Budapest, you’ll be pleased to know, is a party city. Lively bars stay open late, drinks are affordable and an international crowd gathers around the nightlife hubs of Districts VI and VII. With so much concentrated into small areas of the city centre, and night buses and tram 6 running till dawn and beyond, you can skate around town cheaply and safely till the cows come home.
Budapest is best known for its spa parties in the city’s famed thermal baths, and ruin bars, run-down spaces in (mainly) District VII, given an arty overhaul and converted into nightspots.
There are standard pubs and bars as well, of course, DJ clubs, full-blown discos and live-music venues. Location is another factor in the popularity of Budapest’s party scene. Moored on the Danube are drinking destinations such as the A38, a repurposed Ukrainian cargo ship now a party boat, with regular live music and DJs by Petőfi Bridge in Buda, and PONTOON, right in town by Chain Bridge, a floating, fun-focused locale in similar vein.
There’s a marked difference between summer and winter nightlife here – the A38 is year-round, with a main concert hall in the hull, for example. Smarter, more upscale destinations such as the 360, a rooftop bar above a historic department store on showcase boulevard Andrássy út, winterises for the colder months. Little igloos are set up for groups of friends to gather on cosy furniture over warming drinks and DJ beats.
A night out needn’t be expensive, all the same. Admission is usually only charged if there’s a live band playing. A domestic beer, Borsodi say, costs around 500-600 forints/€1.20-€1.50, a foreign label 700-800/€1.70-€2.
Wine is usually mixed with soda water, a popular combination so popular that each mix has its own Hungarian nickname. The server will ask you how many decilitres (drinks are measured in decilitres) of wine and soda you would like, usually two of one and one of the other.
Shots and spirits are also sunk with abandon. At some point, you’ll probably be initiated in the ways of Unicum and pálinka, the two main Hungarian short drinks. One is a Jägermeister-like dark herbal digestif, the other akin to grappa, in various fruit flavours.
Even when you pay for drinks at the bar – see one of our previous Budapest Student Guides about costs and finances – you’re expected to tip your server. Simply round up the figure by around ten percent and say the amount you’re giving. If the round comes to 2,700 forints, say ‘Three thousand’ and hand over the money. Cards are also accepted in many bars.
Other popular clubs in town include ruin bars Szimpla and Grandio, DJ-oriented Aether, Doboz, Downtown, Madam, Ötkert and Toldi, and party-focused Heaven, Morrison’s 2 and Stifler Ház. Right in the city centre, Akvárium puts on live bands and hosts DJs.
Tips & discounts
As an international student, your arrival in a new city can be smoothed over by an organisation dedicated to your needs: Erasmus Life Budapest. Its mission is to help Erasmus and international students get the best out of Budapest. Find details of the ELB membership & discount card, parties, trips and other events.
Erasmus Life Budapest organise many affordable parties every week and throughout the term. These include Saturday spa parties at the Széchenyi Baths and extra-cheap beer on Monday nights at Morrison’s 2 – you may wish to move your Tuesday-morning lectures to later in the week…
Parties are laid on for special occasions, Halloween, Valentine’s and so on, with regular boat parties and techno nights, too. With thousands of international students now coming into Budapest for the new term, these coming weeks see a busy ELB agenda of events:
Ruin bar crawl & party@Instant-Fogasház (26
Aug, 2 & 9 Sept)
Sparty spa party@Széchenyi Baths (27 Aug). Tickets here
Welcome Party@Madam Club (1 Sept)
Sunset Cruise & Daytime Boat Party@Zsófia Boat (3 Sept)
Erasmus & International Welcome Festival/Party in Wonderland@Akvárium Klub (3 Sept)
Open-Air Semester Opening-Aloha Beach Party@Romkert (7 Sept)
Huge Welcome Party@Heaven (8 Sept)
Special Boat Party@Európa Boat (24 Sept)