Sightsee differently with Budapest’s alternative tours
Photo : Official Hop on Hop off
We Love Budapest
09/9/2014, 5:12 AM●8-minute article
What could be better than spending an afternoon admiring the monumental sights of Budapest? How about admiring the monumental sights of Budapest while tooling around town in a tiny TukTuk auto rickshaw, or atop a two-wheeled Segway, or aboard a bus that plunges into the Danube for a scenic cruise? All of these extraordinary excursions and many more await visitors to the Magyar metropolis – read on to learn about these tours with a twist.
Admire the beautifully decorated buildings of Budapest with close-up looks at them while tooling around town in the open air, unobstructed by a roof as you travel to all of the city’s most monumental sights during a comprehensive tour offered in 20 languages. With the Official Hop on Hop off city tour, guests are provided with frequent transportation across Budapest aboard two types of roofless rides – open-topped double-decker buses, and convertible single-story buses, allowing sweeping views both beside and above the tour route, including Andássy Avenue, Heroes’ Square, Castle Hill, the Citadel, and much more. Every pass is valid for two days of touring and transport, and additionally, all ticketholders are entitled to even more panoramic sightseeing aboard an affiliated boat tour.
Chainless Bicycle Tours
Gain insight to the social backdrop of modern life in Hungary’s capital while riding a revolutionary new vehicle designed in Budapest: the StringBike, built with strong fabric cords instead of chains to ensure a smooth ride. The knowledgeable guides of Chainless Budapest lead groups of riders on varied models of this intriguing invention through four tours: Retrofit (revealing landmarks from Hungary’s communist times, and how that era still impacts life here today), Wandering Jews (taking visitors to hidden spots of Budapest’s historic Jewish community), Golden Age Budapest (highlighting monumental buildings from Hungary’s belle époque heyday), and Recycling Budapest (stopping at the city’s locales that were transformed from neglected ruins to become today’s hippest hotspots).
These nifty little two-wheel Segways are always zipping around Andrássy Avenue, the Castle District, and other prominent sights. Yellow Zebra Budapest offer a range of daily morning, afternoon, and evening tours of the city, and the Segway is a quick way to get between sights that are a bit further apart. There’s also a tour of the Castle District, and guides can create personalized private tours. Before heading off, each visitor is given a 30-minutes training session to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and balanced on these futuristic electric scooters, and every passenger is given a helmet to ensure complete safety. Tours are about two to three hours long, with prices starting from 65 euros per person.
One of the iconic symbols of communist Europe is the Trabant. For decades, everyone in Eastern Europe longed to get one – despite the ten-year waiting list. The Trabant is both a sturdy cube of grit as well as a flimsy little thing that often failed to start, and it’s made a retro comeback. For the nostalgic or those who want to step back in time, the fun team at Rent A Trabant offer tours around Budapest in this little car starting from 45 euros per person, visiting the must-see sights as well as some hidden treasures. Itineraries can be pre-arranged or themed. The fun team at Rent A Trabant really loves these mini autos, but that doesn’t stop them from posting a long list of jokes poking fun at them: “How to make a Trabant go 100km per hour? Push it off a cliff.” “How to double the value of a Trabant? Fill it up with petrol.”
There are plenty of ways to see the city, but few offer such a nice view as from the water. Canoe or kayak along the Danube and see the city from a whole new perspective. The team at Evezz Velem (“Paddle with Me”) offer full flexibility – choose the length of the tour and even where it goes. The one-day tour for 1-3 people is 37,000 forints, including canoe and/or kayak rental, life-vests, an English-speaking guide, and transportation to the starting point. There’s also a two-day tour including camping gear and meals, and they can cater for larger group sizes. A typical route runs along the inner-city stretch of the Danube, so you can see the main sights such as the Parliament, Gellért Hill, and the Royal Palace – but the adventurous and fit can even head as far away as Szentendre.
Don’t feel like working up a sweat touring the city on a pedal bike, but still need a fast way to get around between sights? The electric bike could be the perfect solution. You’ll still feel the wind in your hair, but there’ll be no hard pedaling involved. I Like eBike offers three different tour types. The ViewpointTour takes you swiftly up the steepest hills to viewing platforms and sights with the best scenery. As the name suggests, the Real Budapest Tour introduces the genuine grit, history, and heart of the city. Finally, the Romantic Tour will make sure you fall in love with the city by taking you to the most iconic and beautiful sights. These informative guided tours start at 12,500 forints per person and include a bike, helmet, and a self-professed witty guide.
Bicycle rickshaws are hugely popular in Asia, and now they’ve made their way to Budapest to make sightseeing during warmer months a breeze. Sit in sheltered comfort under a canvas covering (which will keep you mostly dry if it rains) as an English-speaking guide powers and steers the bike, pulling you along the city streets. PediCab Budapestcan take you from point A to point B, or on a guided tour of the city, but you’ll have to let them know what you’d like to see. Meanwhile, Lovely Budapest has pre-planned three- and four-hour tours that’ll take you to all of the main sights, with the benefit of extra speed with this three-wheeled mode of transport, while enjoying the city buzzing all around you while getting around town. Lovely Budapest can also pick you up and drop you off at your accommodations.
Budapest’s only amphibious touring vehicle is a marvel of modern engineering – the full-sized enclosed bus of RiverRide is fully equipped to travel by land or water, and it does both during set excursions past the major landmarks of central Pest (including the Parliament House, the Great Synagogue, the Opera House, and much more) before driving directly into the Danube River for a brief cruise. The approach toward the water is a particular highlight of this tour: after passengers are buckled into their seats, the adventurous vehicle charges right down a 70-meter-long ramp into the river with a gigantic splash, thus beginning a fantastic voyage below Margaret Bridge and along the center of this major European waterway, before turning around to bring passengers safely back to dry land again.
Zoom around the Magyar metropolis on three wheels aboard one of the planet’s cutest conveyances, the Italian-made Piaggio Ape. While these buzzing vehicles are crucial for urban travel from Southeast Asia to Africa to South America and beyond, the creators of Budapest TukTukonly introduced them to the streets of Hungary’s capital this summer for a variety of pre-planned excursions (such as the Castle District Picnic Tour and the Romantic Tour, both including food and wine) and customizable tours. While this is a wonderful way to check out Budapest’s major monuments, the breezy feeling of riding in these miniature motorcars is especially fun when taking tight turns onto side streets and passing through hidden squares, all enhanced when the convertible canvas roofs are removed.
Budapest is a city rich in cultural heritage and history, and one of the most fitting ways to see it is by motoring around in a vintage automobile. Sweet Travel offers private “oldtimer” daytime and nighttime tours in a classic 1950s Citroen limousine. You’ll be chauffer-driven through the city to all the main sights in a stylish 1954 Citroën Traction Avant, turning heads wherever you go. Up to four people can take the three-hour tour, while a solo traveler can also rent this curvaceous antique, but when couples ride together in the plush backseat area, this becomes one of the most romantic ways possible to check out the Magyar metropolis. One person can enjoy this ride for 56,000 forints, but the more people aboard, the cheaper it gets; for four people it’s 68,000 forints total.
While chugging and cheering their way around downtown, the passengers on one of Budapest’s many beer bikes may not be learning all that much about the city’s landmarks and history, but they have a lot of good times along the way. Most of these party bikes can seat about 10-12 people, with most riders providing power by pedaling while quaffing pint after pint of suds poured fresh from an onboard keg and bar. (Don’t worry – all beer bikes come complete with a designated driver, and usually a bartender who doubles as a tour guide from time to time.) Several companies offer a variety of models of these alcohol-fueled cycles, from the state-of-the-art metal party bikes of Beers on Wheels (equipped with a video camera) to the quaint barrel-fronted contraption of BeerBike Budapest.