Budapest-based textile dealer, Kath Griffiths - the brains behind Cabana N18's show-stopping Transylvania portfolio - shares her insider's guide to the stylish Hungarian capital.
BY KATH GRIFFITHS | 11 DECEMBER 2023
Budapest is a city of contrasts, from buzzing Pest with its grand boulevard, impressive architecture and buzzing nightlife, to the greener, more sedate Buda with its rolling hills, elegant villas and castle district; from the Roman ruins of Obuda to the ruin bars of the old Jewish quarter; from luxurious hotels to cosy cabanas; from classical music in elegant surroundings to Balkan beats in basement bars.
Famous for its thermal waters and historic coffee houses, Budapest is a great city to relax and wander in. The last two decades have seen massive changes with the restoration of many architectural gems, and the opening of stylish restaurants and hotels that can rival any western European capital. Its small size and pedestrianised areas mean its a great city to see on foot, with the occasional tram or metro ride.
Where to Stay
Four Seasons Budapest: Art Nouveau glamour in the beautifully restored Gresham Palace, one of Budapest's first historic buildings to be transformed into a grand hotel.
Cabin and Canvas: In the foot of the Buda Hills, a 20-minute drive from central Budapest, Cabin and Canvas is a great option for nature lovers: a cosy cabana with a hot tub in the garden and lovely forest and hiking trails on its doorstep.
Gerloczy Boutique Hotel: A cosy and charming boutique hotel in the heart of Budapest's historic center. A true home away from home.
Matild Palace: An elegant, luxurious hotel in the Belle Epoque Matild Palace, first built in 1902. One for the historians and traditionalists.
What to See & Do
Transylvanian Textiles: Visit the Bela Bartok memorial house to see beautifully restored Transylvanian texiles in an elegant villa in the Buda Hills.
City Views by Tram: Take the tram from Jaszai Mari Ter to the Great Market Hall to enjoy stunning views of Parliament, the Danube and the Buda Castle district across the river.
Wander & Wonder: Stroll the Seventh District, taking in the synagogues, Ruin bars - a collection of fashionable Budapest bars in derelict buildings and factories - and the nooks and crannies of the old Jewish Quarter.
Budapest's Palaces: Marvel at the old palaces in The Palota district (not to be confused with the castle district), also home to the National Museum. Visit Wenckheim Palace, a neo-Baroque masterpiece, which now houses the Szabo Ervin library.
Artful Pampering: Soak and steam in the Art Nouveau Gellert spa, or the Baroque Szecnehyi or Rudas Turkish baths.
Cemetery Stories: Visit Kerepesi Cemetery for a fascinating walk through the final resting places of the great and good of Hungary, ornate mausoleums, Soviet graves, the Communist pantheon and the graves of many famous Hungarians.
Markets & Music: Enjoy a short Saturday morning concert at the Franz Liszt memorial house followed by a trip to the Producers Street Market on Hunyadi ter.
Where to Eat
M. étterem: A cosy, friendly, family-run restaurant with a quirky, eye-catching interior. A long-time favorite of the bohemian crowd, M. étterem changes its menu daily.
Bistro Déryné: One of the oldest bistros in Buda, Deryne is reminiscent of a French brasserie with its tiled floors, marble bar and palm trees, It serves European classics and Hungarian specialities; and champagne and oysters at brunch.
Urban Betyár: Refined Hungarian cuisine in the heart of the 5th district, Urban Betyar also houses a small but surprisingly good ethnographic museum in the basement.
Náncsi Néni: A traditional-style Hungarian country restaurant on the Buda side of the city, serving generous plates of country-style food. You'll find traditional Hungarian décor, chunky wooden furniture, chequered tablecloths and a large garden.
Where to Shop
Falk Miksa Street: Stroll along Falk Miksa St, popping into galleries and antique shops. You'll find a few with a good range of Hungarian and Transylvanian textiles and decorative items.
Ecseri Flea Market: Flea markets come and go in Budapest but Ecseri stays. It's quite a trip from the centre of town and best on a Saturday morning, but boasts many permanent textile stalls. It's a favorite for set designers.
Budapest, Nagykőrösi út 156, 1194
Vali Folk Art: In a courtyard off Budapest's main pedestrianised shopping street, Váci Utca, is an Aladdin's cave full of old costumes and textiles at very reasonable prices. The owner has been dealing in Hungarian and Transylvanian textiles for many years.
Folkart Craftsman's House: A long-established shop selling authentic folk craft from Hungary and Transylvania. The owner is knowledgeable and passionate about folk art.
Agnes Toth studio: Owner Agnes takes old embroidery made by her grandmother and digitalises it into fabulous fabrics, silk scarves, bags and home furnishings.
Ernst Galeria: Fine Hungarian antiques, works of art and old film posters.
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