Budapest – the Insider's View

So you think you've seen it all? Think again. There is more to Budapest then what you see from the deck of a tour bus. Sign up for an alternative guided tour to discover yet unknown faces of the capital.

To go beyond the usual touristic experience, you'll need someone to hold your hand, naturally. The team of Beyond Budapest Sightseeing (www.beyondbudapest.hu). offer hand-on and personal  2-3 hour long walking tours with a strong focus on the 8th district. Luxurious palaces and time-worn backstreets of crumbling buildings – this district is one of many contradictions, and each tour focuses on a different face. The Budapest Palace Quarter Tour provides the opportunity to get a feel of the long gone world of the Hungarian aristocracy. The walk through the splendid buildings of the area complemented by stories and tales makes history come alive. The Contemporary Art Instant tour guides you to home-galleries, little ateliers, cellar-galleries and photo exhibitions, connecting the stations with local legends. The so-called Socio-cultural Walking Tour takes you into hidden backyards of the rather slummy parts of the district offers quite a contrast. Ever been to the home of a Gypsy musician family? Or at a hundred-year-old blacksmith workshop? The Juice of the 8th District tour takes you to hidden spots of Jewish Budapest with a strong emphasis on the special architectural heritage of the area and some gossip from the past. Beyond Budapest Sightseeing was recommended by the New York Times and was identified as ‘Good Practice' by the European Commission.

Imagine Budapest (www.imaginebp.hu) is another local enterprise specialising on thematic tours. One of the most important for a city built on water is  2-hour Budapest – the City of Waters tour along the Buda embankment of the Danube, where you'll see some of the fabulous domed Turkish baths, taste several kinds of local mineral water,listen to facts and legends about the Danube, as well as stories of miraculous recoveries, turn-of-the-century drinking cures, donkey-drawn water carts, and filthy fish markets. Eventually, you can try the rejuvenating thermal waters of a genuinely ‘retro' drinking hall.

Or do you want to find out who made the oldest graffiti in town? Do you want to see the narrowest building, and the tallest statue of Budapest? Can you imagine what the oldest church keeps hidden in its golden globes, and how the first bridge was built over the Danube? Do you want to hear the story of the largest synagogue in Europe, and the most ancient tree downtown? You'll get all the answers at the Budapest's Records – the City of Superlatives tour.

Yet another focus is provided by the folks at The House is Ours (www.mienkahaz.blog.hu). The Wallenberg tour offers an overview of the incredible work of Swedish diplomat Raul Wallenberg, saving a large number of Jews from deportation at World War II by setting up protected houses in the international ghetto of the time.

If you'd like to take your holiday photography to the next level go for the Cityrama's Photography Tour. Discover the city through the lens, see old pics of Budapest and try to make new ones, with help of a local photographer who knows all the hidden spots. Are you into the retro-feel? Join the Dinner Behind the Iron Curtain Tour. Jump into a Trabant, enjoy a dinner in an apartment furnished in the style of the ‘70s and learn everything about the every-day life behind the iron curtain. For more info, go to (www.cityrama.hu)!