Budapest is an emerging city. Sure, it’s been possible to get a no-frills flight there for a good long while now, and the stag-do crowd has been and done and (hopefully) moved on. But the creative youth revolution is finally coming into its own. You can completely skip the “ruin pubs” (they’re really not that much fun anyway) in the evenings, and there’s a hell of a lot more to enjoy than the spas in the daytime. Of course, no trip to Budapest would be complete without a long, drawn out dip into those mineral dense waters - whether you want to search out one of the quieter, calmer spots for a quiet, reflective moment; or like me, you’re really happy wallowing in one of the classic spas like Széchenyi-Heilbad where you can take a beer outside and sit in the warm water on a summer’s afternoon whilst chunky extra water-wrinkled old men play chess in their speedos and teenagers chase each other around the whirlpool. To me, that’s the real deal - the characters in the city are as bountiful and varied as the bars! But back to the creative revolution. Although Budapest is still a terrible place to try find brunch, you can now find all sorts of other perfect spots that will inspire the creative entrepreneur in you. You’ll find all of this with little effort, and will be received with warmth. If you don’t leave feeling somehow like a local, you didn’t do it right. My only major tip to not piss off the waiters of Budapest however, is that white wine is served at room temperature. Everywhere. You’re just going to have to get over it, ask for ice, or drink something else. I recommend a really really big Aperol Spritz. Usually works for me!
Rumbach Sebestyén u. 10
Printa - as the name suggests - is actually a screen print workshop and store. They have a selection of print artists work as well as product based print works for sale, made by local artists, often in the print room in the back of the store. They also have an adorable shop dog (as do most stores in Budapest) and make an absolutely killer cup of coffee. It’s a great place to start the day wandering in Budapest’s 7th district.
Rumbach Sebestyén utca 15
There is a great selection of vintage stores in Budapest covering all your second hand needs from a rummage session looking for some magical sartorial happenstance, to the perfectly curated Ludovica. The prices at Ludovica may be high for Budapest, but absolutely fine in any other context, and their selection is completely gorgeous, from great denim to beautiful Arabic thawbs. Leaving there without something is pretty impossible.
Kertész u. 48
This restaurant is so good I had to go twice. On consecutive nights. It’s small, cute and - sorry veggies / vegans - being a Franco-Hungarian fusion joint, the menu has a heavy emphasis on game meats and paté. I had the best rabbit terrine of my life there. When I related this to the waitress, she sniffled like a bunny (she spent the whole night giggling like this by the way - totally hilarious!) and told me she made it herself. The whole place is very humble and tucked away on a dead street; it deserves a crown and a Danube-side location, but then it probably wouldn’t be so charming.
Drinks: Telep Art Bar
Madách Imre út 8
There’s not tons to say about this bar, but it’s spot on. Great location, outside courtyard, friendly patrons, great bartenders. There are a lot of very questionable overdone bars nearby, so the art bar really shines in its simplicity.
Paulay Ede u. 33
Every holiday needs a courtyard bar. Somewhere airy to retreat when the heat of the day gets too much. Anger’t sits right in the middle of everything, is clean, has great dis and is a great place to act like a real expat and take it easy with a friend, a cold drink and the crossword.
Only in Budapest: The Michael Jackson tree
Erzsébet tér 7-8, Budapest
Yup - it’s a real place. It’s just a tree in a public park, apparently opposite a hotel where la Jackson tended to stay when he visited the city, where fans still lay flowers and tape photos around the trunk as a constant memorial to their hero.
Opposite Ferenciek tere M3 Metro Station
If like me, you’re totally hooked on exploring abandoned and dead spaces, Párizsi Udvar will deserve a visit. It’s not a huge place, but it’s the most handsome ancient shopping mall you can imagine. It’s so grand it could be a section of a gothic church, but looks like it only ever housed a small selection of stores.
Text and images by Ruth Bartlett