Budapest with its 80 geothermal springs and 200 caves found to date is not only famous for its hot springs and thermal spas but caves as well. Budapest lies on a geological fault line, where the thermal springs during millions of years have carved out a complex network of tunnels and caves. Since these caves were carved out from the inside, they did not have natural entrances. That is the reason why most of the caves have been discovered only in the previous century.
Since hot water and caves are such a big part of what Budapest, if you have more than just a weekend here we suggest not only visiting some of the thermal spas, but also exploring the what’s under the ground and visiting one of the caves in Budapest.
We collected caves from stroller friendly to extremely adventurous, only to make sure you’ll find the one that best suits you.
A walk in Pál-völgyi Cave
The spectacular dripstones, formations of calcite crystals and clamshells are what made this cave famous. The 500 meters hiking trail is completely modernized, but there are steep narrow stages, so only bring kids older than 5 years.
Visiting the cave doesn’t need any special clothing or equipment, but since the temperature is a constant 11 degrees celsius, dress up well inside in the summer.
Getting there is easy as pie, bus no. 65 or a taxi takes you there. Sporty ones, get your bikes out!
Want to have the goosebumps? Have a real cave tour in the unlit, original cave without any professional qualification. Crawl and climb through the 2-3-hour tour in the mostly untouched Mátyás-hegyi cave.
Climb and crawl in Mátyás-hegyi Cave
For those of you who are a bit more adventurous, go and explore the untouched parts of the Pálvölgyi and Mátyáshegyi cave systems. No trails, no lighting, no handrails, no stairs, just you and the earth here. You’ll have to climb, crawl on your belly and climb in an overall and helmet with a headlamp – all provided at the cave.
It is extremely interesting and fun, I myself have been many times. If you ask your guide, he can take you to a part of the cave where you can try squeezing yourself through narrow cracks and holes if you want to. Excited by extreme situations? Test what it feels like to be in complete darkness by turning your lights off. All supervised by a tour guide.
All you need is comfortable clothes, hiking shoes and a sporty attitude. The cave is a constant 10 degrees celsius all year round. This tour needs prior booking but you can even bring kids over 10 years of age, they’ll love it!
It is very quick to get there with bus no. 65 or a taxi.
(This tour is not recommended for those who are don’t have a general level of fitness or strongly overweight.)
A stroll in Szemlőhegyi Cave
Those interested in spectacular forms, rich ornaments and mineral precipitations, as well as bats, will find this a great experience. The hiking route is around 250 meters, all on comfortable concrete sidewalks. Pisolite precipitations and gypsum crystals are almost unparalleled in Europe.
The formations are nicely lit and the exhibition is short and sweet. The duration of the tour is about 40 minutes.
Also an easy one to reach, by bus no. 29. There is 12 degrees celsius inside, a very nice way to cool down in the summer. Dressed up well, you may even take your toddler in a stroller thanks to the spacious passages.
A visit to the Castle Cave and labyrinth
A visit to the Castle Cave may be an interesting extra when visiting Buda Castle. Underneath the castle there is a network of natural tunnels and chambers carved by the vast amount of thermal water under the city. The inhabitants of medieval Buda most likely happened to find the caves hidden in the depth while digging wells. Realising the potential they dug access tunnels and turned these caves into cellars. Evidence shows that the arrangement of the houses above was adjusted to these cave cellars.
The wells in the cellars provided water during siege, and chambers were used to store and hide food and valuables from the enemy (or tax collector). This cave and tunnel system have actually even been used by the Germans as a battle station and a storage facility during the second world war.
Part of the cave is open to visitors, the walk takes about an hour. There’s an oil lamp tour every day at 6 pm. Regular street clothes are enough since it’s 16-18 degrees Celsius in the cave. The labyrinth can be used without a guide as arrows help you to find your way. It is also used as an exhibition centre.
The Hospital in the Rock Museum
The hospital is also below Buda Castle and is part of the vast tunnel and cave system. The tunnels and caverns were used for shelter during sieges in the middle ages and their potential was realised again during WWII. An access tunnel was drilled to from the side of the hill, and tunnels were converted to halls and chambers into rooms. At the beginning the airstrike syren was operated from here and was used as a bunker, but by the end of the war it was converted to a hospital to attend to those injured in airstrikes.
After WWII the hospital was converted and prepared to be an atomic bunker. Fortunately it has never been used as such, so it has mostly been conserved at its current form. It was renovated and opened to the public only in 2008 and it is a truly interesting place to visit with kids too.
The Cave Church of Gellert Hill
The cave church is exactly what it sounds to be, a church built into the caves of Gellert Hill. The church was founded in 1926 and even though it is not a historical monument, it is still functioning. There was a small cave where the church is today, which is believed to have been used by St.Ivan as a healing place in medieval times which was expanded during construction.
At the end of WWI, the Treaty of Trianon redraw the borders of Hungary, leaving about one third of the population and five of the largest ten cities outside of borders. At this time all Hungary was devastated, everyone was mourning. Inspired by The Cave of Maria in Lourdes, the cave church was built to adore Mary (the patron of Hungary) in these hard times.
The church is accessible right opposite to the entrance of the Gellert Bath.
Walking and crawling is so ordinary. Why not try diving in one of the caves?
Diving in Molnár János Cave
Budapest is home to the largest known thermal cave system, the Molnár János cave. It is a complex labyrinth of caves that lie below the streets of Buda. The cave that was first thought to be only one chamber when it was explored in 1974, turned out to be system of 7 kms of tunnels and chambers by 2011.
What’s special about the cave is, that it’s an active, continuously forming thermal cave. Diving here is very special because the water is warm and crystal clear, and there are exciting stone and crystal formations on the limestone walls.
There is a diving centre by the cave and they regularly organise visits there, but you do need a couple of certifications to be able to visit.
Diving in a former brewery and quarry
Many of Budapest’s iconic buildings and historical monuments were built from limestone mined in the Eastern side of Budapest. Quarrying here in Kőbánya, the name of the area referring to the actual work done here, created a labyrinth of passages. Later when mining ceased at the turn of the 20th century, the Dreher Brewery operated here, then the mine was empty and parts of it flooded.
Many of the chambers today are divable with cave certification. There is no dive centre at the location, so getting changed could be a bit cold, just like the water. But this adventure is definitely worth it.