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Most visitors to Budapest don't ever go to Újlipótváros because it doesn't have an obvious tourist landmark, but this tranquil, middle-class residential neighborhood boasts a unique housing stock, a couple of excellent restaurants and cafés, and a lively commercial street. It's a small area just a 10-minute walk from the Parliament, occupying the inner parts of District 13.
Built in the 1930s and '40s, Újlipótváros is relatively new. It sprung up on what had been a largely bare land to accommodate the city's swelling population. This explains why its rows of modernist houses are architecturally so different from the rest of the city’s late-19th-century revival buildings. Many of them also offer views onto the Danube, and, accordingly, command steep price tags.
The local residents, many of them Jewish, comprise intellectuals, middle-class families, and many young adults with children who bring a spirit of liveliness to the streets. The center of activity is along Pozsonyi Road, especially the section from Jászai Mari Square to Szent István Park, lined with cafés, restaurants, bookstores, and art galleries.
If you enjoy bookstores, start your trip at Láng-Téka Könyvesbolt. It specializes in books by Jewish authors from around the world, and while most are in Hungarian, a select group of English publications are also available. I will let you decide if it's an appropriate time for a drink, but if it is, almost next door is Piccolo Söröző, an iconic neighborhood watering hole known for its left-wing regulars. A low-priced shot of Unicum will help you immerse yourself in the local crowd.
There are myriad specialty coffee shops on Pozsonyi, and you can't really go wrong with either of them. When in doubt, try My Green Cup. Then pop in to Három Tarka Macska, a hip bakery serving still-steaming pastries and sourdough breads. The place is so popular that a line often stretches out the door. But leave some stomach space for a sit-down breakfast at the snug Sarki Fűszeres, which is most enjoyable during the warmer months on its outdoor terrace under a canopy of greenery.
After your meal, stroll through Szent István Park, the epicenter of Újlipótváros, featuring landscaped lawns and handsome flower beds. The houses surrounding it are considered to be the crown jewels of modernist Hungarian architecture (particularly #38 Pozsonyi Road; for the full experience, try to sneak in to its marble-clad lobby when a resident comes or goes). Inside the park stands a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Budapest Jews during the Holocaust by designating many buildings in Újlipótváros as protectorates of Sweden, thereby granting its residents diplomatic immunity (despite this, Nazi raids were prevalent).
Although not yet a gastronomic paradise, Újlipótváros has a handful of good lunch and dinner options. Oriental Soup House and KHAN are both chic, open-kitchen Vietnamese restaurants, drawing trendy crowds from near and far. For low-priced, no-frills traditional Hungarian fare, head to Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő. Babka is a chic neighborhood restaurant, but go for the ambiance, rather than the mediocre Middle Eastern dishes. And finally, if you enjoy jazz, check out the concert schedule of the Budapest Jazz Club, you might find something of interest.
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