If any city feels like it was built for drinking in, Budapest does. It’s virtually impossible to wander the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter without encountering a stag party, and its VII District has such a hedonistic reputation that it’s earned the nickname ‘Bulinegyed’ (party neighbourhood) in Hungarian. But whether or not you’d class yourself as a party tourist, Budapest has something for everyone when it comes to drinking. From all those storied ‘ruin bars’ – dilapidated buildings converted into eccentric nightlife hotspots – to classy cocktail palaces to endearingly dingy dives, these are the best bars in Budapest right now.
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Best bars in Budapest
Budapest’s most famous bar started life closer to a squat. In the early 2000s, a few young Hungarians set up a bar in this abandoned building in the Jewish Quarter – and in doing so kick-started the ‘ruin bar’ trend. Today Szimpla Kert occupies an apartment block that’s been stripped back to the brick. It’s decorated with local art, graffiti, fairy lights and a mish-mash of vintage furniture. You can even down your drinks in an old Trabant. There’s a range of bars both downstairs and upstairs, but if you come at the weekend, expect crowds.
Cocktail lovers should head to this low-lit bar in the VI District, just off Andrássy Avenue. Whether you try one of their signature concotions, like the Hello Tourist with aged apple pálinka, red wine, pastis and a hint of apple, or you ask one of their award-winning bartenders to mix your go-to drink, you won’t leave disappointed.
For drinks with a view, take the lift next to the art deco shopping centre on Andrássy Avenue all the way up to the roof. You can spot all the most famous sites from Bar 360 – including the Hungarian Parliament, Buda Castle, Gellért Hill and St Stephen’s Basilica. In winter, heated ‘igloos’ make for a cosy hangout for dates or groups. Grab a cocktail, some Hungarian wine, or one of their tip-top bar snacks.
This bar must be one of the city’s most unusual. Set on a permanently moored former Ukrainian stone-carrying ship, A38 is a popular bar and concert venue on the Buda side of the Danube next to Petőfi Bridge. The bar and restaurant area is above deck, but if you come for one of the concerts or club nights, head into the cavernous space below.
If you’re into your beer, then we’d recommend Élesztő (‘yeast’ in Hungarian). There are more than 20 local craft brews on tap here, and all are excellent. Set in a former glassworks factory in the IX District, the venue itself is a curiosity, very much the ruin bar with its gritty, quirky, steampunk-inspired décor.
Tucked away in the VIII District, this two-floor bar pulls in a bohemian crowd of locals and expats. Done out in an intimate crimson hue, Hintaló blends Dalí prints with vintage curios and works by local artists. It’s off the tourist track, though worth coming to for the atmosphere.
This curious bar behind the outdoor pools of the Gellért thermal bath complex is worth trekking to Buda for. In the past, the baths were much larger, and Pagony has since taken over the once-abandoned swimming pools and set up a few tables and parasols. If it’s nice out, you can sit in one of the tiled children’s pools with a glass of wine and tuck into decent pub-style grub.
Kisüzem may not look like anything special, but it is. Decorated with plants and – sometimes questionable – local art, it’s quirky through and through, and that trickles right down to the vibe and clientele (think local creative types). Despite being in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, it retains a down-to-earth feel and hasn’t been corrupted by Budapest’s flocks of stag and hen parties. In summer punters perch on the window sills to smoke, and well-priced drinks mean it’s usually packed inside.
Although most of the downtown ruin bars have become tourist attractions, Ellátó Kert remains one of the grittier hangouts. Hidden in a formerly abandoned plot just behind busy Kazinczy Utca, Ellátó Kert evokes a festival tent with its colourful gazebo-type awnings (and delicious taco stand). Prices are more than reasonable, but note they only accept cash here.
Instant and Fogas were once two independent ruin bars. However, when Instant’s building was slated for demolition, it moved in with Fogaz Ház and Kert, a former dental laboratory in the Jewish District. Today it’s a bar and club mega-complex spread over several floors (with a courtyard dominated by a circus tent). On weekends the place heaves with party-goers, and is all the funner for it. But if you’re after a more mellow evening, head to Liebling, a quiet bar on the complex roof, just below the giant red lips.
This ruin pub is sleeker and more minimalist than most of its counterparts. From the outside, Anker’t looks like it could be any old bar. Inside, however, it opens up into a gutted courtyard stripped back to stone arches, with photo-worthy lanterns and hidden side rooms for overspill. In summer the open courtyard makes for a cool, shady retreat, while in winter the party continues in a heated tent.
Ötkert is essentially a high-end ruin bar. There’s a smart casual dress code, and they may turn you away at the door if you dress down. In the early evening and during the day, you can grab some decent food, and summer nights are filled with live music. Later on, DJ sets make for a clubbier vibe. You may well spot some slebs here.
This tiny four-table bar on Bartók Béla Út in the XI District is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of place. It’s a Polish bookshop and bar that serves excellent beers, vodka shots, and if you’re lucky, moreish pierogi dumplings. The shabby-chic appeal, bohemian clientele and cosy atmosphere make for an exquisite, laid-back night out. Try the Veszett Kutya shot (vodka with raspberry syrup and tabasco).