Most first-time visitors are surprised to find that Budapest is actually two cites: colorful Buda and hard-working Pest. They are separated by the blue-green waters of the Danube River, which flows placidly past. The monumental architecture and lovely natural setting make this one of Europe’s most eye-catching capitals.
The city is full of United Nations World Heritage Sites, including Buda’s Castle Hill, and the embankments of the Danube River. Andrássy Avenue is a elegant mile and a half thoroughfare of neo-renaissance and neo-baroque villas and mansions between City Park (Városliget) and Downtown. Heroes' Square (Hősök tere), the Opera House and St Stephen's Basilica are along the way, and Oktogon Square is at mid-point along the route. Liszt Ferenc Square, just south of Oktogon, is full terrace tables in summer, with good food and drinks at reasonable prices. Also worth a visit are the palatial Hungarian Parliament Building and the impressive Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest in Europe. It is home to only a small Jewish population, as many were killed during World War II.
This "Paris of the East" has long been known as a gay center of Eastern Europe, but things have really taken off since reintegration with the West. There is no single gay neighborhood, but most gay-popular bars and clubs can be found in Pest in the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th districts, many within walking distance of one another. Defining lines aren't drawn as sharply here as in the West - except at men's saunas or cruise bars - and people mix more. With a little discretion you can look for friendly and meaningful eye-contact most anywhere. Budapest Pride is gay Hungary’s largest annual event. Although attacked by anti-gay protesters in the past, it continues to draw a few thousand people each June.
Budapest International Airport is 15 miles southeast of central Budapest. You can get downtown via bus, shuttle bus, or taxi, but perhaps the best way is the speedy train connection from Ferihegy terminal 1 to Nyugati Railway Station with a hundred or more departures each day. See Mav-Start for online details. There are also high-speed trains arriving daily at Budapest from most major European cities.
Although the city is relatively spread out, the system of buses, trams, subways, and light-rail trains gets you around quickly. See BKV-ZAT for service maps and schedules. One ticket is good for any of their modes of transportation. Tickets are available at most stations, and must be validated before you board by using one of the punch machines. Just watch the locals, or ask how. Taxis often overcharge tourists, so it’s best to have your hotel call a reputable company rather than hailing one on the street.
Currency and Money
The local currency is the Hungarian forint. The country is hoping to eventually adopt the euro, and many businesses catering to tourists already accept them. Contact your local bank with travel plans before leaving home to avoid charge problems, and ask if they have partner banks to save on ATM withdrawal fees.
The Turkish thermal baths are one of the highlights of a visit to Budapest. Not gay establishments per se, these have been places for men to meet and relax together since the Ottoman era, long before "gay" was a concept, and they still are. The amount of cruising varies widely, so it’s best to ask a local for the latest scoop on the most active. Check out Squirt.org for more.
The Hungarian LGBT Alliance, Magyar LMBT Szôvetség, is an umbrella organization of LGBT organizations, with online news and articles.
Budapest Gayguide has gay accommodations, plus listings for bars, saunas, and saunas. Magnum Sauna also has an online guide to gay Budapest, in English as well as Hungarian and Croatian. The Budapest Bears website has listings of social events for local and international gay bears and friends. RadioPink plays gay pop and dance music online, or on your iPhone.
The Hungarian word for hot, meleg, is local slang for "gay" - as in meleg vagyok (I am gay), or meleg filmek (gay movies). Leszbikus filmek are the women-for-women options at the cinema.
Lodging choices range from among the most opulent hotels in Europe, to simple and inexpensive backpacker hostels, with everything in-between. These include some that cater to gay men exclusively. See our map & listings/lodgings tab for these.
GayStay/Budapest offers five apartments at four Budapest locations. The helpful staff will gladly take the time to answer guests' questions about Budapest and gay life around the city. They also do guided tours such as: "Grand Budapest Sightseeing" and "Gay Bars and Clubs."
Action Bar (Magyar utca 42), basement bar, popular dark room, video lounge, rent boys, live weekend sex shows, nightly strippers.
Alterego Club (Dessewiffy utca 33), popular basement dance club, mostly younger mix, gay men and women, lounge, 3 bars, stage shows, retro sing-alongs and drag diva nights,
Amstel River Café (Párizsi utca 6), Dutch cafe/bar, mixed crowd, good food at good prices, pation seatings.
Café & (Dessewffy utca 30), mixed, gay-friendly cafe/patisserie, fresh bread, croissants, pastries, all-day breakfast; gayest evenings and weekends.
Café Eklektika (Nagymezo utca 30), lesbian owned/operated resto-lounge cafe/bar, international and Hungarian food; lunch, dinner, pizza and snacks, late Sat/Sun breakfast noon-6pm, live music, free WiFi, coffee/tea and cocktails, summer terrace.
Club Underground (Dohany utca 22-24), mixed club & show bar, drag, karaoke, open nightly except Sundays; small gay weekend disco, with women/men mix.
Confetti Drems at Aquarium Club (Erzsebet krt. 43-49) monthly gay/ straight-friendly theme parties at the Royal Corinthia Hotel, men, women, go-go and foam boys, performers.
CoXx Club (Dohány utca 38), basement, men-only sex club, 3 bars, cruise area/dark room, jail, sling, sex shop, porn videos; special naked, military, suckers and gang-bang nights.
Funny Carrot (Belvaros Szep utca 1), community locals' bar, affable bar staff, rent boys sometimes.
Habroló Bisztro (Belvaros Szep utca 1), small, cozy neighborhood gay pub, easy-to-meet people-friendly vibe, English-speaking owner.
Liberty at Moulin Rouge (Nagymező 17), gay theme & special events parties.
Pizzeria Club 93 (Vas utca 2), mixed crowd pizzeria, pasta, burgers, deli meats and cheeses; espresso coffees, beer, wine, vodkas and mixed cocktails. Open noon-midnight daily, with deliveries.
Why Not Cafe & Bar (Belgrád rakpart 3-4), former Mylord, mixed daytime coffee shop/cafe with terrace tables near the Danube, evenings before or after dinner drinks.
Adonis Club (Baross utca 30), dance club, CLOSED - November 2011.
In Debrecen, east of Budapest towards the Ukraine, look for monthly gay dance parties at Club Zeus (Domb utca 1),
Saunas & pools
Gellért Bath (Kelenhegyi út 4-6), grand 1918 art nouveau general-public thermal bath and swimming pool, massage, cruisey outdoor areas.
Király Bath (Fô utca 82-84), dates to 15th century Arslan Pasha period, general-public hot mineral water bath and sauna. As of May 2011 no more men-only days, now mixed-gender only, so the cruisy vibe is gone.
Magnum Sauna & Gym (Csepreghy utca 2), biggest, most popular gay sauna, age and types mix, steam/dry, cabins, dark rooms, glory holes, video lounge, gym, bar, snacks; naked and other theme parties, Saturday shows and all-night hours.
Sauna 69 (Angyal utca 2), gay men's sauna, Finnish, infrared, steam, Jacuzzi, cabins, gloryholes, video lounge, darkroom, massage services, full bar, free internet and Wi-Fi.
See our map & listings/saunas tab for locations and gay website links. For other general-public baths and swimming pools, see website Spas Budapest. Csillaghegyi (Pusztakúti út 3), an outdoor heated pool, open year-round, with nudist area up the hill, popular with gay men, is among their 15 listings.
The Rudas Thermal Bath (Döbrentei tér 9), no longer the meeting place for men it was for so long, with mixed bathing all the time, and very different customers, it is still of some interest for it's Ottoman dome, and octagonal pool.
Sex Shop / Fetish
Black Dream (Mária utca 9), bondage gear, leather wear, fetish items, pride & sex shop, Mr B shop.
Connection Sex Shop (Berzsenyi utca 3), sex shop toys, gay and straight DVD videos, magazines, accessories.
L'Amour Sex Shop (Király utca 72), large sex shop near Oktogon Metro stop, toys, acessories, straight and gay DVD movie sales and cabin rental screenings, cinema with straight movie shows until 4pm, then gay films 4-10pm.
Tutti Frutti Sex Shop (Nyugati Pu. aluljáró), gay and straight porn shop, fetish items, DVD videos, Bel Ami to Facon, Euro and American.
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