With its art nouveau architecture, steamy Turkish baths and colourful cobbled streets, Budapest is one of Europe’s most enchanting cities. But for those in the know, it’s much more than that.
Whether you’re in town for the award-winning Sziget Festival or grabbing a couple of days rest and relaxation after Balaton Sound in nearby Zamardi, there will be something for your tastes to enjoy.
From pop-up bars and vintage markets to hidden night spots and amazing eateries, let Festicket guide you through the Hungarian capital.
Divided by the Danube, the city is made up of Buda to the west and Pest to the east, and both have their own individual charm. So we’ve split this guide into two: one side for eating, drinking, partying and relaxing in Buda and the other for for dining, boozing, clubbing and chilling in Pest.
The Buda side of the river
There’s a little artistry amongst the cutlery at Arany Kaviar
(1015 Budapest, Ostrom utca 19, Hungary; tel: +36 1 201 6737
). Bringing a bit of Russian grandeur to the Hungarian dining scene, the chic opulence of the furniture is only outdone by the Michelin-favoured fine dining. Savour dishes like trout fillet with cauliflower cream or sturgeon fillet with forest mushrooms, all complemented by a gourmet selection of caviars.
Known locally as the Shopping Bag Bar, Szatyor Bár és Galéria
(XI., Bartók Béla u. 36; tel: + 36 1 279 02 90
) is a long-time haunt of the Budapest bohemian set. From poets and artists to musicians and raconteurs, this ramshackle taproom draws them all in. As one of the best Ruin Pubs (a bar in a disused building) in the capital, there’s junkyard furniture and unwanted oddities littering the landscape, with drink prices from an erstwhile era too.
No visit to Budapest would be complete without a trip to one of its warming thermal spas, and the historical beauty of the Lukacs Baths
(Frankel Leó út 25-29; tel: +36 1 326 1695
) is only outdone by the plaques that adorn its exterior, which name those cured by its medicinal waters. The bath’s healing powers come in handy the morning after their infamous Saturday
night parties where the cocktails and electronica flow as much as the waters. Take bathers.
First bricked in 1550, the domed Rudas Baths
is another relaxtion point we recommend checking out (1013 Budapest, Döbrentei tér 9). Down by the Danube offers a host of post-festival unwinding rituals that will have you back to normal, no matter how hard you’ve hit it. Start with the healing drinking cure, then move onto the underwater massage with water beam before finishing with a steam sauna.
Down by the banks of the river, the former Ukrainian stone-carrier ship, A38 (1114 Budapest, Budai alsó rakpart), has created quite a name for itself. Part ship-shape restaurant, part cultural hub and club, there are three floors to pick from including a top deck roof terrace. The boat is best, though, when filled with a motley crew of Hungarians partying to the likes of DJ Krush or Napalm Death.
The Pest side of the river
Proving that Hungarian grub isn’t all goulash and gesztenyepüré, Zeller Bistro
(1077 Budapest, Izabella utca 38) plates up local home-cooking with a modern flourish. The hospitable owners are as creative in the kitchen as they are with their handcrafted drinks, so expect to dine out on things like deer steak with barley and blueberry sauce whilst enjoying an elderflower champagne or two. Booked required.
The original Budapest Ruin Bar, Szimpla Kert
(1075 Budapest, Kazinczy utca 14), is still one of the greatest taprooms the capital has. Not only does it come with mismatched furniture, colourful chairs and odd-shaped lamps, but foodies love its regular farmers’ market and bargain hunters can rustle through its flea stalls. There are live music and film screenings on occasion, but we love its choice of craft beers in the beautiful garden.
Once witching hour winds its way around, Trafiq
(1051 Budapest, Hercegprímás utca 18) is the bar to be seen at. This exclusive watering hole wheels out the DJs as the Budapest’s most stylish and beautiful while away the hours with signature cocktails and caskets of decent whiskey. If the low-slung lights and tiled floors aren’t your bag, there are enough darkened cubby holes to hide away in as well. Expect to queue at weekends.
Of all the historic health clubs in the city, the renaissance beauty of Szechenyi Bath and Spa
(1146 Budapest, Állatkerti körút 9-11) is one of its most famous with its golden domes adorning many a postcard. With some 18 indoor and outdoor pools, plus saunas and steam chambers, there is no chance of coming out without pruning skin. Onsite there are massages and pedicures available as well as drink therapy, mud treatment and detoxification.
If your blood sugar levels are a little low, then there is no better place to gorge them back up again than Budapest’s very own Willy Wonka factory, Sugar!
(1061 Budapest, Paulay Ede utca 48). Its clinical design helps highlight the bursts of colour in its tubes, pots and baskets which are filled with candies, chocolates, cakes, cookies and every treat you can imagine.