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Get to know Budapest step by step Themed city walks not to be missed

Parisi Court
Budapest
Greater Budapest

There are very few more entertaining things than themed sightseeing walks if you only have a few hours to relax. They satisfy both the need for exercise and the hunger for cultural information, as they perfectly combine a group trip with the dissemination of historical knowledge, exploratory learning and urban anecdotes, legends and facts.

Several businesses specialise in these city tours, which are advertised on social media, and you can book online straightaway. Some present a specific part of the city and its past, together with the local built environment. Others, however, are specialised themed walks tailored for a much narrower audience.

Architectural values and building tours

These walks typically explore architectural styles, or showcase buildings and their history that are less well known, or are rarely accessible to the general public. Or, on the contrary, they present interesting facts about Budapest’s iconic buildings and you can learn more about the historical events connected to them. The three most popular themes are Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Bauhaus, which can be viewed in the form of villas in Buda and residential buildings in downtown Pest. In the Parisi Court, for example, you can see the work of Mihály Pollack, Miksa Róth and Vilmos Zsolnay all at the same time, amid luxurious conditions. Industrial-themed tours are also extremely popular. These could include everything from the Óbuda gas plant or the underground bunkers of the Csepel industrial plant to the Kőbánya brewery and the Törley buildings in Budafok, or the ship dock on Népsziget. Similar tours are also organised by professional organisations such as the Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre (KÉK).

Secret neighbourhoods

From the Palotanegyed (Palace Quarter) to Zugliget and the Mátyásföld villa park, there are hidden neighbourhoods worth exploring throughout the city. This includes discovering the extremely rich cave world that lies beneath the Buda hills. The capital abounds in incredible underground wealth, as several bath and spring-themed tours testify. You can sneak into Rácz Bath, which is currently closed to the public, and with a bit of luck and special permission, you can sometimes even enter the reservoir in the belly of Gellért Hill. You can also visit some secret but all the more magical gardens or explore the park of the Zugló Japanese Garden, which is rich in botanical curiosities. 

Contemporary buildings

View the Körszálló or Circular Hotel in Buda, the splendid building complexes of the Kopaszi Dam, the passive house building of the Meséskert kindergarten, or even take a peek at everyday life in countless modern office buildings, such as the Park Atrium (the joint headquarters of ING Bank and Deloitte). As part of an exclusive walk, visit the new MOME Campus to get a taste of a truly 21st century university. You will experience first hand how the spaces of the buildings inspire creativity and collaborative thinking, as they do in students studying there.

 

Literary walks

See the residences and birthplaces of countless contemporary and 20th century writers, sometimes even entering private homes and spaces. Follow in the footsteps of muses from downtown cafes to small hidden houses on the outskirts of the city, recalling the writers’ at times, great and at others, painful life paths. Immerse yourself in recent literature among the Buda hills, and enjoy the chance to visit the homes of Géza Ottlik, Babits or Magda Szabó. In Krisztinaváros and Óbuda, and among the coffeehouses of Pest, you can visit all the regular cafés of turn-of-the-century writers and poets. Would you like to know where and especially how Krúdy and Jókai lived, where Lőrinc Szabó went in the morning, and where Pilinszky went to school? Petőfi, Kosztolányi, Móricz, Iván Mándy and Karinthy also visited the cafés and pubs of Józsefváros. You can learn most about the latter and the public and secret life of the writers of Nyugat in Újbuda, but this is also where to head for the inspiration behind Tamás Cseh's lyrics. These walking tours will give you many an interesting point of reference to interpret each reading experience and work.

 

Historical walks

Here you can get acquainted with the official and secret history of Budapest, from the life of the Roman legions in Óbuda, through the Ottoman-era monuments of the Buda Castle District, to the disreputable guests of the former brothels. The most interesting crimes of past centuries will be brought to light in the shadows of the buildings. Go chasing after medieval and modern era epidemics, where many fell victim to the plague, cholera and syphilis. Get information about events that took place during the World War and incidents in the period of state socialism, and delve into all sorts of historical eras on these tours. Visit the National Burial Garden of notable Hungarians on Fiumei út or the Jewish Cemetery on Salgótarjáni utca, or check out the apartment synagogue on Teleki tér. The former is home to the Batthyány, Deák and Kossuth mausoleums, and many outstanding figures of modern Hungarian history, including the heroes of the 1956 revolution, are buried here. In the latter, get to know Jewish burial customs and the Israelite aristocracy of the 19th century.

 

Fiumei Road Graveyard, Budapest

Sacral and ethnic minority relics

Islamic memorial sites

The city also offers exciting ethnic and mystical religious history walks. Kick off as a warm-up with a steamy Turkish bath-themed walk in the Király Bath. Then see what’s left of Pasha Tojgun’s mosque, built in 1555. Eventually, you will be able to figure out where the baths, the schools and the markets stood, and what life was like in the once bustling Víziváros (Watertown). In Gül Baba's garden, you can take an imaginary peek into the harem of Suleiman I and find out why the longest-serving pasha in Buda received a ‘silk cord’ from the Sultan.


Jewish heritage

Every house and street in the historical Jewish quarter of Budapest tells a story. In the shadow of the world-famous synagogues of Dohány, Rumbach and Kazinczy streets are many smaller, lesser-known houses of worship. This is where you’ll find the oldest rabbinical school in the world, still standing in its original place. Did you know, for example, that a secret residential area and several synagogues are hidden in the depths of the earth under Buda Castle? Trained tour guides will introduce you to how Jewish merchants settled outside the former town walls, unravelling the origins of the winding narrow streets. They will point out the symbols lurking on the walls of the houses and as they do so, follow the story of how members of the Jewish, Christian, Armenian and Greek communities, as well as hard-working merchants and idle bohemians, lived side by side in peace.

Orczy House, demolished in the 1930s, comes to life as the buzzing atmosphere of the first Jewish settlement in Pest. Kazinczy utca abounds with both meat and dairy kosher restaurants, one of which you should definitely visit.

 

Gastro walks with tasting

If you typically start your day with coffee, this tour is for you. Nowadays, speciality or gourmet cafés pop up on every corner, but Dezső Kosztolányi called Budapest the “city of coffee” as far back as the turn of the previous century. This is no coincidence, as the first known coffee shop in the country opened in the city centre in 1714 and the development did not stop until World War II. The streets around the small ring road and downtown were once full of cafés where literary scholars and chess players were regulars. Crossing over to Buda, get to know the history of the coffee shops and how this modern achievement of the turn of the century, the successor to the café, was transformed into the number one catering outlet for socialism. Starting from the iconic Bambi, entering coffee shops and pubs, you can discover what its consumer culture reveals about an age and a society.


A cake or pastry goes hand in hand with coffee. For this reason, even the most famous confectionery in Budapest offers a glimpse behind the scenes. Everyone has a story about the Gerbeaud patisserie, a worthy counterpart to the Sacher of Vienna or the Ladurée of Paris. But this is not the only gastro-themed walk for those with a sweet tooth. On a chocolate tour of Budapest, you can also learn whom Tibi Chocolate was named after, and even what the coolest chocolate candies in the city are made from. The Gundel restaurant is a similarly legendary treasure trove for sweets. Find out how an adventurous Bavarian waiter at the restaurant, which is famed for its pancakes, became the founder of one of the most influential Hungarian gastro dynasties. The modern, yet traditional cuisine, at once cosmopolitan and Hungarian in all its flavours, is just as fresh today as when it was founded.


The downtown wine tour reveals where and what kind of wine was once made in Pest-Buda, how the famous brewer Jakab Proberger got rich, who introduced bottled beer to Budapest, and where the largest brewery operated in the first half of the 20th century. There will be mention of the Törleys, Mihály Gschwindt's distillery, the special rums of the Gottschlig company, and of course, the tour includes a good deal of craft beer tasting. It’s worth attending one of Csaba Katona's gastro-historical lectures or stand-up performances on the topic, because the historian of the Institute of History of the Research Centre for the Humanities recalls Budapest’s history, which is also imbued with alcohol, in an extremely entertaining way.

 

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