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Last updated : Nov 2009
Hungary Social Profile
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Food & Drink

A good range of restaurants are widely available and table service is common, although there are many inexpensive self-service restaurants. A typical menu offers 2 or 3 courses at inexpensive prices. Fine dairy and pastry shops (cukrászda) offer good light meals. Specialities include halászlé (fish soups) with pasta and Goulash gulyás soup. Western goulash is called pörkölt or tokány. Stuffed vegetables, sweet cakes, gundel palacsinta (pancake) and pastries are also very popular.

Eszpresszó coffee bars and Drink bars offer a wide range of refreshments. Gerbeaud’s is probably Budapest’s most famous coffee-house. Tokaji (strong dessert wine) or Bull’s Blood are recommended. Pálinka or barack (apricot brandy) is a typical liqueur. Imported beers and soft drinks are also widely available. There are no licensing hours, but the legal age for drinking in a bar is 18 years. Minors are allowed to go into bars but will not be served any alcohol.


Budapest has many nightclubs, discos and bars. There are 2 casinos in Budapest and one next to the Sofitel Hotel, and one near Buda castle. Cinemas in major towns show English-language films. In the summer months the popular Lake Balaton resort has a lively nightlife.

Western Hungary in particular has a lot of good wine cellars. Visitors would do well to search out traditional folk music and dancing, as the gypsy music which is so common in restaurants is not considered the ‘true’ folk tradition of Hungary. The magnificent Budapest Opera House stages regular performances, and seats are quite cheap.


Special purchases include embroideries, Herend and Zsolnay porcelain and national dolls.

Shopping hours

Department stores are open from Monday-Wednesday and Friday 1000-1800 hrs, Thursday 1000-2000 hrs, Saturday 0900-1300 hrs.

Food shops are open from Monday-Friday 0700-1900 hrs, Saturday 0700-1400 hrs.

Special Events

For a detailed list of festivals and special events celebrated, contact the Hungarian National Tourist Office or see online (website: www.fesztivalvaros.hu/english). The following is a selection of special events occurring in Hungary in 2005:  
January 28th-30th Mini Festival.
March 18th- April 3rd 25th Anniversary of the Budapest Spring
May 29th-June 8th Budapest Early Music Festival.
June 17th-July 17th Ferencváros Summer Festival.
June 25th-26th Budapest Fair.
October 1st-10th Music of Our Age.
October 14th-23rd Autumn Festivals.
Social Conventions

Hungarians enjoy modern music and dance, although older people still preserve their traditions and their culture, particularly in the small villages. Handshaking is customary and both Christian name and surname should be used. Normal courtesies should also be observed. At a meal, toasts are usually made and should be then be returned. A useful word is egészségünkre (pronounced ay-gash-ay-gun-gre), meaning ‘your health’. Few people speak English outside the hotels, big restaurants and tourist offices. A knowledge of German is quite useful. Gifts are acceptable for the hosts as a token of thanks, particularly when invited for a dinner or lunch.

Casual wear is acceptable in most places, with the exception of expensive restaurants and some bars. Formal attire should be worn for important social events, but it is not common practice to specify dress on invitations.

Smoking is prohibited on public transport in towns and public buildings. Travellers may smoke on long-distance trains.


Military installations should not be photographed and other restrictions are usually signposted.


10 to 15 per cent is expected for nearly all services in the restaurants, bars, clubs and taxis.
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