Your ultimate guide to a stag weekend in stunning Budapest
A diverse mix of eastern and western cultures, Budapest is one of the most beautiful and intriguing capitals in the world. It is composed of two main parts: on the hilly west side is historic Buda, whilst Pest is the city's cosmopolitan centre of shops, restaurants, markets and nightlife. With 80p pints and the average meal weighing in at under a fiver, you can't go wrong!
At a glance:
- Budapest is the capital of Hungary and its largest city
- There are three islands on the Danube, one of which hosts one of Europe’s biggest festivals, Sziget Music Festival
- Spas have grown around hotspots connected to the city’s underground thermal springs
- Find cutting edge nightspots, many nestled inside previously abandoned buildings
- A fresh youthful vibe and many clubs and bars stay open well into the early hours
Buda - palatial charm and a unique atmosphere
Situated on the west side of the Danube, Buda’s distinct landscape is vastly different from its neighbouring districts. Buda Castle sits on top of steep hills overlooking Pest. Despite the palace and a detached sense of imperial wealth, Buda is considered to be a little rougher than Pest but with its own unique charm. Late night bars can be found on most corners and restaurants and bars along the river are perfect spots during the day.
Pest - busy, cosmopolitan and vibrant
Pest is almost completely flat and boasts a busy cosmopolitan feel with an assortment of bars, cafes, clubs and gourmet restaurants. Budapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens can be found here and there’s often live music or open-air markets in the local parks. Bars on this side are modern, with hip ‘ruin bars’ situated in old baroque buildings and rooftop terraces overlooking the city.
The Islands – the diamonds of Budapest
There are three islands situated in the middle of the Danube that locals have nicknamed ‘the diamonds of Budapest’. Margaret Island is a beloved leisure destination and locals see it as a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. Packed with all sorts of attractions from music festivals to open air theatres, Margaret Island is one of Budapest’s tourist hotspots.
Hajogyari Island is the biggest of the three, known for its nightlife it has become a hub for partygoers in the capital. There are also quality sporting activities on offer, with tennis courts and a cycle route that takes you across the island.
Best bars in Budapest:
Szimpla Kert, Kazinczy utca
Recently hailed as one of the best bars in the world, Szimpla Kert is one of the original ‘ruin bars’ found in Budapest, with a charming atmosphere that will make you fall in love with it. Popular with the city’s students, it offers unique décor and even its own open-air cinema.
Corvinteto, Blaha Lujza
A very grungy bar with a club on the lower floor, Corvinteto has cheap drinks and a large following of young people. DJs play a mix of heavy techno, dub, electronic and more, so you’ll never have the same experience twice. From the huge roof terrace you can see right across the city.
Púder, Ráday utca
Another ‘ruin bar’ with a contemporary twist, this place attracts the city’s artists. It hosts regular art installations and displays local art on the walls. One of the best places to meet creative types.
Tébolykert, Klauzál utca
Housed in a prestigious two storey building that was once abandoned, Tébolykert’s owners have transformed it into a place that caters for everyone, from food and drink, to art and cinematography.
400, Kazinczy utca
Halfway between a ‘ruin bar’ and an elegant café, 400 serves wonderful food and the beers are pretty good too. It’s the latest cult place to open in the city, taking up a space on the ground floor of a block of flats. And luckily the residents above don’t seem too bothered with the constant noise.
Szatyor Bár és Galéria, Bartók Béla
Known as ‘the Shopping Bag’ bar, this place is one of the most famous in Buda. With unique 3D décor hanging on the walls, it got its name from famous Hungarian satirist Frigyes Karinthy. An ideal place for Saturday night partying as well as the obligatory Sunday wind down.
Rumba Café, Lónyay utca
A Cuban styled bar minus all the stereotypical tack. Huge varieties of rum and vodka, which only help enhance the quality of the drinks on offer here.
Boutiq’Bar, Paulay Ede utca
Styled around a neo-speakeasy, this quaint bar offers gourmet cocktails that tick all the boxes. The drinks list is endless and if you get chatting to one of the expert mixologists behind the bar, they’ll whip you up a drink of your choice.
Oscar America Bar, Ostrom utca
A classy American-themed bar with a lengthy drinks list. Staff suit up in black tie to complement the sleek furniture and glossy posters on the walls. They serve food during the day so you can drift from dinner to evening drinks without any fuss.
Best clubs in Budapest:
Hallo Bar, Király u
One of several strip clubs in central Budapest. Unlike other clubs, Hallo Bar doesn’t pay commission to taxi drivers and so there’s no extra hidden charges. It’s free entry for stag groups and you can download a special 2-4-1 drink offer on your first drink before you go. Treat the lucky stag to a stint up on stage with some of Budapest’s hottest girls or sit back and enjoy one of several erotic stage shows.
Living Room, Kossuth Lajos utca
A popular student hangout with three different rooms, each with its own genre of music. It’s often busy with a happy party atmosphere. Each of the trio of bars inside is reasonably priced and queuing times aren’t too bad either.
Romkert, Dobrentei Square
Nestled at the foot of Gellerts Hill, Romkert is an open air nightclub that you won’t want to leave. The music is predominantly Europop and DJs change regularly. It’s a superb location on the banks of the River Danube, with reasonably priced drinks from multiple bars.
Ötkert, Zrínyi utca
Ötkert is one of the most popular clubs in Budapest and is packed most nights. Because of this there are often lengthy queues to get in and even longer waiting times, but once you’re in you can drink and dance until the sun comes up.
A38 Hajó, Petofi híd
Boat party! The much heralded A38 Hajó is actually a converted military ship offering themed nights with live music and open air parties, making it a top choice for clubbers in Budapest.
Morrison’s 2, Szent István körút
The first thing you realise when you step into Morrison’s 2 is that it’s a very big place. A huge courtyard seating area and bar doubles up as the entrance. Move further in and you’ll find the jazz bar. Pool tables and casinos jostle for your attention on the first floor, whilst the second floor boasts a sizeable dance floor and cocktail lounge. Head down into the catacombs below to discover an underground maze of rooms each with its own DJ spinning eclectic tunes. More popular with tourists than locals, it’s always busy and always fun.
Food: eat like a local:
Goulash, a spicy meat soup with onions, is Hungary’s most famous dish. You’ll find hundreds of local gyros pita shops in the city, many with a whole pig slowly revolving on a spit behind the counter. A favourite with tourists and perfect for helping to soak up your beers during a night out.
If you’re after a sit-down meal, friendly bistro 21 Magyar Vendeglo serves some of the finest Hungarian cuisine in the city and has been maintaining consistently high standards for years. It also serves some of the best Hungarian wines out there.
Those looking for a fine-dining experience need go no further than Costes, one of the best gourmet restaurants in the city. With quality ingredients sourced from all over Europe and a two Michelin-starred chef at the helm, Costes creates exceptional dishes every time.
The Great Market Hall over on Vamhaz korut is a Budapest favourite, with hundreds of stalls cooking traditional handmade Hungarian food for you to take away. There’s also fresh vegetables, meats, fruit and fish if you’re in self-catering accommodation and fancy cooking up a storm. But even if you’re not, it’s still a great place to get a snapshot of everyday Budapest life.
Budapest is home to one of Europe’s first underground railways and it’s an excellent way to travel round the city. Tickets are cheap but make sure you get one before you travel as you may be fined for travelling without one. Taxis are largely inexpensive and are a convenient way to get across the city. Prices usually range between 200-400 HUF a mile (approximately 50p-£1).
There’s also a tourist bus which costs a relatively hefty 3000HUF (around £8) but is a great way to see some of Budapest’s most famous landmarks. One ticket will allow you to travel for the whole day, so you can hop on and off as much as you want.
Budapest is a wonderful city that attracts millions of visitors each year. Sadly this also attracts criminals. Be on the lookout for pickpockets on the streets. Another thing to remember is that nothing is free – anyone offering free beer, wine or tickets should be avoided. Local gangs will often try this trick before attempting to extort money from you. As usual, be cautious in strip clubs and make sure you know what you’re paying for before you rack up a huge, unexpected bill.
Groups of lads make common targets for other scams, with one commonly reported sting involving pairs of girls befriending tourists and pretending they don’t know where they’re going before leading them to exhorbitantly priced bars.
Do you speak English? – Beszel angolul?
Excuse me – Elnezest!
Thank you – Koszi/Koszonom/
What time is it? – Hany ora van
Where is the toilet? – hol van a mosdo?
How much is this? – ez mennyibe kerul
Egy sört kérem - A beer please