If you are lucky to have more than a weekend in Budapest choose untouristy routes as the city is not only Andrassy Avenue and the Jewish quarter. Follow our guide to discover all its secrets and layers.
Óbuda today is a quiet residential district but it actually is the place where Budapest began – it used to be home to Romans who left the traces of a 14,000-seat amphitheater of II century AD. If you walk around you can stumble across a synagogue with a colonnade and a neoclassical portico of 1820 which has been converted into a TV studio as well as ancient churches and monuments.
Szentélek tér still has the 19th century estates, including houses of the op art guru Victor Vasarely, the gallery of sculptor Imre Varga with a sculpture of ladies with umbrellas by the entrance and mosaics with Hercules in the Roman villa ruins by the square.
This year the restaurant in the Buda Castle celebrated its 50th anniversary and again made it to the city's best places. It also shines in all its glory after a recent renovation. Its chef Attila Bicsár, the Bocuse d'Or finalist and the winner of numerous culinary contests prepares his signature marinated Danube carp, lamb steak, lecsó, different kinds of goose foie gras and other gems of Hungarian cuisine. You can book a table on their website.
Museum of Christian Art in Esztergom
This treasure trove of Gothic Hungarian, medieval Italian and old orthodox art (icons and wooden altars) looks like it has never seen a living soul. Timid ushers rush ahead of visitors to turn the lights on in the next hall and are eager to answer any questions. The museum opened in 1825 and has its lady and the unicorn by an unknown artist, works by Gothic painter Master MS, all passions of Christ, tapestries, household appliances and tiled stoves.
To get to Esztergom, take a bus from Arpad hid bridge.
Even though Budapest is now seeing a revival and year by year is getting rid of its shabby past, renovation is not that quick so even in the center – around Andrássy Avenue and in the Jewish quarter – you still can spot some bullet holes – the reminders of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.
To make a long story short, Hungarians dreamed of toppling their Soviet backed government since the very end of WW2. The country had quite a Stalin-style regime with repressions. On October 23, 1956 hundreds thousands of young men took it to the street to support Polish workers arrested on a riot in Poznan. They sang Hungarian songs, read Petőfi Sándor poems about freedom and everything looked like street celebrations. They were joined by passers by and soldiers, banners were made on the spot saying Russians, go home and Free Hungary. The symbol of the protest was a Hungarian banner with a hole – they cut out the Soviet hammer and sickle. By night, some 200,000 people were outside.
The head of the communist party Ernő Gerő called the protesters fascist hooligans in his radio address, called for immediate surrender and really offended the crowds that rushed to the Radio City Hall and faced fire.
That’s how the 12-day armed uprising began when even teens and women took guns and the Soviet managed to suppress it only with the help of tanks that were resisted by barricades of piled trams. The streets were packed with corpses. Then the Soviets replaced Gerő with liberal Imre Nagy and people had an illusion that the revolution won. Imre opened the border with Austria and 200,000 people managed to flee. But Soviet tanks were back on November 4 with the Red Army – Budapest saw the bloody suppression of the riot, thousands were arrested and 350 executed.
Egyetem tér University Square
The square received its name after a law faculty that is standing right in the middle. Future lawyers attend their lectures in a white baroque mansion with flying skulls on the facade to scare others away.
Next to it stands a smoked but still beautiful university chapel, also baroque, whose ochre or rust-colored facade is unique. It was built in 1742 and above the altar you can see the replica of the The Black Madonna of Częstochowa revered in Poland.
The square has a couple of popular places: gourmet restaurant Sonka Arcoc, a burger joint and Hummus bar. The square never sleeps but everything is more decent than in the impudent Erzsebet té.
This club is located next to St. Stephen's Basilica and offers both day and night activities: lunch and exhibitions and awesome Hungarian music bands and DJs. Friday and weekend nights you will have to stand in a line to get in.
The shop's owner Laszlo has been personally selecting clothes and stuff from the 60-70s from all over the world for almost 20 years. Here you can find vests right from Fassbinder's movies, Jim Morrison style jeans, nostalgic lamp shades, Abba dresses and all comes really cheap.