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Szimpla Kert bar in Budapest, Hungary
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The 14 very best Budapest nightlife spots

Europe's new party capital? These are the best nightlife spots in Budapest, from ruin bars to outdoor spa after parties

Peterjon Cresswell
Written by
Peterjon Cresswell

Whether you're here to party or not, some of Budapest's most notorious nightlife spots are an absolute must. Much of the city's nightlife is found in the Jewish Quarter, but its infamous ruin bars are found on Kazinczy utca, Akácfa utca and Klauzál utca. 

But there's plenty more low-key spots too – you just need to know where to look. Our local writer takes us through nightlife street Madách tér and over the river to the terrace cafés of Bartók Béla út. All the way from Buda to Pest. We’ve got once-in-a-lifetime tourist hotspots alongside the places only locals know. Here is your guide to the best nightlife in Budapest.

📍 The best things to do in Budapest
🏛️ The best spas and baths in Budapest
🏘️ The best Airbnbs in Budapest
🍻 The best bars in Budapest

This article was recently updated by Peterjon Cresswell, a writer based in Budapest. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

The best nightlife in Budapest

1. A38 Boat

What is it? Principally but not exclusively a live venue, the A38 fills a former Ukrainian stone-carrying cargo ship with party fun, after hours and as the sun sets. Concerts take place in the cavernous hull – backstage feels like the set of some seaborne Cold War movie – while DJ sessions keep things swinging on the upper deck. 

Why go? Uniquely Budapest, with prime views of river life and cityscape, the A38 feels a world away from city streets yet bobs below Petőfi Bridge, served by the frequent (and all-night) 4-6 tram. Decent restaurant and regularly changing gallery also on board.

2. Akvárium Klub

What is it? The most central nightspot in Budapest, the Aquarium Club is also one of its most prominent in terms of big-name DJs and attractive live acts. Filling a sunken courtyard with split-level bar terracing beside what was the city’s main bus station, the Akvárium consists of several indoor spaces that can either be raucous or intimate, depending on the event and hall chosen to host it.

Why go? Convenient for everywhere in Budapest, the Akvárium is ideal for dipping into and out of over the course of your visit. If Bavarian folk-punk isn’t to your liking one night, the house party afterwards might just float your boat. Alongside, the pool at street level lends itself to lazy sundowners.


3. 360 Bar

What is it? Atop one of Budapest’s most revered buildings, a fin-de-siècle department store on the showcase boulevard of Andrássy út, the 360 Bar not only encompasses full panoramic views of the city but goes year-round, too. Here, cocktails and fine wines temper the heat of high summer, cosy communal igloos and warming drinks take the edge off winter. DJs feature throughout, along with prime snacks and those gobsmacking views.

Why go? Time your visit for around sunset and you’ll soon see why. Budapest never looked better – but make sure to reserve a table. Either side of Christmas, book an igloo, gather a few friends and get toasty – each one is individually heated.

4. Pontoon

What is it? Simply put, a floating festival in downtown Budapest. Pontoon has moved locations over the summers but never strays too far from one of the city’s central crossing points, currently Chain Bridge. Thanks to generous opening hours of 5pm-4am, you can dance your ass off to hip-hop, Latino and electro beats till the trams start running beside the Danube, taking advantage of the chill zone and quality Mexican street food to keep you going.

Why go? For unpretentious partying on one of Europe’s great rivers


5. Szimpla Kert

What is it? The mother of all ruin bars, the legendary nightspot that set the trend for transforming a neglected building in the Jewish Quarter into a warren-like bohemian locale characterised by mismatching, skip-found furniture, junk-shop decor and fairylights. It's now it’s a tourist hotspot with beer prices to match, but on the right night, with the right crowd, it can be magical. Szimpla Kert doubles up as a farmers’ market on Sunday, with a little live music thrown in.

Why go? If it’s your first time in Budapest, it’s a must. If you’re an old hand, make sure to also check out Kisüzem or Fekete Kutya nearby. If you’re a Hungarian, well, you might be over Szimpla by now. 

6. Dürer Kert

What is it? For many years, Dürer Kert was one of Budapest’s most essential live venues, a haven of alternative music and punk/metal festivals set in a former sanatorium for the Communist elite. A leafy location alongside City Park added to its charm. 

Upping sticks and moving across the river during the pandemic was a statement – yes, sir, Buda can boogie. Not only that, but this once strictly spiky spot has expanded its remit to embrace anything slightly off the wall, be it poppy or even jazzy. Gone is the bare brick, this is a garden party, with space to chuck a Frisbee around, store your bike and sample the superior craft beers and street food while the band’s soundchecking. 1920s’ themed dance parties another speciality.

Why go? For interesting live music beneath the stars shared with a convivial, multi-generational crowd. And DJ parties, too.


7. Központ

What is it? Touting itself as a ‘performance and event venue’, Központ is where DJs spin, musicians play acoustic sets and Hungarians of a certain bohemian mindset hang out. It’s on Madách tér, the pedestrianised square that many cross for the bland frenzy of Gozsdu Udvar nearby. Here, a more discerning, local crowd frequents the bars and cafés, particularly Hivatal, which is the size of a phone box if they still had phone boxes. Központ is more accommodating in both senses of the word – if you’re a first-time foreigner, order an affordable beer, pull up a chair and enjoy the vibe. You’ll be welcome.

Why go? For a laid-back night (mainly) in the company of Hungarians, and to discover some live sounds you may not have been expecting.

8. Ötkert Club

What is it? This central spot offers a slightly more polished clubbing experience than its edgier counterparts. Ötkert’s magic takes place in an impressive, restored 19th-century building.

Why go? On most summer nights, Ötkert boasts five DJs playing a mix of commercial music, R&B and hip hop across two rooms. They also have a large terrace which is utterly perfect in July and August. If you’re here in winter, don’t worry – it comes equipped with outdoor heating for colder nights.


9. Instant/Fogas

What is it? Signposted by an illustration of a set of dentures, Fogas rode the first wave of ruin bars in the Jewish Quarter, off-the-wall and oh so slightly underground. When the more party-focused Instant was forced to close in District VI, the two venues joined forces to spread out in this huge complex of courtyards and bars. Sticking to the ruin bar theme, the decor comprises hanging installations and bizarre accoutrements, with an open area for starlit drinking. 

Why go? This all-in-one option is ideal for big groups, who can lose themselves in the maze of spaces, sink a few cocktails on the terrace, take each other on at ping pong and dance way beyond sun-up.

  • Things to do

What is it? Szechenyi Baths are so much more than a decadent location in which to slot in some sauna time – they’re also home to one of the city’s most raucous night-time events, the Sparty. Think of a full-on rave in a thermal spa. And that means pumping house music, pricey cocktails and an anything-goes atmosphere.

Why go? When else will you get to party in the spectacular setting of a 20th-century bathhouse? This one’s not for the faint of heart, but you’ll be surrounded by plenty of other tourists and be able to swim/dance the night away in a giant pool illuminated by lasers and flashing lights. All-male stag parties are not welcome, and security is on-hand all through the night to create a safe environment.


11. High Note Skybar

What is it? The rooftop cocktail bar of a music-themed, five-star hotel, at eye level with the huge clock in the dome of St Stephen’s Basilica. To reach the High Note, you should cross the lobby floor comprised entirely of piano keys to take a separate lift and be greeted by smart yet personable staff. They then show you to whichever slice of cityscape sunset you fancy gawping at while you sample one of Marcell Sárközi’s inventive, seasonal drink mixes. You can also hire an upper space for all this with vertigo thrown in. 

Why go? Because it is utterly, must-Insta-this-immediately memorable. Plus, you would never know, from the discreet if stylish door at street level near the Basilica, what awaits you far too many floors up.

12. Vittula

What is it? A bare-brick cellar of serious drinking hidden away from the world, practically across the street from the glitzy, historic New York Café. 

There are some who say that Vittula had its heyday when it felt like the set of a Jim Jarmusch movie, all obscure rockabilly tunes, edgy characters and bizarre bar talk. Others would argue that it had its day on prime-time US TV, when Jennifer Lawrence described to the chat-show host the bar fight she had fallen into here – yes, the Hollywood star graced this very (wonky) staircase. 

And then there are the nighthawk regulars of today, still drawn to the place for its cheap drinks poured by a pixie with aquamarine hair adept at selecting little-known Alice Cooper tunes and dealing with whatever flotsam and jetsam the Budapest night might bring.

Why go? Because there’s always a last place after the last place, and that last place is always Vittula. 


13. Zsír

What is it? An in-the-know, cult hangout deep in District VIII with a live acoustic agenda and plentiful pavement tables. Run by a laid-back American and his able Magyar accomplices, Zsír fills a former wine cellar with alternative sounds and lively bar chatter that continues at street level.

In the dictionary, Zsír means ‘fat’, ie the non-meat part of your lamb chop. In street Hungarian, it means, ‘cool’, ‘boss’ and other such affirmative phrases. Like the slang, it may not be here forever, but while it is, Zsír might be well worth tucking into.

Why go? To explore the underbelly of alternative Budapest nightlife, well away from the hordes swarming the District VII party hub.

14. Boutiq’Bar

What is it? A highly atmospheric red-walled underground cocktail bar that dubs itself a ‘neo-speakeasy’.

Why go? For the mad cocktails that come in science lab beakers, plastic smoothie cups and old honey pots, with an even more delightful array of accoutrements. For a real showstopper, order one of Boutiq's tiki rum cocktails, served in Easter Island-style moai

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