The first rays of spring sunshine are slowly enticing everyone outside. For either a short break from the downtown buzz or a whole day’s hike, here are the best places to get close to nature in and around Budapest.
The shortest: Árpád Lookout Tower
If you just want to leave the downtown buzz behind and go where public transport still takes you, the 376-metre-tall Látó Hill topped with the Árpád Lookout Tower is always a great choice.
Take bus 65 or 65A from Kolosy tér in Óbuda to the Fenyőgyöngye restaurant and join the National Blue Trail. When the towering trees are still sparse, the view is wonderful towards Buda Castle and Gellért Hill. As it only takes an hour or two to explore the area, this is rather a longer walk than a hike per se. On the way down, follow the green signs until you reach Törökvész út and bus 11, which will take you back to civilisation.
The newest: Gerecse’s Gate
Best approached by car or train 45 minutes from Budapest to Tatabánya – a direct bus then takes you from the train station – Gerecse looms behind the town’s iconic turul bird statue. There are several study trails here to choose from, all heading towards this lookout tower.
The 30-metre-high structure was built from a former mining headframe – commemorating those who passed away in a mining accident in 1978 – and it provides a breathtaking panorama of the entire area. On the way back, walk towards Szelim Cave.
The best-known: Normafa and János Hill
Budapest residents love Normafa; it is the go-to destination as soon as the sun comes out. Thanks to its recently renovated playground, Normafa is a great place to take the family, with a huge meadow and outdoor attractions to keep the little ones entertained.
The tallest: Nagy-Kopasz Hill
The 559-metre-tall Nagy-Kopasz Hill is the highest point of the Buda uplands. From Széna tér near Széll Kálmán tér in Buda, take yellow Volánbusz bus 795 or 2840 to where the ten-kilometre Sisakvirág Study Trail leads all the way to Nagykovácsi. The top deck of the lookout tower is 18 metres high, providing a pretty panorama of Nagykovácsi, Hármashatár Hill, János Hill and beyond.
To leave enough time to get back, follow the green-triangle signs until the Csergezán Pál Lookout, then head back to the starting point through Tarnai-pihenő.
The longest: Csóványos
For a serious hike, head to the 938-metre-tall Csóványos Hill, the highest point of the Börzsöny hills. This will take you a whole day, so be prepared with snacks and good walking shoes. Note that if it rains, it gets really muddy.
Take the train from Budapest to Kismaros, then change for the narrow-gauge rail to Királyrét. There are several trails to choose from: the best is to follow the one from the Magas-taxi tourist hut to Csóványos, about 15-20 kilometres long, which takes about six to nine hours depending on your pace. Atop Csóványos, there is a 22-metre-high lookout tower that provides amazing views reaching as far as 110 kilometres away.
The prettiest: Prédikálószék
If you climb Prédikálószék, you’ll be rewarded with the most beautiful panorama over the Danube Bend. It takes 1.5 hours to get to the village of Dömös from Budapest on Volánbusz 2920 from Újpest-Városkapu. Find Királykút út and follow it all the way out of the village until you reach a trail signposted by red triangles.
The first port of call is the Vadalló Stones, where you’ll already be knocked out by the view, but hold on until Prédikálószék for something really amazing. There, a 12-metre lookout tower provides a panorama over the whole Danube Bend. There are several trails leading back down – the whole tour is 15 kilometres long and takes about six or seven hours to complete.