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private guide in budapest, budapest city tour

When the train beats the plane

PETER LYNCH sits back and enjoys a varied rail trip from London to Istanbul


Next stop, Budapest, is less than three hours by train and the only indication of a border is the change to the tongue-twisting Hungarian script. I generally avoid city bus tours due to the dully rehearsed recitation and the un inspiring insight.

However, in Budapest Ifound Underguide, a group of knowledgeable and enthusiasticyoung locals keen to show off their city. My guide Zsuzsa collects me from my hotel and sets off to showme her Budapest. We take in themain tourist highlights but, instead of a sterile monologue, have fascinating discussions about what I find interesting.

It’s likehaving a local friend showing me places they know I’ll love. We stop for a drink at the hilltop Fisherman’s Bastion for stunning city views, then have exotic $1pancakes at Granny’s Pancake Kitchen and take a tram to the famous Gellert mineral baths. Lunch follows with a stunning array of Hungarian specialities eaten shoulder-to-shoulder withl ocals in the Central Market. 

But my highlight is discoveringBudapest’s unique “ruin bars”,scattered through the crumbling Jewish quarter. Ruin bars havebecome an amazing Budapest artsy/retro scene, bringinga bandoned buildings, shops and warehouses back into use. The format is simple: rent an oldbuilding in downtown ’Pest, don’tr enovate anything, invite contemporary artists and designers to be as creative and bizarre as they like, build a bar, hire a band and stay open until early morning. One of the oldest is Szimpla Kert and my table is in an old Soviet Trabant...


Written by Peter Lynch