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Hidden in Plain Sight: Sights, Shops, Food, and Lodging just off Vaci utca

Vaci utca is pedestrian in more ways than one...Here's a engaging stroll from the Central Market to Vorosmarty ter
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.5 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours

Overview :  You walk from from the Central Market Hall to Vorosmarty ter along Vaci utca, a straight line down a pedestrianized street, in 20... more »

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Points of Interest

Begin at the beginning: all things spring from the Central Market Hall.

If you are starting in the morning, perhaps a langos on the mezzanine will hold you well into the afternoon. Langos is potato dough fried in lard, slathered with garlic and oil and perhaps sour cream and melting cheese. You can add almost anything imaginable from the array ... More

2. Åzsia, Vámhaz krt 5

Just across the street from the Central Market is the remarkable Asian food shop Azsia, which used to occupy much of the Central Market's basement and now sits across the street and offers all manner of exotic foods in abundance. It's the first of several exotic and specialty shops along the walk.

Gift shopping is a bit strange in Budapest,... More

3. Fóvam tér

If you look back towards the Central Market, the large building between the market and the river was the Customs House. Boats could pull into it from the river, pay the relevant duties, and continue through a web of canals into the Central Market to disgorge their wares directly to the market stalls.

In front of you, between you and the river is ... More

There are four interesting boutique hotels along the walk, as well as the fading grand-dame of the Astoria. You may want to take a moment and wander into each. The first is the Residence Baron, a European style small hotel with upscale touches and a traditional mood...

5. Bulldog Cukraszda, Veres Pálné utca 31

Three of the city's best, and less-frequented-by-tourists, pastry shops are along this walk, not counting the ones in the Central Market Hall (pass them by except for the Flodni stand in the very rear of the building (Flodni is a very traditional poppy seed kosher pastry ); the strudel Stall -- retes in Hungarian -- is not bad but no better than... More

6. Serbian Church and churchyard, Szerb utca

The first of four churches on the walk (and there will be others that you'll pass along the way) ... This one has a churchyard within the walls that have kept it an aloof island in the midst of the city center bustling around it. Try to peek into the churchyard and look at the buildings nearby on Veres Palne, some of which have Cyrillc script... More

The second boutique hotel along the way, with a quirky mix of art and hospitality, a youthful vibe, and a location a block from the Danube , a block from Vaci, and yet quiet and reclusive.

Owned by the Toscana restaurant next door, a small deck overlooks the river, with reasonably priced wines and small plates from the restaurant's very strong kitchen. The first of several places where you can stop for a small plate or two and a glass of wine or coffee...this one with a river view.

The Zara is a third boutique hotel, and this one boasts a top restaurant, possibly the only really serious gastronomic venue this close to the tackiness of the Vaci utca hawkers. The hotel is very much a separate entity (and the restaurant's name is the hotel's spelled backwards), but if you are checking out the options this is a small,... More

An old church with a remarkable triptych ... only partially restored, with the best acoustics among the many small-to-medium churches in Pest. There are frequent concerts with popular classical programs.

11. Egyetem ter budapest

Egyetem (University) ter (square) is dominated by a small church and a large university building -- the Law School of Eotvos Lorand Univsity (ELTE) -- that somehow seem to be a single building. The square is a place to sit or a the starting point for small looping sub-walk within the larger amble:

Three cafes: the Alibi, a law school hangout... More

12. Alfoldi, Vendeglo, kecskemet utca 4 budapest

see Egyetem ter, #11

13. Rozsavolgyi Candies

see Egyetem ter, #11

A very high end, very traditional, fine dining restaurant with plush settings, romantic feel, and excellent renditions of both the standard handful of Hungarian mainstays and a range of newer dishes that may be rather less successfully realized. A favorite of 5-star hotel concierges (so much so that one has to wonder whether they offer a... More

16. Cadeau BonBon, Budapest,Veres Pálné u. 8

The city's first artisanal chocolate shop and still an extraordinary one, with the best and most interesting ice creams to be found in the city during the summers. Attentive, tiny, almost impossible to resist.

17. University Library of ELTE

One of the great library rooms of Europe, still a working University library and in an otherwise prosaic building, not to be missed if you are able to be there during its open hours.

A fading echo of a truly grand hotel, at one of the city's major intersections. The book The Budapest Protocol has its climactic scenes in a hotel that is plainly meant to be the Astoria. Wonderful panelling, a grand dining room with no better than fair food, it is history more than hospitality, socialism more than socialites, but surely worth a ... More

19. Auguszt Cukraszda, kossuth lajos utca budapest 1053

Perhaps the best cukraszda (patisserie) in Budapest, this is a recent (but atmospherically traditional) city center outpost of a family-run business that dates back a century (a young Auguszt of the current generation (Flora) oversaw every detail of its construction and maintains her family's standards daily). It has a distinctive mix of... More

20. Ajka Crystal, kossuth lajos utca 10 budapest

The largest outlet of Hungary's greatest crystal manufacturer ... The crystal comes from the countryside but ranges from classic to very modern and chic. It is a great place to scout gifts to take home, especially on the clearance shelves and tables, where the discounts can be 50% off or better. But this shop is itself a sight worth seeing, with... More

21. Jeg Bufé, Parizsi Udvar

The high end pastry shop, mostly takeaway, from the 1980s, Jeg Bufe still uses the old socialist shop model of pay-first-claim-pastry-with-receipt ... But it may well be the very best for pogacsa (biscuits), turos taska (cheese Danish, sort of; get them early n the morning, often still warm from the oven), and a range of tortes like Dobos,... More

22. Marcius 15 ter budapest

These center city Roman ruins had been sliding Into decay, admittedly with great charm, alongside the Elizabeth Bridge, but an EU grant has rehabbed this small park and preserved the remnants of what was once a great outpost of Rome. History, plaques, skateboarders, benches, and the river. Kind of hard to pass by.

23. Inner City Parish Church Budapest

A grand church with marvelous acoustics, recently refurbished steeples, and a program of concerts through the summer. Well worth a close look and a contemplative moment.

A tourist restaurant, or one of those places that locals go because it does kitsch so well that you find yourself sneaking back to it, even when you don't have an out-of-tower to introduce to it. A rigid traditional menu, well executed but don't expect novelty or the accommodation of even simple variations. Wonderful 'gypsy' music, starched... More

25. Laszlo Vass Shoes

The prince of bespoke shoemakers, László Vass quite literally wrote an intentionally-respected book on the subject. This tiny shop has stuffy sales help and a somewhat rigid view of their craft ... And they will discourage buying custom-made shoes rather than the available handmade ones on display in the shop. The prices are high, but a very real... More

26. Szamos Marcipan

An outpost of the Szamos Marcipan empire ... Centered n Szentendre, where they have a marzipan museum ... This small shop has a wide range of very old (but freshly made) marzipan specialities though their fine pastries may be their best product.

27. BomoArt Handbound Books

Another minuscule craft shop on a side street off Vaci, this shop is distinctive because they only use locally-produced printed papers for their endpapers ... Journals, albums, small blank portfolios, another source of unique gifts from Budapest that are rooted in the country's great leatherwork tradition. If this sort of thing draws you, you may... More

28. Kaczian Ties

The last of these small boutiques between Vaci and Petofi Utca, this shop makes neckties and bow ties and pocket handkerchiefs with a level of craft and quality and attention to each individual piece that you won't find anywhere else for even remotely these prices. The ladies who run the shop are expert and accommodating, but not all of them speak... More

29. Szervita tér budapest

Szervita ter is a small seldom-visited-by-tourists square that nevertheless both presents an opportunity for another small exploratory looping sub-walk but also has distinctive features of its own that make it quite special:

The church is among the center city's older churches, largely unrestored, and yet quite beautiful inside and out; in... More

The last of the four hotels and in most senses by far the best. Tiny, just 18 rooms, this is the baby of N Tamas Nagy, a visionary in the grand tradition of Hungarian hospitality. His attention to detail is legendary, and he was the first to bring classic French cheeses to Hungary just after 1990. His cafe is among the city's consistently best ... More

31. BAV Antiques

BAV is the national pawnshop and auctionouse and this is one of two outlets for the furniture they have decided to sell outright. They also have art and small silver and porcelain items, and a jewelry shop adjacent to their left. Not a flea market, but excellent value and reliable quality. Primarily a shop for locals and expats, BAV is a solid ... More

Athe first local branch of a German-owned sort-of-fast food chain. Fresh, inexpensive, Italian-inspired pastas, pizzas and salads. You watch your food being made as you stand at he counter, then bring it over on a tray to a table. A surprisingly pleasant place for a light lunch mid-day with lighter-than-hungarian fare.

The mother of all Budapest cafes, Gerbeaud is an beautifully restored tourist mecca. While it is a truly lovely place to sit, to see, and to be seen, intriguingly its quite decent pastries are not the best of its kitchen, which does a very nice job on salads and has excellent libamaj (foie gras). The side of the building is the home of Onyx,... More

And you are at the river, in front of fin de siecle concert hall in a perpetual state of not-quite-finished restoration. The walk ends here, but the tram along the river is just steps away, and it is a destination in its own right, worth a trip up to its end beyond Parlament (heading to the right) and then a new ticket to return on back down,... More