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.
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. .
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. .
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.
Központ is a bar that's popular among Budapest's 30s and 40s liberal establishment. The place is located at the entry of the old Jewish Quarter, near the arched, red-bricked group of buildings you've likely already come across. .
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.
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 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 hiding in a quiet street in District 9, not far from the city center, but away from the throngs clogging the more popular Jewish Quarter. .
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 contemporary interior 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..
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.
Like it or not, Budapest’s booming tourism is inspiring local business owners to profit off well-heeled visitors. Overpriced restaurants hawking “authentic goulash” the dime a dozen, indistinct “Irish pubs” are the evidence of this business savvy, which is especially apparent in Budapest’s downtown. Három Holló bar, right in the heart of the city, is the fruit of an entirely different philosophy. .
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 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, which is conveniently located inside Budapest's boisterous Party District. .
Vittula comes closest to delivering a dive-bar experience in Budapest. With an adorably grungy subterranean 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 bohemian vibes, you will like its grimy nooks and crannies.
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. .
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). .
Kiadó is an atmospheric bar nestled in a small side street near the upscale Andrássy Avenue. The regular patrons are local artists, office workers, and international students, but some wondering tourists with a good nose for hidden treasures occasionally stumble in here from Andrássy. .
Madách tér serves as the entry point into Budapest’s party district. This rectangular, pedestrian-only square has acquired something of a cult reputation starting in the late aughts. Discerning local millennials began to hang out here. Today, still, buzzy venues such as Központ, Telep, and Keksz anchor Madách tér.
If you're looking to immerse yourself in a lively, 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. I get a kick out of the fact that just a short block away from the high-end boutiques and tourist-heavy Andrássy Avenue lies this secluded place, under the radar of most people. Despite having been to Zsivágó plenty of times, I still feel a sense of discovery whenever I go. .
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. .
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. .
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.
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..
Hunnia is an adoringly grungy, subterranean music bar in Budapest. Perhaps it's not the most inviting of places from the outside, but trust me, it's worth proceeding downstairs. 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 regulars in their 40s and 50s who sing along louder and more passionately as the night progresses (you can check Hunnia's concert schedule).
Since Keret Klub (Klub Keret Cultural Association) 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 smoke-filled interior evokes a Prohibition-era atmosphere, where the common cause seems to bring out the friendliest side of the patrons. .