Garden City, Budapest

When you go to Budapest – writes Marshall Colman – you will, of course, visit the grand old pastry shop Gerbeaud; but why not venture further afield to a simple out-of-town cukrászda, a traditional coffee shop, in one of the most successful social housing developments in Europe?

We went to the Wekerle Estate, Budapest’s garden city, to see the Arts and Crafts architecture of Károly Kós. The state-owned workers’ estate was built in the early 20th century on the initiative of the prime minister, Sándor Wekerle, to accommodate the city’s rapidly increasing population in a new kind of tenanted housing. Inspired by the English garden city movement, it was an attack on the landlord system, at first meant for public sector employees. Wekerle spawned co-operatives and community associations, planted thousands of trees and bought fruit bushes for the tenants’ gardens. You might think such a socialist experiment would have appealed to Hungary’s Communists, but they closed the community association and let the estate decay. Now there’s a renaissance of community action, green ventures and volunteering. We went on a sweltering day and stopped at the spacious, old-fashioned pastry shop for a cake and a coffee.

Allow at least half a day for a tour of the 1.7 sq. km. estate. Bus 99 from Blaha Lujza tér will take you to Kós Károly tér at the heart of the estate. Over 65s travel free. Guide books and information in English from the community centre (Wekerle Táraskör) in Kós Károly tér (closed noon to 4pm; no credit cards).

Allow at least half a day for a tour of the 1.7 sq. km. estate. Bus 99 from Blaha Lujza tér will take you to Kós Károly tér at the heart of the estate. Over 65s travel free. Guide books and information in English from the community centre (Wekerle Táraskör) in Kós Károly tér (closed noon to 4pm; no credit cards).

Budapest's garden estate

Budapest’s garden estate

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