Few cities are more appealing than Budapest during the summer months. Split in two by the cool waters of the Danube, Hungary’s capital is perfect for leisurely riverside strolls, picnics in the shaded parks and active days out at some of the many festivals and events that crop up across the capital. From outdoor swimming pools and baths to beaches and gardens, here’s how to make the most of summer in Budapest.
A landlocked country, Hungary possesses no coastline and, therefore, nowhere most would consider a beach. However, it does lay claim to Europe’s second largest river: The Danube. Down by its waters, locals can be found boating, fishing, sunbathing or water-skiing. Especially popular is the shoreline around Margaret Island, which hosts sports facilities, parks and water features.
Take the family through City Park to its amusement area and zoo, or stroll in the Philosopher’s Garden if you’re looking for inspiration. Alternatively, hit Füvészkert, the oldest botanical garden in Hungary. There are plenty of green spaces in Budapest, many of which can be explored by hopping on a bike. They can be hired from several places (Yellow Zebra, BudaBike etc.), and customised at the bike market of Budapest’s most famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert.
Banana, rhubarb, beetroot or cinnamon? These are just some of the unusual flavours on offer at some of Budapest’s gourmet ice-cream vendors. Wash your ice-cream down with a cooling fröcc – made from soda and wine in arbitrary proportions, the drink’s name often depends on the wine that’s used.
During the summer months, Budapest welcomes an array of pop-up bars and pubs with outdoor spaces, so look for signs that include “udvar” (patio) or “kert” (garden) around town. However, some of the best nightlife can be found on the water. From locals with their own boats to larger, more organised affairs for visitors, everybody loves the cool airs of the Danube on a hot summer night.
From traditional events like St Stephen’s (which includes a giant procession and fireworks display), to the upbeat Sziget, a music festival hosting the likes of Flume and Major Lazer this year, Budapest has an undeniable and infectious energy in the summertime. Recurring highlights include the Danube Carnival, the Festival of Folk Arts, and the Budapest Summer Festival, which offers a three-month line-up of concerts, musicals and theatre.
Known more for the thermal springs that feed its famous baths, Budapest nevertheless has plenty of outdoor pools, too. Some, like Szechenyi, have chessboards, saunas and massage rooms; others, like Rudas, have retained their Turkish bath aesthetic. If you’d rather swim than relax, sink into the waters of Dagaly. Possessing a 50-metre pool, it’s where more serious swimmers go.