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

Tips: Budapest Bathhouses
Roughly 100 natural thermal springs erupt in
Budapest, accounting for the city's historical
association with healing baths. One of the oldest is
the Géllert Fürdo
(H-1118 Budapest, Kelenhegyi ú;t 4, Buda;
36-1-466-61-66; 3100+ Ft; 6 a.m.-7 p.m. M-F, 6 a.m.-5
p.m. weekends), which opened in 1914 and remains a top
international choice today.

The old tradition
of separating women's and men's sections is still in
effect, but a range of á la carte spa services have been added,
from manicures and mud packs to acid baths and "healing

Géllert Fürdo for top Budapest bath is the
neo-Baroque-style Széchenyi Fürdo (XIV
Állatkerti ú;t 11, Pest; 36-3-32-10; 2000+ Ft; 6
a.m.-10 p.m. daily), which opened in 1913. Nestled in
Pest's City Park, its massive open-air thermal pool --
by some counts the largest medicinal bath in Europe --
draws crowds of local families on the weekends who spend all
day soaking in its warm, "healing" waters.

Géllert Fürdo excels at luxury amenities,
Széchenyi Fürdo is unique for its extreme
temperatures. A small cavern-like room just off the
moderately hot outdoor bath holds perhaps the hottest sauna
in the world, next to which lie an ice-water pool and
a utilitarian metal chute shooting out sheets of
actual ice.

Rubbing ice on
yourself, retreating to the sauna, and then repeating the
process every 15 minutes for an hour is supposedly very
healthy, but many Hungarian men seem to treat it like
a fun, masculine endurance course.

Tricks: Queer Beer
An 'authentic' beer garden, in which the
establishment's signature brew is pumped directly from
containers underground into the garden's outdoor
garden taps, can be hard to find these days. If possible,
ask locals, concierges, and especially students if
they have recommendations.

Queer nightlife
has taken a bit of a hit in the last two years, with
favorites like Angyal Bár and Bohemian Alibi closing up
shop. Coxx Bar (1072 Budapest,
Dohány utca 32, Pest; 36-1-344-48-84; cover varies; 9
p.m.-4 a.m. M-Th., 9 p.m.-5 a.m. F-Sa.) remains open,
its cruising backrooms attracting a mixed
leather/bear/muscle crowd. Also part Internet café,
sex shop, and art gallery, visiting Coxx by daylight can be
a useful way to pick up news of other LGBT goings on.

Most advice will
probably point to Capella Café (1056 Budapest,
Belgrád rakpart 23; 06-30-629-79-71; 10 p.m.-4 a.m.
daily, closed Tu.), which offers standard to
above-average quality gay clubbing and good drag shows
to House-inflected diva-stomping beats.

Lesbian-owned Eklektika Restolounge (VI ker.
Nagymezö, Pest; 06-1-266-12-26; 590+ Ft; 12 p.m.-12
a.m. daily) is another old-school hold-out, offering
tasty eats and solid cocktails for appetites of all
sizes and sexualities. Try their vegetarian-friendly
all-you-can-eat buffet from noon-3 p.m. Monday through

Semi-monthly LGBT
parties have taken up the nightlife slack to some
extent, with the Candy parties leading the way.
Venues and cover charges may vary, so check their website
ahead of time.

Tags: Travel