Sagas and Spas of Budapest - September 5, 2018 - Atlas Obscura Trips


Sagas and Spas of Budapest

Explore the city at the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the spectacular thermal lakes and countryside vineyards surrounding it.

Join us in the storied capital of Hungary, home to both stunning pre-war architecture and modern art and design. After three days in Budapest, we'll depart the city and set out for the beautiful countryside, and explore its hidden wonders.

This trip is limited to a small group of 12 explorers.


  • Memories of an empire: Get a glimpse into the rise and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by visiting Budapest's age-old churches, government buildings, and the largest working synagogue in Europe.
  • City explorations: Adventure into some of Europe's most unusual sites, from a Nuclear Bunker Museum to the House of Terror.
  • Thermal and underground lakes: Soak in the world's largest naturally heated lake and row boats inside a subterranean cave system.
  • Countryside vineyards: Sip your way through Hungary's wine country, with vineyards that date back to the Roman Empire. 


A $500 deposit is required to secure your spot; this deposit is nonrefundable after three days. We have limited capacity, and we expect the trip to fill quickly. The trip will cost $2,997—the $500 deposit plus $2,497 final payment—and will cover all fixed costs including accommodations, meals as mentioned in the itinerary, and all the activities listed below.


Please email us at or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.

Adam Jones, Ph.D.
Day 1
Welcome to Budapest!
  • Arrive in Budapest by 3 p.m. and settle into our group's city center hotel. Some of you will be joining us today, while others will be continuing from our five-day exploration of Berlin.
  • In the afternoon, we'll take a walk through District VII. After World War II, District VII—the old Jewish quarter—was left to decay. About 10 years ago, bars and restaurants begin appearing again in abandoned buildings, and an exciting underground scene continues to take shape.
  • Afterwards, we'll have our first Hungarian dinner together in a Ruin Bar. From the outside, there usually isn’t much to see, and sometimes you have to search a bit to find the entrance. But once you get in, you find yourself in a funky, laid-back locale filled with good people and good food.
  • For those of you looking to go out later tonight, we'll be sure to provide recommendations.
Day 2
Budapest Explorations
  • After breakfast at our hotel, we'll start the day with a walk across the Chain Bridge and a ride up the funicular to Castle Hill, a World Heritage site boasting centuries of royal history.
  • We'll then briefly stop by Fisherman's Bastion. While only 100 years old, it's hard to imagine Budapest without this spectacular structure, and no visit to the city is complete without a stop here for the gorgeous views. The Fisherman’s Bastion came by its name because of the fish market located nearby during medieval times; the bastion was built to commemorate the fishermen who once protected this part of the city.
  • Afterwards, we'll make a visit to Mattias Church, which is unlike any you've seen before. Originally built just after the Mongolian invasion, it has played a central role in Budapest’s history and remains standing after 700 years. It was here that Charles V was crowned Holy Roman Emperor, where Muslims prayed during the Turkish invasion in the 15th century, and where the Austro-Hungarian Empire was formed.
  • Our last stop before lunch is Hospital in the Rock. The Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum (Sziklakórház Atombunker Múzeum) is part of a six-mile stretch of interconnected caves and cellars beneath Buda Castle Hill.  During World War II, the caves and tunnels were connected, fortified, and used as an air raid shelter. On the orders of the Mayor of Budapest, an emergency surgical hospital was also built within the caves beneath the hill. The hospital was actively used during World War II until July 1945, and then again during the 1956 Revolution to treat wounded civilians and soldiers.
  • For lunch, we'll enjoy a Hungarian classic, halászlé—fisherman’s soup! You’ve probably heard of Hungarian Goulash, but its lesser-known cousin is a knockout.
  • After lunch, we'll set out on a long walking tour of Budapest Center. As we wind our way through the capital, we'll see the classic sites—including the Parliament Building, the Shoes on the Danube Memorial, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and the Covered Market—while also catching glimpses of the city’s quirkier side.
  • Tonight, after a busy and active day, feel free to roam, relax, and take dinner on your own.
Day 3
House of Terror & Tree of Life
  • After breakfast, we'll kick off our morning with Terror Háza, or the House of Terror. This museum is dedicated to remembering events most Hungarians are reluctant to discuss—torture done first by the Nazis and then later by the Soviet-backed Communist Party. Housed in a former headquarters of the Communist Secret Police in the very center of Budapest, it is part history museum, part art installation, and part architectural icon.
  • After a rather heavy morning, we'll lighten up over lunch at a Budapest Coffee House.
  • In the afternoon, we’ll visit the Budapest Synagogue. The largest working synagogue in Europe, this is the best place to explore the history of Jews in Budapest. We'll tour the stunning interior as well as visit the Tree of Life sculpture located in the interior courtyard.
  • After a busy day, the rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to rest or explore on your own. We'll have additional recommendations for spots to visit!
Day 4
Thermal Lake & Vineyard Visit
  • This morning, we'll depart the bustle of the city and travel by coach bus to Tihany, a tranquil peninsula surrounded by lavender fields, situated on Central Europe’s largest lake, Lake Balaton. The locals have nicknamed Tihany "Fairy Island," which feels appropriate despite the fact that it's not actually an island.
  • Here we'll enjoy lunch with gorgeous views of Lake Balaton. Afterwards, we'll have the chance to visit several unusual sites, including the last remaining colony of hermit caves in Central Europe; the natural phenomena of Echo Hill; and Tihany Abbey, home to the first document ever written in Hungarian.
  • In the late afternoon, we'll continue by coach to Heviz, known for its thermal lake and its wine. This lake is continually fed by thermal waters that bubble up from springs a hundred feet below. Natural and constant flushing ensures that the lake’s waters refresh completely every two days and the temperature never sinks below 75 degrees Fahrenheit in winter and 95 degrees in summer. We'll dip our toes into Heviz Thermal Lake and Spa for a truly unique experience swimming among lily pads in the world's largest naturally heated lake.
  • We'll end our day in Hungary's wine country. We’ll walk around the vineyards and rustic houses of Egregy Hill, which has a wine-making tradition dating back to the Roman Empire.
  • After a relaxing dinner, we'll enjoy a wine tasting at one of the local vineyards before settling in for the night at a nearby hotel.
Day 5
Tapolca Subterranean Lakes
  • Today, we continue onward to Tapolca, home to the Tapolca Lake Cave Visitor Center. The Tapolca Lake Cave was discovered in 1903, and shortly thereafter scientists realized it was only a small section of an entire cave system stretching underneath the town. We'll have the opportunity to not only walk through a network of naturally formed tunnels but also have the thrill of rowing our own boats across an underground lake.
  • We'll arrive back in Budapest with some free time to spare before our farewell dinner.
  • Tonight, you'll be an active participant in creating our own private Hungarian dinner party! With the help of a local chef, we'll learn to cook a three-course Hungarian meal, while drinking Hungarian wine and reminiscing about all of our adventures. You’ll get to take home all the recipes—so you’ll be ready to host your own Hungarian evening for friends and family. 
Day 6
Farewell & Departure
  • After breakfast at the hotel, depart for home or onto your next destination—or extend your stay and soak a bit more in the thermal baths. (Your guides can pass along tips for additional things to do in the area.)
  • Until the next adventure!
The Fine Print



  • All lodging in double-accommodation rooms in modern, well-equipped hotels throughout the trip. (Single supplement for a private room is available for $225. Otherwise we'll work to place singles of the same sex together.)
  • 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 3 dinners.
  • Two experienced, English-speaking guides to accompany you throughout the trip in addition to an Atlas Obscura representative.
  • Admission to all proposed activities and events. 
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that Budapest has to offer!


This tour requires a medium fitness level and the ability to walk and/or stand for long periods of time. Guests should expect to walk upwards of 5 to 7 miles over the course of any given day and spend significant time outdoors, including in the countryside.


You should plan to arrive in Budapest by 3 p.m. on Wednesday, September 5. Your departure can be planned for anytime on the morning Monday, September 10. If continuing with us from Berlin, we will arrange the proper transfers and flights for you from Berlin to Budapest on September 5.


Itineraries and pricing are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change in coming months. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will always replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value.


You will be charged a $500 deposit to hold your space. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The final balance of $2,497 is due by July 5, 2018. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions. For travelers wishing to have single accommodations during the trip, an additional $225 will be included in the final payment.


  • Transportation and flights to and from Budapest, Hungary.
  • Travel insurance (optional).
  • Baggage charges.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings, including two dinners and all alcoholic beverages.
  • If applicable, applying for a Hungarian visa (not required for U.S. or E.U. citizens).

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