A Christmas tour of hidden values specifically for explorers
Photo : Balkányi László - We Love Budapest
12/12/2011, 12:58 AM●6-minute article
In search for Budapest’s secrets we resolved to avoid the most crowded Christmas fairs and places with blue Christmas trees and more than five people standing in the queue in front of us with a mass-produced thingy for present in their hands. Being in the know as to the secluded little corners and treasure troves of the city we hereby present a collection of shops and special places where it’s really enjoyable to kill time and browse through prospective presents as you wait for the holidays to come.
At the beginning of our adventure-seeking trip we set in stone that this time we wouldn’t use the smelly and packed public transportation. Rather, we went for roaming Budapest’s streets in a rickshaw because it’s more practical and stylish this way. Pedicab brought its three-wheelers from no nearer than New York, more specifically Main Street. Our guide, Alex, could avoid traffic jams as if he was applying magic, and thanks to his clever pedaling we reached our favorite shops in no time. Pedicab that also offers sightseeing tours, rents out richshaws as taxi, too, so feel free to hop on. For as little as 500 HUF you can get to any of the nearby streets.
Massolit Books and Café
We start our shopping tour in Nagy Diófa Street, where a copper sign draws attention to the Massolit Books & Café. The shop hiding behind palm trees keeps real treasures for booklovers with their outstanding collection of politics, history and literature. What’s more, Zoltán Pallai, barista, makes one of the best seasonal espressos in town, propagating “a new way of thinking about coffee”. During reading you can have a spinach quiche or a carrot cake made after home recipe.
We can still taste the breakfast in our mouths but we are ready to go on gnawing our way through the city, so we turn towards the one of the possible meccas of the likes of Willy Wonka, Chefparade Chocolate Workshop in Sas Street. Apart from those in Páva Street and Bécsi Road the most “wicked” chocolate-making courses in town are held here. Marzipan bonbon, macaron, tipsy truffle or gingerbread? You can learn how to make all these in the workshop at one of the chocolate-making courses. Or if you’re only the eater type, you can just buy them in the cocoa-scented shop. However, you must put yourself to the test and try to make yourself a crispy chocolate bonbon for Christmas, or you could bring one of your friends and keep tapping in the melting mass of chocolate.
Clinging on to the sweets we wasted no time visiting Cadeau Chocolate Shop in Veres Pálné Street. Guests can sweeten their lives with hot chocolate and unique, home-made bonbon delicacies. If you come this way some time, you must drop by for a bonbon or a decoratively packaged selection if not for more.
Now that we talk about cooking and baking we must mention “Lila Füge” (= purple fig) a fine piece of the books hitting the market this year’s Christmas. It’s the latest product by Dóra Havas, gastroblogger, which contains recipes for unhurried breakfasts, afternoon bites and unexpected guests. The recipes can indeed be realized without having to get the craziest ingredients. You can find the purpleness at Bookline.
As we were on our way again we were getting cold and decided a little summer would be good so that we could chill out in a T-shirt in Kertem or the greens of City Park, and go to a garden cinema in the evenings. Fortunately, it’s not only us who miss Kertem in the cold weather so we can visit the winter equivalent of the famed place, Téli Kertem. Screenings, parties and warmness awaits those who can’t help but count down until the spring opening of Kertem.
Now, there’s no time for feeling sorry, let’s have lunch instead! Being real explorers we set out for the best gastro-hideaway in Kertész Street, M. Restaurant. “M” indulges its guests with a new menu each day as they procure the freshest ingredients morning by morning at the market. While they deserve to be classified as “fine-dining”, you shouldn’t be worried about entering the place popular among tourists as the prices are affordable. The laid-back atmosphere is totally devoid of any signs of tension making the place perfect for lunch, and the excellent wine selection and paper tablecovers are only further additions to make you want to have dinner here.
We choose the Poster Shop in Galamb Street for our next stop. Besides movie posters they sell those of the most peculiar propagandas or commercial ones, as well. The shop, which can easily be interesting for anybody, not only collectors, features only original pieces, so you can marvel at the graphics of talented Hungarian artists in arm’s reach. The real picuancy of the place is given by the owner’s expertise and love for posters. After leaving you will surely feel you will need to come back some time at least for a poster of “Outland”.
Hopping back on our rickshaw we are not stopping until we reach the fair at Vörösmarty Square, where Anikó Róth’s stand awaits visitors with original diaries, postcards, notebooks and bookmarks. The artist, who works as an illustrator of tales too, has been partly inspired by Christmas, so it could be a good idea to visit the stand if you’re looking for presents, or you just want to surprise yourself. Our favorite is this lovely red diary.
Having discovered the winter curiosities of the city, we take our way to Piritós (=toast). The latest contestant of Kazinczy Street provides Marzen and Brokat beers, along with brews of chili, sour cherry and smoky wheat flavor. Due to its cosy, warm interior Pirítós soon grew to be one of our favorite winter places. And we haven’t even talked about the excellent tapas served on the inevitable toast, not to mention another favorite popping up at the place: layered hermelin cheese.
Address: 1075 Budapest, Kazinczy Street 52/c Facebook
Approaching the end of the day our rickshaw slows to a halt and we bid goodbye to our ever-smiling “chauffeur” and can’t get something out of our minds: the thermal wonder called Veli Bej Fürdő. The bath on the Buda side of the capital is known to a few as of now, so you can relax comfortably in its saunas, steam room or pool of curative water without being disturbed by anyone.
Having been to the most appealing venues of Budapest, after bathing we have but to come up with what way we should present our capital to you next week…
If you envied us for our exploring tour, please, don’t. Rather, you should play for the offers made by the unique venues. Write us below the article in a comment which place is your favorite to win a rickshaw tour, cooking course, dinners, beers, posters, chocolates, books, book vouchers, diaries or countless other surprises. Results due on December 16 (this Friday).