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After you’ve seen all the big sights, like St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Chain Bridge and Heroes Square, you’ll be amazed at how many wonderful little hidden gems are scattered around Budapest, known mostly to the locals and expats of the city. Here are just a few of them for the intrepid and adventurous traveler.
This tiny venue at No. 19 is easy to miss when walking down Ráday Street, Budapest’s Restaurant Row. Visitors can enjoy the café’s craft beer specials, some of their tasty dishes and, of course, live jazz. Hungarian jazz musicians and students perform here almost nightly; check their Facebook page for upcoming concerts and reservations.
Jelen Bisztro is a relative of Most and Bordó, and is found near Corvintető, behind Blaha Lujza Square. This spot is an alternative, ruin-pub-like bistro. The crowd of regulars is a young and hip group and Jelen also offers occasional free concerts by young, contemporary artists. In addition, the last Sunday of each month draws locals for the free live jazz brunch.
Amigo rockabilly pub is a funky, three-level bar and club on Hársfa u., near Blaha Lujza Ter. Pictures, photos and other rock and roll memorabilia festoon the walls and ceilings in the upper and lower venues, including old radios, tape recorders, musical instruments, flags, LP records and signed programs from long-ago rock concerts. There is live music on Saturdays, parties on weekdays and a karaoke night on Thursdays. In addition, the cellar level offers billiards, table soccer, dart boards and a jukebox.
Pot Kulcs on Csengery u, just off Podmaniczky u, is still going strong after all these years. In the late 1990s, “Spare Key” was an English teachers’ hangout and later morphed into a general all-purpose locals gathering place. It now offers concerts inside and, in the summer months, on its outdoor terrace. The entrance is hidden in an ivy-covered wall and you can easily pass it by if you don’t know where you’re going. It’s still one of the “IN” places to hang out.
Also known as Nemzetközi Hajóállomás in Hungarian, this terrace is hidden in plain sight at Belgrád rkp. 23, overlooking the international Danube cruise boat docks. This lively little terrace pub offers stunning panoramic views of Gellert Hill and the Danube. Seaman’s also offers “delicious light meals, good coffee, tasty cocktails, ice-cold draft beers and some of the best Hungarian wines.” The friendly staff at this little-known terrace will help make your visit a memorable one as you sip your cocktails while watching the Danube boats cruise by.
The ‘other’ New Orleans Jazz Club
This jazz club is tucked away in Buda at the corner of Fő u and Halász u., near the Halász utca No 41 and 19 tram stop. So far this little hideaway only offers live jazz on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but expansion is being planned for the near future. No cover charge and the drinks and snacks are extremely reasonable. Stop by and hear owner Viktor strum his banjo with the other members of his jazz group.
Another long-term Buda hidden gem, this pub is located just behind Batthyány Tér. It’s listed as a “pub,” but it also serves up Hungarian comfort food in a section of town where the locals live. The food is delicious, the street-side atmosphere is comfy, and the staff is quite attentive, even if you lack Hungarian language skills. Prices are reasonable as well, and the Guinness is served just right. Polo Pub is a ‘must-visit’ when you’re walking along the Buda side of the Danube.
This is also in Buda, near Déli Palyaudvar train station, on Nagyenyed u. It’s a place where time seems to have stopped and you can spend 10 minutes or two hours without rushing. The owner and his nephew, a clockmaster, have created a pleasant, harmonious, warm-hearted restaurant that might be a perfect old-fashioned venue for dating, business meetings and friendly gatherings. Drop by and feel good in the world of watches.
Jó Pipa, Good Pipe, is just down Pipa utca, a side street next to the Vásárcsarnok, or Big Indoor Covered Market, at Fővám Tér. They offer a wide variety of drinks and snacks, along with a warm kitchen welcome and a beautiful little terrace overlooking a small secluded green park. Come on by and enjoy a relaxing venue for darts, soccer, live sports and free WiFi.