It’s that time of the year again, when resolutions are kept or broken, joggers take to the parks and gyms fill with willing or fairweather members. Including pools, outdoor work-outs and organic eateries, stores and markets, here’s how to maintain a healthy lifestyle in Budapest – and where.
Salad spots and juice bars
The number of hangouts offering healthy salads is on the rise citywide. These havens for salubrious eats and drinks, packed out at lunchtime and even after office hours, include the Legelő salad bar on Dob utca, Rukkola by Kálvin tér and any of the many branches of the Hummusz Bar chain. Then in Keksz bistro, at the Salad Box and Fruccola franchises, guests create their own salads by picking the ingredients of their choice. Along with vegetable-based treats, Fruccola outlets also serve main courses and offer lunch deals.
Those following a special diet might want to drop by superfood haven Oh My Green near Ferenciek tere or Kitchen of Health, founded by a local nutritionist. Influenced by the cuisine of North Africa and the Middle East, KuszKusz and Dobrumba are ideal for healthy-yet-hearty treats, including a variety of couscous dishes.
Options are slightly more limited for finding shops specialising in smoothies and juices, squeezed or pressed. Among these are Sóker Zöldturmix bar in District VI, Fű Juice bar within the Mammut shopping mall and Juiceline by Madách tér.
For a health-conscious diet, white bread may often be replaced by wholegrain, baked with spelt and sourdough. The increasing demand for different types of bread has prompted a sudden rise of craft bakeries in town: a pioneer among those is rustic Pékműhely, with outlets in both Buda and Pest. Following a similar concept are popular gourmet bakery Jacques Liszt, artsy Artizán on Hold utca, then Pipacs Pékség with their organic merchandise, and cult bakery Pékesség, both found in the district of Óbuda.
Sourdough bread comes to the fore at Kiskovász, while JM6 on Jászai Mari tér fuses a café, a breakfast place and a confectionery. The recent price hikes at star bakery Három Tarka Macska are further evidence of the huge underlying potential in this segment of the market. Mediterranean-style Panificio il Basilico has many branches in town, while Buda-based Brótpékség within the elegant Villa Bagatelle offers all you need for a wholesome breakfast. Go to Free for products free from gluten, lactose and soy.
Organic shops and delicatessens
Stevia instead of sugar? Coconut oil as an alternative to sunflower? In Budapest, you’ll find a great variety of foodstuffs to suit your diet best. Every major street or shopping mall has a supermarket that stocks organic products. A fine example is the Diéta Life Market brand, with outlets on Arany János utca, Károly körút, in the Nyugati underpass and on Hűvösvölgyi út in Buda.
Offering herbal tea, organic ketchup, vegetable-based cold cuts, yeast-free breadcrumbs and everything in between, the Bio-Barát chain is where you can find ingredients for an entire meal – outlets are on Móricz Zsigmond körtér, Margit körút, Szent István körút, Blaha Lujza tér, within the Árkád mall and by Keleti station. Bio ABC on Múzeum körút and Bio Sétány atop the Mammut shopping centre have been serving health-conscious customers for years.
Szatyorbolt and Lumen sell organic merchandise and items from small-scale producers. Zero-waste Ligeti Bolt on the Pest side and Ne pazarolj! across the Danube promote eco-conscious shopping by offering groceries in plastic-free packaging.
Quality foodstuffs are not limited to locally sourced goods. Culinaris by Jászai Mari tér offers specialities ranging from Italian prosciutto to limited-edition Belgian beers. Then Fromage is a reliable source of sought-after cheese, French or Italian. See this article for more details about delicatessens in Budapest.
It is completely free, you don’t need much equipment and it is accessible to all – we are talking about street workout. Training with your own body weight is a great form of exercise and most public equipment make push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and several forms of body strengthening exercises possible. Városmajor, Bikás park, MOM park, Margaret Island, Népliget and the park by Lake Feneketlen all have spaces with suitable facilities for street workout.
More are found by the foot of Petőfi Bridge on the Buda side, on Goldmann György tér, in an empty lot between buildings on Szerb utca, in Tabán park behind the Castle and in Mechwart liget, and there’s a special one in Csepel also suitable for people with limited mobility. You can also find many in the city centre and in Districts VIII-IX. Use this map as a guide, which also includes table-tennis tables, mini-football pitches and basketball courts.
Swimming laps is a soothing experience and moves most of your muscles, strengthening your general stamina. Also, it is never too early to start working on that beach body for the swimsuit season. Note that many swimming complexes in Budapest can be a bit busy at times, and some also hold training sessions when only a few lanes are available to the public, but you should find something to meet your needs. The country’s first covered swimming pool on Margaret Island, Hajós, is widely used by professional sportsmen, synchronised swimmers and water polo players. It also welcomes casual swimmers, but always check availability before you go. There is a sizeable pool inside, and two other ones outside, covered in winter. MOM Sport in Buda is open between 6am and 10pm on weekdays and has a complete spa section in addition to its indoor and outdoor pools.
The BVSC Swimming Complex is close to the City Park, offering three pools and a sauna, and it almost always has a free lane. We mostly recommend this for weekends, when even the 50-metre pool is free to use. The Császár-Komjádi Swimming Pool is close to Margaret Bridge on the Buda side, with 50-metre and a 25-metre pools. Unfortunately, it does not have an online calendar, so you should call before you wish to go for a swim. For more details about all these pools, see our article.
Vegetarian and vegan options
In case you decided to go vegan, or just wish to cut down on meat, you have plenty of options for animal-free food in Budapest. Back in April, a whole Vegan garden opened up on Dob utca, which will soon be back after a short winter break. Vegan pizzas are best at Vegazzi within the Anker’t courtyard bar in the city centre.
Vegan Love on Bartók Béla út offers street food, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and salads, as do Tökmag on Jászai Mari tér and, near the Allee shopping mall, Las Vegans, which from spring will also be found in the Vegan garden and in Karaván on Kazinczy utca. Nemsüti focuses on vegan lunch specials at three different spots, on Pozsonyi út, in Klauzál tér market and on Hold utca. Vega City on Kálvin tér offers ready meals, burgers and daily changing menus. An always trustworthy choice is the Napfényes Restaurant on Ferenciek tere – that also holds cooking classes – and the country’s first vegan Indian eatery, Govinda on Belgrád rakpart.
Deli’s Vegan offers meat-free menus near Allee, while Matrjoska Kroshka on Kálvin tér turned into a vegetarian-vegan restaurant from a former Russian bistro. Great Bistro on Bank utca offers strictly vegan and gluten-free food only, while vegan cheese is best at Say Cheez Raw and, pastries best at Fill Good.
Organic and farmer’s markets
You find the best fruit and vegetables at markets, of course, whether it’s in bulk from Hungary’s biggest wholesalers at Nagybani or farm-grown seasonal greens. The organic market on Csörsz utca, set up by MOM Park every Saturday, is the only certified one in town. As arranging a licence is a long and tricky process for any potential vendor, instead many producers sell their organic goods at other outlets around town. These might be within large-scale operations – at the Great Market Hall and Bosnyák tér market, you can find primary producers in a separate section, at smaller stands selling seasonal produce only.
On Sundays, there’s a farmer’s market set up around the Szimpla Kert ruin bar, and a vegan one, Pancs Gastroplac, in the courtyard of the Élesztő craft-beer complex. There’s also the Vegan Sunday Market every month at the Anker’t courtyard bar in the city centre.
Meat, honey and fruit-and-vegetable stalls spread out at Saturday’s Czakó Piacz market at Czakó Kert, an atmospheric bistro-cum-confectionery-cum-vineyard, set up around the oldest house in Buda’s Tabán neighbourhood.
Further out in Buda, those living in District XII check the Facebook page of the Hegyvidék Producers’ Market to see its next location. The Mozgó Piac (‘Moving Market’) is just that, a service that delivers quality produce straight from its source to your workplace – call +36 20 997 4084. It also organises the Budakeszi Forest Market set up every so often in the great outdoors at the Hidegvölgy recreational area just beyond Budapest’s city borders.
Online sources for healthy eats include free-range eggs from family homes through YouTyúk (‘You Hen’), while Neked Terem distribute bread, meat, milk, fruit and vegetables from all kinds of small-batch domestic producers. In similar vein, Zöld Major and Vedd Együtt operate on an online community basis.
Gyms & fitness centres
Packed in January, gyms tend to thin out once the first rays of sun arrive in late March. The larger establishments tend to offer the same services, with exercise machines, group lessons (aerobics, fitness, spinning, alternative), a sauna/spa, healthy drinks and snacks, and personal trainers. These well located international franchises are of roughly the same ilk: Gilda Max at Flórián tér, at Hermina Tower on Hungária körút and River Estates near Dózsa György út metro station on Váci út; Life 1 at the Corvin Quarter, Nyugati station and the Allee mall; and Oxygen on Fáy utca, at Naphegy, and at Springday on Árpád út.
Smaller, cosier places specialise in certain forms of exercise (kettlebell, TRX, cross), but if you are just starting to familiarise yourself with the world of exercise and aren’t too particular, you can find a well equipped, multi-functional gym at almost every mall or nearby. These include the Lite Wellness Club at the Mammut, Sugár Fitness at the mall of the same name at Örs vezér tere, Peak Gym at Arena, Fitness & More at MOM Park, Arena Fitness at Duna Plaza, Scitec Fitness at Lurdy Ház, Fitness 5 at Campona and Megafitness at Köki terminál.
Among the trendier international chains, the John Reed Fitness Music Club has brought its concept of gym plus cool sounds from Berlin, while Flex Gym is for those in need of a serious work-out. Most neighbourhoods, in fact, should have an independent gym of some kind, whether it’s pool-equipped Bliss & Body near Oktogon or the Millennium Wellness, near the arts complex of the same name in south Pest. These also have various saunas.
For those staying in Budapest long-term, there are many membership schemes and current offers with free or discounted trial periods. All You Can Move is an annual pass to hundreds of gyms, studios, pools and courts across Hungary.
For fresh air and exercise without being tied to times or venues, jogging is an obvious solution. Rubberised, muscle-friendly courses can be found on Margaret Island (5.3km), at Bikás Park (750 metres) and Városmajor (585 metres) and around Feneketlen Lake (530 metres). Similar ones dot sprawling Buda Districts II and XII, such as at Vérhalom tér (400 metres) and Gesztenyés-kert (400 meters) by MOM Park, and through the Normafa woods (1.74km).
Local running clubs use the more prominent ones. One such is inclusive Kvázibárki (‘Almost Anybody’), which has free community training on Margaret Island on Tuesdays.
Cross country runners can enjoy magnificent views from the nine-kilometre-long panoramic course on Hármashatár Hill or take advantage of the newly laid one through the woods on Hárs Hill, just over three kilometres long. Népliget park in south Pest, the distant Merzse marshland, Római Part embankment up in Óbuda, nearby Óbuda Island, the Farkas-erdő woods in Újpest and the banks of the Rákos-patak stream in Zugló provide excellent terrains for running, but are by no means close at hand.