It’s warm, let’s go outside: Budapest’s best picnic spots
Photo : Kiripolszky Csongor/WLB
13/4/2015, 8:01 AM●6-minute article
We’ve been waiting for the return of good weather for six months and now it’s finally here. So just grab your picnic basket, fill it up with some wine, sandwiches and snacks, take your friends (or even your dog) and head outdoors! Don’t forget to take a book or a frisbee as well, and switch off your phone. Here we roundup our favourite picnic spots in and around Budapest so you can enjoy the sunshine amid some greenery.
Anna-rét, one of the most popular excursion spots of the Buda Hills is found between Normafa and the upper end of the János Hill chairlift – about 500 metres from Normafa. In spring and summer, the place is the perfect picnic spot, there is a fire pit and a water pump too, plus a small playground for children. Local points of interest include the slightly hidden Szarvas-kút (‘Deer Well’ in English) from which King Mathias’ deers drank; and the Szent Anna Chapel that commemorates the Virgin Mary’s mother in harmony with the traditions of both Christianity and Islam.
Margaret Island needs no introduction. Both locals and foreigners know it is one of the best picnic spots in town. People usually flood the island from spring, so if you want some tranquillity, you’d better leave the Nagyrét (the largest and busiest meadow) behind and scout for a quieter spot. There are some food stalls there, so if you forget your picnic basket you can buy lángos (a Hungarian deep-friend dough), hamburgers, pizza and beer.
Kőhegy is the 235-metre-high barren section at the heart of the chain of hills that surround Budaörs. From atop, there is an impressive panorama of Budaörs and its environs. You can approach Kőhegy by bus 240 from Móricz Zsigmond Square. Get off the bus a Templom Square and walk uphill along Nefelejcs Street. All your efforts will be rewarded: there’s even a kind of fire pit suitable for cooking in a cauldron if you want to take a big group and make a day of it. Make sure you have everything you need before heading up, because if you forget something it will be difficult to find supplies.
Hungarian National Museum
One can’t even dream of a better picnic spot than the stairs of the Hungarian National Museum (or the grassy surfaces nearby). The museum’s garden is literally in the centre of Budapest, which means good access and plenty of shops to buy ingredients. The drawbacks are that the place is pretty busy (it’s an unofficial recreational centre for local university students). Also it’s fairly noisy from all the traffic buzzing by. Nonetheless, the place gets extra points for the guitar music that you can often here from impromptu jamming sessions. Plus, you might overhear snippets of deep conversations – maybe even about the meaning of life.
Near the Hungarian National Museum, there is an adorable venue, which is also perfect for picnics. The Károlyi Garden has benches, a playground, a dog run, beautiful flowers and big shady trees. This is the oldest park in Budapest, once owned by the noble Károlyi family. Once you’re done with the picnic, there are many other spots nearby for a drink or to party.
The 10-acre riverbank greenery at the foot of Rákóczi Bridge is an idyllic home to small restaurants, cafés, terraces and playhouses. It is a sureshot from spring to autumn, and a must even for hardcore Pest-fans. The only drawback of the place is that dogs are not allowed.
Makkosmária is a group of a few houses, service buildings and a church southeast of Budakeszi, a perfect place for finding peace. The portrait of Virgin Mary found here makes it a place of pilgrimage, but it’s also a popular hiking and picnic destination. Take bus 22 to Budakeszi, then walk. You can also follow the 2 kilometre trail from Normafa.
Normafa is a great destination both in winter and summer: it’s tranquil, and even getting there is an adventure. The busiest point of the Buda Hills is covered with pleasant walking trails, making it perfect for hiking as well as relaxing picnics. Just be sure to consider the weight of your bag before embarking on a longer excursion if you plan on making a spring hike a part of your excursion.
One of the most popular picnic spots of downtown Budapest is at the very central Erzsébet Square. This spot is not so much about the classic picnic but instead buying two bottles of wine and a few bags of chips to share with friends on the steps or grassy patches. It’s a place where you can make friends and listen to the impromptu jam sessions. There are plenty of shops nearby if you’re running low on supplies too. If you don’t like crowds or teenagers begging for wine money though then this isn’t your spot. Anything can happen here.
SzabadságSquare is arguably one of the most beautiful squares in Budapest. It is a sophisticated version of Erzsébet Square, sans the hipsters, the skateboarders and people begging for money, so if you prefer a classier picnic spot then this is your place.
The ELTE Füvészkert was the first botanical garden in Hungary and belongs to the Eötvös University. Its task is to preserve protected plant species and the garden is home to about 8000 species, including specialities like carnivorous plants and various fern varieties in the picturesque greenhouses. It’s perfect for picnics, first dates and spring walks. If you’re all about plants, you can even ask for a guided tour. It is strictly forbidden to litter and to trample on the plants – there is even a fine if you’re caught doing this! This is generally true of all picnic spots though as plastic utensils, for example, take millions of years to break down.
The Philospher’s Garden is one of those spots that people kind of forgot about for ages, then it became fashionable and now everyone loves to go there. The name refers to the group of statues located there by Nándor Wagner, inscribed: ‘for better understanding of each other.’ The lawn beside the statue is great for picnics, and if you arrive in time, you can take control of the only bench, which is built on a concrete plinth and has a wonderful view of the entire city. A must-see.
Árpád Lookout Tower
The stone lookout tower atop Rózsadomb is primarily a hiking destination, but it’s also great for a picnic. There are picnic tables and fire-pits, so you can spend an entire day enjoying yourself here. As for hiking, there are a lot of exciting locations around all within about a 45-minute walk. Take bus 65 from Kolosy Square or bus 11 from Batthyány Square to the final stop, then walk.