I don’t quite know how Eastern Europe does it, but they somehow have an affinity for absolutely killing it at nightlife. Whether it comes down to a casual modesty that Western Europeans can’t pull off, or just managing to nail it at making bars or clubs on a budget so entertaining, my experience of the nightlife on this side of Europe far exceeds the other. Budapest boasts one of the greatest scenes in this category, and the already huge number of backpackers flocking to the Hungarian capital is constantly increasing. Here are some of my favourite spots to whet your appetite.
As a few of you may know, Budapest is notorious for its ruin bars. In others words, a space that has been abandoned and someone has decided to put a bar there, easy. With a missmash of furniture and different spots to hang out in, inside or outside, Szimpla is a perfect example of one of these run-down boho hangouts. It’s a great place to start the night with a few cheap beers, and will have you thirsty for more as the night progresses.
Described as ‘the one and only openair rooftop underground club in Budapest’ on the website (oxymoron?), Corvintető has got to be one of my favourites. When you find it on the street it doesn’t look like your average club, and we got into the industrial elevator with reservations until the staff member attending it handed out shots of Unicum – Hungarian liquer – once the doors closed. The rooftop offers incredible views overlooking the city, which is all lit up beautifully at night. Down on the floors below is the club, which basically only plays dubstep and has a dark and twisted vibe to it with low lighting and deep red walls.The rooftop is only open in the summer; I can safely say you wouldn’t want to be out there in the bitterly cold Hungarian winters.
A little more mainstream than the other places I have listed, this ‘music pub’ offers seriously cheap booze and a cheesy night out. A little bit dirtier and a whole lot sweatier than the delightful al fesco haunts I have previously mentioned, embrace Morrison’s tacky nature and Morrison’s will grope you right back. Karaoke nights are always popular, and the care-free nature of all the tourists that surround you make it a night to throw all your inhibitions out the window. The 100 Forint (50 cents) beer offers will definitely help you with that one.
One of the top clubs this city has to offer, with some impressive events and a hotspot for DJs to play at, Merlin is one for you true club fanatics out there. As you enter and walk up the stairs at the entrance the space opens out into huge rooms filled with sweating club regulars just aching for the next beat. The less you wear (without offending people), the better. With crowds of people shape-shifting to the latest tunes, the energy in this place will keep you clicking your heels until the wee hours. Merlin is far more expensive than many of the other clubs, so come with a full wallet.
Technically I haven’t been to A38, but I could hardly miss out a bar on a boat from this list just because I personally haven’t checked it out yet. According to a Lonely Planet poll in 2012, this is the ‘world’s greatest bar’ – what an accolade! It is slightly more expensive than the ruin bars situated on land in the city, but A38 offers one of the best music scenes in town, with international DJs and live music, as well as local talent. The ship also has a restaurant for those looking for a quieter night on the River Danube.