City centre / Belváros
Enclosed within the Kiskörút or Small Boulevard, the Belváros (‘Inner City’) is the centre of Budapest, a compact hub given over to shops, hotels and tourist-focused restaurants. Bisected by arterial Kossuth Lajos utca, that links Elizabeth Bridge to the junction of Astoria, the Belváros is bordered along its western side by the Danube Promenade, lined by luxury hotels and served by the panoramic number 2 tram. Must-see sights are few – you’ll see ornate concert hall, the Pesti Vigadó, disappear into the distance as your sightseeing boat leaves from the city’s main pier facing Vigadó tér.
A couple of blocks inland, Vörösmarty tér passes for the city’s main square, the perfect setting for the six-week-long Christmas market, partly thanks to the elegant façade of historic confectioners/café Gerbeaud. Onyx, the first Hungarian restaurant to be awarded two Michelin stars, is set in the same building.
All around is otherwise mainstream commerce, offset by the occasional venerable boutique and surprisingly tranquil terrace café, such as the Gerlóczy. Tourists swarm the retail strip of Váci utca, long overshadowed by the smarter stores of nearby Fashion Street, Deák Ferenc utca.
The south side of Kossuth Lajos utca feels historic, a tangle of age-old ecclesiastical and academic institutions tucked inside the Kiskörút, which itself follows the Pest’s medieval walls knocked down after the Turkish occupation. Here is where you find pretty pocket park, Károlyi-kert, and the Centrál Café, one Budapest’s most venerable coffeehouses, now more a restaurant.
The Belváros is delineated as District V, though this also includes the more business-like Lipótváros north of it, containing St Stephen’s Basilica, Parliament and a plethora of restaurants with a busy lunchtime trade.