Maybe it is the Eastern boys’ fantasies that will attract you to Budapest and its legendary baths or you may want to follow the footsteps of Empress Sissi. You will get the three of them and much more during your stay in the Hungarian capital city, one of the largest cities of Eastern Europe. It has however kept a human face with its interesting and diverse gay life even if some places may be a little outdated. Let’s go!
When. Budapest is charming at all seasons. You will enjoy diving in the steaming baths and hanging around the cafés after facing the cold and snowy winter. The terraces are crowded in the hot summer. Sziget, one of the greatest multicultural festivals in Europe is held mid-August and gathers more than 70 countries and 380 000 Szigotos. The Gay Pride is organized at the beginning of July but has been disturbed by the Extreme Right groups during these last years.
What to see. On the hill is beautiful medieval and baroque Buda, with its green hills and stylish villas. Small paved streets are ideal for strolls and the Castle of Sissi is worth visiting. Crossing the Danube, we arrive in Pest, with its 19th century architecture. The parliament – inspired by the British Westminster – is guarded by soldiers in sexy uniforms. The Empire style largely influenced the eclectic palaces and Secession buildings (Austro-Hungarian art nouveau) later restored and transformed into shops and cafés. Váci utca is the long pedestrian avenue connecting the Opera, the Vörösmarty Tér and the touristic site of the Central Market.
What to do. Baths are part of the locals’ daily life. They go there to relax, chat with friends and have a good time with them. The not-so-spacious, Kirali welcomes mostly the gay community under its beautiful dome but the other ones are also gay-friendly. We love the blue stoneware, the large swimming pool and the early 20th century atmosphere of the Gellért Art Nouveau baths. The Széchenyi baroque baths are less “gay” but there you will see the famous chess players and the steaming pools very pleasant during winter when surrounded by snow. Pay a visit also to the simply magnificent Rudas baths with a very large dome and six pools with different temperatures dating from the Ottoman period (16th century). The entry fees are very affordable and you will be experimenting local life. You can also have quite hard but invigorating massages. The bath tour in summer would not be complete without stopping by the Palatinus Pool. Gays gather on the solarium at the top of the building and showers are a cruising area.
Fooding. The famous goulash soup made of onion, beef, paprika and vegetables, the breaded or saucy meats are rather classic and winter meals. Breads are rather good and the desserts tasty. Many pastries and pancakes stuffed with apples, chestnuts, poppy seeds, walnuts or jam are everywhere to enjoy. The Buda Hill has many “typical” taverns while the beautiful buildings of Pest accommodate chic cafés with a 1900s atmosphere. You will give in to the call of the New York Café, or the Central Kavehaz which is one of the mythical places of Budapest Intelligentsia or the famous Gerbeaud Bakery shop. The central market also has a lot of small, simple and tasty eating places.
Night life. The prestigious operas or to gypsy music gigs in small basements are some of the options. After drinks at Café Mylord on the Danube quays, at the very cosy Funny Carrot playing oldies, or Café Eklektika, particularly appreciated by lesbians, you will switch to the Alterego bar & lounge, the gay dance club with very sexy people. Live drag queen shows will start around midnight. The Capella Café also has drag queen shows but they are not exclusively gay. Budapest being one of gay porn industry epicentres in Eastern Europe, you may find yourself dancing next to the object of your fantasies. The Living Room schedules lesbian nights on the last Saturdays of each month.
Sex. Baths are ideal for meeting people and for some action particularly at Kirali. The Magnum Sauna is more classic but without the charms of historical baths. It is very busy during the weekend with clients of all ages while the Szauna 69 attracts a younger crowd. The Népliget Park in Pest is the most popular cruising spot during the day as well as at night but the place is not very busy. It’s AYOR! The Action Bar and the COXX are the two sex clubs of the city. The first one is the oldest one where local porn stars flail around on Friday evenings and hand over the stage to the Oral Academy on Saturdays. The second one is more recent, larger but also more expensive and schedules themed nights such naked nights. Prostitution and escort services have become more common during these last few years as they are legal and tourists will be definitely summoned. There are more clients between 11.00 p.m. and 1.00 a.m.
Lodging. Stay at the Gellért will allow you to put on your bathrobe, take the wrought iron lift and go down to the Art Nouveau baths as if you were at home. Connection Guesthouse is a small and friendly youth hostel with eight rooms. Another good option is renting flats. Many of them in the historical centre have been renovated and are quite cheap.
Around Budapest. Omski Lake is located twenty kilometres north of Budapest and attracts naturists in the summer. Other options are trips to Balaton Lake or to the charming town of Pécs which has many remnants of the Ottoman period (4h driving though). The train will easily take you to Bratislava and Vienna. Why not try a boat trip on Danube River?