Three weeks ago, Agnes Zuberecz introduced us to nine of the most popular foods in her native Hungary. Here, she suggests 10 unique activities that may inspire you to put Hungary at the top of your bucket list this summer.
Summer is an amazing time to visit Hungary; the air is warm and the days are long. There are tons of unique activities to engage in in and around Budapest ranging from the very active to the more indulgent. Here are my top 10 favorite things to do; I hope you’ll have the chance to try these out if you find yourself in the area!
1. Lake Balaton Cycle Route
Lake Balaton or “The Hungarian Sea” is an hour and a half car ride from Budapest. Balaton has lovely shallow water beaches and gorgeous panoramas; it is also well-known for the white wine vineyards which surround it. The lake is surrounded by a 140-mile bike path and bikes can be rented for $10 -$15 dollar/day for self-guided tours. There are plenty of campsites and health-conscious hostels to stay at along the way, too, making this a great destination for those who love to stay healthy and active.
The annual Balaton-átúszás is a 5.2km (3.23 mile) swim across Lake Balaton (in fact, “Balaton-átúszás” literally means “swim across Lake Balation”). Boats are hitched together across the lake so you can rest anytime (and even enjoy some fruit candy provided by the boats!). You can register up until the day of the event; they’ll ask you complete a short medical examination and then you’ll be ready to swim!
3. Horseback Riding in Szilvásvárad
Szilvásvárad is Hungary’s equestrian capitol and you will find an abundance of stables there. The Lipizzaner horse is the most well known in Hungary; it was bred by the House of Habsburg (one of the most important royal houses of Europe) and descended from Arab, Barb, Spanish, and Neapolitan stock.
4. Hike at Hármashatár Mountain
On the outskirts of Budapest you will find the Hármashatár Mountain – Three Border Mountain – which got the name before Buda, Óbuda and Pesthidegkút all merged together to become Budapest. The mountain is a well-kept secret among the locals for hiking, biking and paragliding. A map of the 7 mile hiking trail can be found here.
5. Margit Sziget (Margit Island Running Tour)
When you arrive in Budapest, you will likely notice the small island on the Danube between Buda and Pest. This is Margit Island and It only allows pedestrian traffic, making it an ideal place for runners.
6. Sail in the Blue Ribbon Regatta (Yacht not included)
Gather your friends and set sail in the traditional Blue Ribbon Sailing Regatta; this 200km race is the longest round-the-lake competition in Europe and is likely one of the oldest, too – it has been held annually in July since 1934. Anyone can participate but if you’re not into sailing, you can certainly join the many spectators who flock to the shore as well. Check out Fifty-Fifty, a huge catamaran which broke records.
7. Relax at the Hévíz Baths
Located 20 minutes from The Balaton, Lake Hévíz is the second largest thermal lake in the world. The water temperature is 90F, making it a great year-round destination! Besides swimming, mud packing and massages are also very popular. The beautiful city of Keszthely, one of the more important cultural, educational and economic hubs in the region, is only 15 minutes away; if you feel like you need a break from the water, it is a great place to explore.
8. Balation Sound
Dance at one of Europe’s biggest open air electronic music festivals at Balation Sound. The four-day event has been held annually since 2007 and features the likes of AfroJack, Steve Aoki and Avicii. Concert-goers will often camp out on lake Balaton’s shore starting at the beginning of July and from there they enjoy the 20-hour music schedule. Tickets tend to sell out by March, so the earlier you plan your visit, the better!
9. Hungarian Folk Dance at the Akvárium Klub
Listen to Johannes Brahm’s Hungarian Dance No.5 while you admire the whirl of embroidered skirts and stomping boots at the Akvárium Klub, in Budapest. Learn the swift Csárdás, Hungary’s most popular dance. Not to worry if you’re typically not that great on your feet; Hungarian dance utilizes large amounts of improvisation!
10. Gellért Baths and Spa
Soak yourself in the healing waters of the art-nouveau Gellért Baths in the heart of Buda. Built in 1918 at the foot of Gellért Hill, Gellért Baths is a very traditional space; there, you will find indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a wave bath, a sunbathing terrace, and a thermal spa. Gellért Baths is attached to The Gellért Hotel, so hotel guests can use the spa for free. Otherwise use of the spa is a reasonable $21/day.
Words and opinions: Agnes Zuberecz