The favorite Budapest places of a young local artist

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

I met Dorottya Szonja Koltay nearly ten years ago, when she was a precocious student at Budapest’s University of Fine Arts. Soon, we bonded over our shared favorite novelist and became friends even as I often couldn’t keep up with her pace of life. Over the years, Szonja’s painting has evolved in unexpected and beautiful ways. But no matter the style, what I like most is the energy and brain that are always behind her canvases. You can follow Szonja on Instagram.

Which neighborhood do you like to hang out in?

If the great river is before me and I don’t need to stay somewhere too long, I’m happy wherever I am. I most enjoy when I cross-cross the city on my bike, along or over the Danube, zipping from one district to the other. Recently, I’ve been spending most of my time in Erzsébetváros (District 7).

Where do you usually go for coffee or a drink?

When the sun is out, I have my coffee at kisLumen. When it rains, I’m over at nagyLumen, around the corner.

Is there a lowkey restaurant you like to drop in for a quick meal?

Kívánság étkezde is one of the most adorable places on earth. Józsi, the waiter, is magnetic, and the mátrai borzas out of this world.

Where do you do your shopping?

I’m a Lidl regular. As I keep moving from one sublet to another, a Lidl store always turns up nearby. I like their olive oil-spiked ciabatta. It’s filling and especially good when smeared with butter.

What’s your favorite architecture in the city?

Hulking, monumental buildings strongly affect me. Industrial skeletons like the Ganz shipyard on Népsziget make me shiver with excitement. In another life, I’ll be constructing bridges, or hangars that can fit oversized steel objects.

As a child, I was frightened of the Lágymányosi Bridge. It was near our apartment and I attributed the anxiety and sadness that comes with departures and arrivals to this three-legged, red, monolithic giant.

What are some places you visit to see local art?

Near the Corvin district, there’s an actual hole in the wall where somebody regularly puts up artworks. It’s likely the smallest exhibition space in Budapest. I don’t think it has a name but this little public museum is dearest to me.

What tip would you give for Budapest visitors to get the most out of their time in the city?

Instead of taking a turtle for a walk as did good old Walter Benjamin, get a dog. She’ll show you her favorite parks and the joyless dog runs in the city center. And you'll instantly make some new friends by socializing with the other dog owners.

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