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Zugló is a leafy neighborhood a bit outside the city center, swarming with beautiful residential homes. Unbeknownst to you, you might actually have already been here, since several tourist sites, like Heroes’ Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, and the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, are also in Zugló, but there's more to it than just the City Park.
For a deeply immersive experience into everyday Budapest life, I highly recommend the Bosnyák Square Market. From Ferenciek tere in downtown, you can take buses #7, #8, #110, #112, or #133E, and within less than 20 minutes, you will be within the confines of this decor-deprived bustling neighborhood market hall, which couldn't be more different from the pristine Great Market Hall in the city center. Here, you won't need to worry about being pushed aside by fellow tourists, price points will make you double-check your currency conversion rate (yes, things are cheap!), and butchers will give you the time of the day. Pick up some seasonal fruits, vegetables, or paprika-laced salami. Note that the independent farmers are in the rear of the space.
In case you get hungry, the nondescript butcher shop to the right of the entry serves excellent sausages, including liverwurst and blood sausage, and also roasted and boiled pork knuckles. For something lighter, visit the lángos stall in the back of the market, hawking a delicious version of this deep-fried Hungarian flatbread topped with sour cream and grated cheese.
After your meal, dart across the street, and take a bus back toward the city center, getting off at Cházár András utca near the City Park. This area is teeming with grand residential homes that hide on quiet side streets. Zugló's fresh air and proximity to the city attracted Budapest's upper crust in the late 19th century—first, they built summer houses to escape downtown's heat waves, then many of them moved out here permanently. During communism, these lavish houses were nationalized and parceled up into smaller apartments, or became consulates, as many of them still are.
The red-bricked art deco building on the other end of Cházár András Street is one of Budapest's top high schools (before WWII, it was a Jewish school, hence the Star of David and the delicate menorah patterns on the facade). Turn right, and saunter down Abonyi Street, taking in these handsome mini palazzos along the way. My favorite eye candy is the medieval castle-lookalike on the corner of Abonyi and Zichy Géza Streets, imposing even in its state of disrepair.
If you enjoy art nouveau architecture and don't mind a 10-minute detour, turn right and then onto Stefánia Road, the main artery of Zugló, to reach the Geological and Geophysical Institute of Hungary, a masterpiece of Ödön Lechner, Hungary's most famous architect. The stunning building features curvilinear motifs and Hungarian Atlas figures (!) atop the light-blue ceramic roof.
Being a sleepy residential neighborhood, Zugló doesn't have many restaurants—Wang Mester Konyhája, a mid-to-upscale Chinese place is an exception—but there are two atmospheric outdoor-only bars inside the City Park that also serve some food (note that they're open only during the warmer months). So, turn back on Stefánia, and head over to the park to Pántlika Bistro (or Kertem) for cold beers and a burger. While waiting for your food, carefully walk right across Hermina Street for a minute to appreciate another remarkable building by Lechner (#47 Hermina Road), which currently belongs to the Hungarian Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted.
Széchenyi Bath is just a stone's throw away from Pántlika, in case that's the thermal bath of your choice. The City Park is also home to the Vajdahunyad Castle, a bombastic edifice modeled after a Transylvanian medieval castle. Inside it is the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, which may not sound like a must-see, but it's actually one of the most memorable museums in Budapest in all of its quirkiness; in fact, we even wrote an ode to it. Parts of the City Park are currently under construction, as it's being transformed into a museum quarter as part of the Liget Projekt.
Don't leave Zugló without paying a visit to Heroes' Square, an impressive colonnade with historic Hungarian figures and a towering obelisk. Two major museums enclose the area: the Museum of Fine Arts has a world-class collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, while the Műcsarnok (Kunsthalle) is best known for its top-notch temporary exhibits.
From here, you can take the century-old Millennium Underground / M1 back to downtown, or, if you have limitless energy, visit the Budapest Zoo, just steps away, offering plenty of Instagrammable animals and also buildings. Not far from the Zoo's entrance is Édes Mackó, a kürtőskalács vendor, where they prepare these wonderful caramel-glazed doughs the traditional way—over charcoal.