The Hedonist: Budapest

What to see and where to be seen

I arrived in a bit of a huff – beware of unscrupulous taxis from Budapest airport – but my welcome at the new boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Pest, Hotel Palazzo Zichy (00 36 1 235 4000;, instantly dispelled any hard feelings. This resplendent former palace is the picture of luxury: cool marble, high ceilings and neo-baroque murals surround a plush monochrome lounge and bar. The staff could not have been friendlier, and fortified with a few complimentary cappuccinos, I set off to find out what makes Budapest tick.

I didn't have to go far. Right outside the door, bars and cafés spilled into Krudy Gyula utca, a haven for hipsters drinking spritzers and sprawling in the afternoon sun. The colourful, mosaic-lined Darshan Café (00 36 1 266 5541; looked particularly enticing, and I made a mental note to explore its exotic Asian-themed bar on the way back.

But a growling stomach and the desire to sample some local delicacies led me to the Great Market Hall at the southern end of Vaci utca, a not-quite-as-chaotic version of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, with Art Nouveau styling, a dizzying array of large vegetables and dozens of beautiful Hungarian handicrafts. I perched on a brick wall nibbling a cheese pastry and observed a steady stream of eager tourists buying paprika and Tokaji wine.

Soon I was strolling down the Danube to Szechenyi bridge, in need of another caffeine jolt. I found the holy grail of coffees in the opulent Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace (00 36 1 268 6000; The glittering Art Nouveau entryway seduced me into the bar, where I sipped iced coffee with vanilla bean ice cream, and lemon-basil granita served with delectable hors d'oeuvres.

Then it was on to the luxury retail avenue Andrassy utca: the bastion of Prada and chic ladies-who-lunch with their mini creampuff pooches in tow. The shopping and grand architecture would be reason enough to visit here, but I was on a single-minded mission to visit Klassz (00 36 1 225 1702;, a gastronomical gem just beyond the opera house.

Queues wrap around the exterior during busy times – Klassz doesn't take reservations – but I nabbed the last table and prepared myself for a traditional Hungarian feast with a twist. Tender pork loin and chocolate ganache consumed with copious amounts of Bock cabernet franc were the order of the day. The unfussy, minimalist ambience worked perfectly; reasonable prices added to the buzz.

The evening had begun well – and then I stumbled on one of the finest nightspots in Pest. Just around the corner from Klassz, Liszt Ferenc ter shelters the bright young things of Budapest as they strut their stuff. I fought for a table outside Karma Café (00 36 1 413 6764; and watched the spectacle over a few of their bespoke Karma cocktails, potent concoctions of Southern Comfort and passionfruit juice. The square is packed to bursting on Saturdays, but I passed on the chance to bar-hop in favour of a taxi ride to the most unusual club in the city.

I'd been told that the only place to party was the A38 Club (00 36 1 464 3940;, a converted Ukrainian stone-carrier ship moored near Petofi bridge. The quirky Headshotboyz kept the house pumping well after midnight with their slightly odd techno music, but it's the peculiarity of the venue that's the selling point. Then a taxi in the small hours took me back to a gloriously soft bed at my hotel.

It would be a sin for any self-respecting hedonist to leave Budapest without indulging in a thermal bath. Szechenyi Bath and Spa (00 36 1 363 3210; provided the ideal antidote to a heavy night, with three large outdoor pools and 12 thermal baths of varying temperatures. Hot stuff? That's Budapest for you.

A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see

Suggested Topics
people And here is why...
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?