April 28, 2000
Bars and Clubs
They say that there is more than one way to skin a cat - if that kind of thing turns you on - and there are many ways to have a good time in Budapest. This list breaks the Budapest nightlife down by category, each containing a generous handful of top pics to suit every need. The swanky section is our exclusive VIP area, dedicated to those who like to watch and be watched. At the other end of the social spectrum, we bring you skanky, the venues where booze flows, plastic glasses are trampled underfoot and nobody gives a fuck. Doing its thing somewhere in between, we have the Bohemian element. This growing segment is arty, hip and carefully styled, but loves to pretend not to give a fuck. Rebellious kids also need somewhere to go and get tanked - the underage section is for them. And then there are those normal folks who just want to have a nice time in good company, without staying out too late. Finally, if sitting on your ass getting wasted gets boring, give your evening a theme, like staring at someone else's ass, staring at the big game, or shooting some pool.
* donates dancing venues
+ donates sorted for text and photos
Adria Palace Bar in the Hotel Le Meridian
Four Seasons bar +
Champagne Bar in the Corinthia Hotel Grand Royal
Ba Bar Lounge Café
Situated on the leafy banks of the Danube on Shipyard Island, Bed Beach is the exotic summer party venue for Budapest's chic set. Don't bother turning up unless you look and feel upwards of a million dollars.
There has always been clubbing in Budapest - at least since time began (1990) - but some venues are really starting to follow the Ibiza model. Home is one of the stable of state-of-the-art superclubs that includes Dokk and Bed so we know that you know it is going to be big, beautiful and very loud. The interior is polished yet minimalistic, the white corridors lit by red neon emerge into a large open dance area. Because this is a club where the DJ takes center stage, there is little of the posturing, posing and pushing you would expect in traditional Hungarian fleshpots. The dress code is fashionable but not flash and the door staff are surprisingly attentive and friendly. In fact, the whole vibe is very relaxed.
Tom George (Already in Top 33)
Note on Liszt Ferenc tér with links to Caboodle pages embedded?
Arany Korsó (Móricz Zsigmond körtér) – Will get a pic tonight…
The thing that tips the balance from just plain skanky to worth checking out is the company it keeps. Conveniently for Arany Korsó (Golden Pint), Móricz Zsigmond körtér is well positioned to attract drinkers of all ages and backgrounds, including students from the nearby university residences. A nice no-frills option for a cheeky drink at any time of night or day.
Retek utca + – the flagship, but good case for underage...
Helvécia Borozó +
Bambi Eszpresszó +
Egri Boroző+ although Rita contends this one
Marco Polo* – concert venue and open 24/7.
Open around the clock, cheap as chips and a regular concert venue, particularly for goth and punk events, Marco Polo also attracts backpackers from the youth hostel of the same name and same address. Nothing spectacular, but not a bad place to enjoy a budget night out with some freaky locals. Small cover charge some nights.
University clubs – Vár Klub and the one in the residences. Scene of hardest core parties
Hungarian students like to party, they like to drink even more, and, better still, they don't care where they do it. Vár Klub, in the bowels of one of the many student residences on the Buda side of Petőfi híd, puts on regular rock concerts, club nights and lie-down-and-throw-up parties (fekvő hányós bulik) that are worth checking out, if only for the bizarre spectacle.
Manchester Darts Club (Have pic)
The connection to Manchester is tenuous but this down-to-earth pub offers everything a large group, of Brits, for example, could want, and not much more. Plenty of space, sturdy furniture, a well stocked jukebox, beer and darts.
If you can stand the smell of boiling fat, the Slovák Söröző is a reassuringly busy place for a pint of Zlatý Bažant (Arany Fácán, Golden Pheasant) and a gut-busting slab of meat with dumplings.
Kultiplex*+ (again, Rita doesn't agree)
It is actually quite a major club venue.
Transplanted directly from some dusty Australian outback to Budapest's körút, we challenge you to find a pub more out of place than this one. A favorite with aging expat hipsters, For Sale does have its charms, including free monkey nuts (an added plus is that shells and ashtrays are spilled onto the floor), wooden walls covered in business cards and other ad-hoc advertising, and a Hungarian-style menu serving up gigantic portions.
Never been, but worth investigating:
Cha-Cha-Cha Underground Café (Could make a big case for skanky)+*
No one would argue that this isn't a nice little artsy café/pub, but, then again, no one would think it cool enough that they would go out of their way to go there. Which makes it a great place to meet up for a low-key drink – and that's what a low-key café/pub like Csiga (Hungarian for snail) should be.
At its previous location, Eklektika was an informal and cozy bar for concerned young people to the world to rights. The new café is less of a bar and more of a restaurant with large kitchen space to support a mouthwatering menu. For the time being, the décor is austere, but the high ceilings and white walls are not without their charms.
Fonó Music House*
A favorite of the táncház set, Hungary's version of the ceilidh (a traditional Scottish or Irish dance gathering), Fonó is a must for folk music fans and anyone not afraid to make a fool of themselves on the dancefloor. The adjoining record shop is also a good source for those hard-to-get Magyar CDs.
Some would call it cheesy, wacky or even silly, but these are adjectives Frank Zappa himself embraced wholeheartedly, so don't pass judgment and just let the Zappa Café wash over you. As murals go, the yellow snow-related artwork is very good and occasionally amusing, while the lovely Miksáth Kálmán tér is a must in summer when everyone else is buzzing around Ráday utca and Liszt Ferenc tér.
Mélypont (Magyar utca)
It's difficult to know what to expect from a drinking den that calls itself Mélypont (Rock Bottom), and it's also quite difficult to explain the world you enter when you go down the stairs. Mysteriously well-maintained standard-issue furniture from the sixties and all manner of lovingly arranged yet horribly tacky souvenirs from not so long ago find a weird common ground with heavy rock and students smoking water pipes while playing cards and risk. See it, believe it.
It would be impossible not to mention that this bookwork of a bar is named after the Hungarian name for cult movie Pulp Fiction, but were darned if we know why. Anyway, it's large, open long hours and choc full of books, students and chairs. Thankfully, it looks and feels absolutely nothing like a library.
Süss Fel Nap*
A beery underground labyrinth with several rooms catering to different needs, giving it a nice house party vibe. Süss Fel Nap (Sun, Rise Up) also makes every effort to put on a variety of DJ nights, concerts and other events. It is also home to a number of Budapest nightlife staples, such as Sunday's Deep Smile Café and the Ablak a Dubra midweek party series.
Trafó Bar Tango
Vera Jazz Café
Arrive before Vera Jazz Café fills up and the garish wall paintings will make it feel unsettlingly cheesy, but once the live jazz performances kick in - particularly if you catch an authentic Gypsy act - the atmosphere quickly becomes intimate and sophisticated.
Alkatraz* (We can ditch this one, plus I don't have a photo)
Crazy Café – popular, plenty of beers and TVs for sport
Fat Mo's (*) – This is a good place on weekdays…
Five venues in a single, downtown former warehouse building. The pick of the bunch are the connected Retro and Buddha clubs, spinning eighties cheese and hypnotic techno respectively. They are connected by a stylish yet relaxed bar, as well as a convenient pass-out area fitted with huge beanbags.
A nice place to start any evening, or just to meet up for a quiet coffee with a couple of friends. This may not be your final destination, but live music and DJ nights certainly get the ball rolling.
Wholly unremarkable from the outside, but the back room is a delightfully designed blast from Hungary's colorful past. A vague public transport theme justifies the name (Megálló means bus/tram/train/trolley stop).
Old Man's Pub* (This features heavily on the events page because they put on half decent concerts)
Oscar American Bar (We can ditch this)
Picasso Point – great pizza
One of the first western-style bars to cater to the locals in Pest way back when beer was cheap and life was easy. Used to be the name on every student's lips in the early nineties, now it just serves great pizza.
Tranzit Café (MZK)
An excellent and very hopping little two-level bar/cafe, part-owned by just-retired Hungarian porn queen Michelle Wild. Highly recommended. Oh, and if you don't get a seat, a "solingbar" is the kind of bar where the Portuguese stand up, at least until they need to lie down.
Szilvúplé* (Have pic)
Cellar bar in the Piaf mold, but without the vampires and with a slightly less depraved and desperate crowd.
Captain Cook's – Really?? Looks super cheesy
Chili bar (heard it's good tho)
Columbus Jazz Club
School Club* (Közgáz Pince)
The hangout of choice for boozy students from the nearby university.
A throwback to the days when the kids wore Nirvana T-shirts and neglected personal hygiene en masse. Tread carefully with the notorious bouncers at the door, but once inside let it all hang out to classic rock favorites.
Starting to attract a younger crowd.
Süss fel nap*
More like theme pubs…
Crazy Café – popular, plenty of beers and TVs for sport
The city center's largest bar games cellar, offering pool and snooker, darts, foosball, air hockey and all night drinking.
The crazy csocsó place on Váci utca, literally dozens of tables all in use. Underage?