this good-time gathering! (For those who have never experienced the Sziget vibe, here’s a beginner’s guide.)
Sziget Festival 2017
1033 Budapest, Óbudai-sziget
Get fit for free at the city’s open-air gyms
Considering how many inviting eateries and mouthwatering meals can be enjoyed here, it can be a real challenge to stay fit during a Budapest vacation, but those who want to give it a shot can always opt for the outdoor workout parks that complete many of the vast parklands found across town. On Margaret Island, sports aficionados can exercise at the waterfront, using the free street-workout facility that is set up near the park’s entrance close to Margaret Bridge, while on the Buda side, high-quality fitness machines give a sporty twist to Feneketlen Lake’s serene settings. In southern Buda’s Bikás Park, we can get in shape using a very modern collection of open-air fitness equipment, including a stationary bike, lat-pulldown machines, and other contemporary workout facilities, but those who don’t want to venture that far out of downtown can always exercise on Szerb Street’s mini street gym in District V – here, the collection includes a sit-up bench, an elliptical trainer, and various multifunctional machines.
The Hungarian capital ranks high on the bucket list of bibulous travelers, but many of the city’s hangouts also serve as delightful destinations for those who choose to sip handmade alcohol-free concoctions: in the heart of Budapest near St. Stephen’s Basilica, Bestia serves up refreshing vanilla-cucumber lemonade, spiced up with bits of real vanilla pieces; meanwhile, District VII’s recently opened Dobrumba eatery is usually filled to the brim, similarly to their tasteful refreshments that include a liquid treat flavored with hibiscus and rose – here we can even order lemonades served in a one-liter bottle. Those who don’t want to take a chance can always retreat to AHOY, a real lemonade bar with endless variations of liquid sensations, including raspberry or lavender drinks, while WarmUp Rustic pampers guests with terrific tailor-made lemonades, including an orange-peanut mixture.
A fair number of Budapest residents choose bicycling for their daily commute, and it oftentimes inspires those who don’t live here to embark on a breezy ride and explore the city on a two-wheeler. Thanks to an ever-growing number of bike-rental companies and shops, it’s easy to get hold of a variety of human-powered conveyances, including vintage-style vehicles or contemporary e-bikes. Operated by Budapest’s BKK public-transport company, MOL Bubi has several docking stations for their green bikes across town, where we can pick up and drop off a cycle anytime. Whether an antiquated model or a top-notch type of bicycle is close to your heart, you can start pedaling at your own pace to explore the city’s sights – one of Budapest’s bike-friendly routes spans the Buda side of Petőfi Bridge and Margaret Bridge and while cycling along the panoramic path, you can view the Várkert Bazaar, the Castle Hill Funicular, the Chain Bridge, the Buda Castle, Gellért Hill from below, Rudas Bath, and Elizabeth Bridge, and catch glimpses of the Parliament and Belgrád Quay on the other side of the Danube.
From June through August, pleasant music is performed at multiple city locations during varied alfresco festivals that are happening across Budapest’s sprawling parklands and around several key landmarks. Spanning June 9th to August 30th, the Budapest Summer Festival turns Margaret Island and Buda’s Városmajor Park into cultural hotspots, where Hungarian talents and prominent international performers entertain visitors with classical concerts, fascinating circus shows, and high-spirited opera spectaculars. Happening through August 18th, mini-concerts of numerous musical genres pop up at famous Budapest landmarks thanks to the Zenélő Budapest(“Musical Budapest”) event series hosting hundreds of free open-air concerts in front of major Budapest’s sights, like Várkert Bazaar, Műcsarnok, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and the Great Market Hall. From July 3rd to August 17thCity Park’s fairy-tale palace becomes a spectacular backdrop for symphonic concert shows and Gypsy music, all happening during the Vajdahunyad Castle Summer Music Festival.
View a stunning fireworks show on St. Stephen’s Day
On August 20th, Hungary celebrates its founding king St. Stephen with a national blowout of official ceremonies, delightful gastronomy programs, and musical performances. During this busy day, visitors at St. Stephen’s Basilica can view a somewhat surreal procession, when St. Stephen’s Holy Right Hand is carried around the capital – the nation’s most precious religious relic is ordinarily kept inside the Basilica, and it’s believed to have miraculous powers. In addition to the varied celebrations happening citywide, one of the event’s sweet traditions is the cutting ceremony of Hungary’s birthday cake, a scrumptious delicacy that’s selected annually during a local contest prior to August 20th. However, the highlight of the event is the spectacular fireworks show that lights up the city when the sun goes down, and crowds start gathering along the Danube banks and at some of Budapest’s best vantage points hours before the first pyrotechnics launch up into the sky to catch the best views over the colorful blast.
Found about 42 kilometers upriver from Budapest, one of the highest peaks of the historic Visegrád Hills is now crowned with a new 12-meter-tall lookout tower, providing incredible vistas over the curvaceous Danube Bend. This panoramic vantage point called Prédikálószék is accessible after a moderate three-hour hike, but this mini excursion out of Hungary’s capital is well worth investing time (and muscle strength): during the tree-shaded climb, we pass by several sedate sights, including the tiny Szentfa Chapel towering above a cute clearing, a soothing spring with refreshing drinking water, the ancient rock formations of the Vandalló Stones, and many forest-living species, including woodpeckers, lizards, and colorful insects, before we finally reach the lookout tower providing breathtaking views that make hikers forget about aching limbs. Check out this article for specific directions about how to get to this dreamlike destination from downtown Budapest.