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HomeTravel PhotographyThis Central European City Boasts Michelin-Starred Restaurants, Contemporary Museums, and High-End Shopping

This Central European City Boasts Michelin-Starred Restaurants, Contemporary Museums, and High-End Shopping



With its history dating back to the Roman times and its grand palaces and cultural institutions, Budapest is one of Europe’s most beautiful and architecturally significant capitals. Dubbed “Paris of the East,” the Hungarian city comprises Buda and Pest, sitting on the opposite banks of the Danube River, linked by the spectacular Chain Bridge.

The city is recognized for its cultural significance as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering spectacular architecture, riverfront views, and thermal baths. But Budapest, while rooted in the past, is also emerging as a modern world-class destination with Michelin-starred restaurants, a globally acclaimed art scene, top-notch hotels, sleek spas, and countless independent boutiques and design shops.

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“Budapest has been an ‘over-cultured’ city for about a hundred years, with more theatres, symphony orchestras and museums than the country could have afforded,” said András Török, a Budapest-based author and lecturer, whose latest book “Budapest Gem” was published by Assouline in April. “Nowadays, Budapest, a city just the right size, offers all the sophistication of much larger cities, especially after the gastro revolution of the mid-2010s.”

Read on for a curated list of Budapest’s best hotels, restaurants, spas, and galleries that reveal the city’s modern spirit. 

Where to Eat

Overlooking the Danube River, Felix occupies a stunning neo-renaissance building and a former pumping station for the Royal Palace. The elegant eatery, often frequented by celebrities, boasts multiple dining rooms, including a breezy (and shaded) terrace with spectacular Gresham Palace and Buda Castle vistas. With seasonal, globally-inspired menus and a few year-round classics like oysters and caviar, Felix sources the freshest local ingredients and prime cuts of Australian and Japanese meats. Patrons also enjoy an impressive selection of hundreds of bottles of classic and rare Hungarian and international wines. Try the 1995 Oremus Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos, a sweet dessert wine from Hungary’s most renowned wine region, or indulge in a bottle of dry white 2021 Balassa X Czinki Szent Tamás Furmint, the result of a collaboration between one of the country’s best vineyards and master sommelier Tamas Czinki, who’s behind the restaurant’s wine list.

In 2022, the Michelin Guide launched its inaugural Hungary guide, awarding two stars to just two eateries, including the Budapest-based Stand. The cozy downtown restaurant is helmed by award-winning chefs Tamás Széll and Szabina Szulló, whose elaborate dishes are rooted in traditional Hungarian culinary traditions but prepared with modern palates in mind. The result is a fine dining experience that showcases modern techniques and takes guests on a culinary journey around the country in an elegant yet cozy dining room.

Courtesy of W Budapest


Another highlight of the modern Budapest dining scene is Babel, which, like Stand, has been part of the Michelin Guide for two years. There is something whimsical and homey about its dining room, which features exposed stone walls, lush greenery, and warm wood accents. The eight-course menu is a refined celebration of Central European flavors and ingredients with a touch of Scandinavian minimalism. 

Nightingale by Beefbar, the sleek Art Nouveau restaurant and bar of W Budapest, draws the city’s cool crowd. Handcrafted cocktails, live DJ sessions, and shareable plates of Asian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes are complemented by front-row views of the city’s Opera House across the street on elegant Andrássy Avenue. 

Where to Stay

It’s easy to see why luxe hospitality brands love Budapest — the city has no shortage of grand palaces and mansions oozing Old World charm that have been transformed into five-star hotels.

But a roster of new openings blends past and present, marrying the best of two worlds and aesthetics.

W Budapest, which opened its doors in the summer of 2023 and was a finalist on this year’s Travel + Leisure It List, is a prime example of the timeless sophistication of the city’s historic buildings. Housed in the UNESCO-listed Drechsler Palace on Andrássy Avenue, the property’s spectacular interiors reference the building’s past — at one point, it served as the headquarters for the Ballet Insitute, so all bathrooms are outfitted with dressing room-like mirrors and lighting fixtures are inspired by delicate pearl earrings that ballerinas wear — with the brand’s design-forward approach to hospitality. There are spacious accommodations with custom furnishings, a spa with an indoor heated pool, an impossibly chic hidden speakeasy, and a very Instagram-worthy courtyard covered by a wave-like glass ceiling.

Courtesy of W Budapest


With 84 rooms, the splendid Kozmo Hotel Suites and Spa, falls into the boutique hotel category and bills itself as the “modern reinterpretation of luxury.” The five-star property, also housed in a historic landmark building, proves sophistication is in the small details such as Penhaligon toiletries, poster beds, bathtubs, and expansive city views.

Spanning three buildings, Dorothea Hotel, Budapest, Autograph Collection debuted in November 2023 at the heart of the city’s downtown, just a few blocks from the Danube River. With 216 rooms, all impeccably furnished by the Milan-based Lissoni & Partners studio and featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, soaking bathtubs, and private balconies, the property’s interiors balance old and new.

Where to See Art

In recent years, the art landscape in Budapest has changed thanks to the growing recognition of Hungarian artists abroad and the rise of younger Hungarian collectors at home.

“Hungarian people have become more open for contemporary art,” Márton Nemes, one of Hungary’s most prominent contemporary artists, explained in his downtown Budapest studio. He said more young people are encouraged to pursue careers as professional artists at home. Nemes studied in London and divides his time between New York City and Budapest. His colorful abstract work is currently on view at the Hungarian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

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The Hungarian capital’s art scene is ripe with galleries and spaces showcasing a diaspora of art media by established and up-and-coming artists. acb Galéria, housed in a neo-Renaissance building a few city blocks from the city’s Opera House, was founded in the early 2000s but has since become one of the most prestigious art galleries in Hungary with three exhibition spaces and focuses on emerging local and international artists. (Nemes’s work was displayed here in 2023.) 

In September 2021, 37-year-old Hong Kong art collector Queenie Rosita Law opened Q Contemporary, a non-profit art center dedicated to Central and East European art, housed in the elegant 19th-century Rausch Villa on Andrássy Avenue. Law has been a champion of Hungarian art for over a decade after spending time in the region as a student at the prestigious Central St. Martins School of Art and Design in London. The space was renovated and now has whitewashed walls where travelers can peruse some one hundred works of art by dozens of the region’s most prominent multidisciplinary contemporary artists like the internationally acclaimed László Fehér, Ilona Keserü, and Mira Brtka. 

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For decades, The Studio of Young Artists’ Association has supported Hungary’s art professionals, and its FKSE Stúdió, a permanent exhibition space in Budapest’s bohemian 7th district on the Pest side, promotes the work of the country’s youngest artists and most recent art school graduates. The dynamic space also hosts lectures, discussions, video presentations, and other events where the general public can meet the artists in person.

And among the many galleries and art spaces along Bartók Béla Boulevard on the Buda side, you’ll find Godot Intézet (the entrance is through a coffee shop), a small and beautiful gallery space with huge circular windows that regularly showcases art by local newcomers. Godot Intézet is associated with Budapest’s Godot Galéria, an Independent Museum for Contemporary Art, which is also a worthy stop.

Where to Shop

Nanushka, the sustainable fashion brand with a cult following among fashionistas on both sides of the Atlantic, was founded almost two decades ago in Budapest by Sandra Sándor and is now one of the best-known Hungarian labels worldwide. The company’s aesthetic blends traditional Hungarian folklore details with urban simplicity and impeccable craftsmanship. Nanushka’s Budapest store is fronted by a trendy coffee shop serving pastries and caffeinated drinks, hinting at the company’s lifestyle appeal. The curated boutique collection includes women’s and men’s wear, including accessories like bags and sunglasses.

Dan Glasser/Courtesy of Nanushka


A few steps from Nanushka is the bright and airy boutique of Aeron, another well-known Hungarian brand in fashion circles, offering pieces that showcase its designer’s penchant for sustainable practices and materials and exquisite tailoring and timeless design.

On the complete opposite of the creative spectrum is Eszka, whose brightly colored patterns and bold knitwear are designed to boost a wearer’s confidence.

And if you need some high-end R&R, head to Omorovicza Insitute. The serene spa and store of the celebrity-favorite beauty brand (Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Uma Thurman are fans) uses minerals from the city’s thermal waters. Book a detoxifying facial with Omorovicza’s Moor mud products that refine and nourish or boost your skin’s hydration levels with the brand’s Hydrafacial Skin Therapy Session, blending its proprietary healing concentrate for instant glow and rejuvenation.



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