Global Gayborhoods: Budapest

A leader in Central and Eastern Europeans' violently controversial charge for LGBT rights, Budapest's unique cosmopolitanism is none-the-less undergoing a lively revival.

BY Editors

September 26 2008 12:00 AM ET

Outside In

Despite being
connected by nine bridges and -- since the late 19th
century -- a single name, Buda and Pest are distinct and
sprawling cities. The former's giant, gentle green
hills, ensnared by concrete highways, hide challenging
hikes, a picturesque medieval village around Várhegy Castle Hill, the
best views of Pest's eclectic, spired skyline, and the
priceless, eerie Szobor Park where statues of old
Soviet and Communist leaders have been unceremoniously
deposited (XXII Szabadkai ú;t, Buda; 227-7446;
1500 Ft; 10 a.m.-dusk daily).

Across the Danube
river, Pest bustles with the Hungarian State Opera,
heartily spiced goulash stews, Europe's oldest metro, and
beautifully faded Art Deco architecture. By night, this half
pours itself outside -- weather permitting -- to drink
local microbrews in the open-air beer gardens it
claims to have invented. Together, Budapest is
considered one of the continent's most beautiful cities and
many will attest that it is currently undergoing a
lively renaissance.

While constant
controversy and violence have plagued Budapest Prides for the last
few years, the city remains among the most liberal, safe
places in Eastern and Central Europe -- matched by
Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Prague. In an important step in
2008, police were praised for physically protecting
marchers as protesters threw eggs, paint, cobblestones, and
petrol bombs.

Resilience is key
in Budapest, as much for capitol culture in general as
for the queer scene. The city's unique cosmopolitanism has
withstood Romans, Magyars, Mongols, Turks, Habsburgs,
and Soviets and will withstand recent homophobia as

The city's LGBT
bar and club scene, while small compared to Paris or
London's, remains active, drawing queer folks from
neighboring Central and Eastern European countries,
and a form of civil unions has been legal since 1996.
Effective in 2009, new legislation will guarantee these
unions the same rights as married spouses except for joint

Tips: Hotels
Owned and operated by an openly gay Hungarian
chef and former 5-star hotel executive, the Kapital Inn (1062 Budapest, 30
Aradi ú;tca, Pest; 36-30-931-10-23; 79+ Euro) bed and
breakfast is the top choice for LGBT accommodations in
Budapest. The 19th-century building offers wireless
Internet, a terrace, complimentary drinks and snacks
whenever you feel peckish, fresh baked breakfasts, and
priceless advice on current queer nightlife.

Perhaps the first
-- it opened in 1896 -- word in Budapest luxury, the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal
(H-1073 Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 43-49, Pest;
36-1-479-40-00; 150+ EUR) consistently ranks among the top
hotels in the world. Amenities include a hi-tech spa
that pre-dates the hotel, two cocktail lounges, two
restaurants, two streetside cafés, and regular

Tags: Travel