Budapest loves spring: the city welcomes the season with Spring festival, Easter fairs and concerts and April 18-19 is the weekend of 100-year old houses when their residents let everyone in to admire ancient Hungarian architecture from inside.
Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden
Even Budapest animals live amidst Secession luxury. The city Zoo opened in Varosliget Park in 1866 so it's all about history. You enter through the old wrought iron gates, above hippos is a blue animal-decorated dome and most buildings are architectural oeuvres (watch for the elephants pavilion). The Zoo mainly deals with research and conservation of rare and endangered species as during WW2 it survived severe bombings – some animals died and some were eaten by starving people. This spring the Zoo welcomes its first koalas, and some animals can be visited in their cages and petted, like kangaroos, who are always happy to see both adults and kids.
The Easter Market in the Royal Palace
Girls, don't be offended if on the Easter day men sprinkle water or perfume on you – it's a local tradition: water is to wash away the winter and perfume to make you bloom. Your reaction should be giving men a treat and they will leave. And if you are in a countryside you risk to get a bucketfull not just several drops.
On April 5,6 the square by the Buda Royal Palace will be taken by local craftsmen in traditional costumes – they will teach how to play Hungarian games, paint eggs and treat everyone with pastry. Easter fairs can be found all across Budapest during the season.
On April 17th and 18th, Budapest will host the fifth annual celebration of 100-year old buildings in the city. Locals and tourists with maps will be wandering around to find 100 year-old houses and special celebrations arranged for the occasion. It was all initiated by young architects and artists from the Open Society Archives and the Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre. They asked the residents of such houses to let people in for a feast. On these days, everyone can peak into the buildings, admire the architecture, learn more at a specially arranged exhibition outside the houses and join informative tours (usually in Hungarian and English) getting an insider's view on the city. Budapest100 maps can be found all over Pest but if you miss them, visit the Open Society Archives, which is also a curious place to check.
Levendula Kézműves Fagylaltozó
In front of the central market hall you may find home-made ice-cream with very rare and saturated tastes: wild berries with rocket salad, plum with cinnamon, gorgonzola, tihany camembert, candy fig, raspberries with mint, bilberries with basilica and many others. The assortment is changed every week, but you can always try an ice-cream with Balaton lavender called Lavendula. The menu offers ice-cream with white chocolate and lavender, pure lavender, lemon lavender or milk shake with lavender. Ice-cream is made here only from natural ingredients based on mineral water Szentkirályi from a spring near Kecskemét. Sometimes you have to wait for your ice cream cornet for 20 minutes if the weather is hot.
Jewish Quarter in District VII today is the funkiest neighborhood in town packed with bars, restaurants and clubs. But it hasn't always been like this. After Nazi troops occupied Germany in 1944, they hastened to send people to death camps – 500,000 died, another 100,000 fled and the once-wealthy district stood abandoned and dilapidated.
The beginning of the 21st century changed everything – Hungarians turned the loss to benefit and handed the houses in the ghetto to super trendy romkocsmák or ruin pubs. Shabbiness become their major concept – dance floor in a living room, bar in a bathroom, chill out in a bedroom, movies on the wall, wallpaper falling off, ruined plasterwork, stone staircases, shabby armchairs and old TV-sets made for the best design ever.
Szimla kert, Lokál Bar, Fogaskert, Urimuri, Super 8, Ankert are just a few on the list to spend the night talking and drinking. However, you can find ruin bars in other parts of the city.
This park is another good example of successful gentrification of Budapest. By means of a few explosions and joint efforts of young architects, the territory of the 1884 factory was turned into an oasis with artificial ponds, theater, exhibition space, kid playgrounds decorated with folklore Hungarian adornments and city's gardens.
Right after World War I it became clear that the factory should be removed from the city. Being in the very centre of Buda, the land plot was too valuable. However, World War II delayed removal of infrastructure to the provinces for a long period. At the end of 1980s, the factory was on the verge of bankruptcy and couldn't keep in line technologically with other similar factories in Europe. It was decided to make its territory more useful for people.
The architects' most challenging goal was to decide what should be demolished. As a result, two buildings were pulled down in 2000, while one structure was defined as listed. The House of Future was built here with a hostess-robot greeting you. There is also a theatre here and Pixel gallery inspired by the spiral structure of Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Millenáris is located in Buda, not far from Mamut trade centre and Gül Baba. In 2002, the park's owners won a prestigious European prize for their art-park concept.
Danube boat ride
Such a ride is very refreshing and picturesque – you can get the best water views by the Parliament and Buda. The ticket is 750 forints, you can pay on board. The season is May to September, every thirty minutes. The first boat leaves at 8 am.