A moniker of Budapest is the ‘Pearl of the Danube’ – and it makes sense; Budapest glistens, it’s beautiful to look at, a gem of a city sitting within a land-locked East-Central European shell, and a unique mix of grandeur, grit, fascinating history and wonderful culture makes Budapest a real rarity.
If you are researching Budapest for an upcoming trip, or returning to the Hungarian capital, you will likely already know about the must-see tourist attractions and things to do. So, we’re not rehashing the same old suggestions here. You can get to grips with all the key sights & sites, the history and culture on our free walking tours in Budapest
, but today we've asked some of our lovely local free Budapest tour guides for their expert tips and insider suggestions on the authentic places, experiences, and best things to do in Budapest like the locals that most tourists don't know about. You’re welcome.
See more: Our top 10 non-touristy things to do in Budapest
We start with the lovely, Andris, one of our Budapest city tour guides who has some excellent suggestions and expert tips for the best view of Budapest, getting out and active, as well as cheap and delicious street food, where to grab a drink, and more.
Snap an amazing panoramic view of Budapest
“My most favourite view in Budapest”, says Andris, “is the mid-point of the Margaret Bridge, especially at night. Walk down from the Margaret Island to the mid-leg of the bridge and take amazing pictures of the entire panorama from over the river. There are many viewpoints, especially from the hilly Buda side, but the view from the bridge is something special, just amazing”.
Margaret Island, tips from a local
“If you have already walked around the city and you wish for a more relaxed walk, Margaret Island is the most wonderful place for that”, says Andris. “If it's a hot summer day, you can visit the Hajós Alfréd Swimming Pools. The park on the island is full of lovely and exotic trees; it’s mostly English style, but there is a bigger French style park and a smaller Japanese garden as well.
If you are a jogger, there is a proper running track around the island, four rounds make a half-marathon. The Island is ideal for picnics, cycling, Frisbee, badminton and so on. You can find a cheap Frisbee or badminton kit in a Decathlon store, right in the centre”.
Rent a bicycle in Budapest
Budapest is a very cycle-friendly city, and Andris believes it is most beautiful when explored by bike. “Riding along the riverbank at sunset will make anyone fall in love with the city. Buy some food for a picnic in the Central Market Hall next to the Liberty Bridge (don't bother with upstairs though, that's touristy), then ride along the Elisabeth and the Chain bridges, up to Margaret bridge and the island, have a break, eat and enjoy, and then ride back on the other side of the river.”
“Renting a bicycle for a day won’t be more than 10-15€. On Andrássy avenue, you can enjoy a safe bike-line through the main avenue out to the City Park. Hardcore people can try to ride up to the Gellért Mountain too”.
Trek the János Hegy
If just reading that last sentence about cycling up a mountain made your legs ache, then you’ll probably want to give Andris’ next Budapest expert tip a miss. Now he wants you to climb a mountain! Don’t worry, there’s a stair lift too.
“On the Buda side, if you take the red metro to Széll Kálmán tér, catch bus number 222 to Kuruclesi út and you will be, more or less, at the bottom of ‘John’s mountain’ – it’s really more of a hill, around 530m. There you can decide if you climb the whole thing, or catch the chairlift (Zugligeti Libegő), but on foot you can stop at the Normafa - a favourite outdoor spot of locals where you can have an awesome strudel. At the top of the hill, the Elisabeth Lookout Tower will provide a spectacular view”.
Get lost in the old town of Pest
“Between Vörösmarty tér and Fővám tér lies Váci utca, the most-known pedestrian street of Pest, which makes it a very touristy street”, says Andris, “but, if you leave the beaten path, you can explore an almost untouched, gorgeous part of Pest. I most recommend between the Ferenciek and Fővám squares; you can find the Károlyi garden, and on its corner the Csendestárs café with cute tables under some colourful lights - a perfect spot for a summer’s night beer”.
The Best Budapest Street Food
“Central Market Hall is the favourite of many locals. In and around the market hall there are multiple great street food places. My top favourite ‘Pasta’ on Vámház körút. Lots of locals enjoy their street food and drinks on Liberty bridge. Sometimes the bridge is closed for a whole weekend, to be enjoyed by the locals who have a party, a yoga class or a maybe a dance class on the bridge.
Locals’ Favourite Cafes in Budapest
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but Andris’ suggestions for things to do in Budapest like the locals have me feeling a little peckish for some sweets and coffee. Thankfully, Budapest is full of great cafes and places to enjoy such treats – and many of them have yet to be discovered by visitors.
Cristina, another of our lovely local Budapest free tour guides, gives us the low down on her top cafés in Budapest.
“Kino cafe is the place where you can go to either have breakfast or a drink. It is central in location, almost as cozy as your home, and they have two cinema rooms in case you want to check out the latest movie releases".
Very child friendly, Görbe Bögre
cafe is the place to go if you are travelling with family. They have quite the selection of teas, a delicious brownie and several other homemade desserts. Their amazing collection of games also makes it a fun place to go when it’s cold and grey outside.
Ever wondered how many different hot chocolate combinations exist? Rengeteg RomKafé avagy Míves 2.0
knows no boundaries for it! Just tell them what you have in mind and they will create the beverage for you. I highly recommend booking a table in advance though, it’s very popular amongst us locals”.
Our excellent Budapest tour guide, Gabor, has a sweet tooth too. His non-touristy things to do in Budapest centre around a locally loved confectionery.
The Best Daubner in Budapest
“All people of Budapest know about a famous, not yet touristy confectionery called Daubner. Besides having traditional cookies, cakes and crackers, here they also make new, modern versions combining foreign flavours with old recipes".
"Whether you’re craving salty or sweet, this is the place to dive into the sweet side of Hungarian cuisine".
As it is very popular with locals, lines are usually long, but it is worth the wait. It’s easy to find on the Buda (Óbuda) side - just take the tram to Kolosy square and walk up Szépvölgyi road. I recommend getting it take away and enjoying it at the riverside looking at Margaret island, or by the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheater. When it comes to saltine, you should go for different versions of pogácsa or sajtos roló (cheese rolls) and if you wish for sweet it could be the famous somlói galuska or Dobos cake”.
Escape rooms, Budapest
Nóri, another of our wonderful local tour guides, likes little more than being put in a room and given an hour to escape it. And her things to do in Budapest like the locals suggestion is just that!
“The idea of the escape rooms originates from Budapest, so if you are three or four people together, a visit to one of them is always a fun activity".
"There are a lot of different locations and themes to choose from in English. I have tried several, my favourite is Exit the Room
at Csengery u. 76, 1067. To ‘exit the room’ you will need logic, teamwork, some luck and maybe some help too. Personal hint: in enclosed spaces I sometimes have claustrophobia, but these rooms are not actually closed so I never feel trapped in them”.
Other things to do in Budapest like the locals
Time for some quickfire tips now, here’s some more non touristy things to do in Budapest like the locals, as recommended by our expert tour guides.
– if you want to avoid the throngs of tourists at the famous Széchényi and Gellért baths, Veli Bej Turkish bathhouse on the Buda side is small but beautiful and quiet.
“Budapest thrift stores and vintage shops are eco-friendly, cheap and offer a great selection of unique clothes. Check out Humana and Typo Showroom in particular” says Panni.
The Ujlipótvaros neighbourhood
is a local, residential area on the Buda side that is well-worth a visit. You can find a market with vendors and farmers, inexpensive Hungarian restaurants, great confectioners and even a jazz club.
, is great for cakes, Pozsonyi Vendeglo
or Becsi szelet
for lunch, and the artisan café Double Shot
for great coffee – all in The Ujlipótvaros neighbourhood too.
Huge range of craft beer at Különleges Sörök Boltja
, a specialty beer shop in Budapest on the Buda side.
"If you want to spend your time in Budapest like a local, the stairs anywhere along the Danube river is where we just sit and chill with a Soproni, and talk about the universe. Here you can see the essence of Budapest" says Noémi
(CSengery utca 65/B) is a ruin bar outside the busy Jewish quarter, so it is a place for locals less frequented by tourists. Sometimes local bands play too. It has a unique atmosphere, good people and good prices – a perfect non-touristy place in Budapest.
in the City Park - from mid-spring until late autumn underneath the trees of the City Park, right on Olof Palme Sétány.
There you have it, dear Budapest bound travelers, the ultimate list of things to do in Budapest like the locals, according to expert local guides. We hope we've inspired you to get off the beaten path while in Budapest and seek out a more authentic experience in this beautiful city.
We look forward to seeing you on our daily free tours of Budapest, we meet In front of St. Stephen's Basilica every day at 10:30 A.M. and 2:30 P.M. We're on social too, follow us @generationtours for more great content.