Being the cultural capital of a city ain’t an easy title to live up to, but Pest does that in style. It has everything from monuments, history and castles to cool bars, cafes and food markets. Add to that dollops of energy. I was totally in love with this part of Budapest by the end of my first day. Though I must add that District VII had a lot to do with that, and it is no wonder that it is one of the hippest neighborhoods of Budapest. Go on, spend lots of time here, you will not regret it.
A wall covered in Rubik’s cube graffiti. Unassuming buildings with cemented facades. Scattered bars. Tiny fast food joints. And another street food market. Pest’s Jewish Quarter has a surprise at every turn. Neglected for many years after World War II, the whole area has really come into its own with a mix of bars, pubs and restaurants. Is it any surprise then that the quarter lies at the very heart of District VII? I spent hours wandering in its streets, and kept going back every single day of my stay. Staying in an Airbnb near the State Opera House, the area was a barely a minute’s walk away.
Pest, and precisely Pest’s Jewish quarter, has amazing concept bars and some of the quirkiest pubs ever (Yes I am talking about ruin pubs in part). And they do not disappoint. Kazinczy street is probably the busiest street around and worth checking out for bar hopping. Here are some I tried and would definitely recommend.
Szimpla Kert – The most famous ruin pub, it needs no introduction. Its massive, run down with furniture carved out from junk and too much energy. Just go there.
Warm up cocktail bar – Walked in here not knowing what to expect. But when the owner spends ten minutes with you asking about your taste preferences down to the minutest detail, you know you are in for a cocktail treat. We ordered 4 cocktails, all bang on. Even on the aftertaste. I am telling you, the guy can read your mind. He even explains the ingredients and what flavor they add to the whole mix. It is a little pricey as compared to Budapest’s rates, but the experience is totally worth it.
Anker’t ruin bar – This ruin bar is also quite massive with many dance floors. It isn’t too high on remodeled furniture as Szimpla Kert, but its torn high walls say ruin.
For sale pub – Technically not in Jewish Quarter (but closer to Liberty bridge), this is one of the most fun places we have been to. Once we entered, we knew we would endure the 30 min wait. Not just because interiors are cozy and inviting, but because of the decor. Every single inch of its walls and ceiling are covered with messages, cards and paintings pinned by visitors.
And who doesn’t like to be messy while eating. Once seated, we were served a big basket of peanuts and encouraged to dump the shells on the straw covered floor. Weird? Yes. Complaining? No.
Dohány Street Synagogue
Largest synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world, Dohány Synagogue has a stunning exterior. Additionally it houses the Jewish museum, Heroes temple, Holocaust memorial and a graveyard.
Sample a variety of local food in the many open markets in Pest. Some popular ones are: Central market hall, Karavan street food, seasonal open market in Vörösmarty Square. Go here (and scroll down) to read more.
St Stephen’s Basilica
Barely a ten minute walk from Chain bridge, St Stephen’s basilica stands impressive. It is one of the largest churches in Hungary. The panoramic views of Pest from the top of the dome are particularly brilliant.
I have already gushed enough about this beautiful building in my post on Budapest city, so I’ll just leave with a picture.
Shoes on the Danube
A memorial on the Pest side of Danube, it is a grim reminder of Hungary’s past. It is built in the memory of thousands of Jews who were shot by the fascist Arrow Cross party leaders and thrown into the river.
To learn more about the terror unleashed by the Arrow Cross party (and later the communist regime), head to Terror museum located on Andrassy Avenue.
Museum of Terror (Terror Haza)
The building which houses the museum was earlier the headquarters of communist Hungary’s secret police. It was used as a center to detain suspect Hungarians, run fake trials and eventually torture or execute them. The museum commemorates victims during both fascist and communist regimes in Hungary.
Reach the museum early as there are almost always long queues to get in (A decent start at 10 during spring season took us ~30 mins to enter)
Heroes square (Hősök tere)
Walk down Heroes square through the city park to Vajdahunyad Castle. It was actually built for milennial celebrations back in 1896. Originally made from wood, its popularity demanded a permanent structure in 1904. The castle showcases different styles of architecture: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Today it houses the Museum of Agriculture.
This is no way an exhaustive list of what all is there to see and do but it will indeed give a great flavor of the city. Try and live close to District VII. I stayed right next to the State Opera House in a cute Airbnb apartment , which was quite affordable with an amazing location. Most of the above (excluding the square and castle) was within walking distance and added to the whole fun of exploring this fun side of Budapest.
Read more on 3 days in Budapest
Further reading on spending a day walking about in Buda side