by Anya Lawrence
In the midst of a cultural upheaval, Budapest is rapidly becoming the vibrant creative mecca of Central Europe. Its plentiful offering of baroque thermal baths and classically beautiful architecture alongside a bevy of superb yet affordable eateries has long made the Hungarian capital high on the list of European cities worth a visit. However a growing cycling scene on the rise (akin to those in Berlin and Portland) and an influx of new galleries suggests that there is something else afoot in the city. The creative community remains small, but increasingly prominent. Independent boutiques are steadily appearing, formerly decrepit basements become studios for designers and artists and, for the first time ever, there is a center for all this activity: the once derelict 7th District. With new and noteworthy places sprouting up on a weekly basis, we traveled to Budapest to uproot the city’s must-visit destinations.
Event space Design Terminal was set up as a platform to support local creatives and emerging start-ups in Budapest and further afield in Central Europe. Boasting a warehouse-like aesthetic, the interior was designed by architects and designers 81font under the brief to preserve the building's original features while showcasing its natural minimalism. The result is a design triumph, tastefully paying homage to the building's former life as a busy bus depot. Numerous world clocks line the walls, terminal-like flicker boards display the daily menu and the space's prominent graphic identity all centers upon this terminal theme. Perched on the corner of Erzsébet Square, one of Budapest's busiest and most central green areas, the space hosts everything from professional workshops and networking events to fashion shows and specialist 3D-printing exhibitions, the adjoining restaurant and bar however is one of the best ways to experience it as a tourist. Feast on an array of beautifully presented, European-inspired dishes and inventive cocktails at a table outside and let the vibrant life of Erzsébet Square provide the backdrop to your meal.
Nestled in the heart of Budapest’s 7th District, bar-turned-gallery Telep was one of the very first destinations in Budapest to successfully combine exhibition space with nightlife. Four summers on, it still oozes a certain addictive air of urbane sophistication and, as a result, has become the ultimate hangout for the city’s creative community. Local illustrators kick back with designers, photographers and filmmakers while the odd skater can be seen people-watching in the cafe's open-air terrace. By nightfall the two floors become a hive of activity with a regular program of exhibitions, DJ sets and film screenings, while the newly opened YKRA store on the first floor sells a small selection of the city’s most exciting emerging brands. To top at all off, local designers even prototype their next lines in the venue’s subterranean workshop.
Just a stone’s throw from Telep, Ludovika is the best vintage shop the city has to offer. Selling a beautiful array of women's attire, the shop stocks everything from classic 1970s shoes to treasure troves of jewelry. Spread over two floors, Ludovika comes tastefully decorated according to an elaborate circus theme. Hand-painted murals of acrobats and cheetahs cover the walls, while bold, striped fabrics make up the changing room curtains. As part of a collection of newly opened independent boutiques gradually appearing in the 7th District, Ludovika works closely with backpack designers at YKRA and stock a beautiful selection in the shop. Once more, new items are added to their collection everyday, meaning you can never make too many visits.
Originally built in the 1850s, former the Prime Minister palace Brody House now functions as a unique boutique hotel and members club for the world's artistic community. The hotel itself consists of 11 rooms, each individually designed by a different artist ensuring that no two are the same. In tune with their creative philosophy, the building has a distinctive vibe. Mixing the elegant luxury of its furnishings, high ceilings and parquet flooring with the more shabby use of exposed original walls and a mismatch of old reclaimed items make for an unforgettable experience. The hotel’s members club, Brody Studios (all Brody House guests receive a temporary membership) acts as the perfect accompaniment to the hotel. Providing residencies for visiting and local artists, a buzzy bar and a generous range of events that include live music, exhibitions, screenings and talks, there’s no better or more original place to mix culture, cocktails and comfort during your stay in Budapest.
Judging by the constant stream of locals eagerly queuing outside, it’s no secret that Gelarto Rosa makes the very best ice cream in town—no mean feat considering Budapest’s gluttonous abundance of gelaterias. The parlor is run by the charismatic Niki Szokron, who set up Gelarto Rosa after traveling through Italy on a mission to unearth the secrets behind traditional gelato recipes—and it's clear she’s learned from the best. With every ice cream skillfully sculpted into the shape of a rose, Gelarto Rosa’s distinctive flair for creativity is a major part of their charm. Flavors are very much out-of-the-box and are all handmade using fresh and natural ingredients. Although their chocolate ice cream tops the list, if you’re feeling daring opt for one of their more inventive concoctions such as white chocolate and lavender or panna cotta and salted butter caramel.
Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center
First opening its doors in December, 2013 the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center is a welcome addition to Budapest’s flourishing repertoire of contemporary galleries and museums, and a fitting tribute to the city’s most prolific photojournalist. Despite the unassuming entrance just a street away from Andrássy Avenue (Budapest’s answer to the Champs-Élysées), the building within is beautiful. Classic stained-glass windows allow glimmers of light to shine in on the towering ceilings, and the grand staircase leads to three airy exhibition rooms. Contrary to its name, the center doesn’t have a permanent collection of Capa’s photography, instead committing itself to showcasing the work of some of the biggest and most influential photographers known to the world. The center also hosts an array of workshops, talks and is currently home to the internationally acclaimed Magnum Contact Sheets exhibition.
Word of Mouth presents a destination the way we experienced it. Following both trusted tips and our own whims we explore with the goal of finding what's unique to that place. For deeper looks at some of our favorite metropolises, check out our CH City Guides.
Design Terminal photo by Anya Lawrence, Telep photo by Phenomenon, Ludovika photo by Andras Unger, all others courtesy of their respective venue