Often called the "Champs-Élysées of Budapest," Andrássy Avenue is a 2.3km (1.4 mile) long leafy boulevard, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the main artery of Budapest's District 6. It connects the center city with the City Park (Városliget). The eye-catchingly consistent Renaissance Revival buildings that line the street are the result of systematic urban planning in the 1870s. Wealthy Jewish businessmen at the time commissioned more than half of these lavish homes, partially motivated by a desire for upward mobility and to be socially accepted by the Hungarian aristocracy, many of whom also owned homes here.
Andrássy Avenue has been renamed a total of five times since its inauguration in the 19th century - quite a testament to Budapest’s tumultuous history. In fact, leading up to WWII, two of the squares along Andrássy were named after Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s. During communism, Andrássy was called Stalin Avenue and then later the People’s Republic Avenue (it's been Andrássy again since 1990).
To appreciate its magnitude and sites along the way, walk all the way down Andrássy from Erzsébet Square to Heroes' Square, a light 30-minute stroll. The most famous buildings are the Hungarian State Opera and the House of Terror, but keep your eyes open as several lesser known but similarly impressive buildings stand here, like the Drechsler Palace across the opera house, designed by Ödön Lechner, Hungary's most famous architect (the building is expected to open as a W Hotel in 2019).
The first section of Andrássy closest to the city center is Budapest's high-end shopping area (Downtown's Váci Street has the more affordable international clothing chains like Zara and H&M). If you'd like to shell out serious money on fine Hungarian handmade porcelain, Gucci coats, or Louis Vuitton bags, you need to look no further. Budapest isn't awash in stores selling contemporary designer clothes, but The Garden Studio, located on a street parallel to Andrássy, has a respectable selection of items by leading local designers.
As for food, many restaurants around Andrássy try to attract foreign visitors with "tourist menu" signs, but cheaper and better alternatives exist. For authentic, traditional Hungarian flavors, Menza is by far the best option, just be sure to book in advance (Két Szerecsen is a great backup option if it were full). If you're in for an elaborate dining experience right along Andrássy, visit La Perle Noire, whose green outdoor terrace is especially enjoyable during the summer months. To sate an appetite for awesome Italian food, Ristorante Krizia is one of the best and underadvertised Italian restaurants in Budapest. I'm always taken by Café Zsivágó, an atmospheric café in a small side street with bourgeois-bohemian vibes (Kiadó Kocsma, on the other side of Andrássy, is comparable).
Hajós Street, a quiet pedestrian area just behind the opera house, keeps rumored to be the next party street similar to Kazinczy in the Jewish Quarter. But right now it's a far cry from the buzz of District 7. Its unremarkable bars and restaurants attract few passers-by from Andrássy. The excellent and affordable Greek takeout-type restaurant, Gyros Kerkyra, however, is a notable exception and ideal for a quick bite.
Several of Budapest's contemporary art galleries are close to one another in District 6. These are fairly "high-brow" galleries, meaning that they carry expensive pieces by Hungary's leading artists. Nonetheless, it can be worth popping in to see whether their temporary exhibits strike your fancy. Acb Galéria is the most well-known (it has a nondescript entrance), followed by Deák Erika Galéria and Resident Art Budapest.
Beyond the Grand Boulevard, the side streets of Andrássy are different: they mainly comprise an underdeveloped, working-class neighborhood, where the unkempt condition of the otherwise grand housing stock illustrates the level of decay most buildings in Budapest have reached after decades of neglect. The crumbling facade of the Hunyadi Square Market and the sumptuous-yet-disintegrating lobby of the University of Fine Arts are prime examples of such fading glories (be sure to visit them). Even today, there is not much commercial activity around here, for example many of the grocery stores are still mom-and-pop operations. The look and feel of these streets come closest to what most of Pest was like during the 1990s.
The streets on the left-hand side of Andrássy hide several notable bars and restaurants. Pótkulcs is an impossible-to-find bar popular among local alternatives and foreign students from Central European University (with a big outdoor patio, it's best during the outdoor season). Szondi Street is gradually becoming an international food mecca, with a Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and Indian restaurant lining it. Saigon Bistro in particular is worth a visit for excellent southern Vietnamese food, which is otherwise hard to find in Budapest. Somewhat unexpectedly, also here is Brody Studios, a hip, members-only private club popular among film crews stationed in Budapest and the local expat community. Its disintegrating facade hides a shabby-chic interior with cocktail bars and dance floors (they selectively admit non-members upon advance notice).
The last section of Andrássy from Kodály Körönd is dotted with pretty villas. Most of the original families who lived here are long gone, and today many serve as embassies. To breathe in the neighborhood's serene grandiosity, venture out to Benczúr and Bajza Streets too (fuel up on caffeine at Matinee, a cute little coffee shop along the way). Be sure to also pass by Epreskert, an exotic artists' colony from the 19th century. This mysterious park functions as a training ground for students of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, as indicated by half-finished statues scattered around the lawn (Epreskert is only open to the public during exhibitions, but you can see much from outside).
The City Park is right behind Heroes' Square. Parts of it are currently undergoing major construction works as the area is becoming Budapest's museum quarter. Kertem and Pántlika are outdoor beer gardens inside the park with lively, local crowds, and affordable drinks (usually open from April to October).