Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. Please note that the food tour mentioned was complimentary in exchange for a review. It was so good and Levi was such a great guide that I asked if he’d do this interview instead and let us in on the secrets of his city.
Today, I’m thrilled to share an interview with Levi from Budapest! Chad and I met Levi during our two-day whirlwind trip through the city. We had limited time and decided the best use of that time was a food tour with Secret Food Tours Budapest.
The tour was a delight and so was our guide, so I asked him if he’d like to tell us more about the city he calls home.
Here’s what he had to say:
First, tell us about you.
I am regular urban survivor. In my free time, I keep bees and produce honey. I had to skip this honey season because there was too much overlap with tourist season (and I work as a guide), but usually for me it’s all about the bees.
I studied tourism at university and am lucky enough to be learning from the best tour guides in Budapest. We are constantly sharing secrets and stories day-by-day on the street.
What should first-time visitors to Budapest make sure not to miss?
Check out the sunset from the Buda side of the river. As you climb up Gellért Hill, keep the sun to your right. At the top, you’ll find a hidden balcony with one of the best views of Budapest and one of the most beautiful sunsets you will ever witness.
Don’t miss Kőleves, a restaurant in the Jewish Quarter with a lovely atmosphere and rich history.
And I highly recommend taking a tour with my friend Andris, a historian who runs perfect historical tours in the city.
For experienced travelers, what are some of your favorite hidden gems?
For me, one of the most interesting things to seek out are the bullet holes from the 1956 revolution against the Soviet Union. You’ll find them mainly in the eighth district and sometimes in the seventh.
What neighborhoods do you recommend staying in for those who want to get a real taste of Budapest?
I’d choose the Pest side (districts five, seven, and thirteen), definitely! It’s easy to reach the rest of the city with public transport and on foot.
Another good option is the eighth district. And if you’re looking for something peaceful on the Buda side, district one is a perfect choice.
What nearby walking trails or natural areas would you recommend?
The Buda side of the river is the hilly part of the city and the closest park is Gellért-Hegy. Hármashatárhegy, János-hegy, Normafa, and Rózsika forrás aren’t far either and each has their own charms.
Tell us about the food from your region. What local dishes and drinks should people try?
Historically, Hungarian food has been influenced by many different countries, so you’ll see hints of familiarity with other European cuisines. Hungarians love meat (especially pork), but you’ll also find a thriving international food scene if meat-centric dishes aren’t your thing.
In my opinion, the best traditional Hungarian restaurants are KisPozsonyi, Cupákos Étterem, Fenyőgyöngye Vendéglő, and Gettó Gulyás. You can’t go wrong with any of those, so pick one and enjoy!
Local dishes you definitely need to try include stuffed sweet peppers (we call them paprika here), cold fruit soup, and flódni (a traditional Jewish layered sweet) for dessert. Make sure to grab a sip of unicum (herbal liquor) and search the grocery stores for Turó Rudi chocolate bars.
I also love Jelen Bisztró.
Do you have any tips for saving money in Budapest? Any favorite budget-friendly restaurants, bars, or things to see?
Always ask about the daily menu at local restaurant. Usually it’ll cost around four euros. Or visit the local markets in the mornings and cook in your hostel or apartment. Honestly, Hungary is really cheap compared to other European countries, so it’s easy to hang out here on a budget.
Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?
Make sure to buy tickets on public transportation and avoid being drunk in public.
What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?
Be friendly and learn some basics of the Hungarian language. Most people in the city speak English, but it’s always nice when people try.
There’s a small bar in Klauzal Square called Kisüzem. It’s a great place to make friends.
Where are the best places to get a memorable photograph of the city?
Head to Batthyány Square for a shot with the parliament building in the background, Fisherman’s Bastion in the Castle Hill, or Liberty Bridge. If you looking for outstanding buildings, check out the fifth and ninth districts.
Anything else you want us to know about your city or the region?
We are very nice and open-minded people. Don’t be too shy to start up a conversation anytime!
Going to Budapest? You can book a tour with Levi and his colleagues at Secret Food Tours Budapest. Their tours are lovely and leisurely and full of good, authentic, interesting food.
See below for some photos from the tour. And tell Secret Food Tours I sent you.