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Insider's view · Europe · hungary · Budapest

Insider: Zsuzsa Bakonyi

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Insider: Zsuzsa Bakonyi

A perfect bohemian-artsy day in Budapest

Zsuzsa Bakonyi is a tour guide and online manager at budapestUNDERGUIDE, and also a freelance photographer. She joined budapestUNDERGUIDE (underguide.com) a few years ago and has increasingly fallen in love with the company. budapestUNDERGUIDE makes travelers feel as if they have come to visit a friend - they really get to know the little secrets and stories hidden around the corners. This is the future - what is known as "responsible traveling" (traveling to learn and grow, and to maximize the positive impact on both the locals and your life).

Zsuzsa is also a freelance photographer (pogacia-photo.com) who searches for abstract beauty in everything, and tries to capture the essence of places, people and moments. Check out her pictures of Budapest, which beautifully embody the melancholy of this gorgeous city. This time, we asked her to share the secrets of Budapest's contemporary art scene.

"A perfect bohemian-artsy day in Budapest? Nothing is easier than that. Let me give you a glimpse into the Contemporary Art Pulse Tour (underguide.com/contemporary-art-pulse), which I have guided several times!"

Budapest is not New York, nor Paris, nor Berlin - we have to admit this. So back off with any high expectations of a metropolitan, high-end art life, and tune in to a different sort of vibe. Prepare for surprises: a bar in ruins, where the decorations ARE the exhibition; hidden galleries that only open if you call them; and space invaders hiding in the concrete!


Palace of Art

First of all, start your day with a nice coffee and breakfast at the Palace of Art. Yes, we're starting at the fanciest art place in Budapest. It is a huge multi-functional art complex, housing concerts, theatre plays and the best contemporary exhibitions in town. You do not even have to pay to enjoy art here - just wander around the building built by Hungarian architects who have created a true masterpiece. Try to ask one of the hostesses if they offer a free guided tour - it can happen sometimes. The concert hall was designed by the world-famous Russell Johnson, and has one of the best acoustics in the world.
Three floors are occupied by the Ludwig Museum, housing the yummiest contemporary exhibitions in Budapest. Usually, you'll see work by famous Hungarian artists or artists of Hungarian origin, as well as art related to this region - the former Eastern Block, so to say.


Lumen

Once you've finished here, stroll along the Danube and air out your head a bit. Just like eating cheese between tastings of good red wines, you will need all your senses ready and prepared for more art. Lumen Gallery and Café (www.lumenkave.hu) is situated in the most Mediterranean square of Budapest; it serves exquisite coffee, and also has unique photo shows on view in their tiny, stylish space. Not far from Lumen, you'll find interesting shops and other artsy cafés, so go on discovering!


MÜSZI

Not too far from Lumen, on the 3rd floor of an old, socialist-era department store, you'll find a very interesting venue: MÜSZI (muszi.org). It is very new, so it will most likely still be evolving in the next months and years. The aim of MÜSZI is to establish a contemporary community venue and cultural node. I recommend checking out their web-page to see what their current project is, and then giving them a visit.

The Jewish district comes to life in the afternoon hours, so I recommend going there a little bit later. It is a district full of history, bars and art, so keep your eyes peeled! You can find murals, stencils and other hidden street art, like the space invader (www.facebook.com/media/set) in one of the cobbled stones on Klauzál Square, on Nagydiófa utca. Try to step on it, or around it, and it will light up.


Ruin Pubs. Photo: anothertravelguide.com

Odes have been sung to the "ruin" bars of Budapest - they have become a landmark of the city and the Jewish district. You will visit them, and you will love them - there is no doubt about that. However, do not lose your art appetite amongst all of the beers and nice chats, since these places have a lot more to offer than just a cool, designed trash-furniture style in a super-hip, yet underground, hang-out! A lot of these ruin bars have been opened by artists' communities and they play an important role in Budapest's cultural scene.


Fogasház

Fogasház (www.facebook.com/fogashaz) houses a Lomography shop and an exhibition room for Lomo lovers, and the building's many rooms are usually crammed full of paintings, photos or installations done by local artists. They might be assumed to be just interior decorations, but they are actually temporary art exhibits that are changed every two weeks.

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