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What’s Up with the Lack of Air Conditioning in Budapest?

This is more of a quick rant that I am writing after almost melting away into nothingness during the past couple of days that I’ve spent here in Budapest. And after finding out that, even though the sun tries to burn us all alive, most of the pubs and restaurants in Budapest won’t turn their air conditioning units on. That is if they have any, of course.

Getting there…

I love Budapest. This is the second full month that I am spending here and I sure hope it won’t be the last. But it’s surely the first and last that I am spending during the hottest months of the year (mid-July to mid-August) or at least the last booked in an AirBnb without air conditioning…

When I’ve been here before, it was in either May or June. Even though in most of Europe things were starting to get hot, Budapest was still pretty cool. I loved that weather – it was perfect. Cold enough inside to wear long pants and long sleeve, but decent outside so you can grab a cold beer or enjoy an ice cream, all without sweating out all the water you drank in the past 5 years.

That made me believe that weather Budapest is always cooler than the rest of Europe. Or at least than the more southern parts of Europe, where I usually spend my life.

These last few days have proved me horribly wrong. It was hot as hell. Over 38 degrees outside and our room temperature raised up to 32 at one point.

Yes, the weather gets really hot!

And when it’s blazing hot outside and the temperature rises inside your apartment… what do you do?

You seek shelter in a nice cafe. A restaurant. A great excuse to spend an entire day at perfect temperatures, people-watching and drinking frappes!

Not in Budapest!

I was shocked to find out that most restaurants and cafes – even the big franchises like McDonald or Burger King – don’t freaking turn their units on!

Instead, they all keep the doors wide open, as if they’re hoping to trap all the warm weather inside and keep it there for the cold days of winter.

Default temperature in some pubs and restaurants

Even some of the few places that we’ve seen with actual AC units turned on kept their doors wide open so the poor units had no power against the waves of hot air rushing inside. This means that, at best, on most occasions when there is air conditioning running inside, it’s just a few degrees colder than outside. And when outside you there’s over 35 degrees Celsius, it’s still not pleasant!

When looking for cool places (and I’ve been in the very heart of Budapest, around the Vaci street and all the way to the famous ruin pubs), I’ve actually entered some places where it was way hotter than outside: usually the restaurants where they cooked in open spaces. Even some pretty famous restaurants and pubs surprised me with this! It was unbearable and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the people working there.

But, for some strange reason, this surprising arrangement seems to work for most people.

Actually, I am the only one I’ve ever heard complaining. Which seems strange. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe spending an entire day in temperatures of over 35 degrees is what you should do.

Even their cold water is not cold! In one restaurant, I ordered a cold lemonade and it was actually the perfect temperature if you wanted to take a bath in it. Cold beers are also pretty warm. Same goes for water. I actually started to think that this might be a trick played by the restaurant and pub owners to force you into drinking whatever you’ve ordered quickly and get the hell away from there, or order new drinks.

Either way, I find the lack of air conditioning in Budapest – at least in pubs and restaurants where you should have some comfort – strange. And I appreciate the places that offer it even more.

So, from today on, I have declared war to all places in Budapest that keep their doors wide open and air conditioning units off when they shouldn’t. I won’t EVER step inside and spend a single forint there. Instead, I’ll mark all the other places on the map and visit those. Because air conditioning is a must during the summer, Budapest!

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