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. The relaxed environment makes it easy to pick up conversations and get to know locals. 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.
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. Kisüzem is popular among local artists, Budapest's left-wing intelligentsia, and international students from the Central European University. In addition to a range of wallet-friendly Hungarian wines and beer, rum fans can indulge in excellent selections from the top shelf. .
Hans van Vliet, the owner of Jedermann Café, is a legendary figure in Budapest's restaurant and bar scene with a genius for creating all-inviting places for everyone to enjoy (hence "Jedermann", which translates to "everyone"). On any given day, tables at Jedermann 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 is located in a quiet District 9 street, not far from the city center, but away from the throngs clogging the more popular Jewish Quarter. .
If Jedermann had a sister location on the Buda side of the city, I bet it would look and feel a lot like BÉLA. This indefinable establishment is part café, part restaurant, and part bar. The interior, a high-ceilinged space with a wooden floor, Persian carpets, hanging plants, and a sleek bar, feels cozy despite the mishmash of styles. They managed to squeeze in some nooks and crannies (look upstairs and in the back), so BÉLA works well for dates too.
Dzzs Bár, down the block from Kisüzem, attracts an eccentric and bohemian crowd of 20-somethings. Stopping by here on a late night feels like being at the house party of your rowdiest friend. You can meet local film directors, painters, and musicians in this cozy space, where walls are crowded with an eclectic selection of provocative local artwork. The interior is a mishmash of worn out furniture where nothing matches but everything belongs.
If you find yourself in the center of Budapest's party district and you've already been to too many bars where rowdy groups of bachelor-party tourists spoiled the mood, make your way to Fekete Kutya. Despite its location alarmingly near the main party street (Kazinczy Street), Fekete Kutya has managed to retain a local crowd and exudes laid-back, unpretentious vibes. .
Központ, located in the Jewish Quarter, is a popular bar among Budapest's early-30s liberal establishment. The crowd mainly comprises journalists, musicians, people from non-profits and the fashion industry. The best night tends to be Friday - it's not unusual that the crowd overflows to the sidewalks until the wee hours. Drinks here are a bit more expensive than at other bars on this list, but for most foreigners they will still feel affordable.
Buda is better known for its green hills and quiet streets than its bustling party scene. Even the denser, urban sections are noticeably short of drinking spots that have a unique character and enduring appeal. Nemdebár is a notable exception. This dimly lit, charmingly grungy neighborhood bar is filled to capacity most nights, drawing an eclectic local crowd consisting of everyone from hip college students to office workers, and uncle-type bohemians pushing 50.
You will enjoy Lumen Café if you prefer to avoid the heavily-touristed streets of the Jewish Quarter, but still get a cup of specialty coffee or craft beer in a hip neighborhood. With egg-based breakfast offerings (served until noon on weekends) and a thoughtful interior design featuring concrete and wood finishes, Lumen Café is more than your average neighborhood café. But it's the patrons, artists and neighborhood bohemians, who give a soul to the place..
Telep is a bustling Budapest bar in the heart of it all in District 7, the city's main party area. The crowd at Telep will satisfy any hipster cravings you may be harboring - beards, fixie bikes, drawstring 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.
In Hungarian "hintaló" means rocking horse, of which you will find plenty inside this retro-designed bar located in the outer part of District 8. The tucked away, deserted backstreet where Hintaló is located stands in a stark contrast with the lively atmosphere inside. .
Budapest's bars generally fall into two categories. On the one hand are the myriad of ruin bars offering an informal atmosphere and cheap drinks inside run-down premises. On the other are the posh cocktail bars where bartenders with chiseled jawline mix pricey cocktails of ingredients you haven't heard of. The in-between territory is noticeably thin.
Have you ever felt that the only thing painfully absent from Budapest was a quiet spot by the Danube bank, where you could watch the sunset with your feet submerged in the refreshingly cool water and all the while sip on a cold beer? Valyo Kikötő, this 2018 newcomer to Budapest's open air bar scene, might just be the answer to many of us..
If you're looking to immerse yourself in a lively, communist-era neighborhood bar in Buda, Bambi Eszpresszó should be high on your list (Ibolya Espresszó in Pest is comparable). What makes Bambi the real deal? While it doesn't follow contemporary trends, it isn’t showing off an artificial, unremembered past either – it’s a genuine throwback. The waiters are only nice to those patrons they find likeable, and they wear outfits that haven't been in fashion for at least 30 years. The red faux leather upholstery and Thonet look-alike chairs have been in place since the opening in 1961.
Zsivago is a cute café and bar nestled on a quiet side street in District 6. I love that just a short block away from the tourist-saturated Andrássy Avenue there exists this secluded place, under the radar of most people. Despite having been to Zsivago plenty of times, I still feel a sense of discovery whenever I go. The eccentric interior is adorned with maroon and white floral wallpapers, dense carpeting, and small roundtables.
A Polish native from Gdansk, a port city on the Baltic coast, and her Hungarian husband opened this shoebox-sized bar in Bupapest in 2014. An Eastern European, bohemian-intellectual spirit fills the space. Think dimly lit, cozy nooks with rickety tables, shelves packed with Polish books, and a range of cheap vodka selections (they also serves Polish and Hungarian craft beers). The highlight at Gdansk Café is the pickled herring plate - the fish, delivered straight from the Baltic Sea, wraps around a serving of caramelized onion chutney and comes with thick slices of rye bread and pickles.
Trust me, the address is accurate - persist in your search and you will be handsomely rewarded. Pótkulcs is a hidden local bar nestled inside a former light engineering workshop in Budapest's District 6. It’s worth walking around this mostly working class neighborhood to appreciate the extent to which Budapest's once grand housing stock was left to decay during communism and, in areas like this, even after that (in downtown, many buildings have recently been refurbished). .
Kék Ló (Blue Horse) is a hidden gem of a bar located outside Budapest's main tourist zones, within the outer part of District 8. Despite looking similar to many of its eclectically (over)designed peers, Kék Ló beats out the Jewish Quarter's run-of-the-mill ruin bars. Why? In part due to its location a bit outside the city center, and in part also to the alternative local artistic crowd that comes here, there's a level of intimacy you are unlikely to find in the Jewish Quarter's high turnover bars. Also, you don't need to worry about annoying stag party crews ruining your party at Kék Ló.
Although Kertem (“My Garden”) is the largest outdoor bar in Budapest's City Park, it somehow flies under the radar of most tourists. Many visitors have been to the City Park, but they usually just go in and out of Széchenyi Thermal Bath, barely noticing the expansive green space around them teeming with treasures like Kertem. The crowd at Kertem consists of a melting pot of locals residents from both the inner and outer city, often accompanied by their dogs. .
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 bar, conveniently located inside Budapest's boisterous Party District. Be sure to also pop into the basement venue, where another bar, and often live music concerts await well-informed guests..
Pagony bar is the product of an ingenious idea: what was formerly the children's section of the historic Gellért Baths has been transformed into this delightful outdoor venue. This means, for example, that the bar counter is inside the former sauna building, several of the tables have been lowered into the empty swimming pools, and still the bath’s original wrought-iron lamps illuminate the space each night. Next to Pagony's entrance, you can see the underpass that used to connect to the main, and still functional wing of Gellért Baths on the other side of the street. .
Auróra is a multi-purpose building located in the outer part of District 8, an area with many low-income residents and minorities. Several non-profit organizations are based in Auróra, but the building also serves as a community center - they hold regular workshops and discussions on topics related to social justice. While the discussions generally take place in Hungarian, most people attending them will speak English. .
Pántlika is an outdoor bar tucked away in the far and quieter corner of the City Park. If you need a break after having visited too many tourist attractions (Heroes Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, Széchenyi Thermal Bath), Pántlika offers a peaceful refuge for a well-deserved bottle of cold beer and some snacks. .
Macska is the type of neighborhood bar we all want to have outside our doors, alas, they're few and far between. Let's see what differentiates Macska from the rest of the bunch: a friendly bar service, cute nooks and crannies, an extensive selection of draft and bottled craft beers, and a limited but surprisingly healthy food offering that includes vegan and gluten-free options too. The crowd consists of locals in their 30s and 40s, who haven’t quite given up on spending the evenings outside the warmth of the family home. Macska also has a secluded upstairs section that's generally occupied by lovebirds..
Located within a 6,700 sqm building, Jurányi is a gigantic center for the performing arts. It houses several dozen independent theater and dance troupes who use the space for practice and performances. On the ground floor of the premises is Jurányi Suterene, an under-the-radar bohemian bar and community space. During the day, people from the building come here for meetings, or to gobble up the well-priced (HUF 1,290 / €4) lunch prix fixe.
This underground, adoringly grungy music bar may not be the most inviting place at first sight, but trust me, it's worth proceeding downstairs. Hunnia is known for its lively concerts whereby A- and B-level Hungarian musicians perform most Friday and Saturday evenings here. Expect a packed space, and a crowd that usually consists of bohemian types in their 40s and 50s, who sing along louder and more passionately as the night progresses (check the concert schedule here). If you're looking for a truly local experience and taste of the local music scene, this is it.
Since Keret Klub is officially a social club, you will need to sign up and become a member, a 30-second exercise (it's free), to gain admission to this tiny, dimly-lit bar. The reason for the legal maneuvering is to allow for smoking inside, which is fully exploited. The smoke-filled interior evokes a prohibition-era bar, where the common cause enhances the atmosphere. But tobacco isn't the only allure - you can indulge in cold beers, toasted sandwiches, and board games with the friendly regulars.