Before moving to Budapest – Part 2
Last week we discussed the very first steps to follow once you know you”ll be living in Budapest for a few months or so.Now it”s time to take some steps forward, and start thinking about the city as your new home.Check out our tips about setting up your life in the city of lights!
Where to live: choose your district
It depends on why you’re moving to Budapest or what you’re expecting to find here. Making a good choice when it comes to the district you’re going to live in is important as it’s going to be your home from now on. Getting from point A to point Z won’t be a problem; downtown Budapest is easy to reach even from the outskirts thanks to the many options of public transport. Anyway, here comes some useful info regarding Budapest’s districts!
Budapest is split into two parts by the Danube: on the West bank lies hilly and historic Buda, an aristocrat who lives it up once in a blue Moon, while on the East bank, there’s restless and unpredictable Pest, an artist incapable of resisting the temptations of the good life.
The most central district on the Buda side is the 1st District (aka the Castle District), which is surrounded by districts 2, 11 and 12.
District 1: this is the Castle District, charming and romantic, one of the oldest parts of the city. Heaps of tourist attractions can be found in Buda Castle’s territory – including Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion), Mátyás-templom (Matthias Church), and Tóth Árpád-sétány (Árpád Tóth Promenade) -, thus this is one of the most expensive districts in the whole city, which is crowded at day, but peaceful as a village at night. There’s no shortage of restaurants and cafés, though it’s mission impossible to find shops or supermarkets in the area (though there’s a huge mall called Mammut on Széll Kálmán tér, about ten minutes from the Castle). Public transport is fine, you can take buses to both Széll Kálmán tér (where you can change to metro line M2 and trams 4 and 6) and Deák Ferenc tér (where you can change to any of the three metro lines, and take a stroll to spectacles such as Szent István Bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica) or the Danube Promenade.
District 2: this is more of a residential area. It’s close to the Danube, and swirls up to the Buda Hills. It has large green areas, and all the services and shops you need. Moreover, it’s easy to get to the Pest side thanks to Margit híd and Lánchíd (Margaret Bridge and Chain Bridge, respectively), trams 4 and 6, and metro line M2. It’s the district of hidden beauty, giving home to places such as Mansfeld Péter park, a pebbly hideout providing a breathtaking panorama on the city, or Veli Bej, one of Budapest’s oldest baths, which is never crowded due to the maximum-80-people-at-once limit. No wonder both locals and expats love Víziváros (translates to Watertown, the district’s official name).
District 11: one of Buda’s busiest squares – Móricz Zsigmond körtér – is located in the district, which also is the center of public transport, providing connection to both Pest and the Újbuda’s outer parts. The campus and the biggest dorm of BME (Budapest University of Technology and Economics) are located in the district – the former on the Danube bank, certain buildings right in the neighborhood of Gellért Baths -, and ELTE’s (Eötvös Loránd University) sports centre can also be found here. There’s no shortage of malls, supermarkets, shops, and services, thus it’s a cool place to live overall.
District 12: often referred to as the lungs or the Hollywood Hills of Budapest on account of its vast green areas, hills, and luxurious villas. Getting around the district by public transport is not that easy – though a number of buses though climb the steep heights -, but this is the exact place where you should prefer two feet to four wheels. Talking of wheels, the cogwheel railway – operating between Városmajor and Széchenyi Hill – runs in the area, and, to further lengthen the list of unique means of transport, the chairlift also sets off on its journey in the district (from Zugligeti út, approachable by bus 291), and takes you atop János Hill, the home of Erzsébet kilátó (Elizabeth Look-out Tower). A mall (MOM Park), a farmer’s market (on Saturdays, behind MOM Park), and various types of services are available in Budapest’s Hollywood; but don’t expect the colorful cavalcade of Pest. It’s pretty expensive, and living here is most convenient if you get a car.
What locals labeled as downtown Budapest a long time ago is made up of six districts: the most central, the 5th, and the ones surrounding it, namely the 6th, the 7th, the 8th, the 9th, and the 13th.
District 5: we know it sounds cliché, but this right here is the heart of downtown Budapest, giving home to city symbols such as Szent István Bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica), the Parliament, Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Lánchíd (Chain Bridge), Vörösmarty tér, Váci utca, and it goes on and on. It’s full of restaurants, bars, cafés, clubs, shops, boutiques, and of course tourists. The 5th district sports one of Budapest’s most beautiful walking routes, the Danube Promenade, and also boasts dozens of public transport-options (all three metro lines, trams 47, 49 and 2, and buses headed for Buda), though if you’re just cruising around the neighborhood, you won’t need any of those, everything is within walking distance. As for shrines of knowledge, two of renowned Central European University’s buildings are located between the Danube Promenade and Szent István Bazilika. Not the cheapest place to live, but, as this very paragraph proves, there are reasons behind the madness of prices.
District 6: the 5th district’s brother from another mother with plenty of sights to behold. The most famous is undoubtedly UNESCO World Heritage Andrássy út (Andrássy Avenue), an elegant, multiple-kilometer-long boulevard stretching from Heroes’ Square to Deák Ferenc tér, boasting more luxury-goods stores than Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive. Along Andrássy út, you’ll also find the Hungarian State Opera House, and Nagymező utca, a street packed with theatres, cheap pubs, bars (Instant, a ruin pub-complex comes to mind) and buffets – its nickname, the Broadway of Pest, tells the whole story. The district gives home to Nyugati Pályaudvar (Western Railway Terminal), and provides access to various means of public transport, including metro line M1 and M3, trams 4 and 6, and trolley buses. There’s no shortage of shops, and there’s a huge mall right next to Nyugati Pályaudvar, Westend City Center.
District 7: the inner parts of the seventh district (Erzsébetváros, translates to Elizabethtown) were given an epithet sometime around the early 2000s, and are often referred to as the historic Jewish quarter. The reasons are, on one hand, well-founded, because inner Erzsébetváros has been a focal point of the religious and everyday lives of Orthodox Jews since the 19th century (the proofs being architecturally and aesthetically pleasing holy sites such as Dohány utca’s Great Synagogue, the biggest of its kind in Europe), and on the other hand, are also mournful, because this particular section of the seventh district was Budapest’s Jewish Ghetto during World War II. World-famous Kazinczy utca is the birthplace of the ruin pub-phenomenon, and – along with some of the neighboring streets such as Akácfa utca, the home of many cheap pubs and Fogasház, – is a street that never sleeps, and is one of the centers of the city’s nightlife along with Gozsdu-udvar (Gozsdu Courtyard). The latter consists of connected courtyards, and offers an extensive variety of venues, including a classic bar with laidback concerts (Gozsdu Manó Klub), a wine bar (DiVino), an A-plus bistro (Spíler), takeaway eateries (2Spaghi, an authentic Italian pasta place, and Padthai Wok2Go, the name of which speaks for itself), Hungary’s official Apple café (One More Café), a craft beer pub (Léhűtő), and a hangout defying the boundaries of categorization (Kolor, one of the hottest spots in the city that is a bar, a club, a bistro and a hub of culture at the same time). As for Jewish cuisine, Kazinczy utca’s Macesz Bistro is the best in the business. As you would guess, heaps of twentysomethings live in the district, so it’s more than affordable. However, because Kazinczy utca is a very popular destination for international party people, the street can be loud late into the night, so if you are considering renting an apartment there, check to make sure that noise won’t be a problem for you.
District 8: a Janus-faced district with a bad reputation, which is only partly justifiable. Some streets are really bad, and might remind you of old school rap hits like Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise or the Geto Boys’ Damn, It Feels Good To Be a Gangsta, but what’s beneath the surface is always more complex than what you see. Anyway, the district’s most beautiful part is called Palotanegyed (Palace District), and is populated by all sorts of people, including the Budapestian youth. Pubs, restaurants, and shops are aplenty, and public transportation is more than OK (metro line M2 and M3, trams 4 and 6, just to name a few). One of Budapest’s fastest developing areas called Corvin-negyed is located here, right where two districts, the 8th and the 9th intersect (for more info on Corvin-negyed, check out our article providing a detailed description). Rents are rather low, but be careful when choosing a place to live.
District 9: don’t worry, no insect-like aliens here. The 9th district is a colorful creature, its most well-known locations are Központi Vásárcsarnok (Great Market Hall), an enormous marketplace with an outstanding price/quality-ratio offering farmers’ goods, all sorts of meat, and homely Hungarian eateries, Corvinus University, Szabadság híd (Liberty Bridge), and Ráday utca, a street of many restaurants, cafés, and buffets, which also is the home of Michelin-starred Costes. Public transportation is basically flawless; it’s easy to get to any part of Budapest thanks to trams (4 and 6, 47, 49, 2), metro line M3, and buses. Rents are affordable, thought the closer a flat is to the Danube, the higher the price.
District 13: a peaceful residential area that often feels like a parallel universe within the bustling and hustling realm of downtown Budapest. It’s close to the city centre, and has several options of public transportation (trams 2, 4, and 6, trolley bus 75, which takes you to Heroes’ Square and the city’s second biggest park, Városliget), but it’s still laidback and family-friendly with its parks, playgrounds, and lovely cafés. The nearness of Margitsziget (Margaret Island) is also of great help in conjuring the aforementioned vibe, while Margit híd (Margaret Bridge) provides a perfect starting point for romantic walks, and has a postcard-worthy panorama on both Buda and Pest. The least bit surprisingly, rents are not that low, but it’s worth the cash, and – just like in the case of the other districts – it’s easily affordable if you’re sharing the costs with flatmates.
Cover photo: www.groverproductions.compage_id=478