As a digital nomad, I’m constantly on the move. That means joining game nights, checking out board game cafes, and otherwise looking for fun places to play and meet local gamers. The Where to Game series aims to cover some great places to check if you’re in the area.
Budapest is really two cities in one (Buda and Pest), split in two by the Danube river. Today, the Pest side to the east has a lot more of the nightlife and stuff to see, so most of the places here are on the Pest side.
- Restaurants and cafes and required to have their prices listed outside by the door, but prices across the board are reasonable.
- Most locals under the age of around 35 will speak good to very good English. Some will appreciate the practice, but you’ll want to remember to talk slower / clearer than you usually would.
- Budapest has a few worthy places to check out, and all have an ample variety of drinks. Some also sell basic snacks, but you’ll probably want to eat before or after gaming.
- Most have a nominal fee to play their games, but curiously I rarely paid this. Maybe I didn’t follow the usual manner of others (I ordered / paid for my drinks at the bar instead of at the table), or maybe it’s only added to the tabs at the tables. I really don’t know.
Board Game Cafe Budapest
Nagyenyed u. 16, Budapest
Ó u. 51, Budapest (on the Pest side)
Game Up Pub
Zichy Jenő u. 4
Szondi u. 18/A, Budapest
Kádár u. 10, Budapest (shop)
Board Game Cafe Budapest – Nagyenyed u. 16, Budapest (on the Buda side) (GPS: 47.497966, 19.021613), – boardgamecafe.hu – Mon-Thu 2pm-10pm, Fri 2pm-12am, Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 12pm-10pm. 500 forint entry fee. Supposedly the first Board Game Cafe in Budapest, it’s a relatively small basement area with a pretty good selection of games. Coffee, lemonades, beers, and panini sandwiches all on offer. I only came here once, and thought it was alright. Being the only board gaming place on the Buda side means locals might choose to come here instead of making a longer journey to a more happening sort of place on the Pest side. It’s low-key and comfy, and the top shelf had a number of previous Spiel des Jahres winners. Vault 51 – Ó u. 51, Budapest (on the Pest side) – GPS: 47.505805, 19.060685 – vault51gamerbar.hu – Sun and Tue-Thu: 2pm-12am, Fri and Sat 2pm-2am, Sun 2pm-12am. 400 forint entry fee. Vault 51 is probably my favorite place to game in Budapest. Come here if you need to get your fix of PC gaming, video gaming, or board games in the basement. The Fallout theme extends to some of the cocktail specials and even the wifi password (which you’ll need because mobile phone service won’t work in the basement). Draft beers, cocktails, coffees, and a wide variety of meals offerings are available – this is probably the only place on the list I’d feel comfortable saying there’s no need to eat beforehand. The game selection is fairly split between Hungarian versions and English versions, with more than a few heavier / big-box games available. The crowd is younger here, and more than a few tables were open to playtesting something new. For game designers, this is the only place I saw any designer / developer meetings of any kind – you’ll want to ask at the bar or just get lucky as to when you might see them. Best on Friday or Saturday nights. Game Up Pub / Pub Game Up – Zichy Jenő u. 4 – GPS: 47.503518, 19.055798 – gameup.hu – Tue-Wed 4pm-11pm, Thu-Fri 4pm-1am, Sat 2pm-12am, closed Sun and Mon. 300 forint fee (drink or eat 2,000 forint worth and this is waived) Game Up Pub is a close second for ‘favorite place to game in Budapest’, and about 500 meters from Vault 51. If there’s not much happening at one, go check out the other place, and vice versa. Draft and bottled beers, soft drinks, coffee, and some snack foods available. Lots of games, mostly lighter and medium-weight games, and lots of younger gamers. It can get crowded on Fridays and Saturdays, and although reservations are accepted via Facebook messenger, you don’t really need one.
Other chances to play
One group of people runs different game nights at different times of the year. You’ll want to check their website (and turn on Google Translate) at http://www.jatszohazprojekt.hu/ for the latest events, or head to https://www.facebook.com/bpboardgames/ for the International Game Night Budapest. These events are usually held at an existing bar and usually cost 400 forint to join. (Someone will greet you and offer a ticket in exchange for your money.) Lots of fun – a wide variety of ages and English skills, and many were open to playtesting games.
Places to shop for games
Szellemlovas társasjátékbolt – Szondi u. 18/A, Budapest – GPS: 47.508944, 19.061186 – szellemlovas.hu – Mon-Fri 12pm-7pm, Sat 10am-6pm, closed Sun Easily the largest gaming store in the city, Szellemlovas carries a wide variety of games to test for yourself (the shelves above are the games available for trying / playing) and to sell. Lots are in Hungarian, of course, so be sure to check the box before buying. Plenty of dice, sleeves, and so on here as well. Metagame – Kádár u. 10 – GPS: 47.511672, 19.054375 – metagames.hu – Mon-Fri 12pm-8pm, Sat 10am-6pm A decent selection of games, and there’s bound to be someone playing a game or two at almost any time.
While you’re here…
The Budapest Flipper Museum is Europe’s largest collection of pinball machines. It’s on the pricier side as attractions go, but once in, all machines are set to free play. Plenty of newer games you’ll recognize, but lots of pinball games are so old there are signs on how to work the different mechanics. A separate meeting room is available for birthday, events, and the like. Finally, a protip for the designers: Copyguru was a consistently excellent print shop with quite a few branches around the city. Each location features self-serve computers hooked up to the printer immediately next to you, and computers can be switched to English commands with a double-click on the desktop icon. If you need printing on anything other than standard copy paper, head to the full-service desk.