Visitors to Budapest head for the hills – the city’s green 'lungs’ – for a variety of reasons. There’s great hiking, a couple of trip-worthy sights and activities and the summer homes of well-heeled Budapest families to ogle. But locals come just to ride the unusual forms of transport on offer. It really can be said that getting to/from the Buda Hills is half the fun.
From Széll Kálmán tér metro station walk west along Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor for 10 minutes (or take tram 56 or 61 for two stops) to the lower terminus of the Cog Railway just opposite the circular Hotel Budapest at No 47. Built in 1874, the railway climbs for 3.7km in 14 minutes two to five times an hour to Széchenyi-hegy (427m).
Picnic on Széchenyi-hegy
Here you can stop for a picnic in the attractive park south of the old station. Buy supplies beforehand at Fény utca market next to the Mammut shopping mall in II Széll Kálmán tér.
Just south on XII Hegyhát út opposite Rege út is the narrow-gauge Children’s Railway. Built in 1951 by Pioneers (socialist Scouts) and now staffed entirely by schoolchildren aged 10 to 14 (the engineer excluded), the little train chugs along for 11km, terminating at Hűvösvölgy 45 minutes later.
Trails fan out from any of the nine stations of the railway line or you can return to Széll Kálmán tér on tram 61 from Hűvösvölgy. Better still, disembark at János-hegy, the fourth stop and the highest point (527m) in the hills. From atop the 23.5m-tall Elizabeth Lookout, with 134 steps, you can see the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia.
About 700m to the east of the tower is the Chairlift, which will take you 1040m down at 4km/h to XII Zugligeti út. From here bus 291 will take you to will take you to Nyugati station via Margaret Bridge.
Dinner in the Hills
Stop for a drink or two at Oscar American Bar just up from II Széll Kálmán tér on the way to Castle Hill.