At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, Budapest was a building site with more and more apartment buildings pulled up for the city’s growing population. Following Central European examples, most of them were rectangle- or cube-shaped with an inner courtyard and a few storeys above. The ground floor was mostly reserved for shops, the first two floors for wealthy families, while the above floors housed smaller, cheaper apartments. As building standards were high at the time, most of them still stand strong, serving as modern homes for current Budapest residents.
Hidden behind imposing doorways, Budapest’s apartment buildings boast a certain mysterious charm, daily life bustling along the corridors connecting each flat to communal staircases. Some of them are stunning, others are more ramshackle, but either way, most of them are reserved for their residents only, electric door locks keeping curious eyes outside. Though not all of them, so we’ve collated eight such buildings that received a new function over the years and are open to anyone to explore.
While you’re around Astoria, pop into Fekete, a bijou café serving all-day breakfast and speciality coffee. As the café itself is truly tiny, you may only get a table outside in the courtyard, where you can marvel at the building while you sip on your coffee concoction made expertly from light-roast beans, but keep in mind that you may get a bit cold in winter. For breakfast, you can get popular dishes like shakshuka, granola bowls and various quiches.
Take an old Budapest apartman building but make it a jungle – this is Twentysix, a hip restaurant or bar, depending on the time of the day. Besides serving Mediterranean and Eastern dishes that are both healthy and exciting, Twentysix also regularly hosts events like workshops and talks and also houses a mysterious cocktail bar. There are dozens of all sorts of green plants everywhere here, so this green oasis can light up any chilly autumn or winter day.
Mazel Tov occupies the ground floor of a smaller, two-storey apartment building in Budapest’s hip Jewish Quarter. It’s as much a Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean restaurant as it is an open-minded cultural base because it features a good number of events, mainly concerts, so there’s always some nice music to go with your meal. The garden is winterised during the colder months, and on weekends, delicious brunch is served.
If you’re ever near Astoria downtown, and you probably will be, it’s definitely worth popping into Paloma, at least just to see the beautiful century-old building and to take some photos on the symmetrical staircase. The building used to house an elegant shopping plaza called Paloma, but in 2014 it became a second home for Hungarian designers. Today, you can visit the showrooms of nearly 50 artists here and buy cool, authentic souvenirs.
If you’d like to try what living in such a building is like, even just for a little while, you can opt for a stay at the music-themed 5-star Aria Hotel right in the centre of the city. After piano keys painted on the floor lead you inside the lobby, if you look up, you can see what the inner courtyard of a classic Budapest building looks like. Inside the rooms however, you won’t get a real apartment layout, but beautifully renovated and modern rooms instead – and thanks to housekeeping, you don’t need to worry about the same chores as locals. The panoramic High Note SkyBar on the top of the hotel is also worth a visit for its wonderful views.
Another place where you can stay in a classic Budapest apartment building is Brody House, a boutique hotel located on the oldest street of the city’s gorgeous Palace Quarter. The building was erected in 1896 and survived the atrocities of the two World Wars, as well as Hungary’s 1956 Uprising, which started at the Hungarian Radio Station a few doors down the street. In 2009, it was turned into a boutique hotel, with 11 distinctive rooms and apartments now awaiting guests, each decorated with upcycled furniture by a different artist. You can book a room, one of the Brody Quarters, a whole floor, or even the entire house if you’re planning something big.
One of the vanguards of the city’s ruin pub scene, the Instant-Fogas complex has become a popular party hub over the years. Boasting an eclectic, surreal and dilapidated yet stylish interior, Instant is a real maze of spaces, housing seven unique rooms and an open terrace. It’s quite exciting to walk around here exploring the building from the basement to the terrace, feeling like you’re at a gigantic house party. Located on Akácfa utca in District VII, Instant-Fogas is open 6 pm - 6 am every day, and there’s no entrance fee – dancing until dawn is often the norm here. (x)
Walking past the unassuming façade of Morrison’s 2 on Budapest’s Grand Boulevard near Jászai Mari tér, you probably wouldn’t think that it hides a super popular party place inside. The inner courtyard is heated in winter, and you can wonder around altogether seven dance floors and a karaoke room. If you’re up for a night out, 10 bars, beer pong, foosball, screens broadcasting sports and tasty drinks ensure you have everything for it. Morrison’s is open between 6pm and 5am Monday-Saturday all year round. And it’s best to arrive early, as entry is free before 9pm, and you can also purchase unlimited drink packages from as little as 14 euros from 6pm. Look out for other regular events and discounts on their website. (x)