Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sources of inspiration: Budapest // Where old meets new // Classical Music and Ruin Pubs // Top 5 travel tips

Budapest, Hungary’s capital, always has been a city I wanted to visit. Cities that breathe history always have a certain attraction to me, there are stories to tell. Budapest is one of those cities where you can wonder around the streets and get surprised on each and every corner. The city has a fascinating heritage. It was about time for a visit!

The city is decided into two parts. Buda and Pest that are both worth a visit. Pest is the place where you are likely to spend most of your time while visiting the city. This is where you can find astonishing pieces of architecture. If you are a fan of Jugendstil and Art Nouveau brace yourself! Those beautiful details, painted glass, metal work... OMG it is breathtaking especially for a visual nerd like me. You can find remains of Budapests rich history everywhere, like the Old Jewish Neighborhood which housed the Jewish ghetto during the second world war, the old synagogue with live performances of great Jewish composers. But you can also see new trends like modern designer pop up shops and coffee places appear. Wonder the streets for a day and kick back in one of the ruin bars, where people get together for a drink, a musical performance and long nights with friends. Buda is located on the other side of the Danube river and offers a romantic view of Pest by night so if you'd like to impress your loved one, cross one of the bridges during and spend your magic hour on this side of the city.

Each and every European city has it's grandeur. But Budapest is still very affordable. I stayed in a little airBNB apartment right in the Jewish district, a great location to start exploring this magnificent city. Here are my personal favorites. A shortlist for a long weekend in Budapest. This is my personal top 5.

1 // Ruin Bars - Jelly fish and cocktails
What I really like about Budapest is the fact that you don't really see overly crowded shopping streets. Most of the crowd hangs out in little pubs, restaurants and typical Hungarian ruin bars where you can enjoy art, music, films, workshops and relax after a busy day in the city. Most inhabitants of Budapest don't have a balcony or garden, the ruin bars are the place to sit outside on a hot summer night and meet up with friends. These ruin bars are located in small alleys, basements and courtyards and they have one thing in common: they are all a little hard to find but you are very likely to stumble upon these little gems while roaming the streets.

There are two places I highly recommend. I visit the Anker't, a whimsical place with a huge bar, Hungarian menus for alcohol are massive, from German weisse beer to Cuban cocktails, they serve it all. While listening to a live string quartet I attended a painting workshop at the other end of the courtyard. The place is packed at night, as is Kuplung, another ruin bar close to my apartment. I particularly like this bar because of the vibe and decoration. Who doesn't want to see jellyfish lightning and a giant under water painting? Go visit a ruin bar and you will meet a whole bunch of interesting people when you travel alone this is a good place to meet with locals, drinks are good and the cocktails cheap. What else do you need?

2 // Designer shops - Where old meets new
As a designer I always try to research trends in each city and country i visit. I go look for small shops with local fashion and home decor design and try to understand the local art movements. With a communist history the country does not have a massive amount of shops (I hate shopping so that is a big plus) and maybe that is why fashion, home decor and design are very different and unique. It does not have a main trend, there is still room for difference and authenticity. I love it! And yeah, of course you can see some Scandinavian design influences and small designer shops like Mono that are a little more on 'our' trend, but it all has a little more honesty to it. There are several vintage shops such as Retrock, that are great places to get an impression of what once was. Designers are actually designing in their little shops and you can touch and smell the materials while they are sewing, cutting and gluing when you visit the Paloma designers collective. It never has been a mass production. Is it communist souvenir? I don't know, but it is definitely surprisingly different, that's is what I love about creation.

3 // Musical heritage
When you visit Budapest you are very likely to stumble upon some live music while looking for a place to have dinner or a drink. There are lot's of restaurants with live music, from classical harp to string quartets, jazz and DJ's, Budapest is a great place for music lovers. The city has an amazing musical heritage and I loved how there are so many people passing me on the streets carrying an instrument. So do take your time to enjoy some music. You can also buy some tickets to the Opera if you're in for a little drama or to a concert in the synagogue. Music is everywhere.

4 // Thermal Baths
Hungary is a country of thermal springs with healing water. The bathing tradition dates back to 16th and 17th centuries and during a trip you can experience a traditional Turkish bath. After a day of walking around town it is a great way to relax or visit one in the early morning before the tourist rush. Budapest's largest medicinal bath, Szechenyi is a great place to visit in the morning. It is one of the largest bathing houses in Europe and it's old exterior makes you feel like royalty. The interior however could use a little renovation, but the old details, tiles, pools and changing rooms are still authentic and really add a certain romance to the experience. The bathing routine can be a little daunting though, make sure you have a bathing suit, hair net and a towel when you visit a thermal bath. And acquaint yourself with the regulations since they differ in each pool.

5 // Architecture
Budapest is a true paradise if you love architecture. Arabic elements, Art Nouveau, Baroque, it's all there. Every corner of the city seems to have an architectural gem and there are lot's of buildings open for the public if you also want a little peek on the inside. Seriously, the architecture! The Gellért Hotel for instance, this elegant hotel also houses the Gellért Spa with colorful tiles, jugendstil ornaments and stained glass windows. The Parisiana Club, with it's interesting facade. The Paris department store, that is home to a bookstore but also has an ice rink during the colder season and has a crazy beautiful restaurant with neo-Rennaissance elements. The synagogue, the parliament building…. There is so much to see! But my favorite must be the Hungarian State Opera House that was partially funded by Emperor Franz Joseph, so there was some money there. It is nothing like I have every seen. The roof, the golden detailing, the marble, this must be one of the world's most breathtaking theaters in the world, do take a look inside if you have the chance.