The Cool Guide: Budapest, Hungary
Saturday 16 October 2004
Hungary may be infamous as the home of Zsa Zsa Gabor, but it's also gaining a reputation as one of new Europe's most sophisticated capitals. With its graceful architecture, Danube-side location and an exotic history, no wonder screen sirens like Rachel Weisz have been recent visitors.
Leroy Café, behind St Stephen's basilica, serves a mix of modern European dishes. Menza, an equally hip place with its retro interior that harks back to the 1970s, puts a twist on local classics for a bargain £5.
Until Budapest's classiest hangout, the New York Café, re-opens early next year, Negro, a slick black and chrome bar, is set to stay the top choice among visiting Eurobabes and the local media. Get closer to the water at Spoon Café and Lounge, set on a boat anchored on one of the Danube's picturesque curves.
The swish, newly opened Four Seasons Gresham Palace overlooks the Danube in the heart of Pest, on the east side of the river. Doubles start from EUR270 (£192) per night, without breakfast. A cheaper alternative, across the water in historic Buda, is the Citadella Hotel. Doubles in basic but attractive rooms in the old fortress start at EUR50 (£35), without breakfast.
Its Ottoman heritage means the city has many old baths, but the Gellert is the one for spa virgins, with indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms and saunas. The pricing is complicated, and if in doubt, stick to the steam rooms. When you're suitably unwound, head to the Terror museum for an alternative slant on Budapest's history.
It's been a good year for Hungarian wines if British dinner parties are anything to go by. Stock up at the Bud-apest Wine Society's shop. If you're into design try Magma, an upmarket boutique featuring work by local glass artists and ceramicists. Or, if you're after vintage fashion, trawl the rails at Ciankali for bargain prices. For stylish interior products, take a stroll down newly-revamped Kiraly utca.
Budapest has everything from summer music festivals to flashy clubs with international DJs. Dance houses, such as Csango, offer wild fiddlers, wooden flutes and the latest Balkan folk hits. Also, try the Muzeum Cukraszda, a cake shop cum bar, that stays open round the clock.
11 Sas utca; (00 361 266 5248)
2 Liszt Ferenc ter; (00 361 413 1482)
11 Szent Istvan Ter; (00 361 302 0136)
Spoon Café and Lounge
3 Vigado ter; (00 361 411 0933)
Four Seasons Gresham Palace 5-6 Roosevelt ter; (00 361 268 6000, www.fourseasons.com)
Citadella setany; (00 361 466 5794)
1 Szent Gellert ter; (00 361 466 6166)
Budapest Wine Society
59 Batthyany utca; (00 361 212 2569)
11 Petofi Sandor utca; (00 361 235 0277)
94 Dohany utca; (00 361 341 0540)
Csango Dance House
5a Marczibanyi ter; (00 361 212 5660)
10 Muzeum korut; (00 361 338 4415)
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