Annabel Barber, a native of the UK, has lived in Budapest for nearly thirty years. She's the Editorial Director of Blue Guides, a renowned travel guidebook publisher focused on history, art, and architecture. Among others, Annabel has written the Budapest edition, which is the best English-language guidebook I know about the city.
Which neighborhood do you like to hang out in?
My office is in the 13th District which is a great part of town to be. It’s a true authentic neighborhood. People stop for a chat in the street, there are lots of good shops and grocery stores, plenty of cafés and some amazing architecture.
Where do you usually go for coffee or a drink?
I used to love the old Budapest coffee houses but those have all died out now. Instead I switched to tea. Zhao Zhou on Lánchíd utca by the Chain Bridge is a real tea temple. Gábor who runs it can turn a few shriveled leaves into something out of this world.
Is there a lowkey restaurant you like to drop in for a quick meal?
I always enjoy a traditional étkezde, or simple lunch place, with checked table cloths and old-style Hungarian dishes. Everyone in my office loves Norbi on Tátra utca. Especially when he’s serving vadas.
How about for a sitdown dinner?
Somewhere not too glitzy. When my sister comes to town she always wants to go to Rosenstein. It’s family-run and the food is absolutely genuine.
What are some places you visit to see local art?
Well, the Hungarian National Gallery is the first stop, especially for the works of the Nagybánya school. But there are some excellent small museums too. The Textile Museum in Óbuda is superb. It mixes applied art with industrial heritage, local history and Holocaust tragedy.
Favorite architecture in the city?
There’s so much to choose from! Secession, Bauhaus, Andrássy út eclectic… I especially like the survivals from Ottoman days. The domed halls of the old Turkish baths are incredibly atmospheric.
What tip would you give for Budapest visitors to get the most out of their time in the city?
Get up high. Budapest has one of the most beautiful low-rise skylines of any capital city I know. But with the new MOL Tower, the view from Margaret Bridge has suddenly changed. Towers can be iconic in isolation but en masse they’re a muddle, which is what has happened in London. Get up to the top of St Stephen’s Basilica or Gellért Hill—or one of the city’s fun rooftop bars—and enjoy the stunning panorama while it lasts.