Perhaps there is no stretch of Budapest that represents the city’s changing face more than the arcade that runs through the housing complex Goszdu-udvar (Gozsdu court), which is situated between Király street and Dob street in the red-hot inner District VII. But a mere ten years ago, it was an entirely abandoned, gray, and vacant place that you could only see when the gate happened to be left unlocked. These days, the gates are wide open, physically and metaphorically, as thousands of Budapest’s natives and tourists flock to the utterly revitalized Gozsdu-udvar, which is now home to a burgeoning café and restaurant scene. Where there were once abandoned storefronts, you can now find eateries offering cuisine representing cultures as far-flung and Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, and Yiddish. Weekly outdoor markets draw crowds looking for locally made crafts, antiques, and souvenirs. Cafes and shops fill the rest.
Gozsdu-udvar has had many incarnations in its deep and textured history. Hungarian Romanian philanthropist, Manó Gozsdu, conceived of and build the complex in 1900. It was once a main artery of the Jewish community, then, during the WWII Nazi occupation, a place where Jewish families were rounded up and held to await deportation. During the Socialist era, it was left largely abandoned, only to be renovated and revitalized in 2008. Comprising seven buildings and six individual courtyards, reconstruction efforts included expanding it outwards to give access to new apartment buildings and opening an entrance to Madách Square.
I wouldn’t want to speculate on just how many people pass through the arcade daily, but it is enough so that every storefront is occupied. Restaurants, cafes, and even a live music venue are thriving, making it a must-see attraction for tourists and local scenesters. Even Jude Law and Mark Zuckerberg have been spotted there in recent years. Old and new, and old within new, and new within old: it’s what locations in Budapest are all about.
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