Adventure Local; Budapest
Welcome to Adventure Local, a series of Apidura guides designed to help you get the most out of riding in various destinations around the world. In this edition we’re exploring Budapest in Hungary – the city by the Danube – with founder of @BikepackingHungary Marcell Gangel.
Budapest is surely one of central Europe’s cultural highlights. Set on the banks of the River Danube and steeped in both architectural beauty and historical significance, this city is a place that demands visitors get to know it below the surface. And from the infamous Széchenyi Chain Bridge to the many world-class museums and market halls, there’s no better way to take it all in than by bike.
“Being a cyclist in Budapest gives you the chance to breathe in all the scenic views and history of this city from its roads,” says adventure cyclist and Budapest local Marcell. “There is an emerging cycling culture with many cycle paths and cycling cafes popping up in the area. And on top of the nice city routes, escaping into nature is easy – with the hills of Pilis and Börzsöny only an hour’s ride away.”
Currency: Hungarian Forint (HUF)
Neighbouring Countries: Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia
Nearest Airport: Liszt Ferenc International Airport
Visas Required: Find out here
Finding a Bike
Cycling here is easy, fun and beautiful,” explains Marcell. “It’s probably the easiest way to get around, and as a result, cycling in Budapest has become more popular in the past decade. In 2012, 100,000 people attended the local ‘critical mass’ cycling demonstration – in a city of 1.7 million inhabitants.”
Finding a ride through Budapest’s many city bike providers isn’t difficult, but to get your hands on a more capable machine, Marcell recommends either Mesterbike + Coffee Project or Speed-Way bike shop – with each offering a wide selection of road, gravel and mountain bikes.
To get the most out of your riding here, it’s tyre width that counts for Marcell: “The infrastructure is great and is improving continuously, but you can still hit some rough stuff (cobbles, or very bad roads) in certain areas, so be aware. Lots of local gravel climbs and rough tarmac demand 30c tyres. They’ll also come in handy if you decide to hit the hills of Pilis or Börzsöny.”
“Cycling culture is continuously growing in Budapest,” says Marcell. “We see more and more people commuting by bike, joining group rides, heading out on ‘coffee rides’ at 6am, socialising in bike cafés, and discovering Hungary or going abroad on two wheels.
“Bikepacking is growing too, as more and more people get into it. Follow Bikepacking Hungary on Instagram and Facebook for news and updates on the region, or if you’re planning a visit to Hungary by bike, join one of our organised day trips around famous Hungarian destinations.”
Thank you: Köszönöm
Yes / No: Igen / Nem
Where To Ride
“It’s easy to get off the beaten path,” explains Marcell, “but it requires some knowledge and experience. My advice? If you’re coming here for the first time, ride from the Buda Hills to Pilis, or even further to Börzsöny if you have time. Cycling routes are marked by little coloured cycle icons, so follow a combination of these – and your nose – and you’ll find some really nice roads.”
“As a helpful hint for the more adventurously minded, I suggest visiting the Turistautak (meaning ‘hiking trails’ in Hungarian) website where you’ll find great maps with all the hiking paths – mainly single track and gravel – which you can download. Officially, it is not permitted for cyclists to use ‘hike only’ trails, but in practice, if you are not riding crazy, and don’t leave traces behind, there should be no consequences. Just plan your route, load it on to your GPS device, then follow the signs. And make sure you always pay attention to hikers.”
For those staying in the area for longer, Marcell’s ultimate riding tip is a trip to Lake Balaton. “It has everything you need for the perfect getaway spot. Beautiful views, a relaxed environment, beaches, great wine, and rich cultural life. It’s also rideable in a few days, even if you go slower. And because of the good facilities and infrastructure, cycling is very popular around the lake, so many of the small shops, restaurants and buffets welcome cyclists. Bikepacking is kind of a new thing, but it’s not uncommon to see a few packed-up touring rigs riding near the lake.”
Budapest Hours of Sun
Where To Hang Out
If you’re out enjoying the city and looking for a place to grab a coffee, look no further than Pavé Bike & Café. Located right near the river, opposite Olimpia Park, they have a range of cycling accessories and essentials to browse while you get your caffeine fix. They’ll also service your bike, too.
“Besides the cultural and beautiful city center, you should definitely try some Hungarian dishes,” urges Marcell. They are guaranteed to give you the carb loading you need before a big ride. My top recommendations would be pörkölt, gulyás, lángos, or palacsinta.
“Beyond traditional Hungarian cuisine, you can find artisan cafés, fine dining, casual wine bars, and great vegan burger spots, too. Also famous are the historic spas in Budapest which can serve as the perfect place to recover after a long day in the saddle.”