Budapest used to be really cheap but it was before the crisis, so we've compiled a list with affordable, cheap, discounted or free activities.
A magnificent Széchenyi bathhouse built in Neo-baroque style is located in the City Park Pesta. Széchenyi was a count, patron of the arts and city's benefactor. Half of the city seems to be built on his money. When the Austro-Hungarian Empire was moving towards the decline, the baths reflected the then size of the country. Fifteen thermal pools with water of different temperatures, ten saunas and steam-sections, and three open-air heated pools are open all year round and are visited by hundreds of guests daily. The baths are fed by a 1,246 m depth spring. Magic water is promised to cure any illnesses including rheumatism, arthritis, gastritis, stomach ulcer, gout and so much else that the baths are packed to the gills. It is better to come here early in the morning or, as locals do, after 7pm, when some of the baths are closed but several pools, saunas and steam sections remain open. At this time you are eligible for discount.
Bean soup in a street fair
Almost every Budapest street fair has a corner with cheap and delicious traditional food. Such venues are easy to spot – at lunch time men gather at high stands and are engrossed in long politics talks enjoying their bableves. This thick soup is made of beans, sweet paprika, pork ribs and smoked sausage and served in plastic plates. One serving will make you full till the end of the day – Budapest cooks are generous. Ask for kenyér (a loaf of bread) and tejföl (sour cream) or spicy paprika sauce with your soup. The most delicious version can be found at Rákóczi tér Square Market but if you want to try it at Central Market Hall go to to the second floor and find caldrons with bableves to the right.
MOST Kortárs Bisztró
The mecca of Budapest youngsters is located right behind the Opera. It's always packed at night and nobody cares it's so noisy they can't make out what other people say. During the day it attracts managers from nearby offices with cheap business lunch: oxtail soup, mango-curry chicken masala and somlói galuska for dessert. The menu is huge, featuring Asian and Indian cuisine, burgers with fries and traditional goulash. In the evening they serve cocktails and home made lemonades and arrange concerts. When it’s warm, the parking lot becomes a veranda and the rooftop terrace welcomes visitors.
The 14-meter Statue of Liberty on Gellért Hill is a great hallmark as it can be seen from every point in Buda and even central Pest without going by the Danube. It was erected in 1947 to commemorate the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces during World War II. Soviet commander, legendary Marshal Voroshilov personally picked the location and the architect Zsigmond Stróbl.
The idea was a monument to Soviet soldiers and the bronze female figure with a palm wreath was completed in two years. Astonished people used to say it was so quickly as the Soviet commanders ordered the monument long before the victory. And some said the woman was supposed to hold a propeller instead of the wreath.
In 1989, the statue was attempted to be moved to Memento Park, to join other Soviet monuments but some people objected so it was renamed and all Soviet symbols removed, including the names of 164 fallen soldiers.
Budapest beer establishments are a sort of political map of the early XXth century. You can identify them by Söröző sign. In District I, under the wall of Buda Castle there are plenty of German and Austrian beer houses. Cross the Danube to find beer from the imperial provinces – the Czech and Slovakian one. And for Belgian, British and Hungarian beer you will have to travel all around the city.
Beer culture is not that developed here as in the neighboring countries contrasted to wine – its production began under Romans who taught Magyars to make it. So Hungarian beer is not worth a profound research. The best beer can still be found in home breweries in Swabian villages. Several local factories provide locals with cheap booze – one of them was opened in 1895 in the town of Soproni and its production is the most decent Hungarian beer you can find. It is served in the majority of restaurants.
Shabby joints under the sign of borozó are actually local highlights, where you can find really cheap wine. They usually open and close really early for locals to pop in before and after work and have a chat and a pint. Borozó is not some wild booze joint, but a calm and decent establishment. It is no vinoteque – the choice is simple: Hungarian white, red or rose. The owner will scoop it from an elongated can, fill your glass to the brim and offer you a seat. The place usually has a couple of plainly decorated rooms – a ceiling and walls that should be enough and actually is. Budapest residents have been gathering in borozós for ages talking their plans for the future, gossiping and cursing the government. So to meet some colorful Hungarian character in the city of expats go to borozó.
Rumbach Street Synagogue
The sun brings this destroyed synagogue in Rumbach Street back to life: its walls shine in bright purple, red and yellow and the rays of light fall directly to the Torah reading table – that was the design of the most renown Viennese architect Otto Wagner, who created the synagogue. Since 1872, the synagogue was attended by not so numerous status quo ante Budapest Jews, meaning they were moderately Orthodox. Wagner's task was to create a little synagogue not to outshine the neighboring neolog synagogue in Dohany Street but at the same time make it nice. The building is the most stunning example of a traditional Jewish synagogue with Byzantine and arabesque elements.
The shop's owner Laszlo has been personally selecting clothes and stuff from the 60-70s from all over the world for almost 20 years. Here you can find vests right from Fassbinder's movies, Jim Morrison style jeans, nostalgic lamp shades, Abba dresses and all comes really cheap.
Pop, classic rock, experimental electronics, musicals, soundtracks and Hungarian alternative, cantor music from local synagogues, classics – this is only part of 12,000 old and mint condition vinyl in Laci Bácsi shop. The legends – The Beatles, The Doors, Pink Floyd, etc are the most expensive but a record of your favorite pianist, some arthouse avant-garde or a Broadway show will cost you 500-800 forints. On Friday, the shop works as a consignment.
Gresham Palace: the Session monument
On the verge of the 20th century, Hungarian architects loved the Secession style so you can find plenty of its examples around the city. In Russia we call it modern, in France – art nouveau and jugendstil in Germany. Hungarian version has distinctive folk decorations – bright tiles, most often of the Zsolnay factory.
The Gresham Palace is the best Secession example along the Danube – today this former estate of Gresham insurance company hosts a Four Seasons hotel. It was built by Zsigmond Quittner and Vago brothers and survived the renovation, Soviet occupation, nationalization and sales to Four Seasons. The owners carefully restored original mosaics, winter gardens, plaster, the stairs and magnificent wrought iron gates with two proud peacocks. You should definitely have a look.