Sunday, March 25, 2007
Where Budapesters Who Matter Come To Gather
A Review Of Exclusive Budapest Nightlife
By Andrea Mihok
The top-end of Budapest’s nightlife is becoming impressive, extending from the most glamorous discothèques to the swankiest outdoor beach club, with plenty of surprises in between, just as you would expect from a European capital. A good night on the town – in the most exclusive company - may require some initiation. The tourist centre is not really where the elite go to meet, but rather at courtyard bars, huge outdoor clubs and cutting-edge dance venues scattered in nooks and crannies throughout the city.
The main party days are Friday and Saturday, but of course there are some places - the ritzy Moulin Rouge, to name just one - that are open almost every day. Nestled in the heart of the theatre district, MR greets guests not only with an invitation to dinner and what many regard as the hottest cabaret show in the town, but to join the dance floor accompanied by Budapest’s top-dollar DJs. The place is frequently full of local merrymakers, many of who know each other by face. Foreign visitors and expatriates are also known to flock to MR, drawn by its alluring profile and live nightly acts. The price for all this fine variety isn’t cheap, but compares favorably to clubs of this standard elsewhere in Europe.
The outskirts of Budapest boast a number of large, shiny clubs. Studio is the largest of all, and is located on a Danube river island, “Hajogyari sziget” in the North of the city. Unfortunately, it is open only on every second Saturday. The club itself is incredibly huge, upwards of 2000 m2. There are typically two very good Djs - Barany Atilla and Dj Antonio - producing the music, often accompanied by a live duet consisting of a saxophonist and a female singer. The Studio is divided into two parts: the Crowd, which is the largest part of the place and the VIP section, located at the end of the room, a little higher.
VIPs at the Studio have the option to rent tables, hire bodyguards and even private waiters in sequestered boxes as they watch the Google dancer wiggling just overhead. To enter the VIP you need to pay a premium - 7000 forint - or present a VIP card. The card gives you a one-year membership and lets you in into a few more places without standing in any lines, along with valet parking at no additional charge.
If this still doesn’t fit your idea of VIP treatment, Budapest now allows the well endowed among you to start your party in a rented limousine before arriving to the Studio or other club of your choice.
Studio is considered by many to be a place for snobbish people, but one regular, Amir Derham, had this to say: “If you are together with your friends, it is no matter with whom you are surrounded, anyway you are bound to have a great time.”
Almost every week, Hungary’s young generation of hipsters meets in these clubs, raising the trend to the level of an addiction. On any given Saturday night when it is open, there are about 3000 people in the Studio, of which around 500 are the VIP section, where the overage drink prices are some ten times higher then in the normal dance area. A small bottle of Asti Martini Champaign, for example, will cost you 9500 forint in VIP, while the same can be had for 2000 forint at the Crowd bar. A conversation with the club’s manager reveals, however, that despite such high prices, the place can hardly turn a profit, thanks to high expenses. An informed source indicated, however, that drug dealing plays a significant role in keeping the place open.
When asked why it’s so interesting to go out every week and see the same people, clubgoers are at a loss to give a clear and meaningful answer.
“I’d rather go out and spend time with my friends almost every week,” said Alina, a card-holding member of Studio, “than to stay at home, watch TV and feel lonely.”
One trend certainly is clear: these places are a haven for fashion house heads, looking to show off – or catch up on - the season’s latest. It is now popular at many clubs to commence the evening with a fashion show to attract people’s attention. Indeed, heads do turn toward the allure of tall, slender models sauntering up and down runways decked out either in fashionable clothing or often just titillating pieces of underwear. As a result, these clubs are perfect for people watching - the women are breathtaking, but off-limits to all but the smoothest operators.
Budapest’s clubs are also becoming a second home to such big name DJs as David Guetta, one of the most sought-after DJs in the world. On my last visit to Dubai, he was invited to one of the grand hotels on Jumeriah Beach, where after just a few minutes of pumping music he had everybody screaming, jumping and simply having an incredible time. A similar house-rocking takes effect each time Guetta or any one of many top international DJs takes control at one of Budapest’s discos.
Once summer comes around, there is rarely any need to go indoors to party. Most of the indoor places shut their doors for the season and the “beach” places open up. The Bed and the Dokk beaches are two of the most visited upscale party spots during the summer. Bed was clearly designed very carefully, it is almost totally white: the curtains, the tables, even a few big rounded sofas where you can actually lie down - as the name "Bed" indicates. The place is known for its special parties - which seek to simulate the atmosphere of a Hollywood party filled with movie stars - such as the “white party,” where everyone is dressed in white and no other color is allowed.
The variety and abundance of outdoor summer nightlife in and around the Budapest city centre is unparalleled. Several run-down courtyards have been converted to hugely popular inner city beer gardens and the banks of the Danube are home to a number of open-air clubs. One upmarket favorite is the Rio Café, located on the Pest side of the Danube. The Rio succeeds in generating that special carnival feeling, just as if you were in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at carnival time. To achieve this effect, they often invite dancers from Brazil or from other Latin American countries.
Whatever club, pub or beer garden you find yourself in, one enduring aspect of Budapest nightlife is that there is no rush. There is always time to get in an after-hours drink. What’s more, things often only get going after midnight. If you still have energy after the main party closes you’ll have the chance to go to the after party. Usually these parties start at 5 in the morning and serve breakfast, with a barrage of arresting music to shake you back to consciousness. And you needn’t worry about lunch or dinner, because they too will be served on time. In other words, it is well worth staying up past your normal Friday night bedtime, because Budapest isn’t sleeping and it always gives you the opportunity to have fun.