One of my absolute favorite ways to get a feeling of a new city, whether in America or abroad, is through a walking tour. Walking tours are definitely a “thing” now as you’ll see loads of companies advertising their tours at tourism offices and at the airports. Thankfully there are tons of free walking tour companies that are great options for the more budget conscious travelers. While the tours are free, the tour guides work for tips, which you should absolutely give at the end of every tour. You have no idea how many times I have seen people leave tours without giving a cent. These tour guides spend countless hours learning the historic and political events of their city to share with you! Give a tip people!
Like most major European cities, Budapest has several options for free walking tours. With a quick google at the Athens Airport, I was able to find the times and dates of a free walking tour the next day. Free Budapest Walking Tours was created in 2007 as an independent project without the support of businesses or the local government. It was started by local people to share their love of their city that they call home. Free Budapest Walking Tour is a member of the United Europe Free Tours, which is an independent network of free walking tours in cities like Barcelona, Berlin, Prague, and many others.
Free Budapest Walking Tours offers three different walking tours: the Original, the Jewish District, and the Communism Tour. The Original Tour is offered at 10:30am and 2:30pm. Tours are offered in both English and Spanish with more language options if you choose to do a private tour. I started my exploration of Budapest with the Original Tour starting at 10:30am. All tours meet at the lion water fountain in Vorosmarty Square in the downtown district.
Free Walking Tour of Budapest
It’s best to get to the meeting location early as the tour groups are large, especially during high season. I’d estimate that the tour had about 80 people split between three different tour guides. No advanced booking is needed. Just show up with a smile. Once our tour group split it was off to our first stop on the banks of the Danube River. Our tour guide Peter gave us a 10 minute overview of the history of Budapest before we were walking to our next stop.
For the next hour we crisscrossed the city center on the Pest side of the Danube River stopping at important sites like the Municipal Concert Hall, Gresham Palace, Academy of Hungarian Sciences, and St. Stephen’s Basilica.
After our tour guide, Peter, answered a few questions, it was off to the Buda side of the city to see the historic Castle District. Our walk included walking over the Chain Bridge. The Szechenyi Chain Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks of Budapest. The suspension bridge that connects Buda and Pest together over the Danube River was designed by British engineer William Tierney Clark in 1839. The bridge took about 10 years to build and was opened in 1849. The Chain Bridge became the first permanent bridge in Budapest after the Revolution of 1848. The bridge has been featured in the movie I Spy and also in Katy Perry’s music video, Firework.
Once across the bridge we regrouped at the foot of Castle Hill near the funicular. There’s a public bathroom here if you need it. From here it’s about an 8 minute hike up to the top of Castle Hill for some of the most stunning views of the city. You’ll definitely break a sweat and let out a few huffs and puffs on your way up. Once at the top we spent a few minutes taking in the views and Peter succeed to give us a brief history of Buda Castle. Buda Castle has a very long history and today it houses the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery.
We walked to the west side of Buda Hill where Peter explained that underneath us was miles of interconnected caves that served as a hospital during World War II. You can tour some of the caves in the Hospital in the Rock Museum or take a cave tour offered several times a week. We finished our tour near the Matthias Church with its beautiful architecture and the Fisherman Bastion. Overall I enjoyed my tour with Budapest Free Walking Tour. I thought it was a great way to learn a little about the history of the city and Hungary as I know nothing of the geographic region. It also helped me get my bearings of the city. Additionally, Peter provided us with a pamphlet with suggestions for free activities, places to eat, and the do’s and don’ts of Budapest. For example, don’t say “thank you” in a restaurant when paying your bill until you get your change back as “thank you” means keep the change. Who knew?!
Free Walking Tour of Budapest Quick Facts:
- Company: Free Budapest Walking Tours
- Cost: Free; but tour guides work for tips (suggested donation of €5-10 per person)
- Starting Location: Vorosmarty Square
- Time: 10:30am and 2:30pm
- Length: 2.5-3 hours