Buda and Pest may go together like a horse and carriage, but the two sides have such distinct personalities reveal their independent past as separate cities, even in today’s unified Budapest. While Buda is curvy and more mature, with hills and historic sites dating as far back to the Romans, the time of King Béla IV, where you’ll still find relics left behind by the Ottomans, Pest is flat, elegant with wide boulevards, grand buildings and a thriving nightlife that gives Budapest it’s reputation for being a party city. We’ve already gone through the unique things you can only do in hilly Buda, this time it’s the chance for Pest’s unique personality to shine. So if you’re looking to do the unique things below, there is no need to cross the river.
Visit the First Room Escape Game in the World
Budapest is the epicentre of the escape room phenomenon, when ParaPark opened in a basement under what was Gondozó Kert then a few years back. You can still visit the original ParaPark game – the ruin bar above may have changed its name to Bujdosó Kert – a subterranean race against the clock where logic wins the game. If you come to Budapest, you have to try one of the famous room escape games, but if you want a taste of its history, then head over to ParaPark.
Go to a Ruin Bar
People come to Budapest as much as to visit Szimpla Kert as they do to visit Buda Castle. Ruin bars have become synonymous with Budapest, as numerous complexes have popped up in semi-abandoned buildings in and around the Jewish Quarter. While Buda may have bars and trendy cafés, there is nothing that captures that dilapidated, eccentric feel of the bars of downtown Pest.
Photo: Official Facebook page of Anker’t
Explore Budapest’s Craft Beer Scene
You won’t find anywhere else in Budapest with such a density of craft beer places as an Pest, most notably the VII, VIII and the IX Districts. From sampling over 20 taps at Élesztő to sitting on the terrace at Jónás Craft Beer House set inside the glass whale on the Danube, you have plenty of wonderful hoppy experiences to try.
If you love good beer, you’ll want to explore Pest’s craft beer joints, like steampunk inspired Krak’n Town in the VIII District or Csak a Jó Sör, a shop and a bar specialising in craft beers. And don’t just try some great imported beers, but also try some Hungarian ones as well, and if you need someone to guide you to the best hangouts, you can join a Budapest Craft Tour!
Monyó Craft Beer Bar. Photo: Claudio Saroldi
Ride the Oldest Subway in Continental Europe
While London can lay claim to being the oldest subway in the Europe, Hungary claims the title for the continent. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Millennium Underground runs down the entirety of Andrássy Avenue from Vörösmarty Square all the way to City Park and beyond. While this metro line has seen the necessary renovation to keep things safe and running (unlike some other metro lines), it has kept its fin de siècle charm.
Photo: Csaba Jászai, MTI
Play Vintage Machines at the Pinball Museum
Tucked in a basement in the XIII District, the Budapest Pinball Museum is the largest interactive exhibition dedicated to pinball machines. With over 200 machines, some dating as far back into the early 20th century, this interactive museum is one of Budapest’s quirkier sites, but also one of the most popular hidden places for visitors who make a pilgrimage to this cult site.
Photo: Pinball Museum
Visit the Tallest Buildings in Budapest
Buda may tower in height with its hills, but when it comes to man made structures Pest wins. The Hungarian Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica are built to the equal height of 96m, said to represent the equal power of church and state, and to date no other building is said to exceed this height, at least not downtown. While you can’t go up the top of the Parliament, you can go up the dome of St. Stephen’s Basilica for wonderful views over the city.
Photo: Flickr user Alex
Take a stroll on Andrássy Avenue
Andrássy Avenue is Budapest’s answer to the Champs Elysée, and is a beautiful boulevard that stretches down the heart of Pest. Just take a walk and make sure you look up as every single building here has its own unique details, but some of the most striking sites are the Hungarian State Opera, Heroes’ Square, and as mentioned above the Millennium Underground. Andrássy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’re not going to find a street like this over in Buda.
Learn All About Unicum at the Unicum Factory
If there were a single drink that could be called uniquely Hungarian, that’s Unicum. This bitter digestif is made from a top secret recipe known only to the Zwack family of 40 herbs and spices gathered from all corners of the world. The factory over in the IX District takes you on an interactive journey through the history of the drink, gives you a peek into how it’s made and you’re also allowed to try it for yourself. We took a tour round the Unicum factory a while back, so read about our experience there.
Photo: Zoltán Perényi / Budapest Local
About the author: Jennifer Walker is an Anglo-Hungarian former nuclear physicist turned writer based in Budapest, Hungary. She’s passionate about discovering Budapest’s hidden places, architecture and art.