One of the Best Pedestrian Street in the World
Váci Street in downtown Budapest is one of the world’s most attractive pedestrian shopping streets not only according to Hungarians.
Pest’s famous Váci utca reached the 7th spot among 16 pedestrian shopping streets that participated in a contest in 2008, the aim of which was to rank the streets by comparing several factors including:
- customer service in shops.
The street received 76 points out of 100, outrunning well-known pedestrian streets of Paris, Amsterdam, and Milan. So if you visit Budapest do take a walk along this famous downtown street.
The street starts at Vörösmarty Square and ends opposite the Central Market Hall at the Pest end of Liberty Bridge.
You have several options to access the street, especially if you stay at one of the city center hotels.
Since Váci stretches parallel with the Danube, you can reach the river side through small side streets.
At Vörösmarty square there’s the M1 underground (yellow line) station, but the street is not far from Deák tér (M1 M2 M3 metros) or from Ferenciek tere (M3 blue metro line) either.
The tram 2 line along the Danube is also a good way of getting there if you stay a bit far from downtown Budapest.
TIP: Taste Wines in CultiVini Wine Gallery
A new, stylishly decorated place located in a small street just off Váci utca showcasing the finest wines from Hungary’s 22 wine regions.
The kind sommeliers tell you all you want to know about the wines, vineyards, and tasting notes while you pour wines from the sleek wine dispensing machines placed around the room.
Some really excellent bottles can only be tasted here, at CultiVini (Villa Sandahl Capuccino Oil 2011).
Tasting programs with sommelier guiding and snacks (ham, cheese) for individuals or gropus can be reserved online.
In the medieval era the boundary of the city stretched there, along Deák Ferenc utca was the city wall.
The predecessor of today’s Váci street lead the Váci gate which stood on today’s Vörösmarty Square.
You can still see the remains of the gate at the beginning of the street, a few steps from Vörösmarty Square.
White stones line the outline of the original gate bastion and a tablet on the wall shows what the edifice looked like.
The street became a main thoroughfare of Pest in the 18th century and you’ll find beautiful mansions from this era.
Until the 1880-ies the main Promenade of Pest (Korzó) was the walkway lining the Danube between Eötvös Square and the Vigadó Square.
By the turn of the 19th-20th centuries Váci utca took over the role of shopping street from Király utca, and the role of promenade fro the Korzó on the Danube embankment. Most of the protected buildings date from this period.
For example, the building at at No. 9 was an inn that József Hild, the renowned architect of the era, rebuilt, and where the 11-year old Mozart gave a concert.
The esplanade is a bit long from end to end but it’s broken up by tiny squares (Kristóf tér, Szervita tér), and small passages.
The northern part of the street is the more touristy part which is teeming with people during summer, and before Christmas during the Christmas fair on Vörösmarty Square.
In early spring or late autumn the street is more peaceful.
I recommend to start from Vörösmarty tér, and walk down to the Central Market Hall.
Before starting your exploration you can have a cup of cafe with a slice of cake in the famous Gerbeaud Confectionery on Vörösmarty tér.
Just a few steps from the white marble statue of poet Mihály Vörösmarty you’ll be among promenading tourists on Váci utca.
Terraced cafes line both sides of the street.
The neighbourhood is geared towards tourists, so the shops, and cafes are a bit overpriced.
The palette of shops is varied besides souvenir shops,you’ll find folklore items, wine shops, and exclusive designer shops like Furla or La Nerella. There’s a Marks & Spencer too.
The building where the Pesti Színház operates today was once an inn. The Philantia flower shop boasts a beautiful sculpted facade and the house next to it is a fine example of secessionist architecture adorned with Zsolnay ceramics.
A couple of romantic squares with statues add to the charm of Váci utca like the Halárus lány kútja on Kristóf Square(photo on the right):
There’s a nice ceramic plaquette by the famous artist Margit Kovács depicting the old post coach.
At the former Taverna Hotel you reach the southern part of Vaci utca which has a more relaxed atmosphere and less crowd.
Go down the the stairs to the underground passage where an exhibitions of posters from old photos provide a glimpse into the history of the street.
Coming up from the underground passage you’ll find the Budapest Gallery at Szabadsajtó utca 5 an exhibition hall of modern art.
At the corner building at Váci utca 43, a bronze plaque commemorates that Charles XII king of Sweden took a rest there during its 14-day trip from Turkey to his home country.
On the corner of Nyári Pál utca stands the Church of Saint Michael (Belvárosi Szent Mihály templom) a Baroque temple from the middle of the 18. century.
The church hosts the Baroque Music Festival in autumn as well as organ recitals on Wednesday and Saturday.
Due to its central location and fame you can find a good number of hotels both in the street and in its close vicinity. Here some hotels that are situated directly in the pedestrian street:
The newest hotel in the street is the Promenade Hotel at No. 20 a friendly 3-star boutique hotel.
Hotel Boutique Zara is a fairly new contemporary hotel in a side street of Váci utca.
A new luxury spa hotel, the Buddha Bar opened in the northern part of the street, in the Klotild Palaces in 2012.
Hotel Mercure Budapest City Centre (the former Taverna Hotel) at No. 20. is a 3-star budget hotel
The hotel has its own restaurant and confectionery with an open terrace during warm weather welcoming non-hotel guests. See other budget hotels in downtown.TIP: There are a couple of good hostels in and around Vaci Street like the 2nighthome Hostel.
Belgian Waffel Bar
Address: Váci utca 51.
Stop by this excellent waffle bar for a late breakfast or pre-lunch snack.
A basic waffel is 550 HUF to which you can add various toppings for 200 HUF/topping: chocolate sauce (from original Belgian dark or milk chovolate chips), banana and seasonal fruits, whipped cream, Nutella, vanilla ice cream or marshmallows.
The waffle was a bit too sweet to my taste but the kids wolfed it down. The Nespresso coffee drinks are quite good.
The street is packed with restaurants, cafes and bars though most of them are overpriced which is not justified by the quality of meal or services.
Some of the worst restaurants of Budapest are in Váci utca: rude service, horrible bills await you in the following places:
Restaurants to Avoid in the Street
Monarchia Old Restaurant (formerly Galilei Restaurant)
Address: Váci utca 79.
Overpriced place with a run-down interior. Food is average.Related: Andrássy Avenue – New Main Street (Új Fő Utca) – Kazinczy Street – Budapest City Centre – Buda Castle