I adore the city, the whole of it, but there are some places, maybe not that popular, that I fell in love with. The first one is very close to my home, the New York Cafe, a literary cafe frequently visited in the past by well known writers such as Sándor Márai. Since 1894 has welcomed writers, noblemen and commoners all the same. During WWII it was converted into a shop, but after it finished they returned its old spendor that derives from its eclectic Italian renaissance style so we could enjoy it this century.
Eating or drinking is not actually cheap, but the opportunity of enjoying the wonderful atmosphere whilst reading my book it’s worth the 6€ I paid for one of its diluted nice juices.
The cafe is part of the magnificent Anantara New York Hotel.
The hotel is close to Blaha square, a connection hub for public transport, close by, in Rákóczi ut (ut means street) there’s a beautiful cafe-tea room that looks stuck in time since 1890, the Hauer Cukrászda és Kávéház.
Another more modern or hipster cafe-bookstore is the Massolit Budapest Books and Cafe, where I mainly find books in English and where I have a lovely hot chocolate indoors, or out in the lovely patio during its hot summers.
Taking the opposite way, on Ferenciek street towards the Chain Bridge (which by the way is under renovation) the Bruden House crosses my path, a shopping center similar to the Passage des Panoramas in Paris, beautiful and with loads of glamour.
Ten minutes from the Bruden Ház is one the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever seen. Placed in an old 19th century ornate palace is the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, it offers magnificent rooms where to read or study, and even though part of it is modern, I bet you won’t resist staying for a little read in the golden room, or the silver one, or in the old “smoking room” all covered in wood. Someone told me about it, but when I saw it I wasn’t expecting to find one of the places I love the most in this city.
Another fifteen minute walk away there’s a very original cafe, the Rengeteg RomKafé, set in a basement, full of teddy bears everywhere, with an old record player playing old songs from more romantic times, and when it’s off wonderful jazz fills the air.
Its owner Tibor speaks English and is very kind. His expert hands prepare me a delicious hot chocolate with spices. He wants to share more, so he brings little tea cups with different flavours, like strawberry. I feel like I am in a toy house that takes me back to my childhood. Tibor also has delicious smoothies and vegan options, which makes me very happy.
By the way, if you visit the cafe on Sunday, right behind it there’s a corredor with a very quaint farmer’s market.
Close to the Parliament there’s the elegant Art Nouveau Four Seasons Hotel, one of the best ones in Europe, they say. It’s set in the Gresham Palace.
Nearby, in the beautiful neighbourhood is its emblematic cathedral the Basilica of Saint Steven’s, built between 1851 and 1905 that houses the relic of the hand of Saint Steven. The dome can also be visited.
In a street behind the cathedral is the Cat Cafe, so if you like furry pets of all sizes and colours this is your place to drink a lovely hot chocolate.
Five minutes away on a straight line I find a building I love, the Old Postal Savings Bank, now an office building where I cannot enter, which facade offers me an outstanding Art Nouveau spectacle.
It’s right behind the American Embassy, unmistakable as it’s all fenced, opposite is the Freedom square, decorated by the statue of Reagan and Bush.
There’s also the Hungarian House of Art Nouveau that, as you might have imagined, I am heading to see.
I guess you all know Sissi, empress of Austria and queen of Hungary, immortalized by Romy Scheneider in the cinema. She was and still is very important for this country she adored, so much that she learnt the language and spent long stays in the city and in the confectionary cafe Gerbeaud, placed since 1858 in the important Vörösmarty square, and here I go on my first day, following Sissi’s steps, to try the “dobos cake” and feel like an empress for a day in this beautiful establishment.
On the Buda hill I find the “Owl second hand English bookshop” run by Ferenc, Francis in Hungarian, a very kind bookkeeper whom I spent a long while talking about places and the history of this stunning city.
Finally, I love the mobile book shops you can find in any corner.
They take me to today’s book, “Eszter’s legacy” (1939) by the Hungarian writer Sándor Márai. This short story masterly tells Eszter’s story, who is living a peaceful life with her aunt Nunu, looking after their garden which provides sustenance for both; when she receives a visit, Lajos, her old love and the person who took almost everything from her, whose charm makes everyone trust him. They welcome him with joy, regardless of all the money he owes them, and again, making use of his dangerous charisma, he gets close to Eszter to take all she has left.
In Hungary they use the surname before the name, so he would introduce himself saying: hello I am Márai Sándor.