When I was in Budapest, a heat wave was going through most of central Europe. Walking around the streets of Pest, the temperature stretched into the mid-90s Fahrenheit (~35° C). Since many of the buildings – including the guest house where I was staying – lacked air conditioning, I needed some relief. A woman at the guest house suggested that I visit the Labyrinth of Buda Castle; she told me that it would be much cooler down there. If I were to describe the Labyrinth in only one word, I’d choose bizarre.
Buda Castle is located in Buda’s Castle District, and the Labyrinth sprawls throughout the District. The Labyrinth is really only a portion of an immense network of man-made caves which date back millennia. 350,000 year old stone tools fashioned by Homo erectus have been discovered in the caves. Over the years, the caves have been used for habitation, storage, and even as a place of refuge during World War II. Despite the fascinating history behind the Labyrinth, the present-day experience is more bizarre than historically significant.
Instead of being a purely historical site, the Labyrinth is filled with anachronistic fossils of hiking boots and a Coca-Cola bottle, reproductions of cave drawings, and even a demonic-looking sculpture spewing red wine from its mouth. Eerie music plays from a shoddy sound system, and this serves less to create a creepy environment as it does to highlight just how hokey the experience is. There are very few signs to explain what the relics are, let alone why they are significant. The Labyrinth is certainly cool, as it remains around 20° C year-round. Also, the Labyrinth is quite dark in many places, so a flashlight may be useful if you have one available. I won’t go so far as to say that the Labyrinth is a tourist trap, but it’s halfway there. I can say that the experience was certainly memorable, and I was absolutely amused during my time there.
If you find yourself in Budapest and it’s really hot or you have no idea what to do with your time, I’d recommend a stop at the Labyrinth. Otherwise, I'd pass on it and save the 2000 HUF (~$9USD) entrance fee and buy about 5 Dreher beers at a bar.
Labyrinth of Buda Castle, Budapest
9 Úri Utca, Budapest 1014