Overview : You walk from from the Central Market Hall to Vorosmarty ter along Vaci utca, a straight line down a pedestrianized street, in 20... more »
You walk from from the Central Market Hall to Vorosmarty ter along Vaci utca, a straight line down a pedestrianized street, in 20... more » minutes. You'll slalom along the trail between knick-knack and trinket shops, dodging the pitches from street hawkers trying to lure you into one cafe after another.
Or you can spend a leisurely day zigzagging and looping and exploring the city centerline like a local. You can spend most of a day ambling from the Market Hall to Vorosmarty ter, grazing Vaci utca occasionally, but primarily wandering a block or two or three to one side or the other. Within 200 meters of Vaci tuca, you can see some of the most interesting shops, churches, hotels, restaurants, and sights that you would otherwise glide right by...
Begin at the beginning: all things spring from the Central Market Hall.
If you are starting in the morning, perhaps a langos on the mezzanine will hold you well into the afternoon. Langos is potato dough fried in lard, slathered with garlic and oil and perhaps sour cream and melting cheese. You can add almost anything imaginable from the array ... Moreat the langos stand, roughly midway down the mezzanine on the side nearest the river (if your back is towards the front entrance, the stand will be on the long aisle on your right).
If starting around midday, a langos will do equally well, but perhaps your preference might be vegetables and fruit, or cheese from the stall as you enter the building towards your right; or perhaps a heavy steam table lunch on the mezzanine standing up.
But once you have toured the Central Market hall, exit out the front door and turn right to the corner. To really explore the Central Market, you should allow for a couple of hours at least.Less
Just across the street from the Central Market is the remarkable Asian food shop Azsia, which used to occupy much of the Central Market's basement and now sits across the street and offers all manner of exotic foods in abundance. It's the first of several exotic and specialty shops along the walk.
Gift shopping is a bit strange in Budapest,... More there is relatively little to bring home that is both distinctively Hungarian and easily found other than knick-knacks, mass-produced trinkets and aging paprika in pouches. The same dozen or so items keep cropping up in every shop, even many of the higher end ones.Less
If you look back towards the Central Market, the large building between the market and the river was the Customs House. Boats could pull into it from the river, pay the relevant duties, and continue through a web of canals into the Central Market to disgorge their wares directly to the market stalls.
In front of you, between you and the river is ... MoreFóvam tér, the square in front of the main Customs House across the way. It's now a lovely open playground and a wonderful place to pause if you have children eager to romp.Less
There are four interesting boutique hotels along the walk, as well as the fading grand-dame of the Astoria. You may want to take a moment and wander into each. The first is the Residence Baron, a European style small hotel with upscale touches and a traditional mood...
Three of the city's best, and less-frequented-by-tourists, pastry shops are along this walk, not counting the ones in the Central Market Hall (pass them by except for the Flodni stand in the very rear of the building (Flodni is a very traditional poppy seed kosher pastry ); the strudel Stall -- retes in Hungarian -- is not bad but no better than... More decent) and the several cafes with marvelous house-made pastries, or the two artisanal candy shops...
The Bulldog pastry shop is a branch of what is arguably the best (though not the oldest or most traditional -- that accolade goes to Frölich Cukraszda on Dob utca) kosher bakery in Budapest. And speaking of flodni, you may want to do a flodni taste-off among Frohlich, Bulldog (or its sister shop on Wesselenyi, Noe), and the stall in the Central Market.
Bulldog is a great little local shop, but don't overdo it...it's just the warm-up band.Less
The first of four churches on the walk (and there will be others that you'll pass along the way) ... This one has a churchyard within the walls that have kept it an aloof island in the midst of the city center bustling around it. Try to peek into the churchyard and look at the buildings nearby on Veres Palne, some of which have Cyrillc script... More and are still owned by the church. The Serbian Orthodox liturgy and tradition also keep it distinct and even architecturally distinctive. If you can get a chance to view the inside it's well worth it.Less
The second boutique hotel along the way, with a quirky mix of art and hospitality, a youthful vibe, and a location a block from the Danube , a block from Vaci, and yet quiet and reclusive.
Owned by the Toscana restaurant next door, a small deck overlooks the river, with reasonably priced wines and small plates from the restaurant's very strong kitchen. The first of several places where you can stop for a small plate or two and a glass of wine or coffee...this one with a river view.
The Zara is a third boutique hotel, and this one boasts a top restaurant, possibly the only really serious gastronomic venue this close to the tackiness of the Vaci utca hawkers. The hotel is very much a separate entity (and the restaurant's name is the hotel's spelled backwards), but if you are checking out the options this is a small,... More competitive hotel squat in the midst of the tourist sprawl...Less
An old church with a remarkable triptych ... only partially restored, with the best acoustics among the many small-to-medium churches in Pest. There are frequent concerts with popular classical programs.
Egyetem (University) ter (square) is dominated by a small church and a large university building -- the Law School of Eotvos Lorand Univsity (ELTE) -- that somehow seem to be a single building. The square is a place to sit or a the starting point for small looping sub-walk within the larger amble:
Three cafes: the Alibi, a law school hangout... More that roasts its own coffees and is related to a small vineyard whose wines are available by the glass, serves terrfic salads and cakes and in the mornings one of the very best breakfast menus in the city, and is by far the best of the three. But each of the others has its own character and charm; Lila Körte (Purple Pear, a patisserie that also has marvelous espressos) and Taskaradio ';('portable radio',actually a small restaurant with a retro feel evoking socialist Budaest from the 60s).
The square also abuts Kecskemet utca and one of the best traditional places to chow down in the city -- the Alfoldi Vendeglo -- known among locals as having the best halaszle (spicy fish stew) in the city center as well as oversize pogacsak (biscuits) spilling over every table's breadbasket. On Kecskemet, just a bit back from Egyetem ter.
On the square itself, an excellent middle eastern snack bar ... a branch of the small Hummus Bar chain ... sits next to the Alibi.
Back along Kiralyi Pal Utca you'll pass an exquisite artisanal chocolate shop, the best in the city, on your way past a rather prosaic Best Western hotel, to one of the City's most engaging fine dining restaurants. A low-key room with very serious gastronomic aspirations, Borsso has excellent live jazz many evenings and a menu that thinks of itself as Hungarian-French fusion. Smaller than usual hungarian portions and higher prices than the setting might suggest, the food is consistently a series of pleasant surprises...variants on traditional dishes and ingredients that only echo their namesakes' flavors.
Loop up Henszlmann Imre Utca and you pass several small boutiques featuring young Hungarian designers, one of which (Retrock) has an edgy vibe and was the first real outpost for the growing vanguard of hip Hungarian anti-fashion. More strikingly, perhaps, the gated park and playground across the street is an extraordinary urban oasis, and a real find for families with kids. It's basically the backyard of the Petofi Literature Museum, which you can enter from just above Eyetem ter.Less
see Egyetem ter, #11
see Egyetem ter, #11
see Egyetem ter, #11
A very high end, very traditional, fine dining restaurant with plush settings, romantic feel, and excellent renditions of both the standard handful of Hungarian mainstays and a range of newer dishes that may be rather less successfully realized. A favorite of 5-star hotel concierges (so much so that one has to wonder whether they offer a... More commission), it is pricey by Budapest standards, but consistently delivers the kind of meal that two people in love can find themselves merging into.Less
The city's first artisanal chocolate shop and still an extraordinary one, with the best and most interesting ice creams to be found in the city during the summers. Attentive, tiny, almost impossible to resist.
One of the great library rooms of Europe, still a working University library and in an otherwise prosaic building, not to be missed if you are able to be there during its open hours.
A fading echo of a truly grand hotel, at one of the city's major intersections. The book The Budapest Protocol has its climactic scenes in a hotel that is plainly meant to be the Astoria. Wonderful panelling, a grand dining room with no better than fair food, it is history more than hospitality, socialism more than socialites, but surely worth a ... Morelook.Less
Perhaps the best cukraszda (patisserie) in Budapest, this is a recent (but atmospherically traditional) city center outpost of a family-run business that dates back a century (a young Auguszt of the current generation (Flora) oversaw every detail of its construction and maintains her family's standards daily). It has a distinctive mix of... More new-style bakery (French-influenced mousse-and-genoiserie) and traditional classic Austro-Hungarian specialties like the Eszterhazy torta, with the city's best kremes (a puff pastry and custard/cream square not unlike a Napoleon). Good coffee, great ambience, and excellent sorbets and ice creams (order a fresh lemonade with a scoop of malna - raspberry - ice).Less
The largest outlet of Hungary's greatest crystal manufacturer ... The crystal comes from the countryside but ranges from classic to very modern and chic. It is a great place to scout gifts to take home, especially on the clearance shelves and tables, where the discounts can be 50% off or better. But this shop is itself a sight worth seeing, with... More paneling and shelves that transport you back to the 19th Century. It seems as though the ladies who tend its wares should be wearing their hair up in buns, with bustles and long skirts...Less
The high end pastry shop, mostly takeaway, from the 1980s, Jeg Bufe still uses the old socialist shop model of pay-first-claim-pastry-with-receipt ... But it may well be the very best for pogacsa (biscuits), turos taska (cheese Danish, sort of; get them early n the morning, often still warm from the oven), and a range of tortes like Dobos,... More Marcipan, Dio Maripan (a marzipan made with walnuts rather than almonds), and pretty much anything you can point at (Rigo Jancsi - Gypsy John, is chocolate with chocolate...).
But the building that cntains it! One of the grandest and most remarkable ruins in Europe it is largely closed off at present and you have to peer in through the cracks in the security grates. Every aspect of it from floor all the way up the vast walls to the ceiling is worthy of study.Less
These center city Roman ruins had been sliding Into decay, admittedly with great charm, alongside the Elizabeth Bridge, but an EU grant has rehabbed this small park and preserved the remnants of what was once a great outpost of Rome. History, plaques, skateboarders, benches, and the river. Kind of hard to pass by.
A grand church with marvelous acoustics, recently refurbished steeples, and a program of concerts through the summer. Well worth a close look and a contemplative moment.
A tourist restaurant, or one of those places that locals go because it does kitsch so well that you find yourself sneaking back to it, even when you don't have an out-of-tower to introduce to it. A rigid traditional menu, well executed but don't expect novelty or the accommodation of even simple variations. Wonderful 'gypsy' music, starched... More waiters reminiscent of the long white-aproned past, it's been in this same building forever. The place has been a tavern or an inn for quite literally centuries (the name means 100 years, and it's likely been called that for a century or more) and it is one of the oldest buildings in the center. The imposing stone buildings that dominate are from the late 1870s and after, but this small outpost tucked away will give you a sense of what the entire neighborhood was like until that Austro-Hungarian wave of urban renewal.Less
The prince of bespoke shoemakers, László Vass quite literally wrote an intentionally-respected book on the subject. This tiny shop has stuffy sales help and a somewhat rigid view of their craft ... And they will discourage buying custom-made shoes rather than the available handmade ones on display in the shop. The prices are high,... More but a very real bargain in light of the quality and detail. A true hungaricum (uniquely Hungarian product).Less
An outpost of the Szamos Marcipan empire ... Centered n Szentendre, where they have a marzipan museum ... This small shop has a wide range of very old (but freshly made) marzipan specialities though their fine pastries may be their best product.
Another minuscule craft shop on a side street off Vaci, this shop is distinctive because they only use locally-produced printed papers for their endpapers ... Journals, albums, small blank portfolios, another source of unique gifts from Budapest that are rooted in the country's great leatherwork tradition. If this sort of thing draws you, you may... More also want to check out the more costly and quite extraordinary hand-bound books from the artisans who maintain a small show area in the basement of the Alexandra bookshop a block up from the Great Synagogue.Less
The last of these small boutiques between Vaci and Petofi Utca, this shop makes neckties and bow ties and pocket handkerchiefs with a level of craft and quality and attention to each individual piece that you won't find anywhere else for even remotely these prices. The ladies who run the shop are expert and accommodating, but not all of them speak... More English well enough for special orders.Less
Szervita ter is a small seldom-visited-by-tourists square that nevertheless both presents an opportunity for another small exploratory looping sub-walk but also has distinctive features of its own that make it quite special:
The church is among the center city's older churches, largely unrestored, and yet quite beautiful inside and out; in... More summers there are weekly noontime free concerts.
If you stand in front of the church and look towards Petofi utca you will see three buildings next to each other, of seemingly disparate history and design. The one on the right is a mix of deco and Nouveau with a striking mosaic near its top, adjacent to it in the middle there is a traditional late-19thcentury building and to the left of that a white building with a plain modern facade and hints of Arts and Crafts motifs against a Bauhaus-background. Strikingly, that building is the oldest of the three, presaging the Bauhaus movement by a decade and designed by the Secessionist architect Bela Lajta, who maintained his offices there. The original shop tenant has been there ever since (Rozsvolgyi music and books) though the interior fell victim to a fire and is now rather plainly functional. But they have opened an arts cafe on their second floor and performances and pleasant seating can be found there almost every day. They also have an excellent music-oriented ticket desk with English-speaking staff, where you can get tickets to cultural events throughout the city.
Back towards the Parizsi udvar along petofi you pass the old Post Office central building, and a quite interesting urban design museum/gallery on the left as you walk back towards the udvar. If you walk back onto Kossuth Lajos, taking a left for one block and then another left (if you were to continue on Kossuth Lajos you would be exploring an alternative loop on past Ajka, Auguszt and culminating at the Astoria), you will be on Varoshaz utca (City Hall Street).
Not surprisingly, that series of large institutional buildings along the right are the municipal buildings and City hall. In between them, a large tree stands in front of the Gerloczy Cafe and Hotel, and if you continue along the Gerloczy's right side and up the short block you will pass one of the city's true gems among its crafts shops Hollo Muhely, which sells handmade and designed painted wood objects and furniture. Along that block to its end you emerge onto Semmelweis utca, an interesting small block with many intriguing shops, including a chicken butcher who also sells excellent fried chicken for takeaway at lunch time and potted libamaj (foie gras) in plastic tubs. There is an excellent English language used book shop, and one of the city's better design shops featuring local designers' work (both some apparel, though mostly household objects).
Walking back on Gerloczy utca you pass the Hotel on your left and circle on back to Szervita ter...
If you continue a bit on up Petofi (which shifts its name in this block to Becsi utca) you will pass BAV on the right and can continue past the Budapest Nobu outpost to Erzsebet ter.Less
The last of the four hotels and in most senses by far the best. Tiny, just 18 rooms, this is the baby of N Tamas Nagy, a visionary in the grand tradition of Hungarian hospitality. His attention to detail is legendary, and he was the first to bring classic French cheeses to Hungary just after 1990. His cafe is among the city's consistently best ... Morecasual restaurants, breakfast lunch and dinner, and the hotel evokes the fin de siècle in each of its unique rooms. Wonderfully welcoming staff...well worth a look if you are peering into hotels.Less
BAV is the national pawnshop and auctionouse and this is one of two outlets for the furniture they have decided to sell outright. They also have art and small silver and porcelain items, and a jewelry shop adjacent to their left. Not a flea market, but excellent value and reliable quality. Primarily a shop for locals and expats, BAV is a solid ... Morealternative to the catch as catch can antique shops that dot the center.Less
Athe first local branch of a German-owned sort-of-fast food chain. Fresh, inexpensive, Italian-inspired pastas, pizzas and salads. You watch your food being made as you stand at he counter, then bring it over on a tray to a table. A surprisingly pleasant place for a light lunch mid-day with lighter-than-hungarian fare.
The mother of all Budapest cafes, Gerbeaud is an beautifully restored tourist mecca. While it is a truly lovely place to sit, to see, and to be seen, intriguingly its quite decent pastries are not the best of its kitchen, which does a very nice job on salads and has excellent libamaj (foie gras). The side of the building is the home of Onyx,... More Budapest's best Michelin-starred restaurant. Both Gerbeaud and Onyx are pricey by local standards but a bargain still by international ones. While there are warmer and more neighborly cafes all around, Gerbeaud is history as much as gastronomy and a very special place.Less
And you are at the river, in front of fin de siecle concert hall in a perpetual state of not-quite-finished restoration. The walk ends here, but the tram along the river is just steps away, and it is a destination in its own right, worth a trip up to its end beyond Parlament (heading to the right) and then a new ticket to return on back down,... More getting off anywhere in the center all the way down to the Central Market Hall (the tram will continue further but unless you are going to the Palace of the Arts, pretty much all you'll want to do in that direction is gaze at the river).Less