The 8 Best College Bars in Budapest

What makes a great college bar? Cheap drinks, of course. But while plenty of inexpensive drinking joints scatter around Budapest, the places below stand out from the pack with lively vibes and a college-age crowd. Located near the city's main universities, they’re at their best during the school year (September to June). If you're looking for local bars with older patrons, check out this list, too.

#1 Ibolya Espresso

Opened in 1968, Ibolya Espresso is an iconic café and bar in Budapest's downtown. Ibolya is deeply anchored in Budapest's collective memory as two generations of local residents have been coming to this unfussy spot for everything from first dates to business meetings to class reunions. The interior furnishings are a genuine throwback to the communist era, featuring Mid-century modern-inspired light fixtures with orange plexiglass, and curvilinear chairs topped with red faux leather upholstery.

#2 Mélypont Presszó

Mélypont is a cavernous, below-ground bar situated on a quiet backstreet in downtown Budapest. The inside features a mishmash of worn-out, communist-era furniture and usually fills to capacity with students from the nearby law and political science colleges of Eötvös Loránd University. It's a small miracle that this wallet-friendly student bar continues to exist in an otherwise expensive neighborhood — let's hope it stays that way.

#3 Lámpás

Lámpás is a lively below-ground bar in Budapest best known for its daily live music performances (mostly rock, jazz, and blues). Oddly, this gritty, and by no means mainstream bar is opposite Gozsdu Udvar, the tourist-heavy passage teeming with pricey restaurants and wine bars. Lámpás, where you can get a beer and a fröccs for €3, feels a world away — a little gem in the heart of it all. If things get too heated and cramped in the concert room, look for a table in the labyrinthine rear section which better caters to conversations. Note that Lámpás scales back its operation during the summer months.

#4 Fecske Presszo

Fecske Presszó is a laid-back, wallet-friendly restaurant and bar just a stone's throw away from the Szabó Ervin Library in Budapest's Palace Quarter. This means that students of all ages tend to gather here throughout the day to take study breaks of varying lengths and with varying amounts of beer.

#5 Grinzingi Borozó

Grinzingi is an unpretentious downtown wine bar with a simple formula that has changed little since its opening in 1983: serve cheap drinks in the center of Budapest that's otherwise teeming with overpriced, tourist-oriented bars. Fast forward 35 years, some of the early patrons still pay repeated visits, as do plenty of college students from nearby universities. Inside, heavy wooden fittings evoke the atmosphere of the bar's namesake Austrian village (Grinzing, known for its wine taverns), and the weathered furniture bears marks of long, alcohol-fueled nights.

#6 Úri Muri

If you'd like to hang out with the next generation of Hungarian actors and actresses and all the while sip dirt-cheap drinks, look no further than Úri Muri, where many students from the nearby University of Theatre and Film Arts go to unwind. Be sure to also check the lower level, which has its own bar and also a stage with occasional live music concerts. If you'd like a bite to eat, they usually have both zsíroskenyér, an open-faced sandwich topped with lard, and pogácsa, a soft savory biscuit.

#7 Fahéj Kávézó

Fahéj is an adorable café and bar on a quiet backstreet in Budapest's downtown. Fahéj eschews the trendy vibes and the tourist-centered approach of other places in the neighborhood, relying instead on a loyal group of regulars, both young and old. Apart from the low-priced drinks, the highlight here is the two softly glowing, high-ceilinged rooms fitted with wooden floors, bookshelves, and small round tables. Fahéj works well for a casual weeknight drink, a date, or a heart-to-heart over a bottle of wine. Go for the hot wine or the rum-infused tea during the colder months; also tasty are the grilled sandwiches. Cash only!

#8 Altair Teahouse

It’s easy to miss Altair, a cozy, below-ground teahouse on a sleepy side street in Budapest's Palace Quarter, but you shouldn't. Defying space limitations, they've squeezed in myriad tiny nooks and crannies that are separated from one another by curtains, pillows, and wooden beams. This faintly lit labyrinthine haunt is an ideal date spot, offering a bit of seclusion from the hustle and bustle of the city center just minutes away. Besides the almost 100 types of teas, including black, white, oolong, and green teas, Altair also has a selection of (hot) wines, beers, spirits, and hookahs (water pipes). Note that there's a no-shoes policy, so make sure your socks are on point.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito and pays for his own meals and drinks.