Mainly due to recent large-scale housing redevelopment and ensuing gentrification, in the past 15 years former working-class Ferencváros has become one of the most attractive districts of Budapest. Thanks to the large amount of greenery, especially around the midsection called Central Ferencváros and further to the south, the area has healthy outdoor spaces unequalled in central Pest.
It has always been the wealthiest part of the district, with well-preserved apartment blocks dating back to the late 19th century and even earlier. In stark contrast to its bourgeois past, these days Ráday utca, the main artery of “publand” Ferencváros, has a bohemian, youthful atmosphere. The concentration of well over 50 entertainment establishments (pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants, art galleries, culture institutes, open-air concert venue) along a stretch of barely more than 1.3 kilometres is one of the densest in Budapest.
On the Danube riverside, one can find a mixed picture. Together with its fin-de-siecle main campus building still dominating the area south of the bridgehead of Liberty Bridge, the new high-tech wing of the Corvinus University is also a major architectural landmark of the area. However, leaving the university campus behind, is the Közraktárak, “Public Warehouses”, which are earmarked for redevelopment. To the south, Nehru Park provides green space for residents.
This traditionally working-class dominated part of the district is most famous for its still ongoing successful redevelopment projects. Until the industrial revolution, the place had been dominated by small farms and gardens, which is also reflected in some of the street names (Bokréta utca, Viola utca). In the second half of the 19th century, two important changes shaped the social set-up of the area. First, the traffic of ships with wheat and other grain cargo grew rapidly. These ships hailed to huge riverside mills. Besides, various slaughterhouses were established in the southern part of this area. On this account, Ferencváros was aptly called “the stomach of Budapest”.
Secondly, numerous factories were placed strategically along the railway tracks of the huge freight railways station and on the bank of the Danube, leading also to nearby ship docks on Csepel island. The industrial heritage is still visible: numerous museums and public venues are converted industrial buildings. Among them are Trafó, whose name derives from “transformer station”, Közraktárak , meaning warehouses, Borjúvágóhíd , meaning “calf slaughterhouse”, and Gizella Malom , a mill. The rehabilitation projects left most of the residential blocks intact as new houses were built only on empty plots or as annexes.
The southern suburb of Pest was named after King Francis I on 4 December 1792 when he was crowned king of Hungary. In both 1799 and 1838, many buildings in Ferencváros were destroyed by flooding of the River Danube. Industrialisation of the district occurred during the second half of the 19th century. During this period, Ferencváros’ five mills, slaughterhouse and Central Market Hall were constructed.