Once the city’s dark underbelly, Budapest’s 8th District is now a thriving neighbourhood with a plethora of hip cultural spaces and laid-back bars. It’s also known as the Palace District, thanks to the flock of stunning 19th-century mansions constructed by the city’s nobility, and this faded glamour certainly contributes to the 8th District’s old-world-meets-new-world atmosphere. From the loveliest coffee stops to the most characterful bars and coolest art hubs, here’s where to go to enjoy its best side.
Művelődési Szint, affectionately known as Müszi, is a community cultural space in Budapest’s 8th District. Independent and wildly creative, it hosts a busy programme of lectures, film screenings, exhibitions and events that are well-attended by the city’s bohemian set. It’s a sprawling warehouse, dedicated entirely to the arts, that’s spread over a few thousand square feet, so there’s always plenty to inspire during a visit.
Warm and welcoming, Csiga Cafe is a firm neighbourhood fixture, loved for its honest menus and a décor that leans heavily on au naturel, from the well-worn wooden floors to the plethora of plants. Expect ingenious dishes such as pulled duck ciabatta sandwiches served with caper-mustard sauce, spicy tagines, fluffy scrambled eggs, and grilled goat’s cheese salads with salt-baked beetroot and caramelised onions.
Not far from Csiga, you’ll find the Rákóczi Market Hall. While the stalls piled high with fresh, gleaming produce may beckon, ignore them all and focus instead on hunting down the family-run JóKrisz Lángos Sütöde. Specialising in truly delicious lángos –traditional deep-fried flatbread – there’s a range of sweet and savoury toppings to choose from and, happily, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
With exposed brick and cool Frank Zappa murals on the walls, Zappa Bistro is charming and eclectic, and the menu is delicious. The bistro tasting platter encompasses Hungarian specialities, such as Grey Kulen beef, Mangalica pork sausage, and paprika bacon, while the goulash and beef stew are both rich and rib-sticking. For added entertainment value, the stylish basement downstairs often puts on events and concerts.
Lumen is a dedicated hands-on venue; the team here roast their own coffee beans and pour out thoughtfully selected vintages from boutique local wineries. The restaurant has a seasonal menu and there’s an outdoor terrace on which to enjoy it when the sun shines. Lumen’s erstwhile industrial identity remains as a cool echo in the décor, and an edgy line-up of concerts and plays makes this the slickest entertainment venue in Budapest’s 8th District.
Serving dinner only, Padron is a stylish, family-run tapas restaurant that offers an authentic menu of Spanish classics, including its eponymous dish, padrón peppers fried and sprinkled with sea salt. Among the usual tapas suspects, there’s excellent morcilla, gambas pil-pil, jamón serrano croquettes and patatas bravas. To round off the meal, a bottle from the curated list of Hungarian and Spanish wine is just the thing.
Hot coffee, cold beer, good music and people watching – Krúdy Söröző is all about the simple pleasures. It’s a simple neighbourhood bar, which means there’s nothing flashy here, but what it lacks in glamour it more than makes up for with charm.
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