Jazz jam sessions, symphonies and string quartets, wild techno and rave parties – Budapest offers a seemingly infinite array of music events. To get some insight into the Hungarian capital’s dynamic music scene, Culture Trip asked local musicians and concertgoers for the lowdown.
It doesn’t matter what you’re into, Budapest has it all when it comes to music. Every night there are dozens of events, including concerts, parties and alternative theatre performances. The venues are as varied as the gigs: from an inner courtyard transformed into an elegant music hall, to an old boarding school run by French nuns.
“Classical music is boring, outdated, and for old people in suits.” Isn’t this something we’ve all heard? The Budapest Music Centre is far from boring. This exciting venue is set within a Neoclassical 19th-century residential building that has been renovated and turned into a modern cultural space, with the old courtyard transformed into the main concert hall. Other rooms and venues provide space for music courses and conferences. “I love playing here,” says Bence Juhász, a talented young conductor. “The acoustics are great, and I feel like the venue adds something very special to our performance every time.” If you are looking for some quality contemporary classical or jazz music, this is your best best. BMC has a wonderful and vast music library, and – crucially – it has a great restaurant.
The Palace of Arts (Müpa) opened its doors in 2005, and has been one of Hungary’s principal cultural hubs ever since. The mammoth complex consists of a museum of Modern art, a theatre and the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall. The latter is one of the country’s most modern concert halls, seating over 1,500 people and equipped with hyper-modern equipment. “As a musician, I’m always impressed by how versatile the hall is,” Juhász says. “With the help of moveable walls, echo chambers and other high-tech solutions, the acoustics can be perfectly fine-tuned for the performance. It doesn’t matter if it’s a monumental Wagner piece with 120 musicians on stage or a solo recital, the sound is crystal clear.” Pro tip: students can purchase a standing ticket for 500 HUF (around £1.20).
With an interior painted completely black, Lärm is an electronic music club with Martin audio equipment and no decibel cap. Due to the club’s central location, you might need to fight your way through the crowds to get in, but it’s worth it. “Lärm is currently the most popular underground electronic music venue in Budapest,” says Maxim Jurin, an up-and-coming DJ. He recommends only going to concerts with an entrance fee. “Although there are free concerts as well, having to pay for the ticket means that only hard-core techno fans come. Don’t touch the walls though, if you don’t want to stick to them,” he adds. “It’s dirty, it’s pitch black, it’s raw and loud – it’s true fun.”
For an intimate musical experience, head to Auróra. As its website describes, the venue is a “social enterprise” that aims to embrace and promote the civil sector. The space hosts talks, family events, open theatre performances and concerts, making it both a feature of Budapest nightlife and a hive of activity during the day. According to Vica, a frequent attendee, “Auróra is great because you can always find something you like. It has numerous rooms and bigger areas, so you can peacefully enjoy the concert of your favourite band while not being disturbed by the partying people downstairs.”
Gólya (“Stork”) is more than a concert venue. It’s a community centre with an ambitious mission: promoting peace and acceptance. The wide variety of events include arts and crafts workshops, talks on salient issues such as sustainability and, of course, concerts. The line-up is usually rather eclectic.
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