Gay Vacations in Budapest

Aerial view of Avenida 9 de Julio and El Obelisco at dusk in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Avenida 9 de Julio, widest avenue in the world, and El Obelisco at dusk in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Joe Sohm/Digital Vision/Getty)

Budapest Highlights

  • Expect cover charges in gay bars. There's usually a minimum entrance fee of about $7.
  • Call for a taxi pickup; don't flag one down on the street. The fare is much cheaper that way.
  • Hungarians are naturally gay-friendly. Even without a mega gay scene, you won't find the latent homophobia found in other parts of Eastern Europe. In fact, the Hungarian word for gay—meleg—also means "warm."

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Bombed to bits during World War II, and devastated by the Mongols centuries earlier, Budapest may not have the intact grandeur of Prague, but it's impressive nonetheless. An interesting mishmash of Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, and Soviet architecture fills the city, which includes the twin towns of hilly Buda and hip Pest. Hungary is slowly becoming cosmopolitan—with rampant foreign investment—and Hilton, Kempinski, and the Four Seasons all have striking properties in Budapest.

The LGBT scene in Budapest is active yet rather small and underground. Even though you'll find full-monty strippers and darkrooms in the gay bars, establishments can be literally difficult to find, with obscure doors and entrances, nearly all of which are found on the Pest side of the Danube River. The scene's bars aren't particularly diverse, but you'll find gay-friendly traditional borozo (wine cellars) and sorozo (beer halls). Another part of the queer scene is the sumptuous Ottoman-style bathhouses, which every gay tourist should visit. They tend to be social rather than sexual, the most frequented being Gellert and Kiraly. Baths tend to have alternating men-only and women-only days, but they are not bathhouses in the gay, Western sense. Budapest also has a happening yet mellow lesbian scene centered on cafes and wine bars, and in October, there's often a one-day lesbian cultural festival with movies, workshops, and Hungarian lesbian herstory exhibits. Budapest's pride event is in July, and be sure to check out the hip Sziget Festival, one of Europe's largest music and cultural festivals held annually in August on Obudai-sziget ("Old-Buda Island"). Same-sex domestic partnerships are legal in Hungary.

Beyond the gay and lesbian scene, there are the stunning city views from high on Gellert Hill, the gilded 1884 neo-Renaissance opera house featured in the film Evita, the scenic pedestrian walkway along the Danube, the large and historic Jewish District, and Margaret Island, a park in the middle of the river with fountains and flower gardens.


Published: 15 Aug 2008 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Budapest

$132-$141
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#1
Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest
$91-$160
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#2
Palazzo Zichy Hotel Budapest
$131-$158
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#3
Corinthia Hotel Budapest
$79
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#4
K+K Hotel Opera

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