There are many ways to explore Budapest: by metro, tram and bus, or book a sightseeing tour on a coach or boat. You can get information on the sights by reading a travel guide or listening to what comes out of your headphones. However, there is another more personalised way of discovering what the city has to offer. Running Tours Budapest makes it possible to combine sightseeing with physical activity. It is the perfect solution for travellers with little time and for locals it can be a good way to get a new perspective on their city. The Budapest Times went for a jog.
It is 10 o’clock in the morning. We are waiting in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica, curious about the event to come. A cold wind is blowing but the sky is clear and the sun is shining. It is perfect weather to go running. Then Ádám Csapó and Eszter Boda arrive. They will be our guides on “Heroes’ Tour”.
Having introduced ourselves and taken some pictures in front of the Basilica we start to jog towards Andrássy út. “Any time you want to stop or run faster or slower just let me know,” Csapó says. Then he starts informing us about the sights we are passing: the beautiful Opera House on our left, the Millennium Underground that runs below the street and the House of Terror.
The time passes almost too fast and soon we arrive on Heroes’ Square where we stop for some more pictures and Csapó’s explanations about the famous persons from Hungarian history on the monument. The tour then continues to City Park, Vajdahunyad Castle and back to the point we started from.
On our way we get as much information as we want and have the opportunity to ask questions. We talk about the upcoming shooting of “Inferno” starring Tom Hanks in Budapest and about running itself.
Boda says: “For me it is like eating or drinking; my body needs a workout after the workday because I usually sit in front of the computer and also my mental status stabilises when I do this activity.” Remember that saying about a sound mind in a sound body?
“I run because I like it,” Csapó explains. He knows many people who run certain distances without actually liking it. For them it is hard to get up early and decide to run. They wonder how Csapó can do it.
“I say it’s very easy because I like it, so it’s not a threat that tomorrow morning I have to run,” he says.” It’s not like I have to, but I want to.”
And the two Budapesters want to share their passion for running. Boda’s motto in life is that the more you give to people in need, the better the world will be, and so she voluntarily runs with blind runners in her free time.
She also likes to go running when she travels and in fact discovered the concept of running tours during one of her journeys. She brought this emerging trend home and founded Running Tours Budapest with her sister Lidia in May 2013.
They were on a radio show and this is how Csapó discovered and eventually joined them. He grew up in Budapest and is a living map of the city because he prefers running to using public transport. Together with another girl, Zsófi, they are now a team of four.
They currently offer eight different routes as well as customised tours. The most popular is “Must See Tour” that focuses on the main sights of downtown. It is about seven kilometres and includes Buda Castle, Chain Bridge, Parliament, Szabadság tér, on which the US Embassy can be seen next to a statue in honour of Soviet soldiers, and St. Stephen’s Basilica.
It thus provides you with an overview of the city and incredible vistas, while at the same time you do some hill work but also run on flat ground alongside the Danube.
If you are interested in history you can decide on the tour “World War Years in Budapest” to find out what happened during war and visit for example the Jewish Shoes Memorial.
If you want to run a bit more off the beaten track, you can opt for the “Shady Budapest Tour” through Districts VIII and IX. This runs along small and leafy squares while listening to stories about these neighbourhoods and the Jewish and Romani communities there.
For a longer distance, you might be happy with “Riverbank Tour”. It starts at Chain Bridge and passes down the Buda side of the Danube past the famous Turkish baths to Lágymányosi Bay and Kopaszi Dam, where nice restaurants and coffee houses await next to small beaches and many trees.
Then it crosses the river and down the Pest side to the finish. For very ambitious runners this tour can be extended to the distance of about a half marathon. This ”Riverbank+ Tour” additionally provides a view of Central Market Hall, a run through famous Váci utca and on Margaret Island with its rubber-coated running track.
Another possibility is the “Trail Run”, which allows you to leave behind the traffic and explore the Buda Hills. Not only will you be able to enjoy a panoramic view of much of the city but you can also visit a soldier’s grave from the Second World War hidden in the forest, a creek running through the trees or a religious sanctuary.
Those who want a shorter but more strenuous run can choose “Heartbeat Tour”, starting at Elisabeth Bridge and ascending Gellért Hill for a breathtaking view from the Citadella. On this route Csapó uses a special trick: “It is very challenging when you are running up, so I just tell the tourists, ‘Any time you are very tired but you feel embarrassed that you are tired, just let me know that you want to take photos’. And they do that with a great smile…”
Like running with good friends
Running Tours Budapest caters for all levels. The distances range from five to 21 kilometres and vary in difficulty. The commentary is usually in English but Hungarian is also possible. There have been participants from around the world; a group of pensioners as well as professional runners.
Csapó can do longer training sessions with runners because he regularly takes part in races himself. Depending on the tour and how many people take part, the price for one person is between 15 and 40 euros. Customised tours cost from 30 euros. Dining options after the tour are also offered.
For each tour a meeting point is given but you can also choose to be picked up right at your hotel. The average group size is two but Running Tours Budapest can also cope with more people such as groups of business travellers. They are also flexible in terms of time and this makes it possible to fit in a run before breakfast, in between meetings or after work to unwind while enjoying Budapest’s glittering nightscape.
After the tour you can decide if you want to see photos from your run on their Facebook site but the end of your run does not necessarily mean that you lose touch with your guide.
“From the outside it’s like we have a tour and then we say goodbye,” says Csapó. But in reality he is still in contact with some runners, for example with a woman who is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, right now.
“It’s a very strange situation because we have two hours of time and then it feels like you are friends,” he says. “Sometimes we are hugging each other and say goodbye not with tears but…”… “with sadness,” Boda finishes his sentence.