A Guide To Budapest's Up-And-Coming Ferencváros (District 9)

Ferencváros is best known for its Danube promenade and myriad museums, but some of its neighborhood cafes and bars account for at least as much of its charm.

Use this map to find all places mentioned in the article below.

Although Ferencváros doesn't have the vibrant nightlife of the old Jewish Quarter, nor does it boast pre-war palazzos like the inner District 8, it would be a mistake to dismiss it off the cuff. This once-sleepy area has a dynamic cultural scene, featuring several of Budapest's best museums, and, partly fueled by international college students, its drinking and dining options have vastly improved in the recent past.

Officially part of Ferencváros, the stunning Great Market Hall is a must-see for every visitor, so it's a good place to start your trip. Things can get a little crowded here, but zigzag through the ground floor, while scanning the array of seasonal fruits, vegetables, paprika spices, and Hungarian salami 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 back entrance.

The imposing Renaissance Revival building to your right is the Corvinus University of Budapest ("Karl Marx University" during communism), and previously a customs house, placed strategically near the market. In 2007, the university expanded into the modern edifice straight ahead at #4 Közraktár Street, creating one of the few state-of-the-art public college facilities in Budapest. If you enjoy a drink with a college crowd, stop by Trapéz during the school year, around the corner from here (the upstairs is where the action is). Fans of jazz should drop by the Budapest Music Center, next door to Trapéz, the nucleus of the city's jazz scene, hosting almost daily live concerts inside an impeccably refurbished pre-war building.

A busy morning at the Great Market Hall.

From here, head toward the panoramic promenade along the Danube's bank, setting off at the whale-shaped, steel-and-glass building (CET). Flanked by two restored 19th-century warehouses, it's one of Budapest's best pieces 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 true purpose and long-term tenants, but the sweeping views draw many locals for drinks and snacks; Esetleg Bistro and Jónás Craft Beer House are especially popular.

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, only a few are worth a visit. One of those is Jedermann, an atmospheric 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. All the way on the other end of Ráday is Costes, Budapest's first Michelin-starred restaurant, on-track to its second star.

From Jedermann, head out to the Grand Boulevard and dart across it to Tompa Street. Ferencváros beyond the Grand Boulevard looks different than comparable parts of other districts thanks to an ambitious urban planning project implemented in the early 1990s. Then, new buildings with modern amenities replaced dark, crumbling pre-war houses, and car-heavy side streets gave way to slower traffic and green spaces. The area around Ferenc Square is becoming the heart of this up-and-coming residential neighborhood, spawning new restaurants and bars.

Paletta serves updated Hungarian dishes with an emphasis on produce from around Hungary's Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe. A higher-end option is Petrus, a Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurant specializing in classic French fare. After your meal, stop by Élesztő, a lively craft beer bar located inside a former glass manufacturing plant and offering 21 types of Hungarian craft beers. Next to Élesztő is Trafó, a contemporary-arts center with experimental music, dance, and theater performances, some of them with English subtitles.

Élesztő craft beer bar.

Just a block from Élesztő is the Holocaust Memorial Center, an informative and poignant exhibit about Jewish life in Hungary. Further down, where Tűzoltó Street intersects Thaly Kálmán Street, are several facilities of Semmelweis, Budapest's prominent medical school. The surrounding building boom is partly fueled by the accommodation needs of the university's thousands of foreign students.

Turn right on Thaly Kálmán Street, and amble all the way over to the Zwack Museum, about 10 minutes away. The museum's interactive exhibit showcases 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 Bath, the most under-the-radar 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 modern office buildings. These international companies, like Vodafone and Morgan Stanley, spur the neighborhood's transformation, bringing white-collar local office workers and a service sector to the area. The architectural highlight of District 9 is Müpa, an enormous 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.

Next to Müpa is the ship-shaped 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.

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