When we first flew into Hungary, I was overwhelmed and felt so out of my traveling element. Nonetheless, we grabbed a cab from the Hilton Budapest and headed to the meeting point. By the end of our first (of several) Budapest walking tours, I felt I had discovered the best of Budapest. I was obsessed with this city and its people. By the end of our second day (after more walking tours), I was hooked on Budapest.
Side note: This is a great itinerary for a long weekend in Budapest; it allows you to divide up all the beautiful parts of the city into manageable bits so that you can see as much as possible. I especially recommend doing days one and day during the day and again in the evening to truly appreciate the beauty of Budapest!
When we went back in December, I booked more tours and was delighted when our tour guides remembered us from our previous trip! (Make sure to check out list of things do during the winter in Budapest!)
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Introduction to Budapest Walking Tour
Night Walking Tour and Danube Cruise
This is one of the first Budapest walking tours you should book before you begin to explore this beautiful city. It is the best introduction to the Pest side city. (Buda is better but Pest is best!)
George continually offered us his deep knowledge of his city and the events that have shaped present-day Budapest. He understands so much of the history and how it has influenced politics, and he is eager to share his passion. His energy was contagious. He encouraged questions (both of him and those he asked of the group), and he gave us a great overview of the city. Our tour started at twilight, and we watched the city come alive as we explored the main historical sites.
Budapest is extraordinarily beautiful as evening descends upon its streets.
We were sad to leave George as we boarded our Danube river cruise near the Chain Bridge, but he encouraged us to stop by the shop if we had any questions about what to see. The Danube cruise was beautiful, but the video wasn’t nearly as entertaining as George. I found it distracting, even though it was in English.
All that said, this tour is a great way to begin any trip to Budapest, and the cruise is a great way to rest your feet after a long day of walking.
Night Cruise of the Danube
When we returned with my mom in December, I booked a singular Danube river cruise, rather than one of the introductory Budapest walking tours. This particular cruise leaves from a dock that is quite a bit further down from the main part of Pest. (It is well past the Danube promenade and Parliament.) It covers the same route, offers outdoor seating, and is a good value. It is, however, approximately a 20-minute walk from public transportation.
This boat also moved quite a bit faster than the first tour, so I found it a little difficult to take photos from the boat. Regardless, it’s a beautiful way to experience the Budapest skyline! I would suggest the walking tour and cruise if you have more time.
That said, if you have limited time, the river cruise is great.
History of Budapest Walking Tours
World War I, II, and Communist Tour
When we walked into the tour office on our second day, George was happy to introduce us to his colleague Tomas. We ended up getting a private tour since we were the only people who booked this historical tour of Budapest! As a result, Tomas took a lot of time to answer our questions frankly and candidly. He was more than willing to tailor the tour to our specific interests, as well.
The Communist Budapest tour starts with a surprise and a step back in time to communist Budapest using primary sources and artifacts! We learned about the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the beginning to the end, Hungary’s role in World War II, and the rise (and fall) of communism in Hungary. Tomas’s passion for Budapest and Hungarian history was palpable, and there was not a single question that stumped him.
When we finally emerged from communist Budapest (about an hour later), Tomas took us on a walking tour of the city, including the Jewish Quarter (and different sites from the ones we experienced with George). He shared more about current events and modern-day Budapest. Our only regret when we finished the tour was that we didn’t have more time in Budapest. I think a visit to the Terror Museum would further underline the concepts covered by Tomas and this tour, if you are further interested in this time period.
Budapest Christmas Market Walking Tour
Christmas Markets of Budapest Tour
This was not one of the Budapest walking tours we took in April, but one we booked when we returned in December. I was hoping Tomas or George would be our guide. Lucky for us, Tomas was waiting for our group! We greeted each other like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in six months. He was fantastic (again).
This tour explores St. Stephen’s Basilica and its Christmas fair (we tried wild boar sausage!), stops for a wine tasting at the delicious Strudel House (try the sour cherry strudel!), and heads to several of Pest’s Christmas markets before finishing up with mulled wine and great conversation. Tomas did a great job balancing history and culture with the holiday festivities. There was plenty of conversation, lots of laughs, and my mom enjoyed learning from Tomas as much as we did!
This is another great Budapest walking tour to introduce yourself to the city. It covers quite a bit of ground with a little history mixed in. I still think the night walking tour and river cruise is the best way to familiarize yourself with Budapest. But, if you’re in the city during Christmas time, you can’t beat the holiday cheer that comes with this tour.
Final Thoughts on Budapest
If I were to return to Budapest for a third trip, I’d book a market tour (which I did but it didn’t work out), head out to Memento Park with a tour guide, take walking tours of the Budapest Castle district and the Buda side of the city. That being said, these Budapest walking tours provide a fantastic overview of this incredible city. You really can’t go wrong with any of these local guides. I’d stay on on the Buda side (have you seen the view of the castle district from the Four Seasons?!) and see if I liked it more than the view from Pest. I feel like it’s going to be hard to beat though!
Don’t skip Budapest. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to and I really loved the people we met! It’s worth every adventure.