Travelling is always fun if you have the money and the time but who says you have to go abroad for great sightseeing? Beyond Budapest offers non-conventional guided city tours in many languages to unveil the unknown story of ruinous buildings in the so-far-avoided District VIII. If we look at the ramshackle walls long enough, we can see the cultural and social history of the 19th-century Hungarian aristocracy unfold in front of our eyes, which can be valuable entertainment to even an original Budapester.
To the capital’s inhabitants, being surrounded by beautiful old buildings has become a commonplace, a natural thing that no one really notices or acknowledges after having lived here for a certain time. People get accustomed to the setting, to the nearness of the most well-known attractions such as Buda Castle, Chain Bridge or Parliament, and even seeing tourist groups eagerly clicking their cameras cannot make locals bat an eye.
The more we become an organic part of Budapest, the less we can perceive its charm that caught our attention in the first place. Luckily, there are new ways to evoke that feeling of “first sight”, and one of these ways is to (just for a few hours) become a “tourist” in the city by taking part in one of the Beyond Budapest walking tours.
Beyond Budapest is an organisation that consists of a bunch of enthusiastic guides who take groups on quite unconventional sightseeing tours that highlight the social and cultural development of certain quarters. The unique historical curiosities they unveil cannot be found in guidebooks, because the buildings and regions they show fall out of the mainstream.
However, hidden or forgotten things sometimes show more about the true history and culture than the most well-known ones. This is why Beyond Budapest tours focus on seeing the importance of old and neglected buildings that once were the palaces of the flourishing aristocracy, and showing the social structure of the less-mentioned parts of town, such as District VIII.
This type of entertainment can be exciting for tourists but it can also be interesting to people who live in Budapest, as everyone can share the historical information and little gossip they know about the city.
One of Beyond Budapest’s tours is called a Socio-Cultural Walking Tour, which is now available every Saturday from 4pm. This regular tour welcomes everyone, as it is offered in English, and costs HUF 3,500 for a three-hour activity. The tour starts from the steps of the Hungarian National Museum and takes people first through the Palace Quarter then to the heart of District VIII.
The experience starts with the examination of the highest social level of the 19th century by visiting several palaces, for example, of the Festetics and Károlyi families; and as we move closer to the present, lower classes are introduced. In the end, participants get the chance to visit an authentic Gypsy musician family in their home and become acquainted with their traditions.
During the tours, people get to know from which tailor countesses got their lingerie in the good old days, where was the first underfloor-heated church in the city, and they can even hear the story how the famous Negro candy was invented. Moreover, in the courtyard of old tenement houses the tours sometimes find people who can remember and share their memories about the history of the town.
Beyond Budapest offers an experience truly beyond the surface that might be able to tear us away a bit from the rush of everyday life. Besides this regular socio-cultural tour, they also offer various other sightseeing trips that are all available on their website and Facebook page. These can be private tours for special occasions or focusing on a special theme within Budapest.
The well-trained guides are friendly and can lead a tour in many languages, such as English, German, French, Dutch and, of course, Hungarian to help people understand the diverse history of the capital city.