For all its famous castles and historic sites, Budapest has an equal number of lesser-known, alternative attractions. From the Hospital in the Rock, hidden under Buda Castle, to the infamous Gellert Hill Cave Church and the world’s largest Timewheel, these fascinating locations add to the rich cultural landscape of the Hungarian capital. Take a look at our guide to the most unusual things to see in Budapest next time you travel to Hungary.
One of the largest hourglasses in the world, the Budapest Timewheel is at once a timekeeping device and a bewitching art installation. Built in 2004 to commemorate Hungary’s inclusion into the European Union, the giant wheel in City Park takes an entire to year to drain of glass particles. To make sure people don’t tamper with the granite contraption, the wheel is incredibly difficult to turn. In fact, it takes four people and several thick steel cables around 45 minutes to rotate it 180° every New Year’s Eve.
Of all the things to see in Budapest, The Holy Right is one of the most unusual. At nearly 1,000 years old, it is also incredibly historic and has strong religious significance. The Holy Right is the mummified fist of Saint Stephen. It was exhumed from the Saint’s corpse and preserved after he was canonised in 1038, and now sits in a gold reliquary in St Stephen’s Basilica. The holy hand is also integrated into the church’s St Stephen’s Day celebrations, held on 20th August every year.
One of the most haunting memorials in Europe, the Shoes on the Danube Promenade is dedicated to the thousands of people executed along the riverbank during WWII. The monument is a place for quiet reflection. It features 60 pairs of life-size iron shoes in various 1940s styles, designed to resemble those worn by victims of the war.
The Széchenyi Baths is not exactly a hidden attraction, but not many people know that the bathhouse is home to a number of chess sets. Play against your fellow travellers while submerged in the thermal waters, or test your skills against the bath’s regular players with a game against the locals.
Gellert Hill is known for its panoramic views and historic monuments, but underground you’ll find one of the most unusual things to see in Budapest. Under the hill is a series of caves, one of which serves as an intimate church. Accessible from the side of the hill, the Cave Church belongs to the Pauline Monks, and continues to be used for religious services and sightseeing visits to this day.
Deep beneath the magnificent Buda Castle lies a secret military hospital. Enclosed in a fortified cave, the hospital was used during WWII to treat victims of the war. In 2008, the medical unit was transformed into a museum, which invites visitors to venture underground and embark on an enlightening exploration of historic operating theatres and nuclear bunkers.
To round off a day of unusual sightseeing in Budapest, spend time in some of the city’s ruin bars. By reimagining abandoned spaces such as warehouses and car parks, these bars have transformed the capital’s nightlife scene. An excellent place to go to mingle with the city’s creative and artistic residents, there are many ruin bars to choose from across the city, such as favourites Szimpla Kert, Kuplung, Instant and Mazel Tov.
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