What to do in Budapest when it rains

What to do in Budapest when it rains

Have you ever visited a city hoping for sunshine but had grey skies and rain instead? Never mind, you can still have fun. This blog post is all about what you can do in the beautiful city of Budapest, the capital of Hungary, when it’s chucking it down with rain.

I went to Budapest in September. I flew there with Wizz Air from Pristina, Kosovo for €14.99. Wizz Air is Hungary’s low cost airline so there are lots of deals to Budapest with them.

 

Me with Wizz Air small carry on bag
Me with Wizz Air small carry on bag

 

As it was September I was still hoping for glorious sunshine so I could stroll around looking at the edgy murals, eat ice cream and sit outside with a beer at one of the many hipster bars.

Unfortunately it rained the whole time I was there so here’s a list of what you can still do in Budapest and how to make the most of this exciting city.

 

Gelarto Rosa Ice Cream 850 Ft for four flavour (Salted caramel, Peach, Sour Cherry and Cinnamon)
Gelarto Rosa Ice Cream 850 Ft for four flavour (Salted caramel, Peach, Sour Cherry and Cinnamon)
Rubik Cube mural for the Hungarian inventor Ernő Rubik
Rubik Cube mural for the Hungarian inventor Ernő Rubik
Budapest in the rain
Budapest in the rain

Tips

 

A few tips before you go exploring:

Cash points

Hungary is in the EU but it still has the Hungarian Forint and not the Euro. Hardly anywhere accepts Euro and if they do they can only give you change in Forint.

All over the city you’ll see Euronet Cash points – DO NOT use them, they give you a terrible exchange rate and have been known to eat bank cards. Instead use cash points in the banks. The banks usually have a cash point open 24/7.

 

Avoid Euronet cash machines
Avoid Euronet cash machines

Taxis

Uber once existed in Budapest until the Hungarian Mafia kicked them out. There is still a Hungarian Mafia which you probably don’t think about as much as the Russian, Italian and Albanian Mafia. The Hungarian Mafia have a sway with taxis which is why I would advise you not to get a taxi on the street but instead call one. Budapest is such a small city, you can walk or get the metro to most places. If you are out late partying and hail a taxi, negotiate a price before you get in.

If you need to get to the airport at an inconvenient time, I used a shuttle service that my hostel arranged. It cost €13 but took a while as they had to pick up other people on the way. This service is used by most hotels as well.

Drugs

Having just come from Kosovo which has a very relaxed drug policy, I was surprised at how harsh the Budapest police were towards drugs. Even possessing Marijuana can come with a prison sentence. So I would recommend avoiding drugs in Budapest and sticking to alcohol.

 

What to do

 

See it at night

 

Budapest is a beautiful city filled with a mixture of architecture, featuring many Neo-Renaissance buildings, and the iconic Buda Castle, which appears on 80% of the posts under the #budapest on Instagram.

During the rainy days it’s hard to see its beauty which is why you have to go for a walk when it gets dark and everything is lit up. The area to head for is by the River Danube and Chain Bridge, which links the “Buda” and “Pest” sides. Here you can see Buda Castle, Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica and many cute statues like “Man on Bridge” and “Little Princess”.

 

Little Princess Statue
Little Princess Statue
River Danube
River Danube

 

I was keen to climb up Chain Bridge and take some photos but no one was doing it. It was only 8pm and the wrong time of year. In the summer at around 10pm you’ll find people doing this if you want to join in.

 

Budapest at night
Budapest at night
Hungarian Parliament
Hungarian Parliament
Hungarian Parliament
Hungarian Parliament

 

Brave the rain and go on one of the many free walking tours

 

Free walking tour meeting point. Guides are in blue.
Free walking tour meeting point. Guides are in blue.

 

Budapest has an impressive range of Free Walking Tours (of course they’re not really “free” as you should tip the guide). They even have tours in Spanish. I went on the Original Walk at 10:30am and it was a good introduction to the city. It felt a bit more like a history lesson and less of a tour as you don’t see many places but the end point at Fisherman’s Bastion, next to Matthias Church, is a must visit – even in the rain.

 

Walking tour Pest side
Walking tour Pest side
19th-century cable railway up to Buda Castle
19th-century cable railway up to Buda Castle
Changing Guards on Buda Castle Hill
Changing Guards on Buda Castle Hill
Fisherman's Bastion on the Buda bank of the Danube, on the Castle hill
Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda bank of the Danube, on the Castle hill
Fisherman's Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion

 

The other Free Walking Tours include:

Communism Walk
Jewish District Walk
Street and Urban Art Tour

 

Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum

 

The two museums you must visit in Budapest are Hospital in the Rock and House of Terror.

Hospital in the Rock is often over looked and people only visit House of Terror. I think this is such a mistake as Hospital in the Rock is so interesting and unique inside. It’s also a great way to get out of the rain.

 

Entrance to Hospital in the Rock
Entrance to Hospital in the Rock

 

It’s located under Buda Castle and entrance is 600 Ft and for this you’re put into a group tour. The tours run every half an hour and are in English and Hungarian. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside which is a huge shame. The guide watched me very closely so I couldn’t even sneakily get one. Some of the photos I’ve put underneath and labelled are from the BBC website.

 

Gift shop gas mask drinking glass
Gift shop gas mask drinking glass
Waiting to enter the museum
Waiting to enter the museum

 

Inside it is part underground hospital, from the 1930s until after WW2, and part soviet nuclear bunker. On the hospital side they have recreated the rooms (x-ray room, emergency room, ward and even the toilets!) with incredible lifelike wax figures and original tools. The attention to detail is outstanding. The guide explained how this hospital was linked to the main hospital in the city, St John’s, and was very modern for its time. It was built to accommodate 60 patients. But in December 1944, Budapest came under siege from the Soviet Union, until February 1945. The hospital went from 60 patients to over 600 and was cut off from the main hospital and left to look after all these patients with limited supplied and bombs dropping above ground. The history is grim but thrilling at the same time.

 

Hospital in the Rock - taken from the BBC website
Hospital in the Rock – taken from the BBC website
Hospital in the Rock - taken from the BBC website
Hospital in the Rock – taken from the BBC website

 

The other part of the museum is the nuclear bunker. After Hiroshima and during the Cold War the Soviets became fearful of a nuclear attack and transformed the underground hospital into a nuclear bunker. Some of the equipment there still works, like the air filtration system.

 

House of Terror

 

This museum has an edgy vibe and the exhibitions are very modern. It covers the fascist and communist regimes that were in Hungary from 1930s-1990s. Beware – you’ll have to queue outside in the rain for this museum – I was in the queue for 30 minutes.

 

House of Terror Museum
House of Terror Museum
Queueing for the House of Terror
Queueing for the House of Terror

 

The name might put people off but it’s a museum not a scary attraction. The darkest part is seeing the cells used for torturing prisoners in the basement. 

One mistake people make is not getting the audio guide.

YOU MUST GET THE AUDIO GUIDE

As the exhibitions are on the more modern artistic side, they include no information except a print-out at the entrance to the room which isn’t great. I got the audio guide which was well worth 1500 Ft.

 

Modern exhibitions in the House of Terror
Modern exhibitions in the House of Terror

 

Adventure caving

 

This is not for the faint-hearted, overweight or claustrophobic.

What people often don’t know about Budapest is its extensive cave system. On the Buda side you’re actually standing on hundreds of caves. And you can visit these caves. I went with http://caving.hu/

It’s perfect for a very hot or rainy day because the temperature in the cave remains around 10C but with high humidity so it feels cool and dry. 

 

Entrance to Pálvölgy Cave
Entrance to Pálvölgy Cave
Descent into the cave
Descent into the cave

 

You climb through crazy narrow passages, slide down near vertical shafts and pull yourself through tight spaces. The guides were brilliant and had been doing this for 16 years so I felt totally safe and they were very knowledgeable. One of the guides reminded me of Gollum in Lord of the Rings as he did incredible acrobats through the caves.

 

Helmet, torch and overalls on
Helmet, torch and overalls on
Narrow passage ways to climb through
Narrow passage ways to climb through
Climbing under and down passages
Climbing under and down passages
Learning about the cave
Learning about the cave
Climbing back up
Climbing back up

 

It cost 7000 Ft (€25) and I was in a group of 16 with 2 guides. They provided all the equipment – overalls, helmet and light.

You need to be adventurous and slim. I was concern my height would be an issue as I’m almost 6ft, but many of the guys over 6ft4 were able to get through the passages. I was probably at the lower end of fitness level and there’s an age cut off of 55 years old.

The next day I really felt the workout and I had a lot of bruises but it was so worth it. A great experience. I fully recommend this for anyone looking to do something a bit different on their holiday.

 

Arm (left) and knee (right)
Arm (left) and knee (right)

 

Get goulash

 

The dish Hungary is known for is – Goulash!

Their goulash is more like a soup than a stew. It comes with bread and goes nicely with a beer or glass of Hungarian red wine. It’s great to eat on a cold rainy day.

The most famous place to get Hungarian food in Budapest is Getto Goulash which has a large menu.

I went to Kiadó Kocsma as it was near my hostel and had a friendly vibe for solo diners. I really liked this place.

 

Small Goulash and pint of Drelier beer for 1380 Ft
Small Goulash and pint of Drelier beer for 1380 Ft
Goulash
Goulash

Another restaurant to try some goulash and other traditional dishes is Frici Papa in the Jewish Quarter, this restaurant is extremely cheap for what you get. There’s also the Street Food Karavan in the same area with a caravan serving up goulash in a bread bowl. You can also try Lángos here, a Hungarian food speciality consisting of deep fried dough. 

 

Street Food Karavan, Budapest
Street Food Karavan, Budapest
Street Food Karavan, Budapest
Street Food Karavan, Budapest
Lángos burger
Lángos burger

 

Take the Metro

 

Metro station
Metro station

 

I made the mistake of trying to walk everywhere in Budapest in the rain. I then gave up and took the metro and it was a lot easier. You have to buy little paper tickets from a machine at a bus stop or outside the metro stations. You can’t buy from the bus driver or on the metro platform. A single ticket costs 350 Ft and you must stamp your ticket when you get on the bus or before you get on the metro.

 

Budapest Metro
Budapest Metro

 

I was told the transport officers were really strict, always checking public transport and will fine you €50 if you have an unstamped ticket. However, I never saw a transport officer on any of the buses or metros I took. I’m not sure if this is an exaggeration to scare tourists into always making sure they stamp their tickets.

 

Visit the famous thermal baths

 

The underground cave system in Budapest creates natural hot springs which have been made into large baths. The most famous is Széchenyi thermal bath (the yellow one). This is the busiest and most touristy. I visited and found it extremely relaxing. There are also indoor cold pools, saunas and thai massages available. You can go in the outside baths in the rain (but not lightning) and while Széchenyi is open until 10pm you have to enter before 6pm.

 

Széchenyi Thermal Baths entrance
Széchenyi Thermal Baths entrance
Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Inside Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Inside Széchenyi Thermal Baths

 

The other thermal baths are Gellért Baths (the green one) and Lukács Bath on the Buda side. These are smaller and quieter. I suggest a thermal bath after adventure caving!

 

Thermal Bath Selfie
Thermal Bath Selfie

 

Széchenyi thermal baths is where they hold “Spa-ties”, a party in the spa on a Saturday night. Unfortunately it was cancelled the Saturday I was there due to the threat of lightning.

 

Stay at one of the crazy party hostels

 

If you don’t want to do the above and instead – party, get wasted and have sex – then stay at the infamous party hostels in Budapest.

The main two are Retox Hostel (for alcoholics) and Grandio Hostel (they have a room called Anal room, that should say everything). There’s also Carpe Noctem Original and Carpe Noctem Vitae. I stayed at Sziget Hostel which turned out to be connected to these hostels and next to Retox Hostel.

 

Retox Bar
Retox Bar

 

Sziget Hostel was great as it had the best of both, party place next door but was a relaxed hostel inside. All these hostel offer nightly events and are good if you’re sociable and on your own. Most of the events are alcohol based – €30 boat cruise with all you can drink – and end up with people running around a boat naked….

 

Sziget Hostel room
Sziget Hostel room

 

Go drinking at a ruin bar

 

The most known ruin bar is Szimpla Kert. It’s set in an old ruin building and looks like Instagram throw up on it – fairy lights, car tyres, giant bunnies, shisha, mismatched chairs and a hipster clientele. After 10pm don’t expect to find a table as it fills up quickly, even on a week night. There are lots of tourists and ex-pats here and while most of the people are young, the vibe is easy going and any age can go for a beer. The cheapest beer on tap is Szimpla Union at 370 Ft a pint and it’s drinkable.

 

Szimpla Design Gallery
Szimpla Design Gallery
Szimpla Kert
Szimpla Kert
20 tequila shots
20 tequila shots

 

Overall

 

Budapest is a great city to visit in Europe and one of my favourites. I wish I’d had more time there. You can easily spend 5 days in this city. There is something for everyone, every age and level of activity.

Rain is never great when you’re on holiday but I hope my tips above help you make the most out of your time in Budapest. I’m sure it doesn’t rain here all the time. 

2 Replies to “What to do in Budapest when it rains”

  1. Wow, what an amazing city! This is still on my list and the caves and markets look incredible, useful write-up and definitely great for someone looking to get along soon 🙂

  2. I’ve long wanted to visit Budapest – there’s such alot of good advice here thank you and great photos too.. Though I won’t be going in the caves as I’d have claustrophobia. Love Bec xx

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