Best for: Honeymooners who find Paris too chic (and unsafe) and Prague not cheap enough. Attractions: Budapest’s great claim is as the “shabby chic” Paris of the East. Posh Buda on one side of the Danube River and party Pest on the other have truly bolted out of the Iron Curtain’s shadow. This is a city of sizzling thermal baths and dipping into them is like slipping back in time. At the buzzing Rudas hammam-style dome you’ll find straight, gay and in between guys ogling your obligatory white lap-lap. Men-only nights are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. To replenish your energy you can happily eat like a king for a pauper’s price, compared to other European capitals.
Distractions: Hungarians are, we’re assured, not so much anti-gay as much as they just prefer gay people to be invisible. Holding hands and showing affection in public is, at best, frowned upon and at worst acted upon. That said, last year’s Budapest Pride was notable for no major incidents, unlike a fervent far-Right presence in past years, so it is getting better.
Romance Factor: The current Hungarian national government is virulently Right Wing and strenuously anti-gay. That said, my hubby and I held hands all through Budapest and never encountered a single problem. Go figure.
Gay or nay? Quietly gay. Café Whynot (how can you not admire the name?) sits out and proud on the Pest side of the Danube with views of the Liberty statue across to Buda. Clubbers can move on to Tütü and Alter Ego, all relatively close to Deak Ferenc Ter (Square). It’s a beautifully renovated and, importantly, safe area of Budapest with parks, churches and buildings that Paris can only dream of policing now.