When you first visit Budapest, it can be hard to tear yourself away from the party scene in order to see the sights. When you have events like all-you-can-drink boat parties or the oh-so-famous sparty, or clubs that are open till the sun rises, it’s a wonder you can drag yourself out of bed the next day to continue drinking.
That’s why we’ve decided to present you with a few not-so-secret options for daytime activities which combine culture, history, fun, and yes, drinking to properly prepare you for another outing into the nightlife scene of this crazy city. If you never want to stop partying, you’ve come to the right place.
Number one on our list would have to be the Zwack Unicum Heritage Visitor’s Center. Unicum is a special Hungarian drink, sometimes likened to Jäger. Made of over 40 different herbs and spices, it is traditionally enjoyed as an apertif - though these days, you’re more likely to be guzzling it straight from the bottle.
The company sponsors a variety of charities and sports teams, making the name one that’s hard to miss. You’ve very likely seen it at the bars and ordered a round, only to discover that it was not at all what you thought it would be - but hey, alcohol is alcohol, right? Therefore, why not learn a bit about the shot you’ve been downing every night at 2am?
We suggest you take tram number 2 for a river view, heading over some time in the mid afternoon, as it’s unlikely you’ll be awake with the birds. Make sure to eat something ahead of time, or the tastings will hit you pretty hard. You’ll start off by watching a film about the history of Unicum, then be taken for a guided tour, which shows you the distillery and cellar. There is an opportunity to touch and smell the herbs that might be included in the process of making the drink - that’s right, the recipe is so secret that no one but immediate Zwack family members know it. Two different strong shots will be provided - and your tour guide won’t understand that the smell of alcohol is making you want to vomit and will be very confused if it takes you long to drink it, so bottoms up! The tour finishes in the museum, where you can have a wander and get a few snaps for the ‘gram before moving on your merry way, your steps just a little bit tipsier than before.
So, now you know how Unicum is made as well as the background of the drink - bravo! You’re now 2% Hungarian! Next, we suggest you hop on a drinking walking tour (check out this one, BudaBuzzed, by PartyBookers Budapest). You’ll be given a welcome drink as the drinking game is explained, plus a bottle of beer/spritzer to get you started. Along the way, you’ll receive a refill, to make sure you aren’t becoming too sober as you learn about some of the legends and history of the sights and ruin pubs in the Jewish quarter of Budapest. You’ll end at a backpacker’s bar, which is exactly where you were headed anyways, but this way, you’ve already got a buzz on, learned a few facts about the city you’re tearing up by night (hopefully), and made a few friends along the way.
If you’d rather skip the learning (we understand, sometimes you simply can’t focus on history when you’ve had a big night) but like the idea of drinking your way around the sights of the city, gather a group of your new hostel friends, and hop on a beer bike. Yes, you will have to put in at least a little bit of effort to keep the contraption moving, but it’s worth it to see the looks of jealousy on everyone’s faces as you ride by the gorgeous buildings of Budapest with your beer flowing and beats pumping. Luckily, you’ll have a guide onboard to make sure you don’t forget where you’re going and crash into innocent pedestrians.
Need another activity that’s even more chilled out? You’ve heard about the famous baths, but have you heard about the Thermal Beer Spa? Located in the Széchenyi Bath complex, this unique pastime involves soaking your tired body in yes, beer. Or, close to it. The water is the same healing thermal water used in the rest of the spa, but with the ingredients of beer added to it. These plants and herbs have surprisingly amazing effects on the skin. Don’t worry, you’re not expected to sit in a beer bath without partaking in this special, special beverage. Just within your reach is a tap which you’ll have unlimited access to during your soak. 45 minutes of drinking as much beer as possible while relaxing in herbal waters? Yes, please. Included in your ticket is access to the rest of the Széchenyi complex, so you can continue to laze about in steam rooms and bubbling waters long after your session in the beer baths has finished.
Of course, the very best way to merge drinking and local culture is to hightail it to the nearest bar. You are spoilt for options in Budapest. Be it a high class rooftop bar or a down and dirty pub, you’ll have no troubles finding your new favorite watering hole. Sign up for a pub crawl to be shown the best ruin pubs, or involve yourself in Bingo Bar Crawl, a different type of event that combines a game of weird, crazy challenges with a variety of local bars, traveler bars, and a club to finish the evening with a bit of disco dancing.
Don’t forget to try pálinka, the traditional Hungarian fruit brandy that everyone and their grandmother is obsessed with and has made at home at least once. The taste is not for everyone and definitely has a kick to it, but when you can wake up with a shot of pálinka and continue with your day, you’ll know you’ve made it as a true Hungarian.
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