The Coolest Part of Buda: A Guide To District 11 (Újbuda)

Brainy college students, fashionable young adults, and middle-class locals make this a lively and diverse area filled with cafes and bars.

Kelet Café.

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

When it comes to food, drinks, art, and nightlife, the Buda side of the city can hardly hold its own against Pest. In fact, until recently, it was difficult to find a single Buda neighborhood that even remotely resembled the lively pockets of the other side of the Danube. It's also true that many locals don't mind this, preferring to keep Buda a peaceful residential area free of stag party tourists and places catering to them.

But over the last decade or so, art galleries, cafés, and bars have sprung up on and around Bartók Béla Boulevard in District 11, within the area known as Újbuda. The transformation of Újbuda was partly the result of a systematic urban renewal plan that drew cultural institutions to the neighborhood with below-market rents and other district-level benefits.

A stretch of Bartók Béla Boulevard in District 11. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
A stretch of Bartók Béla Boulevard in District 11. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The scenic way to reach Bartók Béla Boulevard from Pest is through Liberty Bridge (formerly: Franz Joseph Bridge). If you have extra energy, hike all the way up to the Liberty Statue, perched atop Gellért Hill and offering 360-degree views. The trek takes about 30 minutes. Work your way up on this quieter side of the hill: take Verejték Street, setting off opposite Gellért Bath in the side of the Gellért Hotel.

Back on Bartók Béla Boulevard, start your journey at KÉK (Contemporary Architecture Center) to see if they have any temporary exhibits of interest. Across the street from it is Godot Gallery, whose politically-charged artworks can be amusing (further up the street is Faur Zsófi Gallery with a young roster of experimental artists).

Kelet Kávézó was a pioneer behind the nascent rebirth of Budapest's District 11. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Kelet Kávézó was a pioneer behind the nascent rebirth of Budapest's District 11. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Pékműhely 2 puts out some of the best pastries in all of Budapest from a nondescript, shoe box-sized bakery (#15/b). Although you can't go wrong with anything here, I recommend the kakaós csiga (chocolate-filled roll) and the túrós táska (pastry filled with sweet-tart cottage cheese).

Kelet, a specialty coffee shop, was a pioneer of the neighborhood's nascent rebirth. Books line the walls of this snug, dim space, which usually fills to capacity with a mixed group of locals. Further up the street is another chic cafe and breakfast restaurant, Caphe by Hai Nam, run by a Vietnamese-Hungarian family and serving fusion food. Béla, just steps away, is an alternative-chic bar.

Béla is one of the popular bars lining Bartók Béla Boulevard. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Béla is one of the popular bars lining Bartók Béla Boulevard. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Once refreshed, descend toward the Danube's bank where stretches the imposing campus of the Budapest University of Technology. With more than 20,000 students and a top reputation, it's one of Hungary's main academic institutions. I especially enjoy roaming its leafy campus peppered with bronze busts of notable alumni and impressive architecture.

The most recognizable is the central "K" building (1909), designed by Alajos Hauszmann, the university's own professor (the best view of it is actually from the Pest side). Also glimpse the library's impressive Gothic Revival reading room ("Kö" building).

The campus of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The campus of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

After exploring the campus, try Stoczek canteen for a low-priced cafeteria lunch surrounded by students and academic staff. Another great option is the butcher shop on Budafoki Street, an old-school eatery with roast sausages, tender pork belly, and fried schnitzels. Across the campus are two "mom-and-pop" designer stores run by local artists. Fiók for Graphics sells cute stationery, while Repertory specializes in jewelry and clothing (more shopping ideas).

Is it time for drinks yet? The good news is you have many options to choose from. Back on Bartók Béla is Szatyor, Buda's take on the ruin bar theme. Gdansk Bookstore Café attracts the city's Polish expat community with bohemian-intellectual vibes. Craft beer fans should settle in to Bölcső or KEG for hop-forward IPAs made by local microbreweries. Wine lovers: head to Palack.

The inside of Borpatika, a low-priced drinking joint favored by students and local regulars. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The inside of Borpatika, a low-priced drinking joint favored by students and local regulars. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

For obvious reasons, many penniless students from the university go to dirt-cheap and somewhat grungy drinking joints off Bartók Béla Boulevard. Two that I can safely recommend are Borpatika and Libella. Aside from students, retired neighborhood regulars with a fondness for alcohol also congregate here.

Budapest's A38, a concert hall inside a repurposed ship docked on the Danube. Photo: A38
Budapest's A38, a concert hall inside a repurposed ship docked on the Danube. Photo: A38

Finally, note the unique concert venue, A38, docked on the Danube near here. It's a repurposed Ukrainian stone-carrier ship from 1968 and today one of the main concert halls of Budapest with live shows almost every night of the week – be sure to check their schedule, you might find something of interest.

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