The grand Andrássy Avenue anchors Budapest's Terézváros, but the less-traveled side streets are also worth visiting for an immersive neighborhood experience.
Use this map to find all places mentioned in the article below.
Often called "Budapest's Champs-Élysées," Andrássy Avenue is a 2.3 kilometer (1.4 mile) Unesco World Heritage boulevard, connecting Budapest's city center with Heroes' Square and the City Park. Lined with impressive Renaissance Revival buildings, Andrássy is the result of an urban renewal plan of the 1870s. Wealthy Hungarian businessmen, many of them Jewish, commissioned these lavish homes, motivated by a desire for upward mobility and social acceptance by the aristocracy, which also owned property here.
Andrássy Avenue's moniker bears witness to Budapest’s tumultuous history: it has been renamed a total of five times over the last century. In fact, leading up to WWII, parts of it were named after Hitler and Mussolini, and it went by "Stalin Avenue," and the "People’s Republic Avenue" during the Communist era (1947-1989). Since 1990, it's back to Andrássy, after Gyula Andrássy, a Prime Minister of Hungary (1867-1871) and later Foreign Minister (1871-1879) of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
To appreciate Andrássy Avenue to the fullest, start your trip at Erzsébet tér and saunter all the way to Heroes' Square, a light, 30-minute stroll. The first section of Andrássy, up to Oktogon, comprises Budapest's high-end shopping area, so it's here that you can quickly shell out a fortune on Gucci coats, Louis Vuitton bags, and handmade Hungarian porcelain. If you're curious about local designer labels, visit NUBU or walk a block over to Paulay Ede Street to The Garden Studio (more shopping ideas here). Note that Budapest's leading cocktail bar, Boutiq, is also in Paulay Ede Street.
Back on Andrássy, it's impossible to miss the neo-Renaissance building of the Hungarian State Opera, decorated with statues of famous composers. Across from it is the less conspicuous but comparably impressive Drechsler Palace, designed by Hungary's pioneering architect, Ödön Lechner (the building is slated to become a W Hotel soon). On a quiet street behind the Opera House hides Marlou, one of the city's top wine bars.
Several excellent restaurants and cafés cluster in the side streets of Andrássy near Nagymező utca. Menza puts out top traditional Hungarian fare. If there's a wait, which can be the case, try the fashionable Fleischer around the corner. Ristorante Krizia is an elegant Italian restaurant specializing in delicate northern Italian fare. Two Michelin-starred Stand is also nearby. Zsivágó is a charming café with bourgeois-bohemian vibes, not unlike Kiadó Kocsma on the opposite side of Andrássy. For low-priced Roman style pizza, head to Pizzica.
Leading contemporary art galleries also concentrate in this part of Budapest, including acb, Deák Erika, and Viltin. They sell expensive post-war and contemporary pieces by Hungary's top artists, but even if you aren't ready to drop thousands of euros, you might enjoy their free exhibits. Also, Budapest's two main photography museums are both in District 6 near one another: the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center and the Mai Mano House. Be sure to glimpse the immense building of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music (or peruse their event calendar).
Beyond the Grand Boulevard, the side streets of Andrássy look and feel a little different. The unkempt condition of the otherwise beautiful housing stock shows long decades of neglect that started during the Communist period in the 1950s and in many cases has lasted to the present day (these buildings are a good approximation of what much of Budapest looked like in the 1990s).
There's little commercial activity in these mainly working-class neighborhoods and even the main market on Hunyadi tér feels like a journey back in time. An exception to this is Cube, a cute specialty café by the park. Back on Andrássy, the Ferenc Liszt Museum is a small exhibit inside the apartment where the famous Romantic composer (1811-1886) once lived. It's worth quickly stopping by the University of Fine Arts next door to appreciate the frescoes of its sumptuous lobby.
Across the street from the university is the House of Terror, one of the city's most visited museums. The exhibit showcases the cruelty and ignorance of the Communist regime in Hungary. Szondi Street, two blocks away, is becoming a mecca for international food: Saigon Bistro, a takeout-style Vietnamese, and Taj Mahal, an elegant Indian restaurant are two of the highlights. For a cheap drink, try Pótkulcs, an adorably grungy bar with a hidden outdoor terrace.
If you don't mind a small detour, amble over to the Nyugati Railway Terminal. The building is one of the oldest train stations of Hungary and its glass-clad facade and slender frames are worth seeing (the building was partly designed by Gustave Eiffel's office; yes, that Eiffel). Across the train station is Pinczi, a legendary bastion of meat, best known for its tender roasted pork belly.
The last section of Andrássy, from Kodály Körönd to Heroes' Square, is dotted with handsome villas. The families who once lived here and their descendents are long gone thanks to the Holocaust and the subsequent Communist regime. Today, many of these buildings serve as embassies. To appreciate the neighborhood's quiet charm and dramatic palazzos, venture out also to Benczúr and Bajza Streets. If you're in for an elaborate dining experience right on Andrássy, visit La Perle Noire, whose outdoor terrace is especially enjoyable during the summer months.
On the other side of Andrássy hides the weirdly wonderful Epreskert, an exotic artists' colony from the 19th century. Today it's a training ground for students of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts as evidenced by half-finished statues scattered around its lawn (Epreskert isn't open to the public, but you can see much of it from outside).
Andrássy Avenue terminates at Heroes' Square, a famous plaza packed with monuments. Around the central triumphal column stand the equestrian statues of the seven chieftains who led the Hungarians tribes to the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century CE. Two important museums flank Heroes' Square: the Museum of Fine Arts, the biggest in Hungary and with a renowned collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, and Műcsarnok (Kunsthalle), known for its excellent temporary exhibits.
Behind Heroes' Square lies Budapest's City Park, home to the Széchenyi Baths and the strange Vajdahunyad Castle, a mosaic of a building inspired by landmarks across the Hungarian Kingdom. Recently, two architecture treasures emerged in the City Park: the House of Music by Japanese starchitect Sou Fujimoto, and the swooping Museum of Ethnography by Marcel Ferencz. Don't miss them. If you're low on energy, instead of walking, take the charming, century-old Millennium Underground Railway / M1 back to downtown.