With UNESCO World Heritage Sites stealing the limelight and picturesque castles and museums drawing in tourists in their droves, Budapest‘s oddities could easily slip by unnoticed. But this city is far quirkier than you’d imagine, with spa parties livening up the nights and the odd alien invasion simulations taking place in a UFO hangar. Here are a few of most weird and wonderful things you can do in this historic and fun city.
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Ruin bars are abandoned venues which have been converted into bars. They sometimes don’t have any evidence to show that they’re bars, like 241 cocktail signs or even noticeable doors or entrances. That means you have to be cool enough to know that they’re there, and brave enough to actually walk in. Szimpla Kert is one of the original pubs to kick off the trend, and today is one of the biggest and best, playing a mix of electro music and offering a range of obscure cocktails and craft beers. But there are plenty more hiding across the city.
We thought putting a photo up of this place would be a bit pointless, since the Invisible Exhibition remains in constant and complete darkness. Here, you’ll experience what it’s like to be blind for a short period. Try eating dinner in the dark and you may find that your other senses become heightened. Food will taste better (or worse). Sweet things will taste sweeter and you’ll more fully appreciate the depth of flavour in your wine, if you manage get the glass to your lips. Difficult as it may be, try to avoid the strong desire to eat with your hands. Believe in yourself.
Budapest Bath Parties
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The whole idea of a spa is turned on its head with this obnoxiously fun idea. There will be no relaxing involved as pumping beats fill the steamy rooms (or outdoor venues) and tipsy revellers splash around like toddlers in a paddling pool.
Well-known DJs take to the decks and balmy 33℃ water comes as a reward for stripping down to your swimwear in sometimes sub-zero temperatures – yes, these parties take place throughout the year, come snow or rain! It’ll be like clubbing in the Blue Lagoon – except, instead of the Aurora, beams of fluorescent strobe lighting will illuminate the night sky.
Area 51 Project
If you’re a fan of aliens and improv, this next attraction blends both these into a seamless, immersive theatrical experience. You’ll be placed into an alien invasion-type scenario which involves contact with extra terrestrial life. You’ll even get to board a spacecraft. But before you arrive, bellowing “take my money!” you might want to call in advance to see when the next English performance is taking place.
Enter this railway and you’re greeted by a fresh-faced youth who sells you your ticket and ushers you to the platform with a gesture from their petite hand. As you stand waiting, a slightly high-pitched voice announces the arrival of your train and you step on, where a spritely, rosy-cheeked conductor with a bowl haircut asks you for your ticket. Yes, this railway is almost exclusively run by children. And they’re all aged between 10-14 years old.
This railway was not built to exploit children, but to teach them about responsibility and prepare them for employment when they’re older. It’s the largest children’s railway in the world, because, believe it or not, there are many more, most of which are in Russia. These pint-sized workers run the railway like clockwork. And their employment depends on the completion of a four-month training course and the renewal of their railway licences yearly.
There are always some adults around to handle any emergencies but, for the most part, the railway is the kids’ domain. You may find that most people onboard are not actually going anywhere. They just want to gawk at these scallywags operating a railway, which is probably why you would be there too.
This seemingly tame attraction could easily have been left off the list, were it not for the fact it was originally constructed from pieces of cardboard and wooden planks. In the 20th century, the building became so popular that the architects and constructionists decided to meat it out with something more substantial, and Vajdahunyad Castle in its current form was born.
It’s now one of the city’s most prominent landmarks, and in it, you’ll find elaborate chandeliers, fancy pillars, and throngs of school children who are very eager to learn about its history, we’re sure.
This is one of the world’s biggest hour glasses, and it only needs resetting once a year, so as you can imagine, it has quite a bit of sand in it. It’s next to City Park and weighs a hefty 60 tonnes. Turning it involves using steel cables and takes four people 45 minutes to do – possibly another reason it’s only done once a year.
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If you’re a sucker for 1970s detective shows, and particularly the ones which feature the chatty character played by Peter Falk, you’ll be pleased, and perhaps as bewildered as we were, to know there’s a Columbo statue in Budapest. Naturally it honours the slightly puzzled yet confident pose that was almost always followed by the phrase: “just one more thing”.
The Microscopic Museum
This place will make you feel like Gulliver when he washed up on Lilliput. Not because there’s a colony of very little people living there, but because all of the items on show are about the size of a grain of sugar.
Let that sink in.
Now try and imagine how small you’d have to be for a grain of sugar to look as big as a normal-sized work of art or sculpture. The level of intricacy in each artwork is astounding. As you can imagine, it’s a small exhibit, and only when you look through the microscope will you appreciate the full extent of each piece. They were all made by one man.
Imagine a life-sized statue of Michael Jackson that you could eat. That’s what you’ll see at Szabo Marzipan Museum, along with some fairytale characters that were sweet enough before being replicated by tens of kilograms of confectionary. How about a marzipan cathedral or even marzipan food like eggs or a cauliflower? Food made from food – mind boggling.