Autumn is rain and sunshine, colorful and drab, warm and cold, pleasant and rough, inviting and merciless, all at the same time. It’s definitely a season of change, one day pulling us back into the welcoming arms of summer and bringing us the foretaste of the upcoming frost at the other.
Fun fact: The Hungarian word for autumn “ősz” means “grey-haired” at the same time, while there’s a verb (“őszül”) that means both “to become grey-haired” and “to become autumn-ish”.
But before you spiral into a deep melancholy contemplating the process of growing old, the evanescence of life and the meaning behind all of it, keep reading. The following list will tell you exactly how to do the balancing act between making the best of both the last warm days and the first icy gusts of wind.
Here are 20 things you can do in Budapest in order to have the most wonderful autumn.
1. Go for a Hike
There is no better season for hiking in and around Budapest than autumn. Head straight to the “giant mountains” of Buda, yell “FREEDOM!” and jump into a colorful pile of leaves. It doesn’t matter if you pick János-hegy, Széchenyi-hegy or Hárshegy, go up there by public transportation, the Children’s Railway or the Zugliget Chairlift – you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic day in nature.
Psssst! We have listed lots of great hiking opportunities all within the borders of Budapest in our extensive Budapest city guide.
2. Get Your Heart Broken at the Frida Kahlo Exhibition
The exhibition of Frida Kahlo is an absolute must-see not only for art-aficionados. Frida’s life was torn by physical pain and a broken heart – her resources and raw material for her incredible paintings depicting human suffering in a way only few can. Perfect to enhance the experience of a grey and unwelcoming autumn-day.
Where: National Gallery, Szent György tér, 1014 (Buda Castle)
When: until Nov 4, 2018
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FRIDA KAHLO – Remekművek a mexikóvárosi Museo Dolores Olmedóból 2018. július 07. – 2018. november 04. Frida Kahlo 1925-ben, 18 évesen az iskolából hazafelé tartva súlyos buszbalesetet szenvedett. Gerince és medencecsontja több ponton eltörött. Hosszú hónapokra ágyba kényszerült, műtétek sorozatát hajtották végre rajta. Egész életét meghatározta ez a baleset és az erős gerincfájdalom. Ennek képi megfogalmazása ez a festmény, ahol a gerincet egy több helyen eltörött ókori oszlopként ábrázolja. Frida határozottan visszautasította a festmény szürrealizmussal való rokonítását, mint mondta: „Nem az álmaimat, nem is a rémálmaimat festem meg: a valóságomat festem.” Frida Kahlo: A törött oszlop, 1944. 39.8 x 30.5 cm Col. Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, México Photo credit: Erik Meza/Javier Otaola ©Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. by SIAE 2018 #fridakahlo #exhibition #nemzetigaleria #hungariannationalgallery #museodoloresolmedo #painting #mexican #soon #dontmiss #mexicanartist #mustvisit #installation #fridakahlobudapest
3. … Or Become an (Art-)Nerd at all the other Museums and Exhibitions Budapest has to Offer
If you’ve already seen the classics, like the National Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts or the National, the contemporary Ludwig Museum or the Natural History Museum, there’s still a lot left for you to satisfy your curiosity.
If you’re more into history, the Kiscelli Múzeum is an absolute must-see taking you by the hand and guiding you through the multiple eras of Budapest’s multifaceted past.
And if you long for real curiosities, dive into the weird and wonderful collections of one of Budapest’s tiny museums, where you can learn everything about the world’s flags, electrical engineering, pinball-machines or even stop your hating on the Magyar Posta at the Postal Museum. Each of these collections will be presented to you by a lovely and very dedicated staff eager to explain to you the tiniest little detail with passion. Perfect to turn a grumpy day around!
4. Visit the Indie Cinemas
Yaaay! to culture but Naaah! to museums? Autumn time is movies-time! Avoid the multiplexes though and head to one of the wonderful indie-cinemas of Budapest. Bem Mozi has specialized in old movies showing you classics you have either missed or could watch again and again, while Cirkó Gejzír claims to be the smallest cinema in Europe. Kino, Toldi and Művész all show lots of indie-flicks and have a great and old-school atmosphere. Check for language and subtitles though before your visit!
5. Go to a Concert
This autumn hosts some great events for all kinds of music fans. Check out the events of A38 – a ship turned into a floating concert venue – or Dürer Kert, one of the more offbeat ruin pubs of the city that hosts national and international life gigs frequently.
If you want to see and support smaller bands, head to Lámpás Bár. There’s live music almost every night and the vibe is always great in this dim and friendly basement.
Or pay a visit to Pótkulcs – Budapest’s oldest ruin bar for Irish nights, world music and frequent folk nights in an authentic atmosphere.
6. … Or Dive into the World of Classical Music
Listening to live music, paying nothing and witnessing Budapest’s pride classical music scene. Sounds like a dream come true? It’s possible almost every single autumn week at the Liszt Ferenc Musical Academy, where you can listen to the student recitals or various chamber music concerts. All you have to do is take a look at the schedule of the university concerts and select the one that appeals to you most.
Bonus: The venue of the Musical Academy is as beautiful as it gets and attending such a concert is a great way to soak up all the glory of past times.
Hearing the violin play while the rain is pattering against these large ornamented windows is somewhat the definition of autumn snugness anyways… *sigh*.
7. Join a Different Kind of Walking Tour
If you think that walking tours are for lazy tourists only, think twice, as Budapest hosts plenty of offbeat guided tours with wonderful and knowledgeable guides that are both fun and will definitely teach you something new about the city that you wouldn’t learn elsewhere otherwise.
If you’ve already seen all mainstream attractions, follow Budapestflow’s Attila into the 8th district to see one of the most authentic neighborhoods of Budapest packed with underground and cultural spots.
Or check out a street art tour and learn about the history and meaning of all those colorful firewalls that brought zest and joy to Budapest’s previously run-down and grey neighborhoods.
The choices are plenty and since autumn brings a decrease in tourism you’ll most likely be with a small group and the opportunity to ask plenty of questions.
… and if you’re definitely not the type for organized walking tours check out My Map of Budapest – a beautiful heartfelt project taking shape in a printed map with the city’s best hidden spots, cafés and other gems. Perfect for a smartphone-free treasure-hunt!
8. Enjoy the Last Warm Breezes in the Colorful Parks
Parks are a wonderful thing year-round but the falling red and yellow leaves in autumn provide them with that certain extra.
There are so many parks in Budapest that there’s no way we could list them all, so we’ve picked three for you that you probably don’t know about yet and should definitely check out this autumn:
Füvészkert: The ELTE Botanical Garden – The botanical garden of ELTE-university or, as we call it, “Füvészkert” is actually tucked between some of the busiest streets of Budapest. Still, once you enter, you won’t notice any of this. Instead, you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a calm and colorful oasis where you can literally get lost for hours. Although the park itself is small, it is super wild and romantic and has many little hidden corners where you can relax, read a book and just take in your surroundings.
Károlyi Kert – Although this little gem is located right in the very heart of Budapest not that many people know about it which is a total blessing. The surrounding old streets and buildings provide the Károlyi Garden with an extra special flair and it’s the perfect place to read a book or relax on one of the benches on a nice autumn day.
The Campus of the Veterinary University – The University for prospective pet doctors actually has one of the most atmospheric, wild and romantic campuses of the whole city. Mingle with the students in this cottage-like area surrounded by university buildings and enjoy the last warm breezes of the year.
9. Visit the Kerepesi Cemetery
If you’re in for a really special park, visit Kerepesi Cemetery which is a wonderful sight on a sunny autumn day. The best way to explore this magical place is by bike, as the area is huge. But walking is also perfect if you don’t mind a slower pace. Either way, make your way through the beautiful greenery of what we call the “Hungarian Pantheon” or sculpture garden and soak in its peculiar atmosphere. But Kerepesi is not only special due to its setting and botany. This is also the final resting place of the people referred to as “The Greatest Magyars” of all time. Freedom fighters, former leaders of the nation, poets, writers, architects, statesmen and martyrs. All of them have somehow shaped Hungarian culture and history.
Luckily you won’t get lost, as there are detailed maps available at the entrance that show you the way around the cemetery and also indicate the most important graveyards and mausoleums.
Address: Fiumei út 16-18, 1086
10. … And while You’re at it: Learn more about the 23. October National Day and the History of Hungary
October 23rd is one of the most important national holidays of the country, where Hungarians honor the freedom fighters who rose up against the Soviet oppression of the country in 1956. The revolution impacted and inspired multiple authors and screenwriters and there are plenty of ways in English to learn about it in an engaging way. Here is our recommendation for a quick introduction to the revolution and the history of Hungary:
After digging through the Wikipedia article, watch Children of Glory for an accurate and gripping depiction of the events that took place in Budapest in October 1956. Then read the highly entertaining “33 Hungarian Histories” by Miklós Molnár; a compelling piece of literature that’ll show you the most important aspects of the history of Hungary through 33 portraits of inherently Magyar personalities.
Understand the Hungarian Mentality through 33 Captivating Stories of Inherently Magyar Personalities
Whether you’re in search of your Hungarian roots, are living in or travelling to Hungary or you’re just curious about the history of this tiny but ever-proud nation – this book is for you.
11. Try a Good Wine
Autumn means harvesting and there is no better time to taste yourself through the variety of Hungarian and international wines. You have plenty of choice for enjoying great wines in great settings. To help you get started, here are our favorite casual wine bars of the city for a wine-ish autumn evening.
12. Get the Harvested Fruits and Vegetables from the Markets
… and the best thing is that autumn is not only the time for harvesting wine grapes but also plenty of other fruits and veggies that are now abundant in all of Budapest’s amazing market halls. What are you waiting for? Next time, instead of struggling with the often poor selection of the supermarkets take your time and head to one of Budapest’s great markets for the freshest goodness in town.
13. … and Cook Yourself a Delicious “Főzelék” afterwards – a Typical Autumn Meal
Done shopping but don’t know exactly what to do with those veggies? Főzelék is the answer! If you’re not familiar with the term yet, főzelék is a thick Hungarian vegetable stew made out of one or more types of vegetables. You can literally turn every kind of vegetable into a főzelék with the help of a few spices, bay leaves and an immersion blender, but if you’re looking for inspiration we can warmheartedly recommend you food blogger Szatmári Feri’s cookbook with plenty of delicious recipes. Főzelék is the healthy comfort-food for cold autumn days and will make every rainy day and evening a little bit better. Promise!
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Amikor a kezeim közé kerül egy tök és átalakul némi édesköménnyel felütve című képem ez. ⏩MENTES Magazin Nyári szám #szatmariferi #főzelek #képemez #glutenfreelife #glutenfree #mentes #mentesmagazin #hidegenalegjobb #squashandfennel #miteszikazirodista #miteszekma #officefood #plasticfreejuly Fotó: @puskasnori Stilingó: @instakatasan @meglepetes_magazin
14. Drink Coffee and Hot chocolate in a Cozy bar
If you need even more comfort or a dessert after your főzelék, head to one of the coziest bars of Budapest and treat yourself with a coffee or a delicious hot chocolate.
15. Explore the Hidden Stairs of the Castle Hill
If you’ve already been to the Buda Castle more often than you can count and you think you’ve seen it all – well, you probably still haven’t. Although the Castle is pretty much the number single biggest attraction of Budapest, it still has its underexplored corners that you can fall in love with. One of these are definitely the often narrow and concealed stairs leading up to the Castle Hill. These little forgotten flights everyone tends to abandon in favor of the (overpriced) 60-second funicular-ride are all full of trees, winding up the hill next to some of the oldest residential houses. Walking up there hand in hand – that’s the true autumn romance! There are multiple stairs for you to discover, but our favorites are Korlát Street Stairs (leading to Tóth àrpád Avenue), Gránit Street Stairs (leading to the “Hospital in the Rock”) and Kagyló Street Stairs (a surefire date location leading right to the Vienna Gate).
16. Explore the City’s Hidden Spots
Make your way to that neighbourhood you’ve never been to before but always wanted to before winter kicks in. Have you ever made it to the suburbs of Budapest? Are Chinatown, the Wekerle Estate, the industrial 9th district or Óbuda still on your bucket list? Don’t wait any longer and make it a priority to make Budapest truly “yours” this colorful autumn.
Need help and inspiration? Check out our alternative Budapest guidebook! It’s literally packed with offbeat districts, hidden areas and lovable neighborhoods that can’t wait for you to finally explore them!
Explore the Authentic Side of Budapest!
Our guidebook will help you peel back the multiple layers of Budapest one by one. It’ll help you see Budapest the way it’s meant to be seen.
It’s written for conscious travelers and locals. For those who are looking for more than just a glimpse at the main tourist attractions.
For those who want to not only see, but also feel the city and experience how it lives, plays, works, eats, drinks and functions.
It features countless little gems for you to discover while strolling the city streets – be it a hidden courtyard, a secret bar, a colorful garden, an offbeat flea market, or a stunning piece of street art.
17. Play Board Games at One of the Board Game Cafés
Don’t know about you but we love playing board games. Since the good ones can get quite expensive, having a fun afternoon or evening at one of the board game cafés of Budapest is a great bad weather alternative!
We loved Társa’s Játék Bár. The atmosphere is great and casual and they have a whole bunch of games to choose from; you’ll surely find something addictive! The staff is super helpful and speaks perfect English, so don’t worry and just ask them for help if you feel overwhelmed or need the rules explained. Oh, and they serve drinks and snacks! You’re guaranteed to forget the weather outside here really quickly.
The same goes for Game Up Pub – a place with great vibes, lots of games, drinks and popcorn! Also here, the staff is super eager to give you recommendations and will explain you everything.
Be sure to make a reservation at both places, especially on weekends, since they can get really packed!
18. Pamper Yourself at the Rudas Night Bath
Every Saturday to Sunday night Rudas Bath opens its doors again between 10 PM and 4 AM and offers you the most amazing bathing experience you can possibly think of. If even thinking of the first snowflakes gives you the creeps, console yourself with the notion that you can soak in 40-degree water in a rooftop pool or throw yourself into a sauna that was carved into a Turkish bath from the 17th century. Seriously, night soaking in Rudas is an unforgettable experience and it’s worth your every forint.
Address: Rudas Gyógyfürdő és Uszoda, Döbrentei tér 9, 1013
19. Borrow a Book from a Library
“With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?”, reads Oscar Wilde’s accurate observation and since you’ll probably spend a lot more time at home and indoors in the next months, you better prepare with one or the other great book to turn these into happy hours! You can borrow them from Budapest’s beautiful libraries. Think the Szabó Ervin Library that’s located in a former palace, the Library of the Parliament with a stunning view across the Danube or the National Library of Foreign Literature with its Harry Potter-like green lamps.
20. Explore the Colorful and Diverse Countryside
Last but not least, don’t forget that Hungary is so much more than Budapest and autumn lends itself really well for a great countryside exploration trip for the day or the weekend.
Listing every worthwhile town and area would go far beyond the scope of this article but our suggestion is to start with Hungary’s cute university towns this autumn that each offers their separate characteristics and sights.
Szeged – a young and fresh city in southeastern Hungary providing an ideal mix of current culture and history. Read more about a visit to Szeged here.
Pécs – the southern player with Balkan-influenced food that is packed with arts and culture. Pécs was also elected as the European Cultural Capital in 2010. Read more about a visit to Pécs here.
Sopron – A charming and historically rich city located right at the Austrian border. It’s also the ideal base to discover Lake Fertő, the Fertő-Hanság National Park as well as the bucolic Burgenland-region of Austria. Read more about a visit to Sopron here.
Zebegény & the Danube Bend (Dunakanyar) – There is more to the Danube Bend than just the Visegrád Castle. The Danube Bend is a picture-perfect location for an amazing weekend-getaway from the city-buzz of Budapest. It’s the perfect place for hiking, cycling and simply enjoying the Hungarian countryside. Here are our best tips for the area.
And now there’s nothing left for you to enjoy Budapest’s autumn with all of its beautiful shapes, smells, tastes and colours. Let us know about your experiences and definitely let us know if we missed your favorite autumn-experience from this list!