Are you visiting Budapest without a travel agency? To see as much as possible in a few days, a good way is to take one of the walking tours. Don’t worry about the limited budget. These good things of life are actually free.
Two companies in the capital offer these tours, and their names are anything but cryptic. The first one is called Free Walking Tours, where you can choose from several options, and the second team of tourist guides operates under the name Free Budapest Tours. All the latter’s tours are in English and Spanish.
One of Free Walking Tours’ options is the “Original tour”, which is recommended if you are a newbie in the city. It will lead you through all the famous sights such as the Danube Promenade, the Gresham Palace, the Academy of Hungarian Sciences, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Chain Bridge, the Castle District, the Royal Palace, Matthias Church and the Fisherman`s Bastion.
This tour teaches a lot about Hungarian society, history and architecture. It starts daily from the lion fountain in Vörösmarty tér at 10.30am and 2.30pm, covers 3.5 kilometres and lasts 2.5-3 hours.
For summer we recommend the “Evening walk”, when sunset can make the city even more stunning. This tour will give a new perspective of the Promenade, Elisabeth Square, Anker Palace, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes Square and Parliament. It starts daily in June, July and August from the lion fountain at 6.30pm, covers two kilometres and lasts 1-1.5 hours.
If history is your hobby, don’t miss the special “Communism Walk” or the “Jewish District Walk”, which start daily from Vörösmarty tér at 10am and 3.30pm and last about 2.5 hours. The Communism walk shows sights such as the 1956 Uprising areas, the bronze bullet memorial, the flag with the hole and the eternal flame, the secret exit of a military bunker, the last communist memorial in the inner city and other symbols of “Soviet friendship”.
The Jewish District walk passes the Dohány utca Great Synagogue, the Kazinczy utca Orthodox synagogue, the Rumbach utca synagogue, Gozsdu courtyard, Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park and the last piece of the wall of the Budapest ghetto. The Jewish quarter is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list of sights. This walk is an opportunity to learn more about it.
The second company, Free Budapest Tours, has a “3 Hour Free Walking Tour of Budapest”, starting every day at 10.30am from under the clock at Deák tér and at 2pm from the steps in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. The itinerary leads through the Promenade, Széchenyi tér, Chain Bridge, Clark Ádám tér, the Royal Palace (outside), the President’s Palace, Matthias Church (outside) and breath-taking panoramic views of the Danube and its bridges.
Another tour is called “Free Communism Faith-Terror Tour” and it lasts 2.5 hours. Departure is every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2.30pm from the steps in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. The tour has stops at Elisabeth Square, Heroes Square, the Soviet monument, the Imre Nagy statue, Parliament (outside) and sites of the communist dictatorship and the 1956 Uprising.
For Jewish history, traditions and everyday life, take the “2.5 Hour Free Jewish District Tour” starting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2pm from the Basilica steps. This visits the synagogue triangle, ruin pubs and the Martyr Cemetery, plus the chance to talk about Righteous Among the Nations, famous Hungarian Jews and Hungarian Hollywood stars. It concludes at the shoes memorial right next to the Danube.
Free walking tours are spreading through major European cities and are quickly becoming a competition of paid tours. The guides are working for tips though.