Over the past decade, Budapest’s District VIII has transformed from being a notorious neighborhood to becoming a vibrantly up-and-coming hub of culture, bustling with bars, eateries, and galleries. Hungary’s history still lingers beneath ornate facades of aristocratic mansions and apartment blocks that bear the bullet holes of past wars, but a lively bohemian buzz is sneaking into this scenery as diverse new locales pop up, enticing more people to delve deeper into this intriguing area. Here we present three bars that opened during this past summer, showing the budding side of District VIII.
District VIII, also known as Józsefváros, lies just outside the heart of downtown, guarding such astonishing architectural masterpieces as the Szabó Ervin Library, the Almássy Palace, and the Festetics Palace. Its core is the so-called Palace District, stretching behind the National Museum, where many aristocratic Magyar and Austrian families built their mansions and palaces during the late 19th century. Unfortunately, the devastation of the World Wars and Hungary’s 1956 Revolution dramatically affected the area, and the neighborhood’s neglect during the Soviet occupation turned this into a poor, run-down district. However, after the regime change in 1989, Józsefváros gradually began to experience redevelopment; over the years, Mikszáth Square became a beloved student hangout as more cafés and bars were established here, and Corvin Quarter was completely rebuilt to encompass new apartments and a shopping mall, while preserving the historic Corvin Cinema. More recently, District VIII’s once-infamous Rákóczi Square – previously the city’s headquarters for the world’s oldest profession – was completely refurbished to become a pleasant inner-city parkland, highlighting its beautiful brick market hall while housing an ultra-modern station for Budapest’s new metro line 4, completed two years ago.
Even though the still-standing mansions of District VIII still guard the area’s faded glamour, Józsefváros is fast becoming Budapest’s district of diversity, with many new restaurants, galleries, and bars appearing alongside many modernized flats and residential buildings, attracting cheerful crowds to the area and bringing life back to one of the most beautiful parts of Budapest. Here we present three restaurants and bars that opened during the past summer that show this progressive side of Józsefváros by bringing something new to this often-overlooked part of town.
Cintányéros wine tavern is a true hybrid of classic style and modernity; Bokay János Street’s crumbling corner building carries the sweet feeling of nostalgia, but stepping inside, we are welcomed by a chic and sleek design, whitewashed walls, and a friendly modern interior infused with antiquity. The chairs are all period pieces – some of them are beautifully carved – while the bar’s lighting is provided by DIY green-bottle lamps, the keys of the century-old piano are truly made of ebony and ivory, and black-and-white family photos decorate the walls. The carefully selected wines of Cintányéros are all products of prominent Hungarian wine regions, and the pálinka brandy is featured in many unique flavors; we can perfectly pair these delicious drinks with a tasty cheese plate, or grilled sausages, and devour them on the cozy mezzanine perch, or outside while sitting on the lovely red bench.
Address: Budapest 1083, Bókay János utca 52
Venturing into the cave of the mechanical kraken, we all take part in the midst of an all-encompassing role-playing game; we find ourselves somewhere around 2316, and if we catch sight of the painting on the wall in which the kraken is pulling Budapest’s beautiful Chain Bridge down in the deep, we might think that the world as we know it has ceased to exist. Everyone has a character here that they play throughout our stay, and they invite us pirates to join their underworld. We can do so amid an eclectic design of hot-air balloons hanging from the ceiling, antiquated portraits of the staff decorating the walls, and the array of extravagant decorations everywhere, pulling our eyes from goggles through boat-window lamps to gearwheels to mysterious maps. We can devour palatable British dishes amid this extravagant steampunk environment, such as a full English breakfast, black pudding, and various meat pies, and we can wash them down with a craft beer from the ever-changing selection of the eight taps. Budapest’s first steampunk saloon definitely paints new colors on the District VIII gastro palette.
Address: Budapest 1085, József körút 31/A
Amid the simply stylish interior of Sörsajt, the main focus is entirely on the slightly strange but progressive concept of pairing tasty beers with succulent cheese. The staff happily provides assistance for creating mouthwatering matches to our liking; upon entering, we immediately face an abundant assortment of – at the moment mostly imported – cheeses on display in a counter, and afterwards, we can wander over to the painted beer-wall that guides us through the luscious world of lagers and ales. If after this we’re still a bit lost in this new wonderland, we can use the cheese menu as a cheat sheet, as it shares information about each type of cheese, and recommends a matching beer from the selection of the 20 taps that all offer the products of small local breweries. The cheddar fondue with a harmonizing brown beer is always a nice choice, but they also have coffee and sandwiches available for less-adventurous guests.
Address: Budapest 1085, József körút 35