Before today I had never gone on a food tour before.
I always thought that a simple walking tour was all you needed to get a quick look at the local history and culture of the city you were visiting.
About Taste Hungary
Taste Hungary is a tour company that strives to provide people with an authentic look at culture and history through local cuisines.
Each aspect of their tours is thoroughly researched and painstakingly thought out so that you’ll learn about everything involved in your food tasting experience from where the ingredients are from, why they’re used, how they’re combined to make a delicious dish, and much more!
Taste Hungary offers tours in Slovenia, Austria and Slovakia, along with Hungary itself.
In Budapest alone you’ll find more than 10 different tours that involve food or wine, and there are many more tours being offered from cooking classes to river cruise wine tastings.
They’re often adding new tours to their collection and they just came out with one specifically for vegetarians. Their Vegetarian Walk is the latest addition to the Taste Hungary lineup and perfectly suitable for travelers wanting to experience Hungarian cuisine while avoiding any meat-based foods.
My Experience on the Culinary Walk Food Tour with Taste Hungary
Eating My Way Through the Central Market Hall
It was only a quarter to ten in the morning, quite early to be out exploring the city for someone like me, when I was already making my way through the famous Budapest Central Market Hall to meet Zsofia, our tour guide for the day.
She told us there was going to be six people in our group today and not even a minute later they arrived. After a quick meet and greet we made our way up the escalator to a spot that overlooked the entire market.
Right away Zsofia began telling us about the history, layout and popularity of the market itself and I could immediately tell that she was both knowledgeable and passionate about what she was explaining to us. After a short history lesson we walked over to a small bar beside the stairs where it was apparently time to start the day off with some shots of Unicum.
I had seen these circular green bottles around the city before but I never had the chance to find out what they were. Zsofia explained to us that Unicum is a famous herbal spirit in Hungary that was originally created to alleviate some of the stomach problems that Joseph II, a Habsburg emperor and King of Hungary, was experiencing.
It is created from a secret blend of over 40 different natural herbs and spices. The recipe is so secret that it is kept locked away in a safe in a monastery and only few people have access to it.
I was fortunate enough to try the traditional style of Unicum and let’s just say that if I was a little sleepy beforehand, after the shot I was definitely wide-awake.
I can’t see myself going out to buy my own bottle of Unicum, as it tasted like a very bitter version of Jagermeister, but I was excited to try it and seeing the reactions of the taste on the faces of the people around me was one of the most memorable moments of the tour.
Zsofia was also kind enough to bring a small selection of scones and we were able to enjoy a light breakfast before heading off to explore the rest of the market.
Before making our way to the lower level we walked past some small food stands selling Langos, goulash, stuffed cabbage and a wide assortment of other hearty and delicious traditional Hungarian foods.
We learned a little about the tumultuous history that Hungary had with the Ottoman Empire and discovered the reason why there is so much Turkish influence in Hungarian cuisine. Zsofia continued to tell us that she had visited Istanbul and was surprised by how similar the two cuisines were in regards to the style of preparation and the spices used.
After making a quick joke about the poor quality of souvenir’s being sold in the market Zsofia led us to the lower level and brought us directly to a market stand selling various meats, sausages, goose liver and other traditional Hungarian products. She disappeared for a moment and when she returned she was carrying an enormous platter covered with slices of different meats.
We sampled beef tongue, Mangalica, horse sausage, traditional Hungarian salami and some spicy paprika salami. I had never eaten horse before but I was surprised by how tender and savory it was. Even the beef tongue, which is not something you’ll be very often, was also delicious.
During our sampling Zsofia explained to us all of the different preparation methods and gave us a in-depth look at where each of the different types came from.
The most interesting thing to me was learning about Mangalica and how the government protects the quality standards of its production and how it’s one of the favorite kinds of meat among Hungarians.
Mangalica is a domesticated pig that’s typically used for sausage, but unlike typical farm pigs in places like Canada or the United States the Mangalica is allowed to roam freely and eat a healthier and more balanced diet.
During communism the Mangalica almost disappeared but in the early 1990s a huge revival effort saved the breed and today it’s one of the most popular choices for sausages and other pork products.
These specific details might not seem that interesting but they paint a broader picture on the revival of food culture in Hungary after communism and offers a glimpse as to the reasons why today Budapest is quickly becoming one of the top “foodie” cities in all of Europe.
After our quick meat sampling experience we made our way through the lower-level of the market, past countless vegetable, fruit and meat vendors before exiting the building. Our next destination was Rozsavolgyi Csokolade, a small chocolate shop founded by two local Hungarians in 2004.
Rozsavolgyi Csokolade is a unique chocolate shop as they stick to a mantra of “bean-to-bar” chocolate production.
What this means is that they spend a lot of effort finding and using the services of cocoa bean farmers in places like Venezuela and Madagascar that practice organic and natural harvesting techniques. Once the beans are harvested they are brought to Hungary where the rest of the chocolate making process is completed.
It’s safe to say that the chocolate you get at Rozsavolgyi Csokolade is nearly all made in Hungary using only the most natural and freshest ingredients.
Zsofia gave us a quick rundown of the shops history and we were able to sample two different pieces of chocolate each. I actually brought mine home, and haven’t tried it yet, but judging from the intoxicating aroma and number of awards on the walls I’m positive that chocolate is going to be delicious.
Eating Lunch Like a Hungarian King
From here we made our way to a local Hungarian favorite called Belvárosi Disznótoros. This is actually the same restaurant that Anthony Bourdain visited during his time filming his food show Parts Unknown in Budapest and I was excited to eat at the same place that he claimed was so great.
Originally a butcher shop Belvárosi Disznótoros now serves a selection of hearty Hungarian dishes including duck leg, three different types of sausage, goulash soup and the noodle, sour cream and bacon dish that I know as Halushki.
Along with this selection of meat and soups we were fortunate enough to try a variety of pickled foods like cabbage, onion, chili pepper and even a pickled watermelon.
Not only had I never had a pickled watermelon before but both of the blood and liver sausages tasted incredible and I’ll definitely be checking out the restaurant again before I leave Budapest.
What I loved about Belvárosi Disznótoros is that it is a traditional Hungarian eatery. They only serve classic Hungarian foods and you’ve got to eat standing up at a table rather than sitting down.
It reminded me of the cafeteria style restaurants you’ll find in Prague or Poland – more of a low-key place that serves delicious and high quality food.
A Step Back in Time with Some Coffee and Cake
Once lunch was over and we were all completely stuffed Zsofia let us know that it was time for coffee and dessert. We made our way over to the Auguszt Coffee House, one of the oldest cafe’s in Budapest, and sat down inside for a warm drink and a small cake tasting.
Since 1870 the café has been running and has been passed down through five generations of family. It’s a very popular spot for locals and tourists alike and it’s a great place to warm up during the cold Hungarian winter months.
After ordering our coffee and bringing us the cake Zsofia pointed out some portraits on the wall of the original owners and some members of the Auguszt family who had helped run the cafe in the past.
We tried two different cakes – a classic cream cake made with walnuts and the more traditional poppy-seed “Christmas cake”. The coffee was great, the cakes tasted amazing and it was a unique atmosphere being in a cafe that has been in operation for more than 140 years.
For a moment it had seemed like we had taken a step back in time and you could easily picture people drinking coffee and eating pastries in the same seats from a different age.
We sat around the tables and exchanged travel stories, tips on places to check out in the city and Zsofia told us a heartfelt story about her family and how they were able to make it through the harsh communist rule in Hungary. After a few more stories we finished our drinks and made our way to a little place called the “Tasting Table”.
Wine Tasting in a Cozy Cellar
The Tasting Table is a small wine tasting cellar and shop that’s run by Taste Hungary themselves. Our group made its way into the underground cellar, where you’ll find a store, and I was pleased to find a cozy, comfortable room with two large wooden tables prepared with a set of wine glasses.
We met the host who led us to our seats and brought out a large platter full of a variety of different cheeses along with some pumpkin seed oil and bread. We were here for a wine tasting and there were three different wine glasses laid out in front of us ready to be filled with delicious Hungarian wine.
Over the next 45 minutes the host would bring one bottle of wine at a time to the table and give us an in-depth history lesson on how and where it was produced along with why that specific type of wine became so popular. We tried three different wines, two white and one red, and my favorite was the sweet wine from the Tokaj region.
This UNESCO protected region is important to Hungary for their wine production and the Tokaj sweet wine is one of the few types of wines that Hungary actually exports.
Finally, as I was starting to get a little bit drunk from wine and stuffed full of cheeses and local Hungarian cuisine, the tour came to an end. Before leaving I spoke to Zsofia in private for a few minutes and she was able to give me a handful of new restaurants and local eateries for me to check out on my own.
On previous tours that I have gone on in Europe I notice that the guides usually can’t wait for everyone to leave so that they can head home to relax but Zsofia was more than willing to take some more time out of her day, after having spent nearly 4 1/2 hours with us, to give me even more information and answer more of my questions.
Overall, the Culinary Walk food tour with Taste Hungary turned out to be one of the best tours I’ve ever been on and has encouraged me to seek out future food tours in whatever cities I plan to visit next.
The great taste and quality of the food, sweets and drinks that I tasted on the tour combined with Zsofia’s knowledge and personality resulted in a memorable and completely unique experience that I won’t soon forget.
Let me end this by saying that if you’re looking for the best food tour in Budapest I highly recommend you choose one with Taste Hungary.
No matter what you’re looking for, whether it’s a wine tasting, vegetarian tour or anything in between you’re bound to find a tour that will meet all of your requirements and exceed all of your expectations with Taste Hungary.