Budapest – the name rolls from the tongue and, compared with other names originating from city fusions such as Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler or Limbach-Oberfrohna, it’s really easy on the ears as well. There is no hyphen separating the names of the cities that have belonged together since 1873, when Buda, Óbuda and Pest were officially united. If you listen to the local stereotypes, you will tend to believe that Buda and Pest may be separated by more than just the river Danube flowing between them. Here you can read an objective-subjective comparison by two inhabitants.
Lisa: Buda! Because “have you made a house a home?”
Buda is calm! Buda is green! In Buda you can rest after you’ve been to Pest! Sure, Pest is vivid and lively, everything is just around the corner. However, the reputation of Buda, according to which it’s almost boring, expensive and “far, far away”, is in reality not true for the capital’s other half situated on the west side of the Danube.
From Districts V to IX, gentrification has caused significant price increases, and even if the city centre is getting more and more beautiful, with stately old buildings finally being prettily renovated and modern architecture spreading, it is getting harder and harder for the passionate citizens of Pest to reside near the inner city. Tiny apartments with aged heating systems are rented at exorbitant prices, while the city centre in summer is really not that enjoyable: dust, heat, stink – as a former resident of Districts XIV, IX and VII I know what I am talking about. In Buda on the other hand the air is better, the atmosphere is more relaxed and life is more liveable – of course from a subjective point of view.
Amusement: possible in Buda too
Despite the common belief, not all people living in Buda are pensioners. On the contrary, more and more students and young families make their home in this part of the capital. The renowned Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design is in Zugliget for example, not far from the chair-lift up to János hill. The hip young creative live in the student dorm close by, who like to meet during both daytime and night-time at the university café.
If you prefer wine to beer and fish to burger, you will feel good at Fióka close to the János hospital. Further along the Danube, at the foot of the fine Rózsadomb district in the neighbourhood called Víziváros (Water town), nice places are sprouting from the fertile Buda ground: Margit utca 9, Bookta or the nostalgic-honoured Bambi presszó or the Átrium movie theatre will overwhelm even the Pest citizens, who are used to the many possibilities for going out.
For those who would rather relax, the southern part of Buda will be more pleasing. In District XI the Tranzit Art Café, possibly the most family-friendly café in the city, awaits its guests – in summertime they even have hammocks outside.
Did you know that District XXII is still a wine region? Taking a tour through the numerous wine cellars will entertain not only the hobby sommeliers. For sure, if you want to dance, Pest is the first choice. The clubs GRAND and MIRROR, which opened just at the end of last year at Bécsi út in the so-called Bécsi negyed (Vienna Quarter), unfortunately unite all the negative prejudices against Buda with their prices and the attached snobbery.
Magyarom, the “first ruin pub of Buda”, has been resting in peace since 2013. Still, there are many opportunities to have fun here, and if someone from Pest would give the Buda entertainment scene a chance, they would surely agree.
Katrin: Pest! Because “you can sleep once you’re dead”
Pest is loud! Pest is lively! Pest is always awake! You may look for relaxation in Buda but in Pest you can find so much culture, many non-stop pubs and here you can really enjoy the decayed, sometimes grubby charm of the old Eastern metropolis.
Ruin pubs made in Pest
The numerous hotspots in Pest offer an unmatched variety for entertainment. Hungry? Try one of the restaurants on the food street Ráday utca. If you are longing for theatres or obscure restaurants, bars and pubs, Nagymező utca, also known as the “Budapest Broadway”, will be the right address for you.
Would you like something more elegant and hip? One of the eating or drinking establishments on Andrassy út will surely be a match for your taste. The selection in Pest is wide. However, the heart of the nightlife is the Jewish Quarter, stretching from the great ring-road to the small ring-road and between Andrassy and Rákóczi út.
The once-boring residential district has blossomed in the past few years and turned into one of the liveliest party districts of Europe. Budapest’s most famous pub, Szimpla kert, can be found here. The unique style of this local with its colourful walls, eclectic design and run-down floors has not only created the previously unknown category of “ruin pub” but also become a unique feature of the Hungarian pub scene.
Of course, with so much action going on in the heart of Pest, the residents need to be really tolerant. Not just towards noise and trash but, even more often than you would think, towards permanently drunk British tourists dressed as Power Rangers.
En garde – Pest scores with culture
Regarding culture, Pest is clearly in the lead. Many of the most important museums of the city are on this side of the Danube: among others the Hungarian National Museum, Palace of Arts (Müpa), House of Terror on Andrassy út, Museum of Fine Arts on Heroes Square, Ethnographic Museum and Museum of Applied Arts with its beautiful art nouveau dome. After the project “Liget Budapest” is finished, Pest will even have a whole museum quarter.
However, besides the museums you can also find in Pest some essential cultural institutions, such as the Hungarian Opera, the National Theatre, Ferenc Liszt Music Academy and Budapest’s oldest cinema, the Uránia Film Theatre. Touché.
Pest is chic – yesterday and today
They usually say that Buda is the more historical part of the city. However, Pest played a more important role in the development of the Hungarian national identity. It’s easy to notice the differences in the architecture when we take a walk in both parts of the city: while the streets in Buda reflect different eras, the street scene in Pest is almost uniform.
Most of the houses were built in the 19th century. The reason for this was the devastating flood of 1838, which washed away two-thirds of the original buildings in the flat Pest, while the hilly Buda was spared for the most part. However, the Pest citizens had luck in disguise through this disaster, since many of the most beautiful buildings standing today were built during the subsequent construction boom; among others the Festetics Palace, Wenkheim Palace (housing the Ervin Szabó Library today) and Károly Palace.
Since that time it became chic to have a residence in Pest if you wanted to be considered important. The “greatest Hungarian”, István Széchenyi, whose face is printed on the HUF 5,000 bill, said the brand-new Pest was the flagship of the “new Hungary”. This was a place where the “Hungarian spirit” could roam free, as opposed to the German-influenced ruling town Buda. Ironically, today Pest is much more international than ever and the preferred residence for expats and foreign students.
“Budapest, Budapest, te csodás!”
Let’s be honest for once: Buda without Pest or Pest without Buda is like Túró without Rudi – one of them is not that tasty without the other, and both Pest – reviling Buda – and Buda – disdaining Pest – can be happy to be the other part of something so great. No tourist leaves the Hungarian capital without seeing both rivals, and even if many young visitors will keep more memories of the restaurants and pubs of the Pest city centre than of the wonderful mosaics and tiles of the Gellért spa, they will still be loving the unlikely pair in their entirety. And if you are still grieving about one or the other half, take a walk on a sunny day and stop at the viewpoint on Margaret Bridge, while listening to Róbert Rátonyi’s Budapest love song (“Budapest, Budapest, te csodás/Budapest, Budapest, you are wonderful”). Reconciliation guaranteed!