01. For Sale Pub
Just over the road from an unassuming shopping centre, lies the welcoming For Sale Pub. Despite the name, it’s not actually for sale – but permits visitors to leave personal advertisements, drawings, business cards, notes and other mementos on the walls. Whilst leaving your mark, you can also get yourself some delicious, hearty Hungarian fare.
02. KonyV Bar and Restaurant
Tucked away down a back street of the Jewish Quarter, KonyV takes its name from the Hungarian word “könyv”, meaning book. The interesting thing about this unique restaurant, is that it chooses a weekly novel to base its entire menu and drinks on. For example, when the book of the week was Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, they served ‘royal pheasant broth’ and ‘rich and poor’ coffee chocolate cake. ‘Novel’ idea, don’t think you?
03. Veli Bej
Known as the ‘City of Baths’, Budapest is overflowing with thermal baths. Gellert Spa, Szechenyi and Lukacs baths are well known to tourists, but stray slightly off the beaten track, and you’ll arrive in the tranquil Veli Bej. Unlike its huge counterparts, Veli Bej Turkish baths are small, cosy and extremely fresh looking, despite their origins in the 16th century.
04. Red Ruin
Unlike other Soviet Bloc countries, Budapest certainly has a good sense of humour when it comes to poking fun at its rocky communist past. Nestled within an ancient looking façade, Red Ruin bar embodies this humour – with murals of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong on the wall, wearing birthday hats and having a super-fun “communist party.”
05. Vajdahunyad Castle
We love a first draft as much as the next man, but this one is something special. Located on an artificial island in the heart of Budapest, and little known to tourists - the entirety of Vajdahunyad Castle was constructed using cardboard and wood, until it proved its worth and was commissioned to be built in stone in 1904.
06. Hospital in the Rock
Hidden among almost six miles of natural tunnels and caves underneath Buda Castle, a museum preserves the history of a secret underground surgical hospital from WWII. In 1958, the hospital was extended into a cramped nuclear and chemical shelter – where people hid from potential weapons of mass destruction, during the Cold War. Brave visitors can even take part in a competitive (and just a little bit creepy) nuclear readiness drill amongst the gruesome injured mannequins.
07. Labyrinth under Castle Hill
A complex underground network of caves and cellars run beneath Buda Castle Hill, where all manner of historical events have taken place – including the famous imprisonment of Vlad Tepes, better known as Count Dracula. Visitors can even explore the eerie, dark tunnels, equipped with only flickering lanterns and their own courage.
08. Zwack Unicum Factory
Made from 40 different herbs and spices, and based on a secret family recipe, Unicum (if you can look past the name…) is a delicious authentic Hungarian drink which graces the shelves of every bar in Budapest. On the banks of the Danube, and therefore straying into territory unfrequented by tourists, you can enjoy tours of the whacky Zwack Unicum Factory – and even sample the potent nectar.
09. Flipper Muzeum
“Ever since I was a young boy, I've played the silver ball, from Soho down to Brighton, I must have played ‘em all” – but we’ll forgive The Who for missing this one, as it’s so well hidden. Located in a basement, under a rundown residential building in central Budapest, Flipper Museum has rows of fully working pinball machines – including the rare Mesovonat machine, the only known Hungarian-made pinball machine. Your entry fee covers use of all of the machines, for the entire day.
10. Istvantelek Train Yard
Occupying a vast area of land just outside Budapest and little known to tourists, the ‘Red Star Train Graveyard’ has more than 100 locomotives and train cars rotting away – some which were used to transport prisoners to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. The majority of the engines are slowly losing their battle with the elements, meaning this hidden gem may not be around for ever. Catch it while you can…
11. Michael Jackson Memorial Tree
Since his death in 2009, grieving Hungarians have transformed a previously nondescript tree into a shrine to Michael Jackson. Covered in photographs, flowers and letters, with all manner of memorial paraphernalia carved into its bark – the area is now somewhat of a tourist attraction. The tree itself, however, is less of a Budapest secret than the impromptu flash mobs occurring annually around the shrine on The King of Pop’s birthday (29 August).
12. Szimpla Kert Farmers’ Market
If you come to Budapest and you don’t visit Szimpla Kert ruin bar - you’re doing it wrong. This is a huge, well known pub with quirky, mismatched furniture including sawn-off Trabant cars and even an open air cinema. But, less well known, Szimpla Kert hosts a traditional farmers’ market every Sunday morning, with locally produced, healthy, farm-fresh and home-grown salami, homemade syrup, jams and other delicacies on offer for bargain prices.
Now that we've exposed the hidden secrets of Budapest, take a look on our Budapest stag weekends and hen weekends pages to see what we can offer your group.