Who would have thought that you could watch a platinum album selling, 17 Grammy Award winning jazz band, in a converted cinema in Budapest?
Always keen to return to the cobbled city on the River Danube, I was eager to visit the re-branded CAFe (contemporary arts festival). This year, the diverse programme ranged from classical, jazz and pop music concerts to dance, film and experimental theatre; it is also the setting for Central European Fashion Week, which takes place in mid-October.
For seventeen days, it’s not just downtown Budapest, which is the centre of the action. The diverse mix of street performance and high-brow events bring together the whole city in a cultural kaleidoscope. Along with Hungary’s largest art fair ‘Art Market Budapest’ the city is buzzing with art lovers, taste makers and people having a great time!
Choosing from the whopping 100+ performances across 40 different venues is the tricky bit. If you are a fan of performance art, theatre, dance or classical music, this is the perfect opportunity to get experimental, and try something you have never done before. I didn’t realise I liked jazz, but since I have returned home, I have been googling YellowJackets and trying to convince the boyfriend that we need to go and see them when they play in the UK.
Many visitors know Budapest for its reputation for stag and hen dos, as groups of thirsty international nearly weds, flock to the bars every weekend for the low priced alcohol. However, these Ruins Pubs in the Jewish Quarter might be becoming a victim of their own success; Some bars are already stating “No Stag Dos” on the weekend. A valid point as big groups of drunk men are not the ideal accompaniment to impromptu live music, indie films, discussions or DJs.
The bars themselves are well worth a visit, as they are unique to Budapest. Created in derelict apartments, warehouses and factory buildings which were destined for destruction, they have not so much been lovingly restored, but taken over by the cool kids, and not one is the same. The interiors are filled with rejected furniture from cinemas and seemingly grandparent’s flats. Put together in completely chaotic and jumbled manner, which gives each bar a unique and surprisingly homely vibe.
If that’s given you an appetite for retro, head a little further into District VII and you will find some fine vintage stores hidden down the sides streets. Great for a rummage, and often open late. It is also the home to some of the city’s best wall murals which are a result of the city sponsored, ‘Színes Város’ (Colourful City) Festival – which was held for the third time between August and September.
Recognising street art as an important vessel for giving a voice to the city, the aim is to further beautify Budapest with oversized street art by both Hungarian and international visionaries painting on huge empty walls to comment on and improve the run down areas.
Soaking up the cultural life of Budapest is a personal journey, and with so much on offer, you are guaranteed a once in a lifetime experience. The CAFe gives access to the most historical buildings including the Liszt Academy, Budapest Music Center, Budapest Jazz Club, Trafó House of Contemporary Art, the Castle Garden Bazaar, Ludwig Museum, Vigadó and the A38 ship which are places that might never have been on your radar.
In London, the general public cannot purchase tickets for the shows at Fashion Week, but the Hungarians are open to all. With tickets available to purchase, you can expect to rub shoulders with local movers and shakers and get inspiration for the upcoming trends. I spotted lace, denim and pastels as statement looks for SS17- the ones I would wear anyway!
The catwalk is a hot ticket for anyone with an interest in fashion, and bloggers, press and proud parents can watch the crème de la crème of Central European designers, including Ana Ljubinkovica, Dori Tomcsányi, Napsugar Von Bittera and ZAKO who are definitely ones to watch in the UK.
You can easily spend a pretty penny (or several thousand Florints) on fashion. Home grown designers are as popular as boutiques, and the local talent is definitely worth a look. Style is vibrant and broad minded, ranging from super glam vintage mash ups, to edgy street style.
If you have any time to hit the shops, WAMP Design Fair should be your first port of call for local Hungarian designers. It is stocked with gifts, homewares and fashion and takes place monthly on a Sunday. No doubt you will visit the aptly named Fashion Street in Downtown Budapest- this is the home of all the recognisable fashion brands including Burberry and Louis Vuitton. The Black Box Concept Store near Ferenciek Square, is a well curated, multi-brand boutique, with ONE Fashion Agency in Ráday Street, WonderLAB and The Garden Studios, worth a look for unusual, one of a kind designs.
I don’t need any excuse to return to Budapest- but if only I could find the store where I fell in love with a faux fur coat, my life would be complete! Promising to be even more stunning in the snow, I am hoping to make it over for the Christmas markets, and next time I have the uber cool Brody House on my agenda!