District VIII, or Józsefváros, shows Budapest as its most edgy. Unlike neighbouring District IX, here gentrification is slow, with the exception of the so-called Palace Quarter, fronted by the National Museum at the northern and most central point of District VIII. At nearby Kálvin tér, students gather in the elegant Fővárosi Szabó Ervin Library, and the terraces of cafés around Mikszáth Kálmán tér. Stretching behind are streets where significant communities of Roma and Chinese live, the sprawling Chinese Market worth visiting when the night market for street food operates in summer.
Running nearby is the outer wall of expansive Kerepesi Cemetery, where Hungary’s great and good lie buried. The English-language tour is well worth joining – and it’s free. Beyond that towers the brightly refurbished façade of Keleti station, a steam palace par excellence, the departure point for trains heading east, to far reaches of the former Eastern Bloc, and west to Vienna. While the exterior is as impressive as any of its kind in Europe – note the carved figures of steam pioneers George Stephenson and James Watt – much of the interior is in desperate need of refurbishment.