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City Guide: Blooming Budapest


 
Being Janus-faced might sound like a despicable attribute, but judging a wine by its bottle is seldom a good idea. In the case of Budapest, Janus-faced connotes the two extremities embodied by the city’s two parts, Buda and Pest. Connected by nine bridges, they resemble a pair of distinctively differing twins with a handful of common features. Calm, cool, and collected Buda is a laidback aristocrat with a tendency to live it up once in a blue moon, and Pest is an artist incapable of resisting the temptations of the good life. Budapest is still searching for its true identity, and has just begun to bloom. Bálint Kodaj reports.
 
Roughly 24 years after parliamentary dem ocracy washed Communism away, Budapest with its almost 1.8 m inhabitants is now in a state of constant and rapid change, and has definitely become a hotspot for tourists and gastro-enthusiasts of all ages – on account of both the wide variety of venues opened in what is referred to as downtown Budapest and the ever-increasing level of services.
As WeLoveBudapest.com, a website focusing on Hungary’s capital recently put it Budapest is just the right size. It is small enough for one to understand, but big enough to offer all the sophistication and grandiose of a metropolis. The bittersweet concoction that is Budapest is a mixture of traditions and innovations, which is embodied by old-fashioned coffee houses and café-confectionary hybrids recalling the vibe of the early 1900s (when over 400 such venues were functioning in Budapest), and the phenomena known as ‘ruin pubs’.
 

 
Coffee houses & Co.
 
A couple of prime examples for the former categories are New York Café (housed by the ground floor premises of spectacular New York Palace, built in 1894 by the New York Life Insurance Company, which currently is the home of Boscolo Budapest), Centrál Café, and Ruszwurm. New York Café and Centrál Café have a history dating back to the late 1800s/early 1900s, and after long decades of decay and undeserved neglect courtesy of the post-World War II era, were brought back from the ashes in the early years of the current century. New York Café’s splendor mostly attracts tourists and the guests of Boscolo Budapest (it is worth noting that world-famous Gerbeaud takes the cake in the race of tourist-attracting Budapestian coffee house-confectionary hybrids), while Central Café is visited by both locals and foreigners thirsty for a nostalgic coffee house-vibe with a modern twist. Ruszwurm, established in 1827 and located in prestigious Buda Castle, must hold a special place in destiny’s heart, because it has been operating in the same building ever since its opening, having been survived all the hardships of the 20th century without basically a scratch. Buda’s Daubner is another piece of heaven on earth for the sweet-toothed, which is evidenced by the long and winding queues made up of almost solely locals.
 
Read more about Budapest's 'Ruin Pubs', local and international cuisine, new-wave cafés and sweets in the PDF
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| 14 August 2014 |
 
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