The best bars and nightlife in Budapest

Advice

Budapest has a varied nightlife, whether you want a quiet drink or something more lively. Options include café-bars on leafy squares, rooftop bars with views for miles around, and quirky ruin pubs, those beer gardens and clubs that occupy former residential courtyards and are often filled with an eclectic mix of upcycled furniture.

Areas such as Ráday utca and Liszt Ferenc tér have long had a range of café-bars, and there’s no shortage of watering holes by the river in the downtown’s tourist heartland, while in recent years the Jewish Quarter has become a hotspot for trendy and characterful places to spend an evening.


Downtown

Fröccsterasz

There are actually three units here, occupying the site of the former bus terminal in colourful Elizabeth Square. Fröccsterasz is open all year, with a heated patio in winter, but hits the heights in summer when seats are at a premium beneath the strings of coloured lights on its sprawling terrace. Food includes chicken burgers and sausages alongside more glamorous bar snacks such as grilled prawns, and there are regular live music and themed events lasting deep into the early hours. Gin Corner is a bar with a good selection of world gins, from Japan to Estonia. The third in the set is Terminal, a nightclub that operates within the old terminal building itself. 

Contact: froccsterasz.hu
Nearest metro: M1/2/3 Deák tér
Prices: ££



Fröccsterasz, Budapest


Fröccsterasz is a hip bar set on the site of a former bus terminal


Credit: SOOS BERTALAN

High Note SkyBar

As you’d expect, the rooftop bar of the classy Aria Hotel is slick, atmospheric and frequented by the smarter set. Accessed via a lift from the hotel, its decked terrace offers views across to the illuminated Buda Hills in the distance or St Stephen’s Basilica rather closer by. A pair of glass-walled areas provide somewhere to sit if there’s a chill in the air. You won’t find pork scratchings on the bar menu – think instead beef tartare with quail’s egg – and choose from an imaginatively named selection of cocktails with a musical bent, among them K-Pop Idol and Metallica – Enter Sandman. If you want to reserve a table on the Panorama Tower, there’s a minimum consumption fee per table per hour (currently HUF 60,000/£135).

Contact: highnoteskybar.hu
Nearest metro: M1/2/3 Deák tér
Prices: £££



High Note SkyBar, Budapest


High Note SkyBar, the rooftop bar of the classy Aria Hotel, is slick, atmospheric and frequented by the smarter set


Credit: TOTH TAMAS

Ötkert

As central as you could wish, on the road between the Chain Bridge and St Stephen’s Basilica, Ötkert is a decent-sized, laid-back and busy bar and courtyard club. Its main space – covered in winter but open to the stars in warmer months – has giant coloured lamps and an atmospheric dancefloor, and showcases live DJs and bands. There are also several rooms inside. Note that the club opens just three days a week at 11pm, when it also takes over the Republik Bistro bar that looks onto the pedestrianised street at the front of the building.

Contact: otkert.hu
Nearest metro: M1/2/3 Deák tér
Prices: ££



Ötkert, Budapest


Ötkert regularly hosts DJ sessions and live bands in its open courtyard


Credit: Piltner Peter

Ráday utca

Ráday utca – running between Kálvin tér and Boráros tér – is a strip that’s long been a leading evening light, its sides lined with more than 30 café-bars and restaurants. Most – like the elder statesman Paris-Texas – have open-fronts or street-side tables, and serve decent bar food along with beers, wines and cocktails. For something less structured, head to the riot of colour that is Púder, its walls smothered in murals and art installations.

Opening times: Various (most bars 12pm-12am)
Nearest metro: M3 Kálvin tér
Prices: £-££



Púder Budapest


The walls of Púder are smothered in murals and art installations

Liszt Ferenc tér

Liszt Ferenc tér – straddling the grand Andrássy út, a short distance from the Opera House and the theatres of Nagymező utca – has always been a popular evening spot. You’ll find locals and tourists alike, chatting and people watching at pavement tables running around the leafy square. Bars and restaurants include the retro Menza, which plays stylishly on the communist aesthetic; the laid-back Incognito and Café Vian, which have been staples here for years; and livelier places such as Beckett’s Irish Pub, which shows live international sports.

Opening times: Various (most bars 12pm-12am)
Nearest metro: M1 Oktogon
Prices: ££



Liszt Ferenc tér


Liszt Ferenc tér has been a staple of Budapest’s nightlife scene for a number of years


Credit: MSTYSLAV CHERNOV

Tuk Tuk Bar

This Asian-themed cocktail bar, linked to the Casati Hotel, is one of the city’s most intimate drinking spots. And cocktails are taken seriously here. The drinks list features specially created signature cocktails that change seasonally and are inspired by all things Asian, from flowers and cuisine to tea ceremonies. The staff – who are not only knowledgeable but friendly – will also mix classic cocktails on request. As you’d expect, it can take a bit of time to make your selection, so don’t come here in a rush. Be aware too that the bar only has room for a sprinkling of tables.   

Contact: tuktukbar.hu
Nearest metro: M1 Opera
Prices: ££-£££



Tuk Tuk Bar, Budapest


The Asian-themed Tuk Tuk Bar is one of the city’s most intimate drinking spots

Jewish Quarter

Gozsdu Udvar

In the early 20th century, this series of linked courtyards in the Jewish District was abuzz with artisan workshops; later, it became part of the Budapest ghetto during World War II. Today, there’s a street market at weekends, but primarily this is a colourful nightlife hub, with an eclectic mix of nearly 30 establishments gathered around its arcades. You’ll find everything from cocktail bars to karaoke bars, as well as places serving pizza, fish dishes and more. Try the popular Spíler, with stripped-brick styling and good, well-priced food (burgers, tacos, nachos and the like).

Contact: gozsduudvar.hu
Nearest metro: M1/2/3 Deák tér
Prices: ££



Gozsdu Udvar, Budapest


Gozsdu Udvar comprises a series of linked courtyards containing cocktail bars, karaoke bars, street food restaurants and more

Szimpla Kert

Szimpla Kert is the grandad of ruin bars. Beer gardens in Budapest’s disused residential blocks tend to come and go, but Szimpla has been around since 2002 – the city’s longest standing and best known. It’s an enjoyable muddle of tatty upcycled furniture and walls decorated with everything from bicycle frames to old computer monitors. You can even sit in a junked Trabant car. There are regular DJs and performances by live bands, several bars in different areas of the building, and menus that feature some of the produce sold at the farmer’s market that’s held each Sunday during the day. Quite simply iconic.

Contact: szimpla.eu
Nearest metro: M2 Blaha Lujza tér or Astoria
Prices: ££



Szimpla Kert, Budapest


Beer gardens in Budapest’s disused residential blocks tend to come and go, but Szimpla has been around since 2002

Buda Riverbank

Leo Rooftop Bar

Leo claims to be the city’s first fully 360-degree rooftop bar. Sitting atop Hotel Clark at the Buda end of the Chain Bridge – whose stone lions inspire its name – it certainly offers some glorious views, whether of Pest across the water or Buda Castle looming above. There’s a lush, jungle theme to the décor, with fern-printed cushions and potted grasses, and comfortable couch seating. Food comes from the kitchen of the Leo Bistro restaurant on the hotel’s ground floor, and there’s a decent drinks selection, from classic cocktails to Hungarian wines.

Contact: leo-budapest.hu
Nearest metro: M1/2/3 Deák tér, then about 10 mins’ walk across river
Price: £££



Leo Rooftop Bar, Budapest


Sitting atop Hotel Clark at the Buda end of the Chain Bridge, Leo Rooftop Bar certainly offers some glorious views, whether of Pest across the water or Buda Castle looming above

A38

When it comes to repurposing, A38 has done it in style. Occupying an old Ukrainian cargo ship – moored permanently on the Buda side of Petőfi Bridge – this is a creative, quirky space that makes room for an informal restaurant (burgers and the like), an exhibition and concert space (hosting regular performances by musicians of all genres, from jazz to  electro), and an al-fresco bar on the upper deck that’s a buzzy spot for a drink and bite to eat during the warm months. The views ain’t bad either, particularly after dark when the riverside landmarks illuminations come to life.  

Contact: a38.hu
Nearest metro: M4 Szent Gellért tér, then about 10 mins’ walk along the river bank
Price: ££

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