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Stuff Yourself on a Budapest Food Tour

Lunch at Belvárosi-Disznótoros on a Budapest food tour.

Budapest isn’t exactly a mecca for gourmet foodies – and we can’t understand why. I know Hungarian cuisine doesn’t have the international appeal among gourmands as other cuisines, but it is delicious! The absolute highlight of our trip to Eastern Europe was a Budapest food tour.

The center of Hungarian Cuisine is the Budapest Central Market.

Our Gastro – Budapest Food & Wine Tour Experience started in downtown Budapest, right off the mighty Danube River. The focal point of the Budapest culinary scene is the Central Market – a large, three-floor indoor market selling all kinds of foods. This isn’t a made-for-tourists market. We were visiting in October and found little old ladies in the Budapest food market buying their fall vegetables – leaks, root vegetables and squash. Summer cucumbers had been pickled were brought out and old men were lined up for them.

A vegetable stand in the Budapest Central Market.

On the upper floor of the Budapest food market, we dove deep into the rich tapestry of Hungarian cuisine. But first, we started the tour with a little liquid courage: a shot of Unicum. Since 1790, Unicum is essentially the national drink of Hungary. It’s 40 herbs & spices give it a medicinal quality that touches the Hungarian soul. The Zwack family that manufactures the brew fled during the fascist and communist years, and the communists tried (unsuccessfully) to master the recipe. Once freedom returned to Hungary, the original oak barrel aged liquor came back. We’re not going to lie or sugar-coat it – it’s awful. My first sip resulted in uncontrolled gagging and a near accident. However, I’m happy to report that the company makes a plum version, which was much more agreeable. We didn’t love it, but we’re glad we tried it.

Since 1790, Unicum has been the national drink of Hungary.  It's 40 herbs & spices give it a medicinal quality.

A shot of Unicum first thing in the morning

Fortified with a jolt of liquor, we moved on and encountered a nondescript stand on the upper floor of the Budapest Central Market with a huge crowd around it. In the stand, a guy was turning out small, personal pizzas. But these aren’t pizzas. This is langos and it’s practically the national dish of Hungary. We ordered the traditional fried flatbread with sour cream, cheese and garlic – assured by our Taste Hungary guide Katalin Hartai that this was the authentic way to enjoy the langos. And enjoy them we did!

A highlight of a Budapest food tour is a stop in the Central Market for langos - essentially Hungarian fast food. Here, sour cream is being added to the langos bread.

Sour cream being added to the langos

People in Hungary love their meat and Hungarian cuisine uses a lot of pork. This dates back to the period when Hungary was conquered and occupied by Muslims from Turkey. The Turks would not eat pork, so it left all the deliciousness for the Hungarians! But Hungarian cuisine doesn’t rely exclusively on pork. At the meat shop, we dove right into the good stuff: spicy salami, regular salami, goose crackle, beef tongue, spicy salami of horse meat and even horse bacon. I think this probably my first time trying horse – it wasn’t bad. Our Taste Hungary guide noted that the pork would come later. But first, we needed a little dessert of the local cherry strudel (called retes).

If you take a Budapest food tour, keep an open mind.  Here, we sampled goose crackle and horse meat.

Leaving the Budapest Central Market, we visited a series of small neighborhood businesses specializing in a number of Hungarian specialties, such as a shop selling sodas and jams from the Balaton Lake district. We also discovered a boutique chocolate manufacturer creating inventive concoctions, such as a chocolate with sour cherry and raspberry palinka. Palinka is a traditional fruit brandy in Hungary.

Sampling gourmet chocolates on a Taste Hungary Budapest food tour.

Our guide promised pork, and she delivered at a place called the Downtown Pig Feast. Now keep in mind that we’ve been eating for two hours already. Lunch consisted of regular sausage, liver sausage, blood sausage, suckling pig, a Mangalica steak (more on Mangalica later), plus a spread of side dishes including potatoes, salad and cabbage. I washed it down with the local beer: Arany Ászok. It was delicious and, by the end of it, we were absolutely stuffed. The focus on pork in Hungarian cuisine is a great thing!

Lunch at the Downtown Pig Feast on a Budapest food tour with Taste Hungary and Jayway Travel.

The next stop on our Budapest food tour was the café Auguszt. Budapest is often called the Paris of the East and the comparison is a good one. Budapest has a rich café culture, just like Paris. Auguszt Cukrászda is a perfect example of this. In Budapest, locals gather in cafes to read the paper, sip coffee and talk. As you might imagine, the communists weren’t thrilled with the activity and most of them closed, but there has been a rebirth in recent years. But, it was in the café Auguszt that we discovered one of the more interesting aspects of Hungarian life. Every year on St. Stephen’s Day (August 20), a birthday cake is proclaimed for the entire country. A contest is held to crown the winner. Once a cake has been selected, the recipe is distributed to all the cafes and restaurants throughout the country. A person can go into restaurant or café and order the cake of the year. So, at Auguszt, we had the “Cake of the Year” – the Somló Revolution.

During the culinary walk with Taste Hungary, we stopped at Cafe Auguszt to sample the various cakes, including the "cake of the year."

Our tour concluded at the Taste Hungary office for a wine sampling at their Tasting Table (& Shop). This brand new, beautifully designed space was the perfect place to sample the late harvest Tokaj wine with its golden color and residual sweetness. Yes, we bought a bottle to take home.

The Taste Hungary culinary walk concludes at their offices with an informative wine tasting.

An educational wine tasting

We highly recommend visitors to Budapest take the culinary walk tour as early in their trip as possible. Our guide shared with us a number of eating and drinking recommendations to occupy the rest of our time in Budapest. The tour was remarkable and was the highlight of our entire trip to Eastern Europe.

Sampling the cherry strudel and cheese strudel (called retes in Hungary) during our Budapest food tour at the Central Market.

Strudel, which is called retes in Hungary

One of the recommendations from our guide was the Pesti Disznó gastropub the next day. We had sampled the Mangalica at the Budapest food tour lunch, but at Pesti Disznó we were able to explore its awesomeness. The Mangalica is perhaps the apex in Hungarian cuisine. Mangalicas are an ancient and rare pig breed that grows hair and looks like a sheep. And the Mangalica tastes delicious! The Pesti Disznó makes a life-changing Mangalica burger. Trust us. It’s that good. We almost went through a whole trip to Hungary without trying the Hungarian goulash, so we shared a bowl here. Pesti Disznó was a real find and allowed us to continue our education in Hungarian cuisine!

The amazing Mangalica burger at Pesti Diszno.

The amazing Mangalica burger at Pesti Diszno

Budapest isn’t a major stop on the culinary map and Hungarian cuisine is often overlooked. But, on our Budapest food tour, we were completely surprised by the amazing, tasty delights we encountered. We’ll be back to sample even more treats in the future!

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While in Budapest, we explored the city as guests of JayWay Travel, the Eastern European travel specialists and organizers of our tour with Taste Hungary. As always, all the delicious opinions are our own.

Here are a few more delicious photos:

Salami, including Mangalica salami, at the Budapest Central Market.

During our Taste Hungary culintary walk, we enjoyed the traditional langos at the Budapest Central Market.

Langos

Peppers at the Budapest Central Market.

In the basement of the Budapest Central Market, we discovered large containers of pickles for sale.

Pickles

In Hungarian cuisine, the langos can also be prepared as a sweet dessert.

Langos can also be prepared as a sweet dessert

The tasting room at the Taste Hungary offices.


Have you been on a food tour? What was your favorite thing to try?

Taking a food tour in Budapest, Hungary, is a great way to see the city and explore its history through food | Stuff Yourself on a Budapest Food Tour

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What do you think about Stuff Yourself on a Budapest Food Tour?

  1. Rana Singh January 7, 2015 at 1:30 am #

    Great article and the pics are just amazing which made me drooling right now.
    Thanx for sharing, wish i could visit this year.
    Rana Singh recently posted…Cricket and summer make perfect New Zealand matchMy Profile

  2. Mary Akis January 7, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    I reside in Ontario, Canada and while I have only had the opportunity to visit Budapest once in April 2013. I will definatly be visiting again. Articles written by people like yourself are what I like to read, it’s not about being compensated for your work, it’s about reaching out to people and sharing the experience. Thanks very much

    Hope it’s warmer than the -43 degrees it is here at the moment

    Mary

    • Lance Longwell January 7, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

      Thanks Mary! Glad you enjoyed the article. Hope you have the chance to go to Budapest again.

  3. Sara @ Simply Sara Travel January 14, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    Looks like a wonderful food tour! I loved the food in Budapest…I can’t tell you how many pastries I ate there!!
    Sara @ Simply Sara Travel recently posted…Simply Sara Eats: and Sips in KrakowMy Profile

  4. Frank January 25, 2015 at 7:55 am #

    Looks great and similar to Czech cuisine (we spent 3 months in Prague last summer) in that there is lots of meat, breads, and cakes. I myself loved it by Spanky is vegetarian and often the only thing ‘vegetarian’ on the menu was fried cheese.
    Damn, that strudel looks great. They can’t do desserts here in Thailand…
    Frank (bbqboy)
    Frank recently posted…We’re not on Holiday! Differences between vacationing and travelling explainedMy Profile

    • Laura Longwell January 26, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

      There definitely are similarities to Czech food when it comes to having hearty, “meat and potatoes” cuisine. We were pleasantly surprised in both countries.

  5. Jennifer February 2, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    I wanted to do this tour the last time we were in Budapest, but it was over New Year’s and there weren’t any tours on the holiday. Now this just gives me yet another excuse to go back and eat my way around the city.
    Jennifer recently posted…Kissimmee: The Wild, Wild EastMy Profile

    • Laura Longwell February 3, 2015 at 12:43 am #

      We really cannot recommend it enough. Delicious and really entertaining. Definitely do it if you have the chance.

  6. Esther February 5, 2015 at 10:30 am #

    I did the same tour, it was sooo good wasn’t it? I think Hungarian food is so underrated, I basically love everything that comes from a Hungarian kitchen… okay, maybe not the pickles. But I’ll make that up in wine.

  7. Juno March 22, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

    Man, that langos looks great! Drooling…
    Juno recently posted…Five Years of Runaway Juno: What’s ChangedMy Profile

  8. Abi March 23, 2015 at 5:34 am #

    Oooh – I really want to go back and try this! I love food tours – you find out so much about a place (plus, of course, they’re tasty!)
    Abi recently posted…7 Unusual Things To Do in ItalyMy Profile

  9. Leah March 24, 2015 at 1:41 am #

    Ohh my, I LOVE food tours! That strudel-like thing looks particularly tasty, and any day that includes wine is alright in my book. Very much looking forward to seeing Budapest someday, now the food as well!
    Leah recently posted…The Ten Commandments of Carnaval de BarranquillaMy Profile

  10. Frank August 19, 2015 at 5:23 am #

    Hi Laura/Lance,
    We’ve been in Budapest for the last month, another month to go. We were thinking of doing the Taste Hungary food tour but honestly for $90 US/person a little steep. We’re slow travellers so we can’t be paying that kind of amount every day. Some of the tourist prices in Budapest a little surprising.
    On the other hand, you’ve done a great job on this post and we’re going to do a self-tour based on the itinerary. Thanks!
    Frank (bbqboy)
    Frank recently posted…One month in Budapest. Experiences and impressions to date.My Profile

  11. Veronika October 20, 2015 at 3:46 am #

    Hi Lance, this is a great post with lots of mouthwatering photos, thanks for the inspiration! I’ve just written a post for our blog about Hungarian cuisine and included your photo of the sweet langos. You’re credited in the description, but if you for some reason don’t like it, let me know and I’ll pull the photo down immediately.
    Thanks!

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    […] architecture spectaculaire, et, à ce qu’on me dit, une gastronomie fabuleuse et surprenante (mes amis Lance et Laura en ont parlé ici!)… et, il faut être honnête, les petits prix d’une destination d’Europe Centrale […]

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