It can be hard to find a major European city that isn’t packed with tourists, especially in those busy, summer months. Don’t let that put you off – there are plenty of “off grid” attractions and activities on offer, for those looking for something a little different, a little less run of the mill.
To get you started, here’s our recommendation for the best European city to go off map.
And that city is – Budapest! A city split in two by the river Danube, medieval Buda on the hilly, west side and the more dynamic, hip Pest on the east bank each boast their own unique character, sights and secrets.
Sure, partying the night away at a ruin pub is now a well entrenched tourist “must do”, but this city also offers plenty for those happy to search out something a little different. Here’s some ideas of what you may, or may not, find if you choose to go “off map”.
Although sadly now closed, the city used to be home to a unique experience at the Buda Castle labyrinth. Visitors were expected to make their way through the foggy, damp underground caves simply by following some signs. About halfway through there was the Maze of Darkness, which required you to hold onto a garden hose as you made your way through the pitch black. This attraction is closed but hey, you gotta love the spirit of adventure behind it.
And for some hidden gems still open for the casual explorer, how about the Metropolitan Szabo Ervin Library – a 19th century artistocrat’s mansion (Wenckheim Palace) turned into a library, hidden in a modern library.
Twenty minutes outside Budapest’s city centre is Memento Park, home to more than 40 Communist-era statues (including a replica of Stalin’s giant boots monument) and a perfect spot for a stroll through history.
Hidden among the caves and tunnels beneath Buda Castle Hill is the Hospital in the Rock Museum, a secret underground hospital that was later turned into a nuclear fallout shelter.
Perhaps a tad more left-field, the city is home to a memorial tree to Michael Jackson, who often stayed at the Kempinski Hotel. When the king of pop was in town, his fans would gather in the park across from the hotel hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Following his death in 2009, his fans dedicated a tree in the corner of the park to him, decorating it with pictures, letters and other homemade tributes.
And that is just a snippet of some of the secrets and hidden treasures which await those happy to go off grid in beautiful Budapest.
Photograph is of a concert in Budapest. Credit © Dennis Schmelz.