For a city of its size, Budapest has a huge choice of things to do and places to go after dark, from opera and folk dancing to live jazz and films screened in palatial cinemas. It’s usually not difficult getting tickets or getting in; the hard part is deciding what to do and where to go.
Handy websites for booking theatre and concert tickets include www.jegymester.hu and www.kulturinfo.hu.
Classical & Opera
Apart from the city’s main concert halls, including the Liszt Music Academy, Palace of Arts , Hungarian State Opera House and Erkel Theatre, many museums and other venues feature chamber music. They include, in Pest, the Old Music Academy, where the Ferenc Liszt Memorial Museum is housed and the newly renovated Pesti Vigadó. ‘Second-tier’ venues in Buda include the Béla Bartók Memorial House and the Music History Museum.
The website www.muzsikalendarium.hu is a good resource for events listings.
Rock, Pop & Jazz
Folk & Traditional
Authentic táncház (literally ‘dance house’, but really folk-music workshops) are held at various locations a couple of times a week (more frequently in summer). Times and venues often change; consult listings publications and the website of the Dance House Guild (www.tanchaz.hu). Expect to pay between 1000Ft and 1500Ft.
Among other types of traditional music is klezmer (Jewish folk music); one of the best bands, the David Klezmer Quintet led by lead vocalist Judit Klein, plays regularly at the Spinoza Café in Pest; check their website for upcoming concerts. Traditional Ashkenazi Jewish music is performed by the venerable Budapest Klezmer Band (www.budapestklezmer.hu) around since 1990. Regular performances are at the Madách Theatre.
Classical & Modern
Two of Hungary’s best-known folk-dance troupes, the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble (Magyar Állami Népi Együttes) and the Hungária Orchestra & Folk Ensemble (Hungária Zenekar és Népi Együttes), perform on selected evenings from May to October. For bookings, contact Hungária Koncert (www.facebook.com/HungariaKoncert).
It’s unlikely you’ll brave a play in the Hungarian language, but the József Katona Theatre is the place to go if you dare. The Átrium in Buda stages many of its both Hungarian and foreign plays and musicals with English surtitles. Budapest’s most celebrated English-language improvisational theatre company is Scallabouche (www.scallabouche.com).
Several multiplex cinemas in Budapest screen English-language films with Hungarian subtitles. Consult the listings in the freebie Funzine (www.funzine.hu) or PestiEst (www.est.hu) to find out where and when these showings are on.
Be aware, though, that many foreign films are also dubbed into Hungarian, usually indicated in listings with the words 'magyarul beszélő' or simply ‘mb’. Films that have been given Hungarian subtitles (feliratos), rather than being dubbed, will retain their original soundtrack.
The most popular spectator sports in Budapest are football and water polo, although motor racing, especially during the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix, and horse racing – both trotting and flat racing – also have their fans.
Once at the top of European football, Hungary has failed to qualify for any major tournament since 1986. No club has dominated football here over the years like Ferencvarosi Torna Club (FTC), which plays at the Groupama Arena in Pest. Some useful resources:
www.hungarianfootball.com Match schedules.
www.nemzetisport.hu A good source of what's happening, sports-wise, and where.
www.jegymester.hu Tickets to sporting events.
Hungary has won the European Championships in water polo a dozen times since 1926 and the World Championships three times (most recently in 2013). It took the FINA Men’s Water Polo World Cup for the fourth time in 2018. Hungary has also won nine gold medals at the Olympic Games, so it's worth catching a professional or amateur game of this exciting seven-a-side sport. The Hungarian Water Polo Association (www.waterpolo.hu) is based at the Alfréd Hajós National Sports Pool on Margaret Island.