Night And Day In Budapest (But Especially The Night)
Monday, April 28, 2008
With Its Beautiful Daytime Attractions And Its Thriving Nightlife, Budapest Is A City Of Twos In More Ways Than One
By Sarah Parker
Don’t be fooled by the sensible and elegant appearance of the Budapest locals, as soon as the sun goes down Budapesters love to shed their stodgy image and get down at one the many hotspots located in this resurgent, cosmopolitan capital of Central Europe. The word’s been spreading, and Budapest has begun to garner a reputation as a city known not just for its amazing beauty (as seen during the daylight hours), but also as a destination for weekend-goers and young travelers hoping to experience the excitement of a city awakening from its sleepy history.
Budapest is the combination of two ancient towns — Buda and Pest — which are separated by the Danube River. With its breathtaking view, the area known as Castle Hill (on the Buda-side) offers one of the most spectacular sights of Budapest. Given it’s elevated location, this locale has historically been the most important both strategically and culturally and it’s been home to the city’s royalty throughout the years. At the top of the hill is a charming old town with quaint little bars and cafes; a great place to start out the evening on a warm, summer night. From here you can see the Chain Bridge (the suspension bridge that’s one of Budapest’s most notable landmarks) and gaze out over the many lights that seem to float over the Danube and above the city of Pest.
Hungarians love to drink so you’ll never have a problem finding a pub in the city during most time times of the year. In the summer, people head down to the banks of the Danube to the large concentration of open-air pubs and restaurants. Pub-life tends to start around seven and on the weekends most stay open until dawn. Though the city has a popular wine culture, beer is consumed by the gallon along with a particular spirit loved by the locals named Uni Cum, a bitter black spirit which, for non-Hungarians, is an acquired taste.
Besides food and drink, the city boasts and amazing array of entertainment including live theatre, musicals, performance-art, festivals, art exhibitions and nightclubs, which makes it easy for everyone to find something to do depending on their mood. A short walk around central Budapest alone and you’ll stumble across everything from classic cabarets, hip lounges, lively dance clubs and smoky jazz-joints.
Located on the Buda-side at the end of Petöfi bridge is A38, one of the more popular nightclubs in Budapest. Once a Ukrainian commercial boat, the vessel sits floating in the middle of the Danube and houses a stylish restaurant, a concert hall for live music, and a couple of bars including a rooftop deck in the summer, perfect for those warm Hungarian nights.
In the heart of downtown is the Gödör Klub, a jazz-club oddly situated partially under a reflecting pool and on the site of a former communist-era bus station. The club itself is located underground at the end of a series of sloping steps where, on any given night, hundreds of urbanites can be found lounging about with a drink in hand, watching the live music and taking in the bustling scene around them.
For the indie-rock set, Rocktagon is one of the more popular venues, featuring everything from chill, experimental rock to throbbing punk during the early hours and dance and disco later on in the night. On the other end of the scale, Piaf, a Parisian themed venue, has a classic cabaret feel on the main floor and a dance floor in the basement featuring 80’s and Latin music for those who aren’t worn out from the day’s activities.
Like any large city, Budapest also has its own collection of kitschier venues like the Moulin Rouge with its Can Can dancers and all-night parties or the Cotton Club with its 1920’s, jazz-age décor featuring live music and authentic Hungarian food.
Just like Budapest itself (with its two halves combining to make one) the city can only be truly seen by taking in both its popular daytime sights along with its thriving nightlife. This is the only way to experience the essence of this unique, energetic city; sleep will just have to wait for another day.