16 Oct A Guide to Budapest’s Alternative Art Scene
Budapest’s alternative art scene is a mosaic of creativity. Every location on our this list offers a slice of the city’s soul, blending centuries-old tradition with a burst of contemporary vigor. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a curious local, these places will give you a superb insight into the cultural beat of Budapest.
Alternative Cultural Centers/Hubs/Bars
Auróra is a fiercely protected treasure in Budapest’s gritty District VIII aka Józsefvárros. To often dismissed by tourists due to its rough reputation, District VIII has undergone a cultural renaissance in recent years, and “Auróra” is emblematic of that renewal.
Maintaining a ruin bar vibe with its eclectic furnishings and bohemian clientele, it definitely has a much more local feel than a place like Szimpla Kert. From cultural events to concerts to social gatherings every night of the week, Auróra is a nerve center for activism, togetherness and collaboration.
A great place to meet locals and make friends, absorb culture, hear different perspectives, and sip a few cold drinks in their spacious courtyard.
Step into Gólya and you’re immediately welcomed into a realm of art and activism. We recommend attending one of their film nights or trying out their delicious local brews amidst thought-provoking conversations.
The original Gólya Presszó was located in another part of District VIII, but in the past few years, the team behind this iconic cultural space has reestablished themselves in their new location, a multi-level hub of cutting-edge art with frequent parties in a gritty, cavernous space.
Gólya, by the way, is Hungarian for stork, one of the most iconic birds in the country. It flies south to Africa for the winter, but luckily the bar stays put all year round, so go check it out when you get a chance.
Kisüzem is a favored haunt for local creatives, you’re likely to stumble upon an impromptu musical performance or an intriguing art installation. Their drink menu, consisting of both local and international options, is a must-try.
They have delicious sandwiches and a rotated selection of soups and bar snacks. The quality of the food is much better than you would expect from a watering hole. Epic rum and whiskey list and a nice selection of cold beers. A place that never goes out of style, and is worth checking out at any time of day.
Off-beat/Independent Art Galleries
Art flows through the streets of Budapest in its many different galleries. Here are a few of our favorites that display some alternative and contemporary exhibitions. They are great places to stop in if you want to see the way the city is being distilled by its most cutting-edge and eye-opening talent.
Faur Zsófi Gallery
Situated along the increasingly artistic hub of Bartók Béla Street in Újbuda, the Faur Zsófi Gallery stands as a beacon for contemporary Hungarian art. Originating from Ráday Street, its relocation marked the blossoming of a vibrant cultural center in the district.
The meticulously designed space is not only dedicated to contemporary photography but also plays an instrumental role in the international promotion of Hungarian art. As Bartók Béla Street sees a surge in galleries, establishments like the Faur Zsófi Gallery, Próféta Gallery, and Godot Gallery are transforming the boulevard into a cultural mecca.
Beyond being a curator, Zsófi Faur also leads the KULT11 Association, spearheading initiatives to reimagine and enliven “the Bartók” as a destination for both leisure and artistry. Not to mention that Bártok Béla ut itself is a cultural gallery of sorts, showcasing some of the very best restaurants, bars and hang-out spots that one can find anywhere in the city.
For those with an affinity for the avant-garde, this space is a sanctuary. Visit one of their exhibition openings for a true sense of Budapest’s art community. Established in 2003 in Budapest, acb Gallery swiftly became a linchpin in the Eastern European art domain.
Initially spotlighting post-Eastern Bloc neo-conceptual artists, its scope now encompasses Hungary’s 1960s and 70s neo-avant-garde, enriched with emerging talents. As of 2022, acb spans three venues: the main acb Galéria, project-centric acb Attachment, and the expansive acb Plus. The acb ResearchLab, since 2015, illuminates lesser-known facets of Hungarian avant-garde arts.
Since their establishment in 2006 Inda Gallery’s vision for a has gained a reputation as one of the city’s best galleries. Located amidst cultural landmarks like the Mai Manó Ház and vibrant hubs, they offer a unique presence. They curate a diverse spectrum of works, from esteemed Hungarian and global artists to budding talents, always emphasizing genuine artistry over transient trends.
Inda Gallery extends its reach through collaborations, professional talks, research initiatives, and appearances at international fairs such as Art Dubai and Art Market Budapest. Their global impact was highlighted when Boulin Artinfo named them among the top 500 galleries in 2015 and 2016. Statues, photography, painting, contemporary, eye-opening.
Legal Graffiti Walls
Filatorigát Graffiti Wall
Filatorigát graffiti wall is located just by the train stop where you disembark for the famous annual Sziget music festival, this legal graffiti wall is a true example of grassroots art brightening up the cityscape.
Some of the very best underground graffiti artists in the Budapest scene have their pieces plastered here. It is a lengthy wall that can be viewed in one big rush looking out of the window on the green suburban railway train (Magyar HÉV) on the way to or from Szentendre, or at a more leisurely pace by foot after getting off at the Filatorigát stop.
Gázgyár utca Legal Graffiti Wall
Similarly, in the eye-popping pieces on Gázgyár Street, urban canvases pulsate with the heartbeat of Budapest’s graffiti scene. They are a testament to the city’s ever-evolving artistic landscape, where colors clash, merge, and explode, narrating tales of rebellion, love, and life.
These pieces are also located in District III, just at the start of the epic stretch of riverside bars along Budapest’s storied “Roman Shore.”
Street Art in the Downtown
Artist: 0036Mark. Photo: budapestflow.com
The Jewish Quarter is an iconic part of Budapest for many reasons. Whether it’s being stuffed to the brim at some of the best ruin bars and restaurants in the city, or indulging in the epic architecture and history amongst cobblestone streets there is something for everyone in District VII.
What we love best of all in the district, unsurprisingly given our hallmark Budapest Street Art Tour is the underground street art which can be viewed amongst its many walls. From stickers to murals to hidden pieces of poetry, the walls of District VII come alive when viewed from the right angle.
Join our Street Art Tour
Discover Budapest’s street art scene and learn about the city’s contemporary culture and history through vibrant murals and street art pieces on a small-group tour.
“Amazing walking tours with great insights”
SAPHINA (USA), January 2017
Hidden Mini Statues by Kolodko
Trying to locate all of the mini-statues of Budapest is arguably the best side quest you can complete while visiting the Hungarian capital. These mini statues which range from the culturally whimsical (Hungarian Puli dog) to the historically informative (Danube diver with a key) to the sarcastic, iconic, celebratory and everything in between.
The sculptor, Kolodko Mihály is an ethnic Hungarian who hails from the Carpathian region of Ukraine and has gained a cult reputation over the past years for his brilliant bronze works. Their diminutive size makes them a fun scavenger hunt that will take you to a diverse swath of the cityscape. Try to find them yourself using our comprehensive map or join one of our hidden mini-statue tours.
Alternative Music Scene of Budapest
Budapest has plenty of musical options on any given night of the week. There are many local and international acts that keep the party pumping until the early hours of the morning. Here are three locations that showcase different types of locally beloved music at different times of day, morning, evening and night.
With a famous reputation as a beloved student pub, Lámpás is a dizzying maze of rooms and bars in a spacious somewhat surreal environment. On any given night here you can hear performances from Rock to hip hop, to jazz and everything in between. A local favorite that has stood the test of time while other similar venues seem to come and go like the wind.
Floating on the Danube, A38 is truly a unique experience in Budapest. It is the reincarnation of a communist-era Ukranian stone-carrying ship. The name is A38 as it was originally built in 1968 and is the 38th unit of the Artemovsk class.
Nowadays it is a legendary concert hall and cultural center with dining options, several fully stocked bars and awesome views from a rarely visited part of the Danube. Lays claim to be Budapest’s flagship concert and event venue.
On any given night of the week, there could be a world-class DJ spinning away beats at Turbina til the wee hours of the morning. Opened up during the tail end of COVID in 2021, Turbina has quickly gained a reputation as one of the coolest places to hang out in the city.
Your best bet for a techno rave at 3 a.m. on a Friday, but also home to plenty of community events and daytime art as well as chiller nighttime performances of every genre imaginable.
Cooffee Shops with Books
Massolit Books & Café
One of our very favorite establishments in the whole city is Massolit on Nagy Diófa Utca. It’s without a doubt the best English language bookshop in all of Budapest, brimming with rare volumes on everything from 18th-century Eastern European poetry to 1980’s popular fantasy to obscure travelogues from African travel writers.
The shop is run by a wonderful local named Judit and is exactly the type of business we love to highlight on our tours. Authentic, local, and filled with artistic inspiration. Make sure you stop by for a coffee, a book, and a tasty pastry if you want to experience bohemian life in Budapest for real.
Nestled in one of Buda’s most fashionable enclaves lies Kelet Café, mere steps from your starting point. This inviting haven, boasting over 5,000 books, exudes an old-world charm, even if most titles are in Hungarian.
While guests can swap books, the true allure is their eclectic menu. Favorites include the Indonesian Peanut Sandwich and the savory Georgian Kharcho Soup, complemented by local brews, wines, and artisanal coffees. Ideal for light bites in a snug atmosphere, Kelet Café promises a genuine local experience, perfect for preluding a night in the city.