Budapest’s best urban art

Budapest - Spice of europe
Rubik’s Cube
Budapest
Greater Budapest

Massive murals, small pop-up sculptures and ruin bars full of random décor – Budapest is brimming with urban art. Striking paintings brighten the city, old firewalls serve as huge canvasses, while strange figures appear as if from nowhere.

Near the Synagogue on Rumbach Sebestyén Street, a lavish portrait of Empress Elisabeth welcomes you to the district named after this Habsburg royal. Erzsébetváros, ‘Elizabeth Town’, is today filled with impressive street art. Close by, a vast mural celebrates the famous victory by Hungary’s football team over England in 1953, the action captured beside a newspaper report of the time.

Across the street, a painting of a Rubik’s Cube reflects on its code being breakable after 20 turns. As its Hungarian inventor, Ernő Rubik, explains to the viewer, “There is always a solution – and not just one”.

Further down, a colourful wall by Spanish artist Okuda commemorates the ‘Angel of Budapest’, Spanish diplomat Ángel Sanz Briz, who saved Hungarian Jews from war-time deportation. In view of the district’s more recent role as late-night party quarter, Luke Embden’s heart goes out to residents, the British artist appealing to revellers to “Love Thy Neighbour”. This is also an ideal setting for selfies.

 

At Kertész Street 27, a mellow mural by Spaniard Dan Ferrer borrows from Alice in Wonderland, portraying a girl breaking out from her environment, offering hope for the future. Turning into Wesselényi Street, at No.40, the cover of Time magazine from 1956 – when it named a Hungarian Freedom Fighter as the ‘Man of the Year’ – is recreated on a huge wall, commemorating the young heroes of the anti-Soviet uprising.

 

Works also arise from the annual Colourful City Festival (Színes Város Fesztivál), for which local and international artists create murals around a certain theme.

Elsewhere in town, street art takes the form of sculpture. Since 1972, László Marton’s Little Princess on the Danube bank has immortalised the sculptor’s own daughter. Recently, curious works by Ukrainian artist Mihajlo Kolodko include random items around Széll Kálmán Square, a wallet, an umbrella and a skateboard painstakingly crafted in lifelike fashion. On the same square, his Mekk Elek shows the revered children’s character, a clumsy but kind goat, looking where to place his ungainly street sign. Foreign visitors will recognise Kermit the Frog on Szabadság Square, and TV detective Columbo on Falk Miksa utca, recently joined by a meerkat outlined in chalk as if after a crime. To add to the illusion, the little creature is clutching a revolver, and to complete the picture, at Columbo’s feet is his loyal basset hound.

Over at Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc International Airport, outside terminal 2A, sits the namesake composer, Franz Liszt, on his suitcase as if waiting to set off.

 

Back in town, Budapest’s famed ruin bars are also treasure troves of urban art, filled with bizarre finds from flea markets. At Csendes, your eyes wander from half-mannequins to creepy dolls and old chandeliers, while at Szimpla, installations include a retro car that doubles up as a drinking booth.