I visited Budapest for the first time last May, and it is the type of place I can see myself returning to again and again. Think cool museums, vintage shopping, excellent coffee and vibrant, alternative nightlife – exactly the escape I needed during last year’s exam period, and exactly the escape I am craving as I write this!
Perfect for a quick city break, Budapest is small enough to get around without hassle and extensive planning, but still filled to the brim with art, culture and great bars and food. There’s plenty of historical sights to see, and no shortage of tourist attractions. But if you want to do Budapest right, and in a relatively short time (revision week, anyone?), here are my top five hidden gems for when you’re craving something a bit off the beaten track.
1. Ludovika Vintage
Rumbach Sebestyén u.15
Nestled in the Jewish Quarter of the city, Ludovika Vintage is perhaps the most charming vintage shop I’ve ever experienced: rails of beautiful hand-picked pieces, surrounded by kitschy décor and the owner’s dogs running around whilst you browse – what more could you want? Even if you don’t love vintage clothes as much as I do, a visit to this place will make you feel like you’ve landed in your quirky great aunt’s living room…in the best way possible.
2. Espresso Embassy
Arany János u. 15
Move over TASTE, you’ve met your match. This place, like its namesake, really packs a punch. Hailed ‘the best coffee in Budapest’ by locals and tourists alike, this was somewhere I just had to try. Did the coffee live up to the hype? Yes. Was I drawn in by the minimalist, industrial aesthetic? Yes. Was I subsequently blind to the fact that my flat white was shamelessly overpriced? Maybe. Any regrets? Never.
Paulay Ede u. 33, 1061
Judging by the party scene this place hosts, it isn’t exactly the most ‘hidden’ gem on the list, think more ‘diamond in the rough’. This former factory turned ruin pub is just polished enough to convince you that it’s not a building site. Spread across several floors, this pub/bar/nightclub has a space for everyone. Come in the early evening for chilled drinks with a twist, or head straight for the party and lose yourself against a backdrop of exposed brick and naked lightbulbs.
4. A’ Table
Arany János u. 16, 1051
This little café is a taste of Paris in the heart of Budapest – strange, but it works. I remember coming back here repeatedly for breakfast, lured by their freshly baked pastries and bread. Amazingly, this place manages to create a very relaxed, very French atmosphere without being at all gimmicky. Sitting here was a little early morning escape from the bustle of the city. If you’re an earlier riser, make the most of this cafe pre-10am – grab a window seat and watch the world go by, pain au chocolat (not) optional.
5. Szimpla Kert Farmers’ Market
Kazinczy u. 14, 1075
This is the perfect chilled Sunday morning activity (especially if you hit the ruin bars in a big way the night before). Whilst Szimpla is well known for its night-time function as one of the most popular ruin bars in the city, what most people don’t realise is that the space turns into a farmer’s market every Sunday morning. Selling an abundance of local produce from jam to olives, what could be more soul soothing than perusing local produce in a foreign city? As if the vibe wasn’t chill enough already – there are often local bands playing. And if you need a place for lunch, the market serves meals so you can eat there as well! Talk about a one-stop destination…