Music Venues Of Budapest
Most people who come over to Budapest will do the usual rounds any tourist or stag-traveller would: The triade of bars, restaurants
and clubs are a universal choice for about 99% of people.
This being said, I’m not going to convince you to go to a museum for a change, and I’m not even going to ask you to avoid drinking. However, there’s one segment to this city which is often overlooked, even though it’s surprisingly attractive. That segment is the Music Scene of Budapest. Of course, I’m not going into infinite detail on the musical landscape of the city as it is surprisingly rich. But we’re going to have a dip into the best music venues this dreamland of a city can offer. Genre won’t really matter, but if you want something more specific, feel free to send an email my way.
A Bit Of Music’s History In Budapest
Considering how much the Commun
So Raise Your Fists And March Around
Especially when the first snippets of rock or blues music started to hit home with some of the more creative youngsters of the country. These, and other similar genres weren’t really the flavour of the week at the government offices, meaning they did their best to make sure the youth would spend their time with more useful activities, like joining the Úttörő movement, which was sort of like the youth scouts we know from the US. Only difference being that they were run and massively influenced by the opressing Socialist state. However, by the end of the 1960’s
and early 70’s, beat music finally broke through, and more and more bands started playing this kind of music in the popular talent shows of the time (Because we did have them, way before they became popular, making Hungary a bona fide hipster of the European nations).
Much to the grief of the leaders, bands like Illés or Omega – the latter recently sampled by Kanye West – did a lot to channel their less-than-approv
Starting in 1990s, Blossoming Today
Having mentioned that the big guys up in their boss-chairs weren’t exactly keen on the surge of this type of music, bands mostly had to play gigs in smaller clubs, usually around the campuses and lodgings of universities where students were spending their weekends anyway. However, beginning in the early 1990s as people started to realise they can actually do whatever they want without being harrassed, more and more people started opening music venues in the city center that offered live music from every kind. Thus emerged a local music scene that might not be as famous as their well-known western counterparts, but that by no means is any less spectacular. Let’s have a look at the best of the best of contemporary music venues in a splendid European city that some refer to as The Wonderful.
A38 | Concert Hall And Party Boat
I decided to start with the obvious one, as A38 is by now pretty famous abroad. It is well cherished by a lot of local musicians too, and those who ever had the chance to play there, will tell anyone just how awesome this place is.
How come, you ask? Because it’s A BOAT! Indeed, the name comes from the type of the ship, Artemovszk 38, and this baby (originally named Tripolje) was built in 1968 to be a cargo boat, shipping stone and rocks in and out of Ukraine before an ambitious entrepreneur had the amazing idea to turn it into the premises of a cultural project.
A 38 is not just simply a music hall, but a full-blown venue that holds several kinds of arts exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year. Which means that, beside the music fans, enthusiasts of painting, photography and other things find
their home aboard. All in all, the place holds two concert rooms, the bigger one in the belly of the ship and the smaller one on the top which is just brilliant for a place to dance the night away on summers. Both come with a bar. Then there’s a standalone bar, a restaurant, a gallery hall, and even the studio for some of the programmes aired on Hungary’s music and cultural channel, Petőfi TV. A 38 is situated right next to Petőfi bridge which means the place is pretty close to the city centre and the panorama is quite the charm. In terms of money, it’s obviously one of the more expensive places, but seriously, it’s all worth it. So if you’re ever in the city, check out what gigs are being held, and have a look for yourself.
This is one of my personal favourites, and that for a variety of reasons. What you need to know is that this place was a youth gathering place just underneath the dorms of Eötvös Lóránt University (or as it’s usually called, ELTE), making it one of those classic clubs I was talking about above.
Entrance to one of Budapest’s best music venues | Photo: Dürer Kert
Sadly, this is one of the last to remain from that era. The good news is, it’s not likely Dürer will go anywhere in the near future since it’s busy almost every night, hosting quite a few events with 99% of them consisting of music events. Sometimes when there’s nothing else to do, you can catch screenings of major international sporting events in the amazing garden/yard area that really comes to life during summer days. The setting is pretty much the same as it first was, the whole architecture really is a retro throwback, but in such a lovely way that it doesn’t feel daft whatsoever. It’s just cool.
About the place itself, the already mentioned ruin pub-like yard has one stage for acoustic gigs while the inside contains three concert rooms. Two of them are traditionally called Small Hall and Big Hall, and there’s a medium sized one in between the two, called Room041 (Nobody really knows why). Apart from that, there’s a quiet lounge area, marble floored hallways between the halls, and a dancefloor, for when the concerts are over, but you are certainly not.
And it doesn’t end here, they also have a VIP poker room which you can rent for one night (for a large sum obviously) to be private with your friends, play some poker or just chat
Dürer Kert features a quasi-ruin pub in the back | Photo: etterem.hu
away, and you even get one dedicated waiter for all that. In terms of musical acts, the place specialises in booking great names from a variety of genres, but the main direction for them are rock/punk/metal and Drum ’n’ Bass/Goa/Trance acts. Oh, and they have by far the best personnel manning the bars in the city. Extremely friendly, and sometimes outright hilarious people will serve you very fairly priced drinks all night.
Adress: Ajtósi Dürer sor 19-21
Phone: +36 1 789 4444
Barba Negra Music Club
“The new guy wants to know what time the bar opens?” – Lemmy tribute gig at Barba Negra Music Club. Photo: Barba Negra Music Club
Now, this is a nice one. The name comes from the time when they started out, back then it had a full Pirate-theme going on which (luckily) has gone away since.
However, the interior design is still very cool, with all the wooden panels and scaffolding making it a unique setting. It’s also worth noting that this is probably the only venue I’ve ever seen where the stage is pushed to the side of the hall and not in the very center. What’s important is that it’s usually only open when there’s a band playing, and it isn’t really located in a central part of town as its lieing on the southern region of Buda. Also, it bears mentioning that it’s not the easiest places to find on top of it. I remember getting lost the first time around, however, if arriving around doors opening time, you should be able to identify the people queuing up in a dark parking lot. The place specializes in Rock and Metal music mostly, it’s usually rare to see anything beyond this realm, but if you’re a fan, you’ll definitely like it. Unfortunately, I can’t tell the same about drinks. They’re expensive, and the draught ones are not very good so my advice would be to always go with the bottled ones.
Barba Negra Music Club
Adress: Prielle Kornélia u. 4
Phone: +36 20 563 2254
Barba Negra Track
Open air concert at Barba Negra Track in September, 2015 | Photo: Barba Negra Track
Exactly, Barba Negra has a little brother, just beside Rákóczi bridge. What you need to know is that it’s an open-air venue so it’s only open from mid-spring to end of September.
During that time, you will see all the relevant bands of the Hungarian music scene and occasionally some big worldwide names, but only in the same preferred circle of genres as in it’s indoors counterpart (see above). What’s pretty funny is that you don’t even have to buy a ticket or or actually enter the venue: all concerts are perfectly enjoyable from the side of the road, just off the bridge as the road is on an embankment. Perfect for having a picnicwith some drinks, and the security guys don’t really seem bothered by that, either.
I’m sure most people reading this love music festivals. The masses, the great vibes, open air, adorably weird bars, junkfood. Well, for those gray days in between two festival trips you have Budapest Park.
Essentially, the place is the kind of like a canned festival atmosphere that you could get any day of the week. The whole setting is to reinforce this vibe, and it does so very, very well. At first sight it looks like a colored up junkyard with containers lying all over the place, but this is all very clever design. Tthe containers are all bars and food parlors, offering anything you would crave for while raving away (Burgers, hot dogs, KFC, pizza, that is). It only has one stage for live music, but it’s big and cool enough, hosting some really big names internationally – and some we’d like to forget, like DJ Bobo or Scooter.
Once the live music stops, the whole front of the stage becomes one big open-air rave. And of course, if you prefer some different kind of jam, there are two other dancefloors to choose from: One offers retro party music and the other one goes for a bit harder/darker dance and EDM. Only downside is the relative geographical distance from downtown action, but most of the time, the party is so good here you don’t really want to go home anyway.
The infamous main stage during daylight | Photo: Budapest Park
.. and at night | Photo: Budapest Park
The location of the venue? One word: downtown | Photo: Akvárium
This one’s for the urban cool-crowd. Or hipsters, if you like. Akvárium is close to being the brightest pearl on the night sky of Budapest, situated in the very middle of the city right on/under the ever youthful lawn of Erzsébet tér.
This is currently one of the trendiest places of the whole country (or maybe even Central-Europe), and for all the good reasons: The interior is full of glamour and the cleanliness of the place hits you hard on the forehead, that’s how shiny it is. Also, they invite the best electro and pop acts from all over Europe as well as the very best from the local scene, so you can be sure that anytime you go there it
Meet the crowd | Photo: Akvárium
will be worthy your while – and your money spent. Because, let’s face it, the only downside is that the place is expensive. Like a lot.
Of course, for someone from the Western world it might be alright-ish, but overall it’s a high-end, expensive venue which reflects in entry fees and drink prices alike. But then again, it is well worth it.
Adress: Erzsébet tér 12
Phone: +36 30 860 3368
The Walking Tour: Best of Budapest's Local Music Scene