Something Slightly Different
Buda is the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Pest. It is, literally, a breath of fresh air, particularly in the hotter summer months. Take the time to admire the lavish residential villas, follow a nature trail, hire a bike and enjoy the views, explore the stalagmite caves, or just enjoy a meal in a leafy restaurant. The cog-wheel railway, which begins its climb a short walk from Moszkva tér, is an ideal starting point. And the Childrens' Railway is not just for kids, even though it is operated by them.
In addition to over 60 thermal springs, Budapest is also a city of caves. The Szemlő-hegy Cave (Pusztaszeri út, open Mon-Sun 10-16, closed Tue) and the Pálvölgyi Stalactite Cave (Szépvölgyi út, open Tue-Sun 10-16:15, closed Mon) are the most spectacular of those open to the public and contain fascinating fossils and attractive crystal formations. Access is limited to some of the caves, but some companies offer tours.
Budapest now enjoys a thriving extreme sports scene, including skate and snowboard parks, the Extrém Sziget, Hungaroring Adventure Park, paintball and karting. For team-building exercises, Fun Extreme Canopy operate an obstacle course in Visegrád, to the north of Budapest.
The stretches of the Danube alongside the islands to the north and south are closed to motorised boats, making them ideal for canoeing and rowing. Boats can be hired just by turning up on the Pest side of Hajógyári sziget (Shipyard Island) or along the Római Part, the site of the ancient city of Aquincum. There are also various cable wakeboarding and waterskiing centres in and around the city.
The busy streets of Pest are reserved for those with a deathwish, but the Margitsziget and Városliget parks are ideal for a relaxing cycle ride – particularly in the two-person peddle cars that can be hired once you get there. For the more adventurous, the Buda hills above Moszkva tér are a great for touring and off-road exploration. If your legs are not up to the long uphill slog, the Cogwheel railway offers an easy alternative.
More information on renting bikes.
Most major cities have their own zoo, but none quite like Budapest's, nestled in Városliget (City Park) just behind Hősők tere. The buildings were designed by ground-breaking architects from the National Romantic School, giving the zoo a slightly surreal atmosphere.
In the beautiful Millenáris Park near Moszkva tér, the Palace of Wonders (Csodák Palotája) is a chance for kids to get their own back for being dragged around the sights and museums. The colourful playground allows them to gain some hands-on experience of science at work, and have a great time doing it.
The city can be explored in a number of ways, but a boat ride along the Danube is by far the most relaxing. Two companies (Legenda Ltd. and MAHART Passnave) offer city cruises, as well as regular rides to tourist attractions outside Budapest, such as Szentendre, Visegrád and Esztergom. Bratislava and Vienna can also be visited by hydrofoil.