Best nightlife in Budapest
What is it? A rooftop club complex that takes its techno seriously, Corvin is spread across three floors and situated up five flights of stairs.
Why go? Throughout summer it’s got house and techno music nights to satisfy even the most underground electronic music lover, with international names headlining on the regular. The roof terrace turns into an al fresco cinema on Mondays when the club is closed.
What is it? Mazel Tov is a stylish and spacious nightlife force to be reckoned with. It’s pretty much a giant courtyard-cum-cultural-space, lined with lush trees and plants, draped in twinkling lights and covered with a glass roof. Located in the frenetic Jewish District (known as VII District), it’s Insta-friendly and most definitely worth the hype.
Why go? As well as being a great place for evening drinks (the cocktail and palinka menu is impressive), Mazel Tov is also equal parts garden party and gastronomy; head here for a Mediterranean-Hungarian food fusion and you won’t be disappointed (their shawarma sandwich is a winner). Booking - even on weekdays - is highly recommended.
What is it? Quirky ruin bars are Budapest’s most famous nightlife phenomena. The trend of revamping former factories and carparks into (almost) fully functioning watering holes, while allowing the character of the buildings to remain (by keeping the Communist junk and crumbling courtyards), started with Szimpla Kert back in 2002. When it moved to its current home in the Jewish quarter in 2004, it became the epicentre of Budapest’s nightlife – a title it still deservedly holds today.
Why go? Despite the club having reached mega-famous status (you can now buy branded clothing inside), its weird and welcoming ethos remains the same. Come for the reputation, stay to have a drink in an open-top East German Trabant car, or converted bathtub, listen to some seriously heavy electronic beats, or just soak up the surreal atmosphere.
What is it? A former car-park remoulded into a relaxed ruin bar, with something of a festival ambience and graffiti-covered walls.
Why go? Racskert is a local’s favourite, and with offerings such as cheap beer, vegan food snacks, a plant-lined garden and a regular program of live folk music, it’s really no wonder. As is the case with most ruin bars, you won’t find anyone taking reservations or bookings and it’s a come-as-you-are vibe.
What is it? Located in the same building as veteran club Fogasház, Instant is still the biggest ruin bar in Budapest, with two courtyards and seven bars, all of which stay open until six in the morning, seven nights a week.
Why go? For a mesmerising, dreamlike experience that incorporates live evening performances and late-night raving, you should really head to Instant. If you’re not impressed by the sheer scale of the place, you’re sure to be enchanted by the eclectic artwork and canopy of weird, hanging sculptures.
What is it? The rooftop bar of Budapest boasts panoramic 360-degree views over the capital, an extensive wine and cocktail menu and an array of tasty snacks and small plates.
Why go? When you want a taste of the high life, there’s no better spot for delicious drinks with a breathtaking view guaranteed to distract you from your companions. If you fancy sunset drinks, be sure to reserve a table beforehand or check the Facebook page for the full program of summertime events, like Yoga Brunch and a selection of day parties.
What is it? Budapest’s party vortex is Gozsdu Passage, a tunnel of buzzing bars and restaurants draped in fairy-lights, with open-air spaces that spill out into airy courtyards and gardens, right in the centre of trendy VII District.
Why go? Start or end your night here. You’ll be spoilt for choice with karaoke and cocktails bars aplenty, touristy pubs and edgy cafes, and the area is a popular choice for both tourists and locals. (You can also head there in the early evening for a good choice of places to eat).
What is it? This centrally-located nightlife spot opened in 2010, offering a slightly more polished clubbing experience than it’s edgier counterparts. Ötkert’s magic takes place in an impressive, restored nineteenth-century building.
Why go? During most summer nights, Ötkert boasts five DJs playing a mix of commercial music, R&B and hip hop across two rooms, as well as some themed nights. They also have a large terrace which is perfect for summer vibes and which comes equipped with patio roof and outdoor heating for the colder nights.
What is it? A highly atmospheric, red-walled underground cocktail bar that dubs itself '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 the tiki rum cocktail, which comes in an Easter Island style head.
What is it? Szechenyi Baths are so much more than a decadent location in which to slot in some sauna time, they’re actually home to one of the city’s most raucous nighttime events, known as the Sparty. It’s a full-on rave in a thermal spa. And that means pumping house music, pricey cocktails, an anything-goes atmosphere and pools teeming with… people.
Why go? When else will you get to party in the spectacular setting of a twentieth-century Turkish bath house? This one’s not for the faint of heart, but you’ll be surrounded by plenty of other tourists where you’ll get to swim/dance the night away in a giant pool illuminated by lasers and flashing lights. All-male stag parties are not welcome and that security is on-hand all through the night to create a safe atmosphere for all.
What is it? One of the founding pioneers of the ruin bar scene, this clubbing-monster continues to offer something for everyone since it was given a very successful revamp back in 2010.
Why go? You’ll probably get lost in the maze of this colourful spot, but of course, that’s part of the fun. Fogas Ház is part cultural art-centre, part-bar and is comprised of an open-air dance floor, a thrift shop, cocktail terrace bar, ping-pong area and pizzeria. Boredom isn’t really an option here.