Budapest was unanimously recommended to us as a cultural melting pot and foodie-friendly corner of the world. It's a large city, but can be easily be navigated via the quality public transportation system. Looking for a place to plant some roots, we booked a 10-day stay to determine what all of the hubbub was about. We hit the usual sites (Fisherman's Bastion, Hungarian National Parliament, St. Stephen's Cathedral, etc.), but also went off the beaten path with a caving expedition in a nearby national park, toured a WWII hospital, and a visited to the little known pinball museum/arcade.
The Caving Under Budapest tour was unlike anything we've ever done. The cave's air was thick with dust as we crawled and climbed our way through spots we wouldn't have thought possible. We pushed our boundaries during this incredible excursion, and our knees and elbows paid the price the next day when they revealed a few impressive bruises accompanied by aches and pains from muscles we don't usually exercise. We checked caving off of our bucket list and anticipate that our next underground experience will occur in a slightly more sedate venue, a wine cellar.
We also toured the surreal underground Hospital in the Rock, a WWII medical facility and bomb shelter. Built to accommodate 60 people, it ended up housing over 600 individuals during the wartime invasion of Budapest. Both of us detected a scent similar to formaldehyde in the musty air in this inherently eerie place. While educational, we found ourselves ready to reach the one-hour tour's end so we could get some fresh air and seek out a merrier venue.
Where does one turn when seeking the merriest venue of all? For us, it was the Flippergaléria Pinball Museum. During our casual exploration of the city we stumbled upon this side-street gem, home to over 130 pinball machines dating back to the 1930s. All of them are functional and unlimited play is included in the modest admission price. We had a blast in this pinball time warp and recommend it as the perfect distraction from the more recognized sights.
We were delighted to find Budapest as the incredible city everyone described with its historical architecture, restaurants and Sörözős offering fresh food and incredible local wine, and especially those little gems that haven't quite been discovered by the sightseeing masses.