In present-day Budapest, gypsy music has been largely relegated to a phony tourist activity. Overpriced downtown restaurants tend to hire gypsy bands to perform traditional Hungarian songs in an effort to create “Hungarian vibes” for unsuspecting tourists. The reality is that except for the occasional wedding parties when such songs may be performed, most locals, especially those below 50, are as unfamiliar with these songs as the tourists being subjected to them.
But if you’re curious to listen to a gypsy band in a less contrived setting, Giero may be the best place for it in Budapest. It's a tiny, subterranean bar tucked away on a District 6 backstreet. Giero, which opened in 1990, is named after the late-father of Gizi, the loud-mouthed, big-hearted, ever-present proprietor. Don’t let the grungy interior hold you back (and watch your head as you descend the stairs leading inside), and you might be in for a special experience.
The band usually starts playing at 10 p.m. (no music on Sundays) with songs ranging from local classics to evergreens. Go for the wallet-friendly beers, pálinka, or Unicum to lift the mood, and occasionally buy a round of drinks for the band members too.