People, rather than interior designers bring alive these unfussy Budapest bars. Expect plenty of locals, cheap drinks, and an increasingly raucous atmosphere as the night progresses. Most of the places are near one another in the Jewish Quarter and District 8, so nothing should stop you from bar-hopping until the wee hours. In the warmer months, check out Budapest's best casual outdoor bars, too.
Those looking to passionately debate Hungarian political history will find themselves at home in this bar, set along what used to be a quiet street in the bustling Jewish Quarter. Local artists, Budapest's left-wing intelligentsia, and international students from the Central European University comprise the regular customers. In addition to wallet-friendly Hungarian wines and beer, rum fans can indulge in excellent top-shelf selections..
Dzzs Bár, down the block from Kisüzem, attracts an eccentric and bohemian crowd of twentysomethings. Stopping by here on a late night can feel like being at the house party of your coolest friend. You can meet local film directors, painters, and musicians in this cozy space. The interior is a mishmash of worn-out furniture and walls crowded with an eclectic selection of provocative local artwork.
If you want to escape the annoyingly rowdy bachelor-party crews in Budapest's party district but remain in the area, make your way to Fekete Kutya. Despite its location alarmingly near Kazinczy Street, the main artery of the neighborhood, Fekete Kutya has somehow managed to remain an unpretentious bar frequented by artistically-minded locals in their 20s and 30s. Feel free to mingle with them—the vibes are very laid-back. .
If Jedermann Café had a sister location on the Buda side, it would be a lot like BÉLA. This atmospheric space is part café, part restaurant, and part bar, with an eclectic interior featuring wooden floors, Persian carpets, and greenery hanging from the high ceiling. There are plenty of nooks and crannies—look upstairs and in the back—meaning that BÉLA works well for dates nights, too. In fact, it works well for pretty much anything, as evidenced by a full house of locals most evening.
Located near the arched, red-bricked edifice signaling the entry of the old Jewish Quarter, Központ is a popular haunt of Budapest's thirtysomething liberal establishment. During the day, Központ functions as a specialty café, drawing hipster foreigners who linger with their MacBooks for hours on end. Come night-time, the crowd turns more local as journalists, musicians, and people from the fashion industry appear. Note that drinks are a bit more expensive here than at other places on this list..
Telep is a hopping Budapest bar in the heart of it all in District 7, the city's main party area. Telep's crowd will satisfy any hipster cravings you may be harboring—beards, fixie bikes, tote bags, and plenty of good-looking people abound here. The interior features low-lying sofas, and a massive varnished table top that serves as the bar counter, and makes you feel like you're at the house party of your coolest friend. DJs are in charge of the tunes on Friday and Saturday nights.
Head to Lumen Café if you'd like to avoid the tourist-heavy streets of the Jewish Quarter, but still get a cup of specialty coffee or craft beer in a hip neighborhood. With egg-based breakfast dishes (served until noon), a full-service kitchen, and a sleek interior featuring concrete and wood finishes, Lumen is more than your average neighborhood café and bar. But it's the patrons, artists and neighborhood bohemians, who give soul to the place..
Buda is better known for its rolling hills and quiet streets than its bustling party scene. Even the denser, urban sections are noticeably short of remarkable bars with a unique character. One of the few exceptions is Nemdebár. This dark, charmingly grungy neighborhood bar is filled to capacity most nights, drawing an eclectic local crowd of hip college students, office workers, and favorite-uncle-type bohemians pushing 50..
Hans van Vliet, the owner of Jedermann Café, is a legendary restaurateur in Budapest with a genius for creating atmospheric, all-inviting places for everyone to enjoy (hence "Jedermann", which translates to "everyone"). On any given day, tables might be filled with senior citizens fiercely debating Hungarian politics, students gossiping over a cup of coffee, and a theater director mapping out upcoming projects with the staff. Jedermann, which marries a café with a bar, is hiding in a quiet street in District 9, not far from the city center, but away from the throngs clogging the party district. .
Budapest's bars generally fall into two categories: on the one hand are myriad ruin bars offering an informal atmosphere and cheap drinks inside run-down premises, with posh cocktail bars on the other, where bartenders with chiseled jawline mix pricey cocktails of ingredients you've never heard of. The in-between territory is noticeably thin. You know, a laid-back bar to pop into after a long day’s of work for a well-deserved highball of scotch and soda. And this is where Nappali ("living room") comes into play..
Like it or not, Budapest’s booming tourism is inspiring local business owners to profit off well-heeled visitors. Overpriced restaurants hawking “authentic goulash” and dime a dozen “Irish pubs” in Budapest’s downtown are all too common. Három Holló bar, located right in the city center, is the fruit of an entirely different philosophy..
If you want to hang out with the next generation of Hungarian actors and actresses and sip dirt-cheap drinks while doing so, look no further than Úri Muri. Plenty of students from the nearby University of Theatre and Film Arts like to unwind at Úri Muri, which is conveniently located inside Budapest's party district. Be sure to check the lower level, too, which boasts another bar counter, and it's also where you can run into high-energy live music concerts..
In Hungarian "hintaló" means rocking horse, of which you will find plenty inside this charmingly grungy bar a bit outside the city center in District 8. The lively atmosphere inside Hintaló is in stark contrast to the deserted backstreet the bar is situated on. Hintaló gets packed most evenings with a lively crowd of German and other international students. .
Vittula comes closest to delivering a dive-bar experience in Budapest. With an adorably grungy below-ground interior and labyrinthine layout, the space is actually cooler than your average dive bar. The well-worn walls are blanketed in graffiti and witty scribbles. It would be a stretch to characterize Vittula as cozy, but if you enjoy divy vibes, you will like its squalid nooks and crannies.
An Eastern European, bohemian-intellectual spirit oozes from Gdansk Bookstore Café, a dimly lit, densely furnished bar with cozy nooks and crannies along Bartók Béla Boulevard in District 11, on the Buda side of the city. A Polish native from Gdansk, a port city on the Baltic coast, and her Hungarian husband opened this shoebox-sized bar, which features bookshelves of Polish-language books, cheap vodka selections, and Polish and Hungarian craft beers. .
Kiadó is a snug, unfussy bar nestled in a quiet side street near the upscale Andrássy Avenue. Regular patrons comprise local artists, office workers, and international grad students, but some wondering tourists with a nose for hidden treasures occasionally stumble in from Andrássy..
Trust me, the address is accurate—persist in your search and you will be handsomely rewarded. Pótkulcs is a hidden bar, nestled inside a former light engineering workshop in Budapest's District 6. Once you find the nondescript entrance, proceed through Pótkulcs' expansive, leefy patio to its adorably gritty, art-laden interior. Attached to the main section is a cavernous performance hall where they host live music performances almost every evening (including lots of Hungarian folk music).
Hivatal Kávézó, which opened in 2010, was an early bird on Madách tér, the entry of Budapest’s party district. This rectangular, pedestrian-only square has acquired a cult reputation starting in the late aughts thanks to buzzy bars like Központ, Telep, and Hivatal..
If you're looking to immerse yourself in a lively, deeply local, communist-era neighborhood bar that doubles as a breakfast joint, I can't think of a better place than Bambi Eszpresszó in Buda. What makes Bambi the real deal? It isn’t trying to show off an artificial (retro), unremembered past—it’s a genuine throwback..
Zsivágó is an adorable café and bar nestled on a quiet side street in District 6, under the radar of most people, a short block from the high-end boutiques of the tourist-heavy Andrássy Avenue. Every time I go, I feel a sense of discovery. The snug interior comes with maroon and white floral wallpapers, dense carpeting, and small, round tables. .
Kertem (“my garden”) is an enormous outdoor bar inside Budapest's City Park. It somehow flies under the radar of most tourists, even though it's not far from Széchenyi, the most popular thermal bath of the city. Kertem's crowd comprises a melting pot of laid-back local residents, many of them accompanied by their dogs..
Pagony is the product of a creative idea: what was formerly the children's section of the historic Gellért Bath has been transformed into an atmospheric outdoor bar. This means, for example, that the bar counter is inside the former sauna building, and tables occupy the now empty swimming pools. The original wrought-iron lamps illuminate the space at night, and next to the entrance, you can still see the underpass that connects to the main, still functional wing of Gellért Bath across the street..
Auróra, located in the outer part of District 8 in an area with many low-income residents and minorities, is a community center and home to several non-profit organizations. During the day, they hold regular workshops and discussions on topics related to social justice and politics (they're generally in Hungarian, but most people will speak English). Come night-time, Auróra transforms into a lively bar and concert venue..
Pántlika is a laid-back outdoor bar tucked away in the far end of Budapest's City Park. If you need a break from all the tourist attractions nearby—Heroes Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, Széchenyi Thermal Bath—you can refuel here with a glass of cold beer and snacks. Pántlika offers a truly local experience, as most of its patrons are Budapest residents..
Located on the Buda side of the city within a 6,700 sqm (72 thousand sqft.) building, Jurányi is a gigantic center for the performing arts, housing dozens of independent theater and dance troupes who use the space for both practice and performances. Jurányi Suterene, an under-the-radar, unfussy bar and community space, is on the ground floor of the premises. During the day, artists from the building come here for meetings, to relax, or to scarf down the two-course lunch prix fixe (€4)..
Macska, located just beyond the Grand Boulevard, a bit outside the city center in District 8, is the type of neighborhood bar we all want to have outside our doors, alas, they're few and far between. What makes Macska the readl deal? A friendly service, cute nooks and crannies, an extensive selection of draft and bottled craft beers, and a limited but surprisingly healthy food offering with vegan and gluten-free options. .
Perhaps it's not the most inviting of places, but trust me, it's worth proceeding down the stairs to Hunnia, an adoringly grungy, below-ground music bar in Budapest. Hunnia is best known for its live concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings, when A- and B-level Hungarian bands take over the tiny stage. Expect a packed venue and a bohemian crowd of 40-plus regulars who sing along louder and more passionately as the night progresses (you can check their concert schedule). .
Since Keret is officially a social club, you will need to sign up and become a member, a 30-second exercise, to gain admission to this tiny, dimly-lit bar (it's free). The reason for the legal maneuvering is to allow for smoking inside, which is fully exploited. The snug, smoke-filled interior evokes a Prohibition-era atmosphere, where the common cause brings out the friendliest side of patrons. .