“Take me to a typical place in Budapest where there are no tourists” – this is one of the recurring requests of foreigners who love Budapest. It’s not an easy task because they’ve already visited the holy trinity of Fisherman’s Bastion, the ruined pubs and the Parliament and they’ve been here many times, and we locals don’t know what to say because we don’t aren’t tourists in our own town or because we don’t think everyday life can be exciting. But.
DISTRICT EIGHT, BLESSED A THOUSAND TIMES
When former US President Jimmy Carter also wanted to visit “non-touristy” places, he was taken to Józsefváros and he survived – he was shown the Tin Christ in Tavaszmező Street, which always has freshly picked flowers at his foot. The “Nyoker” [District Eight] is a much livelier and more exciting place compared to how much we don’t go there. There are two sights that can only be visited there: the city’s only functioning synagogue in an apartment on Teleki Square and an art studio hidden in a secret garden on József Street. But Mátyás Square is also fantastic (a must for anyone who loves Liza, the fairy fox), as are the traditional houses on Baross Street and the little cafes and galleries. And you can enjoy one of the best burgers in town.
THE DOMINICAN COURT AND THE RUINS OF THE HILTON CLOISTER
Yes, inside the building itself. When the Hilton hotel chain obtained permission to build a hotel there, it was on the condition that the historical ruins were preserved as much as possible – which is why a rare portrait of Hungarian Renaissance King Matthias, made by his alive, can be seen looking at us to the left of the main entrance. But if you pluck up the courage to enter and turn left, past the diners chatting in the lobby bar, you can descend into the cloister of the former Dominican convent. It’s hard not to think that one of the first universities in the world could have been held here, since the universal general assembly of the order was held there from 1254. On the way back, you can admire the ruins of the old church by the hall the windows.
THE KOLLER GALLERY GARDEN
While in the castle, you should also visit the Koller Gallery. On the one hand, you can see the interior of a typical castle house, and on the other hand, it is rare to have a museum where you have to ring the bell to enter. The Koller Gallery is the oldest operating private gallery in the country, which means that the works on display are constantly changing and you might even want to take some home with you. On the third floor, you can also see the memorial room of Amerigo Tot, who also decorated Rome’s Termini station, and admire one of the most beautiful panoramas of Pest. And the garden is like a wonderful mistake in this miserable world: tiny and enchanted.
TÁNCHAZ (‘DANCE HOUSE’)
While long, crowded queues of first-time tourists take interest in traditional Hungarian and Gypsy music, it takes a whole tourist guide to tell them that the folk dance movement is officially recognized by UNESCO as part of the intellectual heritage of mankind since 2011, and that folk music is still a living tradition today. Indeed, it is fun. The eyes of every tourist widen when the violins are brought out and the music is performed in front of them by the best representatives of the genre. We can tell you that it was once considered a political statement to participate – but let them learn the basics. You don’t need to speak the language, and it’s a great way to get to know people.
THE DOWNTOWN PARISH CHURCH IN PEST
It’s to the luckiest Matthias Church what apple pie is to fancy macaroons: it has more substance and history, but the other is the more popular and trendy. Yet the panorama from here is also fabulous – you can climb the tower – and the interior is a marvel to behold. This church has one of the first depictions of Bishop Gellért and his original heel bone, a miraculously recovered fresco from Anjou, several ancient instruments, Renaissance sacrament holders, a Muslim mihrab and the original of the Pest half of Budapest coat of arms. And it’s an otherworldly experience to walk on the glass floor and see the ruins of the early Christian basilica and the Roman commander’s hall beneath your feet – centuries at your feet. You can get a discount with the Budapest Card.
THE BOUDOIRS OF THE ERVIN SZABÓ METROPOLITAN LIBRARY
Yes, there are boudoirs and even a ballroom hidden behind the bookshelves. The FSZEK (Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library), born Wenkheim Palace, is a pinnacle of neo-baroque palatial architecture and is exceptionally lucky in two respects: it was sold to become a library and retains the fantastic salon and ballroom of gold and silver, with its magnificent carved staircases, ceilings, mirrors and hidden musicians’ room. For literary connoisseurs, this is the place to read Jókai’s classic Hungarian romantic novel – his best-known work, A Hungarian Nabob, is part story of the Wenkheim family.
MARKET AND BUTCHER BOSNYÁK SQUARE
The last of the classic markets. Here you can still see aunts dressed in multi-layered skirts, selling their wares, there is Vecsés sauerkraut sold in bulk and homemade bacon, but green and white asparagus and homemade basil cheese have also made their mark. appearance. There are regular buyers – and sellers, with neighboring sellers replacing each other when necessary and quick to call customers “darlings”. At the entrance, a real Hungaricum is the butcher’s shop where ordinary people eat sausages with mustard and a brick of white bread at 8 a.m. with the zeal of a Betyár, next to the comforting sight of meat head and pork scratchings/cracklings cooked in milk.