Ferencváros can't boast a nightlife comparable to that of the old Jewish Quarter or grand pre-war buildings like those in District 8, it would be a mistake to dismiss it off the cuff. Fueled by (international) college students, some of the city's best museums, and a burgeoning craft beer scene, the area is rapidly transforming from the sleepy working class neighborhood it once was.Although
District 9's best kept secret is the panoramic promenade running along the Danube River's bank. For the best experience, take a stroll from the Great Market Hall all the way down to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, a leisurely 30-minute walk. The imposing Renaissance Revival palace next to the market on the river's side is now the Corvinus University of Budapest ("Karl Marx University" during communism), and previously a customs house. In 2007 the university expanded into the modern building to its south (4 Közraktár Street), creating one of the few state-of-the-art public college facilities in Budapest. If you're yearning for a drink with a college crowd, try Trapéz around the corner during the school year (the upper floor is where the action is).
Budapest Music Center next door. It's the center of Budapest's jazz scene with almost daily live concerts, located inside an impeccably refurbished 19th century building. Back on the Danube bank, two gracefully restored warehouses flank a whale-shaped, steel-and-glass building. This is the CET building, one of Budapest's most successful works of contemporary architecture (CET denotes Central European Time, and is also a name for aquatic mammals in Hungarian). The building is yet to find its purpose and long-term tenants, but the sweeping views draw local crowds here during the summer. Esetleg Bistro and Jónás Craft Beer House are especially popular.Jazz fans should be sure to pop in to the
A few blocks from here is Ráday Street, the center of the city's nightlife in the early aughts. Although it's still lined with bars and restaurants, it's usually those tourists who come to Ráday who either haven't done their research or are using a dated Lonely Planet guide. There do exist, however, a few gems. Jedermann is an all-day café and jazz bistro with a diverse crowd and magnetic charm. Costes, on the other end of the street, was Budapest's first Michelin-starred restaurant, currently aiming for a second star.
A row of modern office buildings lines the Danube's bank beyond the Grand Boulevard. These international companies (Vodafone, Morgan Stanley, KBC, etc.) drive the district's transformation as they draw white-collar local office workers and a service sector to the neighborhood. The whole area feels like a big construction site as cranes aplenty tower over the largely residential, in parts low-income neighborhood. The building boom is also fueled by increasing number of foreign medical students who study at the nearby campuses of Semmelweis University.
Petrus, a higher-end, Bib Gourmand-awarded bistro serving outstanding French fare, and Élesztő, a bustling craft beer bar with 21 types of Hungarian craft beers inside a former glass manufacturing plant. Next to Élesztő is Trafó, a leading contemporary arts center with ambitious, often experimental music, dance, and theater performances. They often perform plays by internationally recognized Hungarian theater troupes, many of them with English subtitles. For a caffeine kick, Mesterbike is your best bet for specialty coffee (supplemented by gears for bicycle buffs).Despite the revamp of the neighborhood, few restaurants, bars, and businesses dot the streets, which tend to get quiet at night. Two notable exceptions are
District 9 beyond the Grand Boulevard looks different from equivalent parts of other districts thanks to an ambitious urban planning project completed in the early 1990s. New buildings with modern amenities replaced the dark, often crumbling pre-war homes, and car-heavy side streets gave way to slower traffic and green spaces. The area in and around Ferenc Square is becoming the heart of this neighborhood; all it needs is a few more options for food and drinks. If you decide to explore Ferencváros thoroughly, keep Hanoi Xua in mind, one of the better Vietnamese restaurants in Budapest on the edge of the neighborhood.
Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, and two high-tech concert halls with world-class performances. Next to Müpa is the ship-shaped National Theater (2002), a controversial building among both architects and theatergoers.The architectural highlight of District 9 is the supreme-yet-unobtrusive building of Müpa Budapest from 2005. Müpa houses the
Besides Ludwig, two museums are worth visiting in District 9. The Holocaust Memorial Center is an informative and deeply moving exhibit on Jewish life and the Holocaust in Hungary. The Zwack Museum portrays the tumultuous history of the nation's most famous liquor maker, producing their herb-infused digestiv since 1790. Next to the Zwack Museum, you can let out the alcohol-infused steam at Dandár Bath, the least well known of Budapest baths and one with a mostly local crowd. The Museum of Applied Arts (with the impossible-looking green roof) is also in District 9, but it's currently closed for major renovations.
Budapest has only a few places with direct access to the Danube. Valyo, perched on the southern side of the Rákóczi Bridge (the red one), is one of them. It's a summer-only bar that draws an alternative local crowd, and where you can literally dip your toes into Europe's second longest river.