Use this map to find all places mentioned in the article below.
Ferencváros doesn't have the vibrant nightlife of the old Jewish Quarter, nor does it boast pre-war palaces like the inner District 8, but it would be a mistake to dismiss it off the cuff. This once-sleepy area has a dynamic cultural scene and, partly fueled by international college students, its drinking and dining options have vastly improved recently.
Officially part of Ferencváros, the Great Market Hall is a must-see for first-time visitors. Things can get crowded here, but zigzag through the ground floor while scanning the array of seasonal fruits, vegetables, and paprika-speckled cold cuts along the way. The upstairs is more touristy, teeming with vendors of knick-knacks and food stalls. When you're finished, exit the building through the mushroom vendors at the back entrance.
The imposing Renaissance Revival building to your right is the Corvinus University ("Karl Marx University" during the Communist era) and originally a customs house placed strategically near the market. In 2007, the university opened a new wing, straight ahead at #4 Közraktár Street, creating a state-of-the-art public college facility in Budapest.
Fans of jazz should drop by the Budapest Music Center across the street, home to the city's jazz scene and hosting almost daily concerts inside a nicely refurbished pre-war building.
Head toward the promenade – Nehru part – that stretches along the Danube's bank. It sets off by the giant steel-and-glass building lying prostrate. Flanked by two restored 19th-century warehouses, this impressive piece of contemporary architecture is yet to find its purpose and long-term tenants (its name, CET, denotes Central European Time and is also the Hungarian name for the aquatic mammal its shape resembles). The sweeping views onto the Danube draw many locals to the bars on its ground floor, for example Esetleg Bistro.
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, they hardly compare to the hip establishments within the Jewish Quarter. One of the exceptions is Jedermann, an all-day café and jazz bistro with a diverse crowd and magnetic charm. No matter the time of day, stop by here for a coffee or drink. Near Jedermann is the Nándori pastry shop whose traditional Hungarian cakes — Dobos, Esterházy, krémes — don't disappoint. All the way on the other end, close to the city center, is Costes, Budapest's first Michelin-starred restaurant.
From Jedermann, head out to the Grand Boulevard and dart across the road to Tompa Street. Ferencváros beyond the Grand Boulevard looks different than comparable parts of other neighborhoods: an urban renewal program of the early 1990s replaced the crumbling and dark pre-war houses with modern buildings and slower traffic. The area around Ferenc Square is becoming the heart of this up-and-coming residential area, spawning new restaurants and bars, such as Manfréd bakery and Crafty beer bar.
The nearby Élesztő is one of Budapest's pioneering craft beer bars, located inside a former glass manufacturing plant and offering everything from New England-style IPAs to crisp lagers made in Hungary. Next to Élesztő is Trafó, a contemporary-arts center with experimental music, dance, and theater performances, some of them with English subtitles.
Just a block from Élesztő is the Holocaust Memorial Center, an informative and poignant exhibit about Jewish life in Hungary and the events leading up to the Shoah. The corner of Tűzoltó and Thaly Kálmán streets is anchored by the facilities of Semmelweis, Hungary's main medical school. The construction boom here is fueled by the housing needs of the university's legion of foreign students.
Turn right on Thaly Kálmán Street and amble all the way over to the Zwack Museum, about a ten-minute walk. The museum's engaging exhibit depicts the history and the production process of Hungary's most famous herbal liqueur, the Unicum (yes, the tour includes a taste). Next to the museum is Dandár Baths, the least popular, but one of the most enjoyable of Budapest's thermal baths, drawing a mainly local crowd.
From here, cross the busy road back to the Danube promenade, lined with a row of gleaming office buildings. International companies like Vodafone and Morgan Stanley have spurred the neighborhood's transformation, bringing white-collar jobs and a service sector to the area. The architectural highlight of District 9 is Müpa, an immense cultural complex completed in 2005. Müpa is home to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art and two high-tech concert halls with world-class performances.
Shaped like a strange ship about to take off, next to the Müpa stands the National Theater (2002), a controversial building among both architects and theatergoers. Those with limitless energy can walk back to the city center along the river path, otherwise take tram #2, which also offers river views.