Budapest - Hungary
Written by Oryx
Carolyn Bánfalvi, author of Food Wine Budapest and co-owner of tour company Taste Hungary, loves Budapest’s seventh district for its mix of old architecture and history combined with cool new cafés and shops.
To best experience Budapest’s details and delights, it’s essential to explore on foot. This is particularly true of the inner seventh district, a neighbourhood called Erzsébetváros, which is a maze of winding, one-way side streets holding secrets, stories, and buildings with beautiful features peeking from behind their disrepair. This is one of Carolyn Bánfalvi’s favourite neighbourhoods.
One of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods, Erzsébetváros is full of distinctive buildings, all built around inner courtyards. While many buildings still need some love, others such as Gozsdu udvar (a network of buildings and interconnected courtyards) have been restored and are full of life. Now a lively nightlife area, Gozsdu udvar is lined with cafés and restaurants, including Blue Bird, one of Carolyn’s favourites. It roasts its own coffee and serves great desserts (a few streets away, the tiny My Little Melbourne also serves excellent coffee). Nearby, Léhűtű is a craft-beer bar showcasing some of the country’s new wave of fine craft brews.
This neighbourhood has long been known for its old-style artisan workshops, and a number of them are still functioning (there’s even a specialised brush shop that sells an array of brushes for very specific uses). Next to these workshops where nothing ever changes is a new generation of artisans, such as Siberia, a funky shoe-design shop owned by a creative young Russian designer (who even holds courses where participants can create their own shoes). Printa, a design shop and silkscreen studio, always has quirky clothing, prints, and accessories for the perfect souvenir. Manufactor is a tiny shop owned by two artists who produce limited-edition marionettes.
There are many places in Erzsébetváros to sample the local cuisine. Local pastry chef Rachel Raj’s flódni (a pastry with layers of poppy seeds, walnuts, and apples) is legendary, and can be tasted at Café Noé. Kádár Étkezde, a neighbourhood institution, is a lunch room where the dishes are as good as homemade. Bors is a standing-room-only restaurant, which serves sandwiches in many creative flavour combinations. It was here that the concept of the ‘ruin bar’ was born when abandoned buildings were filled with second-hand furniture and attracted crowds who came for the quirky atmosphere. Szimpla Kert was one of the first, and is now much more than just a bar. It hosts a variety of art and entertainment programmes, and has a wonderful Sunday farmers’ market, complete with entertainment for children. Meanwhile, Dobló Wine Bar is the best place in the neighbour-hood to discover the range of fine local wines while resting your tired feet.
Carolyn Bánfalvi writes about food and travel for a variety of publications, and organises food and wine tours in Hungary and beyond through her tour company, Taste Hungary. She grew up in Washington DC, but has lived in Budapest for more than ten years with her husband, Gábor, and their three children.