The Budapest Uprising: Could Europe’s coolest city fuel its new renaissance?

Hungary’s capital has long held a reputation for tradition, not glamour. But Budapest, home to the European headquarters of numerous international and national companies, is undergoing a cultural transformation. Located on the Adriatic, the…

The Budapest Uprising: Could Europe’s coolest city fuel its new renaissance?

Hungary’s capital has long held a reputation for tradition, not glamour. But Budapest, home to the European headquarters of numerous international and national companies, is undergoing a cultural transformation.

Located on the Adriatic, the city of about two million is regarded as one of Europe’s growing and rapidly expanding tourism hubs.

Ed Koch was elected mayor in 2005 in the wake of the communism’s collapse. “My grandfather was born here in 1923,” he said. “And my father was born here in 1924 and both of their parents were born here before that. And we feel this connection to the city’s ancient past, its enormous history but also the incredible future.”

Musician Brian Eno, who has lived in Budapest since 1982, was on hand for the design of the city’s new art museum.

“One of the things that one notices about Hungarian culture—and also still is prevalent in the major cities outside Budapest—is a taste for real experience,” he said. “The three things that everyone talks about here—the concept of experience, the idea of physical contact, and also the fact that having two weeks at a time is fine.”

While food is a growing luxury in most cities, Budapest has drawn the attention of Michelin for the past eight years with its burgeoning fine dining scene. All 32 restaurants with three Michelin stars have opened or expanded in the last 10 years. The city of Budapest also recently opened its first subway.

In addition to the city’s growing economic and cultural promise, the reason for the success of Budapest’s restaurants, and the city’s overall cultural surge, is a result of thoughtful engagement with and support from the highest levels of government.

Budapest offers tourists a range of attractions from a conservative but fairly lively old town, to lively but more modern artists’ quarter, to a more eclectic nightlife.

The Bucarest—a bibliophile’s delight—is home to one of Europe’s largest libraries and a converted monastery boasting one of the richest collections of Byzantine art in Europe.

The city also features amazing Gothic cathedrals, the most beautiful scenery in Europe, an art museum with three of the largest collections in the world, and Budapest’s world-renowned Oktoberfest.

A vibrant city and energetic place to live, Budapest has opened up to a global audience over the past few years.

American historian Helmut Kohl is in Budapest these days. “In the 1970s, I went with the Elbphilharmonie orchestra, then a little band, a young band, and a woman and a couple of cats,” he said. “Today we’re here for the first time in the evening in a German apartment, now with a garden, room for our gear, and even a language school has opened.”

Situated on one of the most beautiful and culturally rich stretches of the Danube, the city is clearly trying to attract and embrace young travelers from other parts of the world, including the U.S.

It’s not just in terms of restaurants and culture that we’re seeing a major cultural revival, but in how Hungary’s relationship with Israel is evolving. It’s easy to get in to Budapest’s daily life and the streets are full of Israelis, which is not the case in most cities in Europe. And all sorts of Jewish groups like Chabad are trying to bring their teachings into the open.

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