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Pagony Kert thermal baths bar at night
Photograph: Zsófia Börcsök

The 11 best bars in Budapest

Whether or not you’re going out out, the best bars in Budapest can sort you out for beer, wine, cocktails and more

Jennifer Walker
Written by
Jennifer Walker
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Oh yeah, this is going to be fun. If ever there was a city that feels like it was built for boozing, Budapest is it. It is nigh on impossible to wander the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter without encountering a hearty group of imbibers, and even the quieter neighbourhoods are home to quirky bars and long-established drinking holes. The Hungarian capital has something for everyone when it comes to a night out, from decadent parties to spots that positively scream “buy a beer and read your book”. Looking for the best bars in Budapest? You don’t have to dig too deep but start with these charmers. 

Drank somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDrinkList. You can also find out more about how Time Out makes recommendations and reviews bars.

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.

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.

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Kisüzem
Photograph: Jennifer Walker

3. Kisüzem

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.

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). 

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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.

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Bar 360

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.

Boutiq’Bar

Cocktail lovers should head to this low-lit bar in the VI District, just off Andrássy Avenue. Whether you try one of their signature concoctions, 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.

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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.

Instant & Fogas

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 more fun 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.

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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. 

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