Explore the picturesque Margaret Island either on foot, by bike or even with a gentle jog. The sweet little green space, accessible via a footbridge, is always busy with runners enjoying the 5k loop, families exploring the small petting zoo, and picnickers watching the pretty musical fountains. It’s easy to spend an afternoon here whatever the weather, and the atmosphere is pleasant and welcoming.
If you’re feeling energetic, clamber up Gellért Hill for the best views of the city. There are various beguiling paths to choose from which wind their way up to the enormous Statue of Liberty, which can be seen from all over the city. It’s quite steep but there are plenty of places to stop and catch your breath while you admire the scenery. You can also walk around the Citadella once you reach the top. This is a fortress built in 1849 that has been used as a military checkpoint and prison over the years.
If all that walking has built up an appetite, make sure to buy a (calorie-laden!) Lángos from a street stall. These are fried bread covered with whatever topping you choose – sour cream and cheese is arguably the best – served hot and eaten messily. It’s a very cheap way to fill up quickly on a chilly day. Other stall goodies to look out for include chimney cakes, which are huge, sugary cinnamon pastries.
Make sure to visit at least one ‘ruin’ bar – established in the last decade or so, these popular drinking spots occupy beautiful run-down buildings in District 7 in Pest. Some of them are really huge, but divided into neat little pockets so they don’t feel too crowded. Szimpla Kert is the original and is still very lively, with lots of different rooms with separate bars and free live music, plus outside space where films are projected onto the old walls. Choose Hungarian wines for an extremely cheap night out.
- 202 618 669, www.szimpla.hu/en
Super-cheap sightseeing for weary legs starts on the iconic Tram 2. This cheery yellow tram travels alongside the Danube, passing many of the city’s most famous sights – including the various bridges and the parliament – for just a tiny cost. Make sure you buy your ticket from the machine at the tram stop before climbing on board. Single tickets cost from 350HUF (that’s just 80p!).
- Find a map at www.bkk.hu/en/maps/
With a partner
The award-winning House of Terror is a museum dedicated to Hungary’s difficult post-war communist reign. Located in the building where many political prisoners were tortured, it’s an extremely moving exhibition. It can get hot and crowded, so take your time and bring a bottle of water. Open Tuesday-Saturday, tickets cost 2,000HUF (about £4.50).
- 137 42 600
Splash out on afternoon tea at the stunning New York Palace (or Boscolo Budapest). This elegant coffee house inside a hotel is 121 years old and has been refurbished with beautiful stuccos and airy high ceilings. Pricey by Budapest standards (around 2,000HUF/£4.50 for a slice of cake) but worth it.
- 188 661 11, budapest.boscolohotels.com/
With the grandchildren
Head off the beaten track with a day at Medveotthon – a sanctuary for former circus bears. It’s not terribly easy to find; you’ll need to get a train to Ivacs (about half an hour from the central station) and there’s a bit of a walk at the other end, but it’s well worth it to meet the resident brown bears and wolves. You can even buy honey from the shop to feed them through the wire! Off-season, the shop will be shut but you can bring your own jar with you. It’s a nice way to get close to some native wildlife and, as it’s a little way out from the city, it’s never too busy. Open every day from 8am-7pm (or dusk in winter). Tickets cost 600HUF (less than £1.50).
For a free afternoon, why not wander some of the Danube’s famous bridges? The chain bridge is particularly beautiful, especially at night when it’s all lit up. It was the first to be built over the Hungarian section of the river, in 1849, and it’s a great spot to take photos as you cross between Buda and Pest.
- We’ve included local phone numbers to use in Budapest, but if you want to call from the UK, add 0036 to the start of each number. International call rates will be higher.
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