With its art-nouveau spas, picture-perfect architecture, and mouthwatering restaurant scene, it’s easy to see why Budapest has emerged as one of Europe’s most unmissable destinations. To find out how to explore Hungary’s capital like a local, we chatted with Hidasi Kata Lídia of budapestUNDERGUIDE, who’s been helping visitors discover everything her home city has to offer for over a decade.
So, Kata, what’s your favorite place in Budapest that tourists rarely visit?
I have a few! I do love places connected to nature, like Római Part, which is a riverbank in the northern part of Buda. It’s a very charming area with plenty of nice cafes, bars, kiosks, and restaurants. Veli-Bej (a Turkish bathhouse) is a bit harder to find because it’s surrounded by an old hospital. However, it’s well worth a visit as it’s not very busy because they limit how many people can enter. Just be sure to check the opening hours before you go as it closes for a for few hours during lunch time.
What are your favorite restaurants and bars that only locals visit?
Fellini at Római Part is a real favorite of mine as is Manó Büfé, which is a very old bar located in Zugló. It’s located literally in between two train tracks, and on Saturdays, they cook open-air ‘gulyás’ and other cauldron meals. I also love the authentic Hungarian-Jewish food and atmosphere at Rosenstein in District 8. Elsewhere, Pagony is a quirky open-air bar with an outdoor cinema. It used to be part of the Gellért Baths’ garden, and the old outdoor pools have been turned into (dry!) seating.
Where are the best places to eat in Budapest?
Budapest has many great brunch places: Stika in the Jewish district, Zoska next to the Károlyi Garden, Csiga in the bohemian District 8, Villa Bagatelle on the Buda side (away from touristy Pest), and Coyote in front of Parliament are some of my favorites. For lunch, head to Hellohal if you’re a fish lover. Csiga has a cheap and delicious lunch menu, and Gettó Gulyás has a lovely atmosphere and great food. My favorite dinner spots include Zeller Bistro, Rosenstein, BorsSó, and, of course, the Michelin-starred (but not very expensive) Borkonyha.
What are the most Instagram-worthy places in Budapest?
The Castle District of Buda (especially near Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion) is particularly beautiful. Margaret Bridge provides you with perfect views of some major sights, including Parliament, the Chain Bridge, the Castle District, and Gellért Hill. A secret spot for you is atop the Bálna (Whale) Cultural Center. A tiny rooftop garden awaits those who walk to the top. It may be closed when raining, though.
Where are the best locations to see the sunrise and sunset in Budapest?
For sunrise, make sure you’re on Buda’s riverbank. You’ll get a great view of the sunrise from Margaret Bridge and Margaret Island, Gellért Hill’s Garden of Philosophers, and the Castle District. For a picturesque sunset, head to the western side of the Castle District or Gellért Hill. The rooftop bars of Hotel President (360 Bar) or Aria Hotel (Skybar) are also great locations.
What’s the best activity to do on a rainy day?
Go to a bathhouse! Budapest is famous for its magical thermal water, which is great for both your body and soul.
When’s the best time to visit Budapest?
Spring, especially between late April and early May as this is when the city is full of love and flowers! Each season has its advantages, but spring is my favorite as it’s not as busy as in June, July, and August.
What is the most exciting event to happen in Budapest this year?
Well, it depends on what excites you! The Night of the Museums on the shortest day of the year is always an exciting program as is the 100-year-old building celebration and Budapest Spring Festival. If you prefer pop concerts, then Sziget Festival in August is the event for you! To mark our biggest bank holiday on August 20th, Budapest holds a firework show along the river bank as well as hosting lots of programs throughout the day.
Where are the best places to shop in Budapest?
Head to the Jewish district for both vintage and designer clothes and jewelry. For great wine, check out Cultivini where you can both taste and buy.
What gift should visitors take home?
Take your pick from Hungarian wine, a Rubik’s cube (as it’s a Hungarian invention), or a Folka figurine (not only are they cute but they also represent Hungarian folklore).
What’s your favorite thing about being a tour guide?
I’m definitely not an office-person, so it’s great to be on the run all the time. I love architecture, history, urban legends, food, and wine, so my job is basically my hobby and passion, which makes me very lucky. I love my city and country, and it’s great to introduce it to everyone.
What can people expect from your tours?
We design unique, tailor-made experiences, tours and private events for our clients, including our “goLOCAL!” tours. We have a huge variety of tours focusing on different topics, covering general sightseeing to specific ones, like food tours, Jewish district tours, photo tours, and child-friendly Buda castle tours to name just a few. We also organize countryside trips, for example to Szentendre and Lake Balaton.