The Coolest Neighborhood in Buda: A Guide To District 11 (Újbuda)

A combination of brainy college students and middle-class local residents make this a lively area teeming with cafes and bars.

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 at all, preferring to keep Buda a peaceful residential area free of stag party tourists and the like.

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 plan that drew cultural institutions to the neighborhood with below-market rents and other district-level benefits.

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A stretch of Bartók Béla Boulevard in District 11.

The scenic way to reach Bartók Béla Boulevard from Pest is through Liberty 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, which is in the side of the Gellért Hotel.

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

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. Almost next door to it is Béla, an edgy bar and restaurant.

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Béla is one of the popular bars on Bartók Béla Boulevard.

Once refreshed, head toward the Danube's bank where stretches the imposing campus of the Budapest University of Technology. With more than 20,000 students and a good 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 catch a glimpse of the library's impressive Gothic Revival reading room ("Kö" building).

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The campus of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.

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 adorable "mom-and-pop" designer stores run by local artists. Fiók for Graphics sells cute stationery while Repertory specializes in jewelry and clothing.

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. During the warm months, Pagony offers an unusual way to enjoy a thermal bath. Wine lovers: head to Palack.

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

For obvious reasons, many penniless students from the university go to the dirt-cheap (and a bit 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.

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

Finally, note that there's a 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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