It is early afternoon when I leave metro station Astoria. I have just arrived in Budapest, or should I say in Pest (minus Buda). Budapest is a composed city of two: hilly pastel-colored Buda vs. flat and classy Pest with the Danube as their borderline. I am in the area of Pest and I am looking for our rented apartment in Erzsébetváros, better known as district 7. Budapest has more than 20 districts and the seventh district is a special one. It’s alive 24/7. During the day tourists explore the many cultural sights this area and during the night the bars open and music plays deep into the night. Erzsébetváros is hip and happening. I loved staying here and exploring its many features. In this article I will tell what not to miss during a visit to this beautiful quarter of Budapest.
Discovering the Jewish heritage of Budapest
Erzsébetváros is the former Jewish quarter of Budapest. There used to be a lively Jewish community here of 200.000 Jews, but after the Second World War there was only a fraction left. In 1944 the neighbourhood was assigned as the Jewish Ghetto and the pro-Germans Arrow Cross Party held daily pogroms in this area. The monument ‘Shoes at the Danube Bank’ is a reminder that there were more than 20.000 Jews executed at the banks of the Danube. Today, you still find a lot of Jewish heritage in the seventh district. An example of this is the Great Synagogue at the Dohany Utca. This is the largest synagogue in Europe, and probably one of the most beautiful ones. I only saw the synagogue from the outside, but I have read that the interior inside is stunning. Unfortunately, we visited the synagogue on a Saturday and then it is closed. Spread throughout Erzsébetváros you will also see some other synagogues like the Rumbach street synagogue and the Kazincy street synagogue. Both part of the street, so you won’t recognize them so easily, but they are still very nice to see.
Looking for the famous ruin pubs
Erzsébetváros is not only known for its Jewish heritage, this is also the places of the famous ruin bars. The idea behind this is very simple. You take a run-down building, build a bar in it, put some crazy weird furniture in it and you have a ruin pub! This way a group of handy entrepreneurs turned some old run-down parts of Erzsébetváros into awesome bars. The ruin bars are very popular with the locals and tourists and attract big crowds every night. I also visited the pubs at night, but I can really recommend seeing them in daylight. The bars are full with funny little details. From a bath tub as a couch and turning equipment as seats to a garland from hares. No ruin pub is the same. Here is a list of the ones I visited and liked:
- Szimpla Kert: the oldest ruin pub with the most crazy details. Super crowded every night!
- Kuplung: cute small pub with a great painting of a whale on the wall. Loved the atmosphere here.
- Instant: this ruin pub was a bit weird, because there was no music playing inside. Still, people were drinking beers and wine and sitting at tables. But then again, the style of this pub was again pretty unusual.
- Anker’t: a modern pub is a real ruin setting. Surrounded by skelet walls without windows. I can imagine how fun this place would be in summer!
- Mazeltov: the most romantic restaurant I’ve seen in Budapest. A perfect place for a diner for two.
Ruin bars at night!
Ruin bars in daylight, look at all the details!
Tasting Hungarian street food at Karavan
I love exploring the street food culture of a country and in district 7 this is best done at the street food court Karavan. You come either come here for a quick snack or a big lunch. For the first time in my life I tasted here the Hungarian Langos. At first I was a bit skeptical, because how good could a pizza with cream and non-melted cheese be? I was wrong. This is not a pizza, but a deep-fried fritter with different hearty toppings like arugula, cheese and paprika. And you know what? I liked it. The taste reminded me a bit of our Dutch ‘oliebol’.
Gozsdu Udvar, the hidden restaurant passage
Once the heart of the Jewish Quarter, now a lively passage in the neighbourhood Erzsébetváros: Gozsdu Udvar. This promenade connects six courtyards and is full with little shops, restaurants and coffee shops. There is even a wok bar for Pad Thai that really looked good. And on the weekends there is cute little antique market here. Yes, this area is a bit touristy, but still I liked the atmosphere and the lights of this place.
And last but not least, the seventh district also offers a lot of great street art. Since 2014 Budapest has an annual street art festival: the Színes Város Festival (translation: Colorful City Festival). The goal of this festival is to stop further urban decay with street art and give some areas new energy. Erzsébetváros is a good example of this, because this used to a very run-down place in Budapest. I especially liked the small vertical art. The swallows, the emperor Sisi and the sowing female. Small, but yet so big. Other works I liked were: the Match of the Century (the historical match between Hungary and England in 1953), the refugee girl in Goszdu Udvar and the bull eating grass with a fork. You can also explore the street art with different street art tours that run every week.
Are you also into hip, trendy or alternative spots?