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Views of the Chain Bridge at LEO rooftop bar in Budapest
Photograph: Attila Boldog

The 6 best rooftop bars in Budapest

Drinks and views? Yes, please. Where better to survey an iconic skyline than at the very best rooftop bars in Budapest?

Written by
Dan Nolan
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Rooftop bars are awesome. What isn’t to love? Delicious drinks, gorgeous views, beautiful people. Of course, those with an aversion to heights and bars won’t get the same joy out of the things, but you can’t have it all. The Hungarian capital has finally woken up to the truth that its skyline is as gorgeous as any in Europe, and the best rooftop bars in Budapest are here to ram that idea home.

These bars can be plenty pricey (those looking for a cheaper drink should seek out the ruin bars and pubs), but you pay for what you get. In this case, that means getting a bird’s eye view of Budapest’s many beautiful attractions, accentuated by colourful cocktails and innovated dishes that are the equal of celebrated restaurants down below. What’s more, the service can be brilliant, which isn’t exactly Budapest’s strong point. No matter which rooftop you choose, Budapest is always the star.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in Budapest

Best rooftop bars in Budapest

At one end of Budapest’s main shopping street Váci Utca, St Andrea was founded by the winery of the same name and has the drinks list you’d expect from a leading vintner. A huge champagne selection is accompanied by lovely Hungarian wines made from local grapes such as Kadarka and Kékfrankos. Signature cocktails are off the wall and start at around 3,000 HUF. The Luxuria (HUF 4,350) combines 10-year old French aperitif Pineau des Charentes with Hungarian dessert wine Tokaji Aszú. The decent food menu ranges from mangalica sausage and Hungarian ratatouille lecsó to the distinctly penthouse-and-pavement combination of caviar and deep-fried dough lángos. Close to the Basilica, Parliament and the Danube, St Andrea’s views are sumptuous.

Nestled between the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle, the swanky but low-key LEO has proven a hit among arty Budapesters (and visiting film stars such as Scarlett Johansson and Jason Momoa). From Thursday to Sunday, in-house DJs provide a laid-back soundtrack. And in addition to the excellent selection of champagnes, an impressive list of cocktails spans well-executed classics and originals like an excellent Twisted Manhattan. Don’t miss the brilliant buffet brunch with unlimited prosecco from 12pm-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations are strongly recommended.

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Like many rooftop bars, High Note is in downtown Pest, next to St. Stephen’s Basilica. What sets this place apart, however, is the attention to detail – whether in the outstanding service or Zoltán Varró’s ingenious 21st-century revamp of a classic Pesti courtyard building. Every cocktail at High Note is inventive and easy on the eye, while even the bread and butter are made on site.  The music theme has helped make the bar a draw for musicians: Sting, Muse and Will Smith have all enjoyed the vibe here. On Sundays, morning yoga classes are held on the roof, and live concerts take place from 7pm.

This buzzing bar across the river from LEO puts on live bands and/or DJs most nights of the week. Bands at Pontoon range from art-rockers to raucous Gypsy folksters, who set up and play among the riverside sun loungers. Pontoon squeezes into the rooftop bar category as it has a gallery on its top deck where you can eat soups, salads and sandwiches and drink local wine at reasonable prices. Amid also the obscure techno, occasionally a bigger name will turn up – British DJ Mr Scruff recently rocked the Pontoon dance floor with a mammoth set.

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Open since spring 2019, the Sky Garden was a welcome addition to the Budapest bar scene. Tucked in behind Nyugati train station, this rooftop hangout sits on top of the Mystery Hotel on busy Podmaniczky Utca. From the gorgeous lobby to the elevators, Zoltán Varró’s décor is eye-catching to say the least. Deeper into Pest than the other bars listed here, from the rooftop, the familiar Buda backdrop is complemented by Pesti buildings to the fore. The rooftop bar closes in autumn, but while plans for a year-round venue are finalised, Mystery’s exquisite main hall, which serves afternoon tea from 4pm, provides a fine alternative until spring.

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It is the close-up view of the gorgeous, quintessentially Hungarian National Treasury building that makes Intermezzo so special. The menu offers unremarkable classics – steak, burgers, paninis, some veggie options – for double the average local price, but seeing the sunset behind Buda Castle with the Treasury’s Zsolnay-tiled roof in the foreground is unforgettable. The architect Ödön Lechner was once asked why he had designed an ornate roof on such a narrow street. He answered that he had designed it for the birds. Now we too can enjoy that view.

And if it’s top-notch food you’re after?

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