Spice of Europe
Meet the 365 faces of BudapestPlay
Spice of Europe
Explore the glamorous side of the city!Play
Spice of Europe
Explore the city’s cultural vibePlay
Meet the faces of Budapest
Barbjerik Ferenc, 1962
Saly Noémi, 1943
Zsivkov Anita, Koós Árpád, Kocsis András, 1980
Szalay Béla, 1980
Sattler Katalin, 1936
Lugosi Szilvia, 1962
Kecskés András, 1966
Somla Tibor, 1940
Gellért Thermal Bath
László Ördögh, Dávid Drozsnyik
Széll Kálmán Square
Castle Garden Bazaar
Castle Garden Bazaar
Bálint & Bence Bársony
Yurts in Buda
András & Péter Dani
Léna and Borisz
Gergő Péri is a film student who always enjoys a good cycle: "Budapest is an awesome city for bike lovers like myself, in fact, one of my favorite things to do here is cycling around the Vizafogó and Moszkva Square front with my brother. It’s pure freedom, as I feel the wind on my face while watching all these different people pass by. There’s something about this part of the city, something about its calmness, its quietness, its closeness to nature. Anyone can (and should) experience it on two wheels. The great bike-sharing system is a given, so you don’t have an excuse: find a docking station and let the good times roll!”
The promenade was renewed in 2017 due to the FINA World Aquatics Championship held in Budapest. It runs on the Pest side between 2 bridges, Margaret and Árpád-bridge, giving people the most beautiful scenery as they pass by or ride along the Danube River. Speaking of bike rides, did you know that there are at least 190 kilometers of cycle routes in Budapest altogether? Some of the routes are officially part of the EuroVelo (European cycle route network), therefore plenty of cyclists cross them from all over the world each year.
Hungary has a 200-year-old history of cycling. The first Hungarian ever who had a picture posing with his bike was Laszló Kosztovits in 1880. He also organized the first cycling competitions and translated the word ’bicycle’ from English to Hungarian. The most popular bike trip destination was Gödöllő, as it was considered to be the best route to cycle at the time. Sounds like a nice new-old road to explore, right Gergő?
Franciska is a Hungarian actress, who has lived in Budapest since her childhood: "Gellért Thermal Bath’s spectacular building is among the most beautiful ones in the whole country; it’s such an amazing snapshot of an era. Everyone has to see this architecture, which hasn’t changed over the years, so try the thermal baths or grab a table in some of the smaller pools that now function as a restaurant. My grandad used to work here as an inventor and a doctor, so we often visited. There wasn’t anything better than the wave pool! I can still hear the sound of the bell that marks the beginning of the waves, and it still makes my heart race. For me, being around this area is like putting on an old record; it brings back all the feelings, the memories, everything I experienced while growing up here.”
The Gellért Thermal Bath and Hotel, built in the secession style, opened its gates in 1918 and was expanded in 1927 with the wave-bath and in 1934 by the effervescent bath. At present, nearly all therapeutic facilities may be used in the Gellért Thermal Bath. And that atmosphere, just sitting there in the hot water brings us a new perspective with a perfectly calm feeling. That’s why many celebrities, leaders, artists fall in love with this place.
What do Franciska Törőcsik, Otto von Habsburg, Richard Nixon, Yehudi Menuhin, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Vilmos Zsigmond and Maximillian Shell have in common? They all enjoyed the Gellért Thermal Bath, and all of these men have a suite named after them in the Danubius Hotel Gellért – sorry Franciska, but all is not lost, just delayed!
Dani Králik is a photographer, so he knows the spots where to take cool shots: “Madách Square is basically the center, the very heart of Budapest, where some of the realest faces, interesting locals come together every day to socialize. I was here when Telep opened and it changed everything for the local community, as we have become one with the area. It might be surrounded by tons of tourists, but this spot is where you can meet and have a drink with the ones that make the city what it is, mostly artsy, urban, true “Pesti” faces, often on motorbikes, skateboards, or anything that has wheels.”
It’s quite easy to notice the massive buildings around Madách Square covered with red brick walls. They are called Madách Houses. They are based on Gyula Wälder’s blueprints, which were initially designed to be the entrance of a boulevard that leads all the way from the city center to City Park. Unfortunately, World War II had just started when the initial constructions had finished, so the whole boulevard project had to be put on hold. For good. Luckily, Andrássy Avenue, which is also in the neighborhood, serves the exact same purpose well enough.
Prior to the construction of the Madách Houses, another illustrious building stood in the area, known as the Orczy House. Its history is connected Budapest’s Jewish community, since they started to rent the huge building after 1796, as the synagogue was nearby.
Basically, the Orczy House marked the very beginning of the Jewish quarter.
“I grew up in the city; this is where I went to school and this is where my studio is. I love how close the Danube is. Tram 2 that goes along the Pest side is one of my favorites, as it takes you all the way from Ludwig Museum to Cirko Gejzír cinema. My grandad taught me the multiplication table on this route. This area has attractive architecture, as you can see some incredibly exciting, continuously changing facades from the 18th century, just like Párisi Passage’s building, the Rózsavölgyi House, or the Art Nouveau-styled building right next to it whose mosaics were designed by Kőrösfői Kriesch Aladár. Kamermayer Square also has a magical atmosphere, which I pass through every day on my way to work. “
Zsófi Barabás is a painter who gives us the definition of picture-perfect: “What I love most about Gerlóczy Street and the surrounding area is how so many different buildings from different eras can be found here, with some dating all the way back to the 1700s. It’s so worth wandering around to explore and discover the unique, different styles of architecture and facades. I grew up near here, in Párisi Passage, and today this street is home to my gallery. Párisi Passage and its surrounding area, including Kamermayer Square, is like a little Paris in the heart of Budapest. It’s full of awesome cafés, cinemas, great places to hang out at. You simply have to see it for yourself, come and take a walk around here!”
At first look, Gerlóczy utca comes off as another narrow, quiet street with carefully designed buildings right in the heart of Budapest, close to Deák Square. Sure, the street can hold its own, but really, if we take a closer look, it turns out that it has way more to offer. One of the most important buildings here is the Town Hall, which had served various functions throughout the years. Originally, the building was meant to be an Invalidus House for the old and sick soldiers who fought in the wars against the Turks. They were moved into this place with their families and received support from the State. It had many different facilities inside, like stores, restaurants, a hospital and even a school. This service was stopped by Joseph II, who turned the place into an army base for grenadiers. It lasted until 1894, when the building was transformed into the Town Hall according to the plans of Ármin Hegedűs.
The BKV-tenement house (BKV is the abbreviation for Budapest Transport Privately Held Corporation) is also located on Gerlóczy Street and has historical importance as the Historical Justice Committee (TIB) NGO, was founded here in the spring of 1988 for people who have suffered under communist regime persecution, including the 1956 Revolution. The basic objective of the organization was to wipe out the falsifications of the communist dictatorship from the public consciousness of Hungary and to bring to light the events and persons who were brought to the head and persecuted by the nature and origin of the communist system under the name of János Kádár.
Dávid Bíró is a digital artist, but he sure agrees that sometimes you just gotta go analog: “For the best view of the Buda side, you’ll need to go to the spot next to the Chain Bridge on the Pest side. This is a local hub where everyone gathers on summer nights to chill out, have a drink, dance to some nice tunes, and watch the sunset while gazing upon some of the most beautiful sights in Budapest, like the Buda Castle, the Castle Garden, Matthias Church, or Gellért Hill. When I say that this part of the Danube’s riverside is a local hub, it means that it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll bump into friends here. In fact, there’s a game we like to play with 2 of my friends: We set a meeting time but not a meeting place to see if we end up in the same spot. Once we did, right here at Pontoon, the most popular bar in this urban area. “
You can probably recognize the huge lion statues placed on either side of the Chain Bridge even when they’re shown in pictures. But did you know that the lions missing their tongues? Yes, the sculptor János Marschalkó simply forgot about them. But there is even more history behind our oldest and most popular suspension bridge. Before the Chain Bridge was built, the typical bridge over the river Danube connecting Buda and Pest was a so-called ‘ship bridge’ held by flat bottomed keels. These were made of wood and had to be rebuilt from time to time. Each year, when the icy weather came, the pontoon bridge had to be taken apart. During the winter months, it was only possible to cross the Danube from one side to another with ships. The idea of building a permanent bridge was initiated by Count Istvan Széchenyi in 1820 when he had to go to Vienna for his father’s funeral, but due to the ice breakup, he couldn’t cross the river. This was when he decided that no matter how much money or time he needed to invest in the cause, he would not stop until there was a bridge connecting Pest and Buda.
The construction started in 1840 and was based on the plans of a British architect, William Tierney Clark, while Adam Clark, a Scottish engineer, was appointed to be the construction manager. The bridge was officially inaugurated in November 1849, even though Széchenyi’s dream came true, he never had the chance to walk across the bridge, as by then, he had already admitted himself into an Austrian psychiatric hospital, where he remained until his death in 1860. At the end of World War II, all the bridges in Budapest were blown up by the Germans, so the Chain Bridge had to be rebuilt completely. The reparations were finished in 1949, exactly 100 years after the original one was opened. The Chain Bridge is an emblematic symbol of Budapest, where the image of it can be found on the 200 Forint coin and it was the subject of one of the most expensive films made in Hungarian film history called The Bridgeman.
Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy, the founder of Brain Bar, proves that the past can be just as exciting as the future: “Népsziget (also known as Mosquito-Island) is Budapest’s last undiscovered gem. Some cool places have been opened up on the northern side of the islet, but most of it is still full of abandoned gardens, camping sites and buildings. It has this wild, authentic vibe that makes you want to explore it. As kids, we used to sneak into the abandoned ship factory here. You actually can still see a few beautiful ships that were left behind in the building! Also, one of my good friends opened an awesome bar in this area, called Filip – they have markets, outdoor cinemas, parties, exhibitions. It’s such a great place to bring your friends to. I highly recommend exploring Népsziget (Mosquito-Island) to taste a different, genuine, wild side of Budapest.”
Getting lost between the remains of a once-blooming industry that was operating on Népsziget (Mosquito-Island) feels like being in a post-apocalyptic movie where you should always watch your back in case zombies or other supernatural creatures would appear. Despite its name, Népsziget (Mosquito-Island) not an island anymore. It used to be one until the 1830s, when it was connected to Újpest with a narrow strip of land, thus becoming a peninsula. The aim was to create a wintertime harbor in the creek, alongside the Pesti and Fiumei Váci Road Shipyard, as well as establishing the Ganz Danubius Ship-and Crane Factory here. Occasionally, it is also known as Újpesti-Island, while historical names of it include Saban-Island (by which was first attested in the early 17th Century), Szunyog-Island, and Csigás-Island.
Népsziget (Mosquito-Island) had a key role in the Hungarian shipbuilding industry. The Ganz ship and crane factory was founded in 1907 by József Laczkovits and János Mencsik. In the beginning, the main products were steam-boilers. In 1944, Gyula Scharbert, the director of the factory, recognized that ship cranes would be indispensable necessities in post-war renovations. This is how Hungary got to its leading position in building ship cranes. Hungary not only got to become the biggest supplier, but Hungarian ship cranes became a much sought-after product across the world. The factory was nationalized into the GANZ Ship Factory in 1949. Their most famous product was the 5-tons ship-crane but this is where Europe’s biggest ship crane has ever built, which even reached 200-tons. After World War II, GANZ Danubius made the most ship-cranes in the world until the 1990s, when the production stopped.
Bubi is a hairdresser who cares about the whole package: "As a family man, I love those places where every member of my little squad can find something they love to do. Népsziget (also known as Mosquito-Island) is one of our favorite spots – it’s a hidden gem surrounded by nature, but it’s surprisingly close to the city. This is where the kids can run around and skip stones while my wife and I can just talk while drinking a heavenly iced coffee. This is where all of us can let off steam.”
Népsziget (Mosquito-Island) is a peninsula on the Danube River that’s just been rediscovered by the public and has become a popular chill out spot, especially in the warm summer days. And nights. After World War I, the Hungarian sports diplomacy left no stones unturned to get the chance to organize the 1928 Olympic games on Népsziget (Mosquito-Island) with the purpose of strengthening the island’s connection to the city center. Even though this plan failed, the buildings constructed for the occasion were transformed into boathouses, and the place suddenly turned into a haven for water sports. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long, as Népsziget (Mosquito-Island) became totally abandoned by the 1990s. Up until its recent revival!
It may sound surprising, but an actual animal farm and riding hall can also be found on the southern part of Népsziget (Mosquito-Island), with at least a thousand inhabitants, mostly goats. According to the owner of the farm, leftover food is always highly appreciated by the animals, especially when you are about to pet them.
Kinga Cakó is a fashion designer whose surroundings are a big influence on her work: “I used to play around Margit Street as a child and now it’s home to my showroom. I fell in love with the little, hidden streets, the serpentine lanes, and the view of the area. You can see the city from such a unique angle, especially early in the morning or at the Golden Hour. I wouldn’t trade my daily routine for anything: walking down this pretty, steep, magical street with my dog, Prézli, while grabbing a delicious coffee, and taking the beautiful, pinkish view in.”
Not to mention the fact that there is no better view over Gül Baba’s Tomb than from Margit Street. This monument is the perfect proof of Budapest’s rich multicultural past. The 16th-century Islamic turbe (a type of mausoleum architecture translated as "tomb tower") on the Buda side of the city is the resting place of the Ottoman dervish, poet, mystic, and theologian Gül Baba. According to legend, his name came from the rose he wore on his turban, but others believe that his name originated from the piece of textile he wore on his dervish hat, which symbolizes mystic knowledge. This explains why a beautiful rose garden now surrounds the Tomb, which is not only a pilgrimage site but also has important historical value as well.
It should not be forgotten that there is another nice park located very close to Gül Baba’s Tomb, which is also an ideal place for early morning walks. The park is named after Peter Mansfeld, who was the youngest martyr of the Hungarian Revolution.
However, in order to get up here, there is a really long and steep staircase to climb, but the spectacular view is definitely worth the effort.
Balázs Csízik is a lecturer, so let’s hear him out: “Mikszáth Square is surrounded by different university buildings, so it makes sense that it’s an exciting hub for many different people – students, lecturers like me, teenagers on dates, and artists. It’s basically the gateway to the Palace District. I love how the square itself is a closed space, but it still has this freedom because of its buzz, the surrounding cafés, the fresh and chill vibe and because it takes you to streets full of amazing galleries. I have to mention Lumen, which is a cafe, a gallery, a store and an event space at the same time. But the National Gallery and Ervin Szabó Library are around here too, connecting the modern arts with the classics. This area and its people are like an awesome artsy community that tourists don’t really know yet.”
Nothing compares to the chill atmosphere lingering around Mikszáth Square. This is why it’s such a popular place for so many different kinds of people who often spend their nights here sipping some kind of alcoholic beverage. According to books written on city planning, the architects constructed two types of green areas in Budapest in the 19th century. There were the bigger parks, outside the center, where people would ride out for a hike on a Sunday, like City Park, and the second category was consisted of mostly attractive squares and little green areas that were rather designed to add more to the cityscape without any recreational functions. Mikszáth Square is considered to be in this group.
The square got its first name in 1900 after Gyula Reviczky, a poet who first translated Baudelaire’s work into Hungarian and died at a tragically young age. At that time, the most famous building on the square was János Irinyi’s match factory. Yes, he was the guy who invented silent matches. We should not forget about the unique palace made of clinker brick, which has a castle-like look and ‘Juliet’s-balcony’ on the third floor that makes the building stand out. The square changed its name to its current form in 1911 after the death of Kálmán Mikszáth, a famous Hungarian novelist who spent his final years living on the square. The symbol of the square is the Mikszáth statue made by sculptor András Kocsis in 1961.
László Ördögh and Dávid Drozsnyik are graphic designers who know how to think big: “Puskás Arena is a must-see and experience in Budapest, not only when it’s filled with thousands of people during a game but also when it’s empty. That’s when you can really appreciate the architecture and take a look behind the design on a guided walking tour. It has won several international and local awards, so it’s definitely worth checking out! We also love that there’s a community experience both in and outside the stadium. The surrounding area is great for running, picnicking, and exploring the renovated sports statues. We are super proud to have taken part in designing the arena, to have left our mark on something that will stand here for many generations.”
When you are around the “Stadionok” metro station when the night falls, you probably notice an eye-catching building made extra attention-grabbing with very bright LED lights. That’s the Puskás Arena: A football stadium with the largest capacity of any sporting venue in Hungary. It’s also the official home stadium for the Hungary national football team. The first version of the stadium was called Népstadion and built between 1948 and 1953 using a large number of volunteers, including soldiers. There were plans to build a stadium like this ever since 1896 due to a desire to organize the Olympic games in Hungary. The original form of the stadium had seen many memorable events, such as the famous Hungary 7-1 England football match in 1954. Apart from football matches, the stadium hosted various cultural events, such as concerts with world-famous bands performing like Queen, AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses. In 2002, it was renamed in honor of the legendary former national team captain, Ferenc Puskás.
In 2016 the stadium was demolished, and the Arena was built in its place. They really paid attention to the details as the center circle on the new field was placed exactly on the same spot as it was before. On 15 November 2019, the arena was opened by the match Hungary-Uruguay. All the tickets for the match were sold in only 2 hours, and according to the website “stadiumdb.com” it was voted the best stadium of 2019.
Zoli Balla is a DJ, and this is the place to spot him: “What fascinates me about Budapest is that cycling around here feels like I’m still in the countryside because I’m bumping into familiar faces, friends everywhere, especially around here. Having this small-town-experience on a daily basis is an incredible feeling. Also, here’s Széll Kálmán Square, the legendary, most iconic meeting point, or Nemdebár, one of the few underground bars on the Buda side. I absolutely adore this part of the city.”
Széll Kálmán Square is indeed one of the most iconic squares in Budapest. Even a movie was made with the title ‘Moszkva Square,’ which is also how this area once was named. Okay, so what’s with all these names? Let’s see... Before 1929, people used to call the area “Gödör” (“Hole”). Then it was officially named after Kálmán Széll, a Hungarian prime minister, but then changed its name to Moszkva Square in 1951 until 2011 when the place got its original name, Széll Kálmán Square, back.
Looking at this crowded junction as it is now, it’s hard to imagine that a clay mine once operated here during the Turkish era, which in the second half of the 19th century turned into a quarry pond that was used as an ice-skating rink in winters. Later on, it became a huge sports ground, with tennis and athletic courts. The most emblematic spot of the square is the clock in the middle that’s being a popular meeting point for decades.
Vera Jónás is a singer-songwriter who has her own definition of exciting: “Teleki Square was designed by the community. Before construction, they asked locals what kind of square they’d like to have and this is the result: a unique, bohemian park in the middle of a multicultural area. I always bring my visiting friends to hidden places in Budapest and this is one of them. I think it’s one of the most exciting spots; it has been dynamically changing a lot over the years. It’s also known for a small apartment-synagogue that was the only functioning synagogue during WWII. I love that it’s not only filled with diverse cultures, communities and faces but also contemporary artists, local creatives who live around here.”
Teleki Square was constructed during the 1850s city planning, designed to be a marketplace from the very beginning. Initially, it was called the poultry market square due to its main function. Not much later in 1874, it got named after László Teleki, a Hungarian writer and statesman, the dedicatee of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. The square was always surrounded by poverty, as workers gathered here looking for a job between the two World Wars. The Jewish presence was defined on Teleki Square in the 20th century, as the train station was nearby, so poor immigrant Jews arriving from Russia and Galicia settled here mostly because of the marketplace. Their customers were peasants arriving from the neighboring villages. Romani from prestigious musician families performed in the local bars and cafes, so this cultural mix gave a unique atmosphere to the square. An interesting fact is that back then the most popular café shop in the square was owned by the mother of the famous photographer André Kertész.
The place has always been romanticized in film and literature. Teleki Square was referred to as Atlantis in a Hungarian movie called Eldorado that takes place on the square. The film was directed by Géza Bereményi, who grew up on the square and even wrote an autobiographical novel in which the events are revolving around Teleki Square. Other writers who played an important part in Hungarian literature also lived nearby, such as Endre Fejes or Iván Mándy.
Kitti Laposa is a fashion designer, so it’s no wonder she appreciates an artistic atmosphere: “I love how refreshing, how chilled the area around Munkácsy Street is. Everything is green; I can walk my dog without a leash, the surrounding buildings are breathtaking. It’s surprisingly quiet even though it’s right next to the city center, just off Andrássy Avenue and the City Park. Not to mention that I literally wake up every morning to the sounds of birds chirping! I moved to this area a few months ago and I immediately fell in love with it.”
A fairytale-like garden with weird, abandoned-looking statues laying all around, right in Munkácsy Street? Yes, it’s real and it’s called Epreskert (“Strawberry Garden”), which took its name from the strawberry plants inside. The art estate started to receive more attention at the beginning of the 1880s, and several additional pavilions followed the first studio building – most of these are still there today, though in slightly modified forms. The Strawberry Garden had a very high social status in that era, and often hosted artistic events. Even Franz Joseph, the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian empire, paid several visits.
Alajos Stróbl, one of the most recognized sculptors in Hungary at the turn of the 20th century, designed the garden. He organized masquerades in the garden, frequently departing on horseback in the mornings to reach his studio, where he built a fountain with a pool filled with goldfish, while monkeys, peacocks, deer, and other animals walked around there freely. The Strawberry Garden is part of the Budapest’s Art University campus, where the young artists organize exhibitions quite often.
Miki Mendrei is a filmmaker who has a priority pass for the island of peace: "I started hanging out in Tabán when I moved from Pest to Buda, first with only a few, then slowly with more and more friends. It’s central and chill at the same time, it’s like a secluded, romantic island in the middle of the city. It’s the perfect area for sports, to work out or simply to get away from the noise and take a nice, peaceful walk.”
It’s hard to imagine that Tabán was once Budapest’s bohemian quarter. Apparently, in the 19th century, it was filled with restaurants, bars, and bordellos. In the 1930s, Tabán was completely demolished in order to facilitate urban planning in Budapest, which never happened because Word War II started. This is how Tabán had the chance to turn into the huge green area as it is today.
Legend has it that the infamous womanizer Casanova lived in a rococo style building in Tabán, which is now called Casanova House. According to the myth, he seduced the owner’s daughter, but the romance ended quite badly for Casanova, who left Buda severely wounded after the incident.
Péter Puklus is an artist who appreciates a little countryside feel: “The Wekerle Estate (Wekerletelep) is like a jewelry box, like a small village in the city. Before the pandemic, I traveled a lot, but since I’ve spent a lot of time here where I live, I really started to appreciate the area. I fell in love with its tranquility, how everything’s at hand, and how we can ride our bikes in the middle of the street. Its calmness gives my family and me a strong, stress-free foundation that helps me flourish in what I do, and it helps me unfold inspirations to create. ‘The other shop’ is a favorite, in fact, I think it’s the best place in town. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you can find better croissants and baguettes in this cafe and grocery store than in Paris, not to mention their amazing wine, sausage, and home-made bread selections. It’s great to call this area home and I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to explore a quiet, special place that’s only a 10-minute drive from the airport. “
Nowadays, the Wekerle Estate is famous for the apartment house standing in the middle of the main square, known as the filming location of a very popular Hungarian soap opera called Barátok közt (“Among friends”). It’s the country’s only example of the garden city movement. It’s a method of urban planning that aims to capture only the benefits of a countryside environment and a city environment. At the end of the 19th century, the population of Budapest doubled up and workers started moving up from the countryside led to Wekerle Estate’s construction beginning in 1908. The concept was to build garden-city-like houses instead of blocks of flats with many floors to help people to adapt to the big city after being used are to the non-city environment.
The estate has 48 different types of houses in various styles from art nouveau to neo-gothic but one of the most emblematic buildings is definitely the west-gate constructed by Dezső Zrumeczky, which reflects the traditions of vernacular architecture the most. The other one is the Saint Joseph Roman Catholic church that was built tall to stand out, so the center of the estate could be spotted from afar. It was built in the neo-roman style and its altar was made out of marble.
Marci Rátkai is a musician who enjoys the sound of water: “The water reservoir on Gellért Hill is a special hidden spot. Most people head right to the Szabadság Statue and have no idea that this side of the hill also has incredible views, but with fewer people around. Many of my precious memories connect to this place. As a child, my family brought me here to play, during my teenage years, I came here with friends, and now it has become my favorite spot for dates and to be alone, find a little peace, and enjoy the view. It has a magical atmosphere.”
The largest drinking water reservoir of the country, with a capacity of 110,000 m³, is where the 2 million inhabitants of Budapest get most of their drinking water from. The reservoir was built in 1904 and it reached its current size following the expansion works started in 1974 and lasting till 1980. No wonder it’s a good place for musicians since the basins are piano shaped.
Apart from the reservoir named after József Gruber, Gellert Hill has other secret hideouts to discover. There is a cave with a constant 21-degree temperature due to the thick rock walls and the warm-water spring close by. According to the legend, it was home to St. Ivan, a monk who healed people living nearby. Inside the cave, there is a chapel built in 1926 that was inspired by the Lourdes cave in France.
Ricsi Fazekas is a makeup artist, so he has an eye for beauty: “Castle Garden Bazaar is one of my favorite spots. It was in an awful state for decades and was fully renovated in 2016. For me, it feels like it’s a mixture of different countries; it’s a unique, dreamy world with a hidden wonderland, a neo-renaissance garden. I love it for many reasons: because of the awesome view from it, its closeness to the Danube, the new restaurants around here, its location and how it has become a cultural art hub again. It’s a must-see in Budapest, as the buildings, the garden speak for themselves.”
You cannot just pass by the garden and its buildings without taking a quick look at it. Just take your time and take a little tour around to see its extraordinary architecture built in neo-renaissance style between 1875 and 1883, based on the plans of one of Hungary’s most acclaimed architects Miklos Ybl. Ybl also designed other attractions like the Classicist St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian Opera House on Andrassy Avenue, just to mention a few of his buildings.
Between World War II and the 1980s, the Buda Castle Garden Bazaar was turned into a youth center called the Youth Park to offer youngsters a venue for entertainment. Until it was closed in 1984, the Buda Castle Garden Bazaar functioned as an open-air disco and concert hall, a hallmark of the communist era.
Ákos Takács is a marketing manager who knows how to unwind: "I always bring my friends visiting Budapest to Roman Beach. It’s 15 minutes away from the city center but covered with greenery. This is where you can get the closest to the Danube, as you can literally walk barefoot into the river. It’s also an incredible area for sports – SUP, kayak, running, tennis, beach volleyball, cycling, any sport, to be honest, it just becomes a part of your life here. With its awesome vibe, with all the great bars and places around like Fellini or ROM BUS, and with its closeness to nature and all the sports opportunities, it’s hands down my favorite place. This is where I grew up. I never left and I stayed here with my own family.”
What could be better than sitting in the sand and having a cozy drink on the riverside? Roman Beach has always been a beloved place for those who wanted to get away from the city center to enjoy the sun and the water. When rowing became a popular watersport in Hungary, Roman Beach got filled with boathouses and it turned out to be the number one spot to visit for a little rowing practice due to its perfect location. The first rowing competition was held here in 1842.
Even though rowing has already existed in Ancient Greece as a competitive sport, somehow, it only reached Hungary in the 19th century thanks to István Széchenyi. He first encountered rowing when traveling abroad and has done a lot to introduce the sport to the Hungarian public. He started popularizing it by rowing straight from Vienna to Bratislava.
Zsolna Ugron is a writer who apparently a keen reader as well: "Even in the busiest summer season, you can find hidden streets, stairs, corners behind the Castle where you feel like you are in a unique bubble or a tiny village. The streets and the buildings are full of exciting symbols. They are full of old and new stories – there’s always something to explore. My life revolves around this area. This is where I walk around with my children, hang out with friends, run, go out to eat, plus I do lots of research work in the National Archives of Hungary Building. It’s in the middle of the city, so I can reach everything in 5 minutes with a bike or roller, yet it’s quiet and peaceful.”
What is spoken flies, what is written never dies. This proverb describes the importance of having our national archives collected in one place. The National Archives of Hungary preserves our written cultural heritage by storing records related to the last 1000 years of Hungarian history. The National Archives was created and established in 1756 in Bratislava to classify and catalog records, publish and transfer information, publish books and other materials. The Archives was moved to Buda 28 years later.
The building has a collection of more than 80,000 historically significant documents from our beginnings to the recent days and 70 million microfilm records. The National Archives of Hungary can be a huge help in family research. Zsolna must be aware of this as she has a very peculiar ancestry to study.
Norbi Zsólyomi is a photographer, who doesn’t need to go far to find a perfectly composed set of buildings: “Anker Alley and its area is hands down my favorite place in Budapest, along with Madách Square, Király Street and Gozsdu Court. I love all the surrounding streets; this is where my all-time favorite vintage shop, bookstore, and café are. Anker Alley’s buildings are absolutely mind blowing, I think they are architectural masterpieces. Make sure to look up when you are walking along it! This alley has this unique charm because it’s a little bit off the main streets and the always busy Deák Square. It’s an awesome area to hang out at any time of the day but especially at night.”
Anker Alley is a hidden little alley in the heart of Budapest. It’s busier at night since it’s a frequently used as a shortcut by partygoers going between Király Street and Deák Square. It used to be called Anker Court as it was the shopping arcade of the life insurance company’s palace, which was built in 1910. The palace is often criticized for its grandiose domes and eclectic style. Even the designer’s Ignác Alpár’s wife was surprised first seeing it and called her husband out, saying that he should be ashamed of his work.
Originally Anker Alley was meant to be covered with a glass roof, like the Italian galleries that inspired, but Alpár preferred the space open, so it remained like that. Many stairways open up from the alley, and one of them has the sign ‘The Anker’ on the front. Its design was based on Alpár’s prior work, the Wechselmann mausoleum. Its interior is just as monumental as the outside and is considered to be one of Budapest’s nicest stairways in Budapest. Carefully built passages leading us towards the patio while the enormous windows let the sunshine through to lit up the building.
Laci Bagi is a journalist who proves that the best cardio is sightseeing: “There’s this hidden route right in the heart of Budapest that might not be filled with famous sights and museums but is so worth taking a walk on. I think it’s the most intact area in the city, a completely different world right next to buzzing Astoria, beginning with Unger's House and its beautiful passage, designed by Miklós Ybl in the 1850s, before heading over to Károlyi Garden, which is surrounded by Parisian-like buildings. Then, the walk continues over to Egyetem Square, Szerb and Veres Pálné Streets lined with cobblestones, churches, quality design shops, bars, cafés, and tea rooms. Even though this route couldn’t be more central, it’s very calm and quiet, and is pretty unknown by tourists, probably because it’s not featured in many guidebooks. The route is only a short walk, but you can easily spend half a day exploring everything it has to offer.
It’s hard to imagine that once, in the Middle Ages, Pest and Buda were separate settlements, right? But they were, and at that time, Pest (today’s Inner City part of District V) functioned as the outskirts of Buda and eventually became a thriving craft and trade city. The city wall was built during the reign of King Matthias (1443-1490), which follows the line of today’s Deák Ferenc Street-Károly Boulevard-Múzeum Boulevard-Kálvin Square-Vámház Boulevard. Pest could only be entered via gates in the wall. One of the gates out the six were located at what is today’s Astoria Hotel. In the 18th century, when major construction began on the Pest side, the walls were pulled down or were incorporated into the buildings.
Astoria’s surroundings are full of pleasant surprises, not that beautiful architecture should come as a surprise when we’re talking about Budapest. Let’s start with Unger’s House, which is guarded by statues of griffins that support the street-facing balconies. Before the house was built, a smithery stood in its place, once owned by Benedek Unger. Since it was really close to the city gate, many people who were passing by with a cart stopped for repairs in his shop, which helped him earn fame and a substantial fortune. In 1852, his son decided to demolish the shop and build a house instead. Miklós Ybl was put in charge of designing the building. When he designed the house, he used the characteristic elements of different styles like gothic, romantic, or renaissance, whose mixture gives the building a unique look. If we cross the passage in Unger’s House, we are only a few steps away from Károlyi Garden, which has been a little oasis in the city center since 1919. Fountains, flower beds interlaced with walkways, and benches invite visitors for respite. As we walk through it, we get closer and closer to Egyetem Square (“University Square”), which has become a part of the “New Main Street of Budapest” project.
What you’ll probably notice first is the lovely twin-towered church located adjacent to the University building at the corner. It is one of the most beautiful Baroque churches of Hungary, dating back to the 18th century.
The church was built on the site of a former Turkish mosque by the Pauline order, the only order of monks of Hungarian origin.”
Bálint Bársony (a musician) and Bence Bársony (a photographer) found peace in the sound of singing bowls: “In the outskirts of Buda, you’ll find our heritage-preserving yurt hideout that we were inspired to create after a three-month-long sound bowl expedition in Nepal. I felt like I needed to detach from the busy-ness of the city and reconnect with nature. This has become a place of sacred tranquility, where we can be in sync with the animals, sounds, and surroundings. We can also connect with our Hungarian heritage here through meditative sound therapy, traditional Hungarian meals made from fresh ingredients, horse riding, and simple daily tasks, like collecting wood to light the fire, gardening, composting, or feeding the animals. Visitors (who come from all parts of the world) need to turn off their phones when they come here, plus there isn’t any electricity, running water, or a modern bathroom. Well, they tend to find it hard to adapt on the first day - but everyone finds it even harder to leave! We all need to experience this harmony that has a cleansing, healing effect. This haven has become my world while my younger brother, Bence, helps translate all of this visually for everyone else to understand. He is the bridge between me, this sacred place, and everyone else.”
Have you ever felt the need to escape from the noisy and crowded city, to find some peace in nature surrounded by animals? So, why not just simply leave everything behind for a couple of days and visit the yurts in Buda to learn more about the lifestyle during the Hungarian conquest?
You have probably seen a yurt before, but there is a lot more to discover about this portable, round tent covered with skins or felt that has been used as a dwelling by several distinct nomadic groups in the steppes of Central Asia. The structure consists of an angled assembly or latticework of wood or bamboo for walls, a door frame, ribs (poles, rafters), and a wheel (crown, compression ring), possibly even a steam-bent. The entrance is often covered with a carpet door made out of felt. According to the nomadic faith, it was forbidden to step on the threshold not to wake up the gods sleeping below it, as they believed it caused bad luck. In a traditional yurt, an altar is placed right opposite the entrance; the stove in the middle, the right side was the place for men and the family’s property, while the left side belonged to the women and their food supplies.
But what else can you do here apart from sleeping in yurts? How about trying sound therapy? Sound therapy is an ancient Nepalese method of healing, which is done with singing bowls and gongs. The vibration of the singing bowls can release physical and mental tension, dislodge emotions trapped in cellular memory, and restore the flow of energy to the chakras and meridian systems in the body. It is an energetic tool that can bring body, mind, and heart back into balance and harmony.
András and Péter Dani, a cook and a civil engineering student, are ready to recommend the perfect place for a first date: “Walking along these romantic stairs and under these lamps will take you back to the 1920s. We know it’s hard to believe, but it’s even more beautiful when the sun goes down and the lights turn on! The view is incredible, and you can easily walk from Buda Castle to Batthyány Square for the most beautiful view of the Parliament Building and the Danube. Or you can switch it around and visit the Parliament Building first, then choose this hidden route up to the Castle! Either way, it’s something you’ve gotta see and experience. It’s such a unique walk - not to mention that it’s super accessible with public transport!”
Batthyány Square has been making eyes at the Parliament ever since it was finished in 1885, even though there’s the Danube between them. Kossuth Bridge connected the two sides for 10 years, but it was demolished in 1960. No matter what though, you’ll have to admit that the square has quite a view over to Pest.
After the Turkish reign, this area became the center of the Víziváros (“Center of Water”) neighborhood and got its first name Felsővásártér (“Upper marketplace”) after the national markets that were held there. In the 19th century, the square changed its name to Bomba Square (“Bomb Square”) due to the large number of cannonballs piled up in the military guardhouse standing located here. It’s only been called Batthyány Square since 1905, as a homage to the prime minister of the first Hungarian responsible government, Count Lajos Batthyány.
One of the most emblematic buildings of the square is the Market Hall, which opened in 1902 and was known as a major market hall in Budapest during the dual monarchy. By 1936, it became unpopular and unused, so to change this, there were intentions to transform it into an indoor tennis court. This idea never came to life. Luckily, the place didn’t go to waste as it housed a large flower market until the 1970s. Nowadays, it’s more like a shopping mall, so it remained faithful to its original purpose.
When you are on Batthyány Square and hear church bells chiming, this is no accident. If you look around, you’ll notice a significant establishment grab your attention: The Saint Anna Parish Church. The parish was founded in 1390, but the Turks destroyed it in 1540. It was re-established in 1687, but it took almost 200 years to reach its present state and finally became sanctified in 1805. In the 1950s, when the construction of the M2 started, plans were being made to demolish it, but fortunately, the church lived to see another day in the end.
Regina Parti is a marketing specialist who likes to experience hospitality at its best: “Pozsonyi Street is like a mixture of a huge metropolis and a little village. There are retro cobblers, third-wave coffee shops, hipster hairdresser studios, children’s stores, Bauhaus buildings, and so on. You’ll find everything you need in one place. It’s like a tiny New York in the heart of Budapest with a warm, community-first vibe. I started my tour guide studies here and I love that I always bump into friends in the area, whenever we go for breakfast, for a good cup of coffee, or to hang out in the park nearby. I also have to emphasize the Pozsonyi 38 building, as it was one of the stops on the Budapest 100 design event’s Bauhaus walking tour where you can get to know a completely different face of Budapest with its fascinating, unique architecture.”
When we get tired of walking by the Danube on the stretch between Margaret and Árpád bridge, we head over to the neat-looking street running parallel to the river called Pozsonyi Avenue for some rest. This street is just as lively as it was in the past, when actors and writers settled here between the wars. The whole street is filled with modernist houses with a touch of Art Deco, all built in the early 20th century.
As Regina mentioned, there is no doubt that the most popular building of the street is the one located at number 38. It was designed by a pair of brilliant architects Béla Hofstätter and Ferenc Dolmány in 1935. But what makes this building so special? First of all, it appears to be built in Bauhaus style, yet the stairways show typical Art Deco characteristics. Originally it was built to be a luxury residence, which is still visible from its interior design, not to mention an early form of door phone system that was installed in the building, which was quite a rarity back then. Moreover, the stairs are covered with marble and lively blue colored rubber carpet, which makes the whole staircase a photographers’ favorite.
Anna Juhász is a cultural manager who knows where to go for some fresh air: “Imagine feeling freedom and space in the middle of the city with a view of a big lake, where you are surrounded by nature, interesting people and fascinating stories. This is Lake Feneketlen (it means bottomless). Some of the most famous Hungarian writers and poets visited it regularly, and they even mention it in their books – and now it’s all ours to enjoy if we need a quiet, calm place to sit on a bench, go for a run, or simply have a fun day out with the family. This park and the 11th district are home to me. This is where my literary work originated ten years ago. This is my cultural community and this is where different parts of my life meet.”
Lake Feneketlen is one of Budapest’s most mysterious natural formations, so of course, it’s surrounded by numerous urban legends. One of them is that in the 18th century, the whole place was a muddy, abandoned area until a clay factory was built nearby, so the clay was mined out from there. The workers dug so deep into the pit that they found water beneath the ground. According to the myth, everyone had to escape from the hole when the water appeared, however people believe that the bodies of drowned factory workers are still in the bottom of the lake.
It was once thought to be a cursed place, since even more dead bodies have been found in the lake since 1919. The area only started to revive when Cistercian monks came to live on the Buda side as well.
Dr. Gyula Walder designed a church by the side of the lake for the monks in neo-baroque style, which is still a popular landmark in the neighborhood. The name of the lake also comes from this era. According to the story, when the workers spilled sand into the lake it remained on the surface, which made them think that the lake is simply bottomless.
Kama is a musician who has the map to alternative Budapest: “Some of us call Józsefváros the ‘Brooklyn of Budapest’ because it’s like an underground hub. It has a raw but honest and intimate vibe that’s rarely found elsewhere. It’s full of hidden treasures, street art, parks, cafés, restaurants, botanical gardens. Everything is a little bit DIY around here – it’s very artsy, crafty, up and coming, but still hidden enough to have this unique atmosphere. Many artists have chosen it as their home or the home of their galleries, our rehearsal room is here too, plus all my favorite places, like Orczy Garden, II. János Pál Pápa Square, and the local cafés and restaurants I love.”
Józsefváros is definitely one of the most colorful districts in Budapest. It’s so huge that it’s divided into 11 different quartiers. You probably won’t believe that you are still in the same district when you are passing through each part. From the beautiful palaces to shabby houses on the verge of falling apart, you’ll find there’s a diverse scenery to discover. The VIII District has gone through a wave of modernization and gentrification. After Metro line 4 opened in 2014, the District has become more and more attractive to young people because of cheaper rents and now it’s an area full of creativity and local initiatives.
The greenest spot of Józsefváros is undoubtedly Orczy Garden. From 1794, 300 000 trees were planted there thanks to László Orczy, who wanted to establish the country’s largest and nicest English garden. It soon became a popular place for excursions, even the biggest greenhouse of the era was built in there. By 1830, it stopped functioning as a park and was used as a military school and base for a while. The park became home to various past institutes for nearly 200 years until it reached the state it is in now, completely renewed.
Recently, Józsefváros gained international fame thanks to Kate McKinnon, who learned Hungarian while on a shooting session in Budapest. On Saturday Night Live, she rapped a hit song called Yozsefvaros by Hungarian hip-hop band Animal Cannibals.
Léna and Borisz are bag designers and are absolutely no strangers to vintage aesthetics: “Hajós Street is our forever-route. This used to be our all-time favorite destination while we were dating. This is where we usually met and cycled home from. We fell in love with its cobblestones, its small coffee shops, its tranquility, and harmony, how it’s like a small village in the heart of Budapest. Right next to it, there’s the buzzing downtown that everyone knows with all the sights, museums, main meeting points, plus the Danube is fairly close too! This street, this area is super authentic: You feel like you traveled back in time. The Opera and the surrounding old but renovated buildings are breath-taking. We actually dreamed about having our first photoshoot here if we started a brand together - a few years later, it all happened just the way we imagined.”
One of Budapest’s nicest and most peaceful pedestrian zones runs along Hajós Street, which is just the perfect place to enjoy the capital’s rich past and vibrant present at the same time. Due to the closeness of the Danube, a beerhouse stood on the street called “A hajóshoz” (“To the seamen”) which was frequented by sailors whom the street was named after. Later on, as the city became more developed, Hajós Street turned out to be a central point, so wealthy people and artists took over and started to own the place. Due to this change in the street’s population, bars, cafes, and theatres were opened to serve and entertain the people. To crown this, the street is home to the Hungarian State Opera House that has opened its doors in 1884 based on the designs of Miklós Ybl.
Right behind the Opera House, there is a lesser-known but eye-catching building called “Napoleon-court.” It officially became a national monument in 1997. The building got its name after a place called Café Napoleon that was located just on the corner. When we hear Napoleon’s name, the first person that pops up in our minds is Bonaparte, the French Emperor and military leader. However, these buildings have nothing to do with Bonaparte, but Napoleon III, who was quite popular in Hungary in the 1870s. Too bad that the builder of Napoleon-court had no idea about this and wrongly put a statue of Napoleon I over the entrance. At least it wasn’t completely in vain, because it turned out to be Budapest’s only statue of him.
Max is a coffee shop owner, so for him, good vibes are essential: "Walking around Egyetem Square with a cup of coffee is a must. This area has an ‘old town feeling’ like Buda, but the vibes are absolutely Pest’s – that’s why I opened up my specialty coffee bar near this unique spot. I love the buildings and the cobbles on Nyáry Pál Street. It feels like you are in a film noir scene.”
Egyetem Square takes its name from the branch of the prestigious Loránd Eötvös Science University located here. The square is filled with spectacular statues and fountains, not to mention the recently restored baroque University Church built in 1742.
Just a few-minutes’ walk away, we can spot Károlyi Garden, the oldest garden in Budapest, which is known for its beautiful flowers and relaxing atmosphere. It’s a less common fact, that in the 1800s this area wasn’t as fabulous as nowadays, furthermore it was considered a bad neighborhood where all the lowlifes gathered.
If Max’s coffee shop, Forest, had already been here 80 years ago, Katalin Karády, a legendary Hungarian actress, would have been a regular there, since she lived in Nyáry Pál Street between 1942 and 1944.