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Key to the City

Where To Eat, Drink, Hang, and Heal in Budapest

Key to the City BY tess falotico 02/13/2019


“My mom, dad, and sister lived in Hungary until about 1979 before they had to escape communist rule and leave all their belongings behind,” says designer Devon Pavlovits. They hid in Austria for six months before moving to L.A., where Devon was born and still resides. “After the Iron Curtain fell in 1991, we started going back every few years. Over the last two decades, it has become such a beautiful, lively, vibrant place to visit,” she adds. And though Budapest is on the rise as a hip, casual destination for those without roots there, Devon says it’s “crazy-cheap” and has kept its authenticity and charm. Here, she shares everything she loves about the Hungarian capital (including her family’s own minimalist guesthouse that you can rent out for your stay!).




“This large hall was built in 1896 and has tons of different food and produce vendors. You can sample traditional foods like goulash, sweet or savory crepes called palacsinta, stuffed cabbage, and cured meats. Buy souvenirs like Hungarian paprika, wine from the Tokaj region, or folk embroidery.”



“Try lángos, arguably Hungary’s favorite street food. They take dough and stretch it kind of like a pizza crust, deep-fry it, brush it with melted butter and garlic, and top it with sour cream and cheese. It’s a crunchy, heavenly bomb of flavor. Retro Lángos is the best in the city. It’s open all day until late at night, and it’s near the Basilica—I love to climb to the top to work off my lángos.”


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“I’ve traveled a lot, and handmade Hungarian ice cream is the best I’ve ever had. It’s not too sweet but so rich and full of flavor. You can get great ice cream anywhere, but make sure it’s handmade by the shop. Veryberry is on a charming pedestrian street full of cafes and restaurants between the Basilica and the Danube.”



“Chimney cakes (kürtőskalács) are made from strips of sweet dough coiled around a spit and baked over hot coals, so they get crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Then they topped with cinnamon, ground walnuts, poppy seeds, or cocoa powder. Molnár’s makes a great, classic version. They’re nice and cozy in the winter with mulled wine.”



“This Mediterranean spot is in an open courtyard lined with plants cascading down from the glass roof above. The food is absolutely delicious, and it’s one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city.”


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"This is a great restaurant or bar to visit either during the day or at night. You can go sit right on the edge of the Danube River and enjoy food and drink in a warm, inviting atmosphere with the best view of the boats, the bridge, and the opposite riverbank."



“This is one of a few great rooftop bars where there are clear igloos on the roof to hang out in while taking in the ridiculously gorgeous view.”



“In the last 15 years or so, young, broke people would find abandoned buildings in disrepair and use them as a place to drink with their friends. Now, they’ve transformed into real bars. They’re still in weird, formerly abandoned spaces with mismatched furniture, crazy stuff on the walls, and rope lights. It’s wacky but super-charming at the same time, and you can get a beer for less than $2 or a cocktail for not much more. Szimpla Kert is the most well-known one, and I also like Anker’t and Ellàtò Kert. Wine spritzers (frӧccs) are popular in Hungary and worth trying. Nightlife is so vibrant in Budapest, and you’ll always feel welcome and comfortable anywhere you end up.”


Do Things



“Hungary has about a thousand hot springs and is known for having the highest quantity of medicinal spas in Europe, but this thermal bath is the best. It’s in a giant yellow-and-white palace with three thermal pools outside, indoor baths, and saunas that offer different temperature ranges. Ticket prices vary depending on the day, but it’s around $20 to get in. You can pay a little extra for spa treatments, too. It’s gorgeous and so relaxing, even in the winter.”



“The basilica, locally called Szent István Bazilika, is my favorite place in the city, and I make sure I go back every time I’m there. My parents got married there. You can climb up to the dome and get a 360-degree view of the city. It’s breathtaking inside, too.”



“Go at night, perhaps with a bottle of wine and a picnic, when the parliament building and castle are all lit up. It’s stunning.”





“We got this condo to have a place to stay when we go back so we don’t have to pack a ton every time, and when we’re not there, we rent it out. We wanted to make a really serene, beautiful, calm space for ourselves and whoever wants to visit. It’s right in the city center, so everything is within a short walk.”


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