It’s hard to bid farewell to the sun-splashed summer months, but there are many reasons to visit Budapest during autumn as well, when life starts moving to the city’s enclosed locales, but outdoor attractions remain equally appealing. In fall, we can enjoy colorful sylvan scenes when we dine at tree-flanked terrace eateries, while oenophiles can sip fine Magyar libations at intoxicating wine festivals. When it rains, the city’s exhibition sites become even more enticing to visit, and we can even head underground to explore what lies beneath Hungary’s capital.
Dip into autumn scenes in Budapest’s baths
Summer might be over, but that doesn’t mean another year must pass before we can again enjoy alfresco dips. Several of the city’s most famous spas boast outdoor pools where we can soak all year round, like Széchenyi Bath in City Park, a historic haunt for many locals and foreign visitors who come here to heal, play chess, or just simply chill in the steaming thermal waters under open skies. Providing a broad spectrum of wellness facilities, Lukács Bath keeps health-seeking crowds outdoors with mineral-infused waters maxing out at 40°C/104°F, while those using the rooftop hot tub atop Rudas spa can soak in panoramic autumn vistas while lounging in the bubbling bath.
Devour Hungarian meals amid forested scenes
Thanks to Budapest’s numerous parklands across, sylvan settings encircle several restaurants in Hungary’s capital, where Magyar meals are served alfresco when the weather allows, but we can always move indoors if it starts raining. In Vajdahunyad Castle’s recently opened Anonymus Bar & More, terrace guests can immerse into heartwarming goulash soup amid colorful autumn scenes that surround City Park’s picturesque lake, while Buda’s historic Jardinette offers forested vistas all year round from its glass-walled winter garden. Or for a mini day trip, take a short ride on bus 65 from Kolosy Square up into the Buda Hills, where visitors are rewarded with tranquil woodland views surrounding the covered courtyard of the Fenyőgyöngye eatery, an old-school eatery serving inexpensive Hungarian meals like fried-meat specialties, stews, and pottages – and numerous hiking trails are found just steps away from the restaurant, providing an active way to admire the autumn colors.
Sip fine Hungarian libations at wine festivals
In September, the harvest season is in full bloom across Hungary’s wine regions, and to celebrate this occasion many festivals honor wine culture countrywide, including many events happening in Budapest. During September 1-3, bibulous crowds fill District XVI’s Erzsébetliget parkland to sip aromatic reds, whites or rosés (or all of the above) at the Vingardium wine festival, while during the same weekend on September 2-3, south Buda’s District XXII hosts the easygoing Budafok Champagne and Wine Festival. The following week, oenophiles ascend the Castle District’s panoramic paths to drink their way through an incredible selection of Magyar-made libations at the Budapest Wine Festival, happening during September 7-10.
Explore the city’s underground attractions
Whether the sky is filled with sparkling sunshine or cloudy drizzle, Buda’s subterranean sites are open all year round, and thanks to the vast network of thermal waters circulating beneath the city, these caverns are pleasantly warm shelters even when the weather gets cold. Found beneath one of Buda’s ordinary residential areas, fascinating stone formations bloom at the Szemlő-hegyi Cave, where casual guided tours take visitors through million-year-old chambers, while adventurers who are ready for a real-deal challenge can go spelunking at the nearby Pál-völgyi Cave. History buffs can descend into a maze of chambers under the Castle District to explore the Hospital in the Rock Museum, a preserved WWII shelter, while anyone can make a pilgrimage to the Cave Church on Gellért Hill for a spiritual excursion.
Watch Heroes’ Square transform into a horse-racing track
As a majestic gateway to Budapest’s Városliget parkland, Heroes’ Square is one of the city’s most popular destinations, with its towering monuments representing Hungarian history as a huge semicircular colonnade bearing statues that depict the seven original Magyar chieftains and other important national leaders. During September 15-17, this postcard-superstar sight will turn into a spectacular horse-riding ground for the annual National Gallop, where the country’s young jockeys dress up in traditional Hussar outfits before hopping into the saddle to race around the massive monument. Hooves pound, dirt flies, and the crowds cheer as herds of horses and riders compete for the grand prize and national glory. See more details about this spectacle on the event’s official website.
Admire Hungarian folk art at indoor venues
From a giant museum to an easily accessible exhibition space beneath a downtown eatery, a stimulating combination of venues presents the nation’s old-time artistry across Budapest. Culture aficionados can still buy tickets to see the city’s biggest folk-art exhibition at the Museum of Ethnography before it closes down after November to move from its current building on Kossuth Square to a new location a few years later – inside the stately edifice, visitors walk though centuries of cultural creations, including displays showcasing Hungarian wedding customs and Magyar peasantry’s life. Located near the Buda side of Chain Bridge, the Museum of Applied Hungarian Folk Art provides a brief introduction into heritage customs with regularly changing temporary exhibitions, while centuries-old village scenes come alive in the cellar of downtown’s Urban Betyár restaurant.
Eat your way through gastronomy jamborees
Thanks to Budapest’s enduring gastronomy boom, plenty of food-themed festivals offer hedonistic pleasures citywide, even during fall – on September 15-17, artisanal chocolates, cakes, and ice creams are presented in seemingly unlimited quantities on Szent István Square in front of the Basilica during the Sweet Days Chocolate and Sweets Festival, while the following month, Hungary’s spiral-shaped pastry is honored at City Park’s Chimney Cake Festival (October 13-15). Meanwhile, carnivorous crowds target the Hungarian Railway Museum in Pest’s District XIV to try many varieties of the country’s very own bangers during the Sausage Festivalhappening during October 13-15.
Immerse into sweet seductions at historic confectioneries
Hungarians often rave about the nation’s traditional treats, and we can also go on and on about flavorful Magyar-made sweets – in fact, no visit to Budapest is complete without devouring a classic cake at one of the city’s historic confectioneries. With its sweet seductions made to perfection, Vörösmarty Square’s historic Gerbeaud Confectionery already has a prime spot in many travelers’ itineraries, while in Castle District, the historic Ruszwurm lures guests to taste the shop’s flavorful fantasies, like the vanilla-flavored “krémes” delight. However, several smaller confectioneries evoke bygone eras too, even if they are lesser known among those who live outside of Budapest: in Auguszt on Kossuth Street we can devour Dobos Cake amid 19th-century scenes, while the freshly reopened Hauer near Blaha Lujza Square is a freshly reopened destination for enjoying Magyar sweets served in extra-sweet versions amid turn-of-the-century settings.
Participate in free events citywide on October 23rd
Every year on October 23rd, the nation commemorates the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, when the Magyars rose up against the oppressive Soviet forces that were occupying the country at the time. On this public holiday, several programs are happening citywide that anyone can join for free, including a solemn flag-raising ceremony on Kossuth Square, complimentary guided tours inside the neo-Gothic Parliament, and ceremonial processions across the city. Meanwhile, many of Budapest’s museums offer free entry and special programs to visitors during the day, including the Hungarian National Museum, the House of Terror Museum, and the Museum of Military History. We will post an update on We Love Budapest about this year’s October 23rd happenings closer to the date.