Hungary is known for the great Danube river, gorgeous palaces and monuments, and a culture steeped in history. We frequently see images of the great Parliament building, the stunning cathedrals, and the spectacular Chain Bridge. But just because a visit to this incredible country includes world-famous museums, palaces, cathedrals, and monuments doesn’t mean you can’t also satisfy your taste for adventure. For those who want to escape the well-trodden tourist paths, have some excitement, and create unforgettable memories, here are some ways to get your adrenaline pumping in Hungary.
Bike and Barge the Danube
Bike and barge tours are an increasingly popular way to experience the landscapes, countrysides, and waters of Hungary. On these tours, a barge travels along the river at a moderate pace. If your mood is to relax on deck and watch the scenery go by, you can lounge aboard all day. But most passengers choose to disembark in the morning and ride bikes along the river, with ample time for exploring nature, trekking down side paths, and pausing in little villages along the way. In the evening, meet up with the barge again at the designated port, and sleep in your cabin. These tours are a great way to combine the self-paced adventure of biking through Europe, without the hassle of securing lodging every night. These tours range from single-day excursions to multi-country journeys, and are an incredible way to explore Hungary.
Explore Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton is Hungary’s answer to the Mediterranean. Lake Balaton is the largest lake in central Europe, and is surrounded by small fishing villages, scenic drives, and gorgeous hills. In the summer, locals flock to its shores for a beachy, resort-like atmosphere. Lake Balaton offers a host of water sports, including water skiing, jet skiing, sailing, and windsurfing. The crystal-clear, fresh water of Lake Balaton is also perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving, and just swimming and diving.
Even outside of summer, Lake Balaton has a host of activities for those who love nature and the outdoors. Balaton-felvideki Nemezeti Park (Balaton Uplands National Park) has a vast nature preserve for hiking and biking, geological sites to explore the local ecology, villages and cultural centers to learn more about traditional Hungarian living and agriculture, multiple sites for caving, and even an observatory. The park has events, tours, and exhibitions year-round, with activities for solo travelers or the whole family.
Thrill-seeking in Budapest
No visit to Hungary is complete without a visit to Budapest, one of the most beautiful, well-preserved, and fascinating cities in Europe. Budapest offers a wealth of activities and sights all year long, but here are some great ways to explore the city and have an adventure.
Budapest has become famous for its escape rooms and has many to choose from. Escape Rooms combine the thrills of a video game with the excitement of a competition. Work with your friends or a partner to solve puzzles, complete tasks, and explore mysteries in these attractions, relying on teamwork, creativity, and resourcefulness to escape the room. Escape rooms in Budapest have dozens of themes and atmospheres, from spooky to scientific, high-tech to medieval, and they have become an extremely popular attraction in Budapest. These rooms are a great way to challenge yourself, and to learn more about your friends as you work together under pressure.
You wouldn’t know it to look at the stately mansions and castles of the Buda side of the city, but Budapest is built atop a significant network of caves. It’s the only European capital with such an extensive cave network, with over 200 caves beneath the city. Many of these caves have been explored and expanded upon over the centuries, and the incredible cave church at Gellert Hill is a great example of how early Hungarians exploited and expanded the natural cave system. The cave labyrinth beneath Buda Castle, with its underground hospital, is well worth a visit.
Many of these caves have the thermal vents that give rise to the city’s famous thermal baths, but you don’t just have to enjoy the caves from a spa above-ground. The city also offers tours of these incredible sights below-ground. Tours range from gentle underground hikes that explore local geology and rock formations, to adventure caving with climbing, crawling, and deep exploration. For adventure caving, all the necessary equipment is provided, and you are always with an expert guide. They even give you a room to change in, so you can switch from street clothes to caving clothes and back. There are a variety of different caves and tours, so you can see incredible stalagmites and stalactites, mineral formations, and natural tunnels and caverns.
For a whole different kind of adventure, spend an evening exploring Budapest’s famous Ruin Bars. Ruin Bars arose in Budapest’s 7th District, in the cores of residential buildings that have been largely abandoned. A few years ago, enterprising young people started clearing out space in these buildings, bringing in furniture, and selling drinks, and a whole new phenomenon was born. Most ruin bars have little or no outside signage, and look like any other apartment building, so you never quite know what’s going on inside. They have a wide array of themes, decor styles, music, and atmospheres, often even within the same building. The most famous of these is Szimpla Kert, the longest-lasting and most stable of the ruin bars. Others open and close at odd times, change locations, and can be hard to find. But the combination of old, abandoned architecture, ad-hoc, street artist-inspired decor, cheap drinks, and good music lives on in dozens of ruin bars on the Pest side of the river.
Hungary may be an ancient country with rich history, deep traditions, and enduring culture, but it also offers a wide variety of ways to get off the beaten path, explore new sights, and have unforgettable adventures. These are just a few of the many ways to have unique and exciting experiences in this fascinating country. You need to visit incredible Hungary and create some adventures of your own.