Summer 2019 was full of exploring for me. Not only did I got the chance to travel to Poland for a few days and share my travels with you, but I also explored Hungary’s capital city Budapest. You can find all of my polish trips in my Travel section. Our small group of five wanted to get to know Budapest at it’s best so we got ourselves a private tour guide guy to walk us through the city.
After our Polish trips, we stayed one day at home to kind of get our shit together. Early morning we headed to Budapest what’s like 5 hours car ride from my hometown. We were given directions by our tour guy beforehand.
My sister found the guy in our research part of the trip. She simply googled Slovakian speaking tour guides for small group and found the one. She messaged him on facebook and asked for more info of his tour. He was quite young, freshly married guy from east of Slovakia just like us and it was great to have a tour in our native tongue for a change. Late we found out he’s been living in Hungary for 7 years and eventually married there. Generally, he was a very nice and funny guy and not only was his speech about Budapest interesting, but he also found a nice subtle way to turn his tour into sort of friends gathering and discussing the history of a city. The six of us were walking down Budapest’s streets chatitng and learning.
I have never had such a private tour and I must say I loved it.
When you’re in a regular-sized tour group what is usually like 25-30 people it could be difficult to speak your mind or ask questions when you’re shy. But when you’re surrounded by your family it’s much more open. What I appreciated the most was the fact that he adjusted our tour to our needs and requirements. When we were setting the tour up we mentioned to him that I like to take photos and I’d like to see some places worth the shot and he did. He also accommodated the tour to our age. There were 3 people under the age of 23 in our group and my parents so our tour guy showed us places we all could enjoy.
I’m sure you’re wondering how much does private tour guide costs. Well, it was 120 euros for 4 hours paid in advance.
Due to the traffic, we were 20 minutes late for our meeting with the tour guy but we called him about it and he patiently waited for us. We met near the Heroes square where we were looking for a guy in a yellow shirt as he was navigating us to free parking spot and later on showed us how to pay for the parking.
Our tour started at the Heroes square where our tour guy introduced us to the basics of Budapest.
I must say we chose the hottest day to explore Budapest. It was like 33°C and we would not have survived it without a bottle of water, shadow and my beloved MINERALIZING THERMAL WATER from VICHY but I’ve also tired THERMAL SPRING WATER FACE MIST by La Roch Posay and I honestly can’t pick my favorite. Everyone in my group was all over them and they managed to use them all up for me. That’s how hot it was.
It’s very difficult to focus when you’re sweating so much but we managed to have a good time anyway. Our tour guide took us from Heroes square to St. Stephen’s Basilica by metro and let me tell you that buying metro tickets was a very interesting experience.
You’re standing in front of a big digital screen that offers you several different languages even Slovakian among them. Everything is laid out so easily it’s really hard to mess up. Unfortunately, you can only buy one ticket at once and you can only pay by card. So every time you have to start again with all of that typing. Takes time.
24 hours ticket we bought was like 5euros.
Budapest’s yellow metro line, M1 or Millenniumi Földalatti Vasú was nothing like I imagined. It’s a really old small train and it’s actually the oldest metro line in Europe.
What was unfortunate was that all of the names of the stops were only pronounced in the metro and not displayed anywhere. So if you don’t understand hungarian you just have to hope for the best and just wait to see what stop you’re at.
We also took other lines that were pretty modern and standard. Just like the ones in Prague.
What was different from Prague’s was that there were ticket inspectors standing at every stop checking peoples tickets. Almost impossible to travel for free.
As it was summer Budapest was adequately full of tourists. Despite the heat. St. Stephens basilica was spectacular. I’m a sucker for over the top golden churches and this one was one of the best I ever visited. St. Stephens Basilica is named after the first king of Hungary and his actual right hand is still displayed in the basilica as a relic
Just check out the photos.
We arrived at the time of Hungarian local elections that will happen this October 2019 so there were many campaigns going on all over Budapest. Several stands were in front of the St. Stephens basilica or Castle hill where we were headed next.
Besides the metro, we used local buses for transportation which was great cuz our tour guide could give us his lecture in the comfort of the bus. On our way, we had to pass through the famous Chain bridge guided by the lions’ statues. During that day we would pass it several times but I was stung by it every time.
The best thing about castle hill was the panoramic view over the Budapest. Even better it was for free. There is Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda Castle Hill that looks phenomenal but everyone thinks so and the place was so crowded.
Supposedly you can take better photos of the Budapest from there for a price, but our tour guy told us it’s really not worth it and we believe him.
There is plenty to do at Castle Hill district, lots of museum and attractions.
The streets there look like from a fairytale. Small, cute houses of different colors. Looks like a very sweet neighborhood.
Next, we stopped by Matthias Church that had the most interesting rooftop I have ever seen. It looked like it was made out of bottle caps. In a combination of pure white walls and towers, it was sigh like no other. Another famous attraction is right in front of it – Holy Trinity Statue.
We were pretty tired from the heat already so our tour guy led us to Ruszwurm Confectionery. It was founded in 1827 and till this day the interior looks the same. It’s one of the oldest confectionery in Europe and its Budapest best one. They serve Hungarians famous The Ruszwurm Cake, referred to as creamy and it’s hard to describe the heavenly taste of it.
Ruszwurm is highly rated and it’s a must when visiting Budapest.
After our coffee stop, we visited the Dohány Street Synagogue that’s the worlds second biggest synagogue. The bigger one is only in New York.
Slowly we headed to my favorite part of the whole Budapest trip. As I mentioned our tour guy accommodated our trip to our age and showed us the famous bars.
He led us to Ruin Bars.
When he tried to explain what we’re about to see, he hot all tongue twisted and told us it’s really hard to explain.
Ruin bars are built in the old Jewish quarter in the ruins of abandoned buildings. From the outside, it looks like nothing special. Empty building.
Once you step in it’s like you entered another dimension.
At first glance, it looks like a mess. A shit-ton of random stuff either hanging or laying all over the place. The light is dim, sort of reddish. Feels like you’re suddenly underground. Lots of flora in the strangest places. There are several bars in there that all together create the spirit of the Ruin Bars.
Hands down it’s the most hipster, funky, artistic place I have ever been to and I was overwhelmed by it. You could spend days there and not fully take in what was going on. Each bar had its own style. Lots of lights, statues, stickers, electronics, graphite and general mess that created the beauty of ruin bars.
Ruin bars look like how you feel when you’re high.
I’m gonna show you some photos I took but they didn’t capture the great, lay back atmosphere of the place.
Ruins bar is not something many tourist visits in Budapest but I think they should. It’s an experience like no other.
Our 4 hours of the private tour were almost up and our guy gave us some tips on what to do in Budapest on our own. With helpful recommendations for our tour guide, we went to have late lunch and head to the Budapest’s zoo. All of that’s gonna be in a separate article soon.
We were staying the night at Hotel Bara we found on booking. Simple bed and breakfast close to the center. Great for one night.
The bus stop was right in front of the hotel and it took us like 4 stops to get to the main center. At the first stop that sounded familiar from our tour guy tour, we got off. We didn’t have any particular place in mind so we wandered the streets and got some souvenirs.
My sister and her boyfriend wanted to go to the Budapest eye but there were just too many people waiting in line so instead, we all had dinner with a great view over nigh Budapest. I’m sure Budapest from up there would have been incredible.
We were still missing one major tourist attraction of Budapest.
The Hungarian Parliament Building.
We got there by metro. Right that day was held some big football match so we were traveling with plenty of loud football fans in sweaty green jerseys. They were all singing and screaming so I guess they have won the match.
I’m so glad we got to visit the parliament so late at night.
The parliament building was perfectly lit. There were fireflies flying all around and the magic was enhanced by the lack of people. It was so peaceful to take in the sigh of light up Budapest so late in the night. Temperatures were finally bearable and I would stay there forever if we weren’t all so freaking tired.
During the whole day, I was amazed by the romantic architecture of the city. I just love old European towns and the vibe of them. What surprised me the most was the number of vintage shops. There were old retro clothes selling all over. Antique books selling from the cart in the middle of the street. Music shops. Ruin bars.
I never thought Budapest would be so artistic and I didn’t even see the half of it.
There and then I promised myself I’ll be back.
This was just the first day of our trip to Budapest and I was surprised by how many new information I could gain in a day. I was exhausted from both the heat and the full day of activities.
I’m sure Budapest would have been memorable even without a private tour guide but he made sure we understand why is Budapest so fascinating.