We’re slowly embracing the fact that guided tours are getting better and better — and more importantly, they’re led by locals that know the city like the back of their hand. Yes, we still enjoy meandering to our own beat and following our own research… but I’m learning of more small-group tours promising to take people off the beaten path.
Today’s tours come to you comes from Budapest Flow, and as a disclosure, we were given complimentary access to both tours.
‘Chill’ on Sundays
Your fearless leader (and company owner) is Attila, and you’ll start in what’s become the central hipster area of Budapest: the Jewish Quarter. This area sports over 400 bars, along with the stag dos / bachelor parties that seem to run rampant on weekends.
The focus of this tour is lighter — it is called a ‘Chill’ tour, after all — and focuses on the other side of the party district. As you’ll quickly discover, the amount and quality of street art is a highlight of this tour, though for obvious reasons, don’t expect the street art you see to perfectly match what you’ll see on your own tour.
I’ll let Attila tell you the full story, but this ginormous mural covers a football upset against England in 1953 (called ‘the Match of the Century’ by locals) that’s still fondly remembered to this day.
Just across the street is a large dedication to Rubik and his cube. The dotted pattern looks clearer as seen through a camera’s lens — an optical illusion of some kind.
This is the sort of statue you’d normally pass right by since the plate on the wall is easy to miss. Attila shares the story of Carl Lutz, a Swiss diplomat who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews. It’s here where you’re told how involved Hungary was during the Holocaust — and how little is left to commemorate or remember that history…
Attila’s tablet holds photos showing the progress of the area — some 15 years ago, this passageway was a slummy area. Today, it’s a tourist attraction selling any number of local things.
After Budapest’s first ‘ruin pub’ went from an underground, locals-only to an incredibly popular tourist attraction, this mural went up to map out the other bars in the area. It’s perhaps a little surprising the mural is partially covered up by the trees…
The message is unfortunately in Hungarian only, but that little orange section in the middle is what tourists tend to see when they see Budapest. There’s much more to the city (as evidenced by the black shape of the city limits), and even more to see as daytrips from the capital city.
A quick look at Szimpla Kert, arguably Budapest’s most famous ruin pub. Even on a Sunday afternoon, it’s still a very busy place — I honestly don’t want to imagine what this bricabrac place looks like on a Saturday night. Look for a run-down Trabant to sit in for some real kitsch.
You might hear the lament in Attila’s voice at this stop — if you make it at all. The multi-story pieces are on a wall that will be covered up by a new building next door.
One of our last stops was this fascinating mural, perhaps a common scene before gentrification. Some fun stories I won’t spoil for you, but it’s cute.
It may go without saying, but this tour is based on the sights available. In other words, as the street art changes, the tour adapts as well. I’m not sure how long these murals have been where they are, but they look like they’ll be around for years to come.
It’s a three-hour tour and you’ll be walking a fair bit, but you’ll stop at a cafe for a seat and beverage of your choice to rest a bit. It’s not just about street art, and Attila will focus Bring some water, wear some comfy shoes and sunscreen, and strap in for a great time.
Tours start every Sunday at 11am, and leave rain or shine. Tour starts outside the ‘My Little Melbourne’ coffee shop at Madach Imre utca 3, Budapest (GPS: 47.497788, 19.057661). For current pricing and more information, see https://budapestflow.com/tours/sunday-morning-chill-tour-budapest.
Eclectic, delightful, and shabby
The Underground Cultural Vibes of Budapest tour is another side of the coin, and a chance to see a side of Budapest tourists don’t know about. The website says it’s “100% off the beaten track”, and on that I wholeheartedly agree. The focus here is on the locals, not tourist attractions, and you won’t be as catered to as much
A sign of the area gentrifying — what used to be a community garden is set to be removed in coming months. It’s perhaps a reminder that as this area changes, so will the tour. The area has changed massively over the last 15-20 years, and I got the sense that the pace of change is only getting faster. Whether your tour is similar or different to our own, I’d trust Attila to provide a worthy look at what makes the area worthwhile.
The architecture is on full display on this tour, which felt more like a guided neighborhood walk than a tour with distinct stops.
A mural at a children’s playground shows some popular cartoon characters from decades past. I didn’t catch the name, but it was a fisherman and his worm, the latter of which didn’t feel like working all that hard…
An art exhibit printing, then shredding stuff… Also here were some glasses that got fogged up at a small bookstore. Not pictured here is another small art gallery with a photography exhibit — again, the specific stops will change from one tour to the next.
Budapest has tons of open-air spaces for food and drink, and you might stop by a classy one like this.
Our tour ran a little long, but ended up at a second coffee shop before peeking in a local park. It’s another three hour walking tour, and a fine look at a neighborhood less affected by tourism
This tour starts every Friday at 4pm (or at another time, by request) at Futo utca 40, in front of the Costa Coffee (GPS: 47.485975, 19.074748). For current pricing and more information, see https://budapestflow.com/tours/underground-cultrural-vibes.
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Also published on Medium.