Where To Drink With The Locals: The 39 Best Bars In Budapest

People, rather than interior designers give soul to these unfussy Budapest bars expect plenty of locals, wallet-friendly drinks, and an increasingly lively atmosphere as the night progresses. Most places are near one another in the Jewish Quarter and District 8, but the center of action has started to shift to the Buda side in recent years (few stag-party crews and lower price points).

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 Jewish Quarter. The tranquil, chess-playing and tea-sipping crowd in the afternoons is deceiving — come night-time and Kisüzem fills to capacity so that earning a place at the bar can be a challenge. Local artists, Budapest's left-wing intelligentsia, and international students comprise the regular customers.

Wallet-friendly Hungarian wines and beers are available, and rum aficionados can pamper themselves with excellent top-shelf selections. The toasted sandwiches and the daily soup specials are tastier than your average bar snacks. Keep an eye out for the rotating set of contemporary art pieces decorating the exposed brick walls.

If you'd like to escape the rowdy bachelor-party tourists in Budapest's party district but stay in the neighborhood, make your way to Fekete Kutya. Despite its location alarmingly near Kazinczy Street, the main artery of the area, Fekete Kutya somehow flies under tourists' radars and remains an unfussy bar still mainly frequented by local Millennials.

During the warmer months, people spill out to the small outdoor tables underneath the arched alley. Fekete Kutya serves excellent craft beers on draft and better-than-average bar food — the chorizo tapas is a must.

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, a full-service kitchen, and a sleek interior featuring plenty of greens, concrete, and wood, Lumen is more than your average neighborhood café. But it's the patrons students, artists, and local bohemians who give soul to the place.

Lumen's performance hall hosts daily live music concerts with some of the leading lights of Hungarian jazz, folk, and indie music. In the outdoor garden you might be witness to philosophical conversations fueled by alcohol. There are two Lumens a smaller location around the corner from here operates under the same name but this one, in Horánszky utca, is where most of the action is.

If you'd like to hang out with the next generation of Hungarian actors and actresses while sipping beers and spritzers (fröccs), look no further than Rácskert, located in the heart of the old Jewish Quarter. Here, many current and former students from the University of Theatre and Film Arts go to unwind. A food truck stationed on the premises can help you slow the rise in blood alcohol levels (with vegan options, too). While Rácskert is mainly prized as a summer destination, there's a small indoor area for the colder months where you can run into high-energy Hungarian folk dance performances.

Budapest has excellent specialty coffee shops but its historical coffeehouses have vanished or become pricey tourist attractions to which locals rarely go. But I’m here to report that Három Holló, which opened in 2017, has started to fill this gaping void. The owners set about reviving Budapest’s coffeehouse culture and so appeared marble-topped tables, Thonet chairs, multilingual papers and magazines under the soaring ceiling. It didn’t hurt that the cafe’s enormous windows overlook downtown’s Elizabeth Bridge, the Gellért Hill, and the neighboring Gothic cathedral.

Today, Három Holló is a lively hub for culturally minded locals of all ages. The affordable menu features pretzels, toasted sandwiches, Frankfurters, vegetarian lunch specials, and Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes). Every evening, there’s a music concert or a book event in the below-ground auditorium. As all self-respecting coffeehouses in days of yore, Három Holló is open until midnight every day of the week.

Fifteen years ago, many bars in Budapest's District 7 (Jewish Quarter) looked and felt like Manyi does today: a run-down pre-war building transformed into a labyrinthine drinking joint and cultural space. Filled with a free-spirited local crowd, I’d call Manyi a ruin bar had that concept not been subverted and rendered meaningless by the stag party crowd that has monopolized Budapest's Jewish Quarter in recent years. Manyi, which is on the Buda side, is one of the more popular places currently among local twentysomething alternatives; all I ask is that you don’t ruin it (pun intended).

Buda is better known for its rolling hills and tranquil streets than for its lively bars. Even the denser, urban sections are short on places that are worth trekking out to from the Pest side. One of the exceptions is Nemdebár, a dim neighborhood joint drawing an eclectic local crowd of hip college students, office workers, and favorite-uncle types.

The alternative-chic bartenders serve three types of draft beers and an array of liquors while a DJ spins house, electronic, or drum and bass beats well past midnight most days. Nemdebár is located right by Széll Kálmán tér, a major transportation hub formerly called “Moscow Square” — many people still refer to it as such — so it’s easily reachable from near and far.

Eastern European bohemian-intellectual vibes ooze from Gdansk Bookstore Café, located on Bartók Béla Boulevard on the Buda side of the city. Run by a Polish native from Gdansk, the port city on the Baltic coast, and her Hungarian husband, this dim and densely furnished bar features cheap vodka selections, Polish and Hungarian craft beers, and bookshelves stacked with Polish books. You're also here for the pickled herring, delivered straight from the Baltic Sea and served with onions and rye bread. Empty tables are rare, closing times flexible, the prices wallet-friendly.

Part café, part restaurant, and part bar, BÉLA is a laid back, all-welcoming neighborhood joint located on the increasingly fashionable Bartók Béla Boulevard on the Buda side. The snug interior features terra cotta-colored walls, wooden floors, Persian carpets, and lots of greenery dangling 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; in fact, it works well for pretty much anything, which is why it fills to capacity most evenings.

The limited food menu features scrambled eggs, served all day, a couple of soups, and unremarkable sandwiches. Your best bet is the túrógombóc, a plump, sweet-tart cottage cheese dumpling popular in Hungary and served drenched in tasty apricot jam at BÉLA.

The bars in Budapest generally fall into two categories: there are low-priced, bare-bones drinking joints on the one hand, and hip cocktail, wine, or craft beer bars on the other. The in-between territory is noticeably thin: 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 what Nappali, which tranlates to "living room," excels at.

This snug place has all the components of a cozy living room — bookshelves, dense carpeting, leather armchairs, and the obligatory Thonet chairs that no self-respecting Central European household can escape. But here's the twist: there's also ceiling-high shelves packed with premium bottles of spirits, mostly whisky. Think aged single malts like Oban, Lagavulin, and Glenmorangie, but also Japanese (Nikka, Hibiki), and other rare labels. An additional perk: Nappali is tucked away on a side street, so it isn't run over by tourists of the unfavored kind.

Telep is a hopping Budapest bar in the heart of it all in District 7, the city's main party area. The crowd here will satisfy any hipster cravings you may be harboring — beards, fixie bikes, tote bags, and plenty of good-looking people abound. The interior features low-lying sofas and a massive freestanding wooden counter as if you were at the house party of your coolest friend. A DJ spins records on Friday and Saturday nights, when people spill out onto the small square outside the entrance. The upstairs section often hosts exhibits by local artists.

Part coffee shop, part breakfast restaurant, part bar, Központ is a popular hangout near the entry point of Budapest's party district. During the day, fashionable foreigners linger here with MacBooks and flat whites in hand. Come night-time, the crowd turns more local as journalists, musicians, and people from the fashion industry appear. On Friday and Saturday nights, they often pour out onto the sidewalk until the wee hours.

Meaningful overlap exists between Központ and Telep, the bar across the street, with groups of people noticeably shuffling back and forth between the two. Being deep within the touristy part of the city, Központ is more expensive than comparable bars elsewhere.

For a long time, Zsír, Fővárosi Kulipintyó, called Hordó then, was the kind of standard-issue watering hole that exists in Budapest’s working class neighborhoods, the outer District 8 in this case. Then in 2022 appeared a new owner who transformed the place into a hub of musically inclined local alternatives while retaining the old-school interior. On Wednesdays and Fridays a band performs Hungarian folk music to a lively audience. Draft beers and zsíroskenyér are available – open-faced sandwiches spread with pork lard and sprinkled with onions and paprika – and even a few craft ales by the can. An exemplary case of carrying the native spirit to the present day!

Hintaló is an atmospheric bar located a bit outside the city center in Budapest's District 8. Apart from the low-lit, cozy interior peppered with nooks and crannies — the upstairs is ideal for date nights — you're here for classic cocktails and local craft beers. Several kinds of amaros, gins, and rums are also served. Hintaló tends to fill up most evenings with a mixed crowd of international students and locals.

The neighborhood, although rapidly developing, is different from the more touristy areas of Budapest, but this shouldn’t stop you from discovering the less-traveled sides of the city. (The lively inside is in stark contrast to the deserted backstreet where Hintaló is situated on.)

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 spritzer (fröccs) for €5, 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.

Dzzs, down the block from Kisüzem, is a tiny, high-energy bar attracting an eccentric crowd of twentysomethings. A late night here can feel like being at the house party of your coolest friend — you can meet local film directors, painters, and musicians in this snug, dim space. Unfortunately, the owners have recently jacked up the prices, leading to a rapid erosion of longtime regulars.

The interior is a mishmash of worn-out furniture and walls crowded with provocative artwork. Dzzs Bar stays open late, so this can be the place to end your late-night adventures in Budapest’s nightlife.

Kiadó is a cozy, unfussy bar nestled in a quiet side street near Andrássy Avenue. Regular patrons comprise local artists, office workers, and international grad students, but some wandering tourists with a nose for hidden treasures also stumble in from Andrássy. Matters of the heart are best addressed in the low-lit nooks upstairs, led up to by a curving staircase lined with ornate wooden balustrades. Although food is also served, most people come here for coffee and drinks. Compared with similarly minded, unpretentious bars in the area, like Kisüzem and Fekete Kutya, Kiadó is a bit quieter and hence works better for dates or meetings.

Hivatal, which opened in 2010, was an early bird on Madách tér, the entry point of Budapest’s party district. This area is home to many hipster bars (Központ and Telep, for example), but Hivatal has remained a laid-back, unpretentious spot with friendly price points. Inside, communist-era slogans on the walls remind customers of the value of hard work ("hivatal" means "office" in Hungarian). Apart from drinks, there are also tasty toasted sandwiches. During the warmer months, the crowd spills out to the stairs of the neighboring office building, lending the area a block-party feel.

Trust me, the address is accurate persist in your search and you'll be handsomely rewarded. Pótkulcs bar is hidden inside a former engineering workshop in Budapest's District 6; once you find the nondescript entrance, proceed through the leefy patio to the adorably gritty, art-laden interior. Attached to the main section is a cavernous performance hall where they host live music concerts almost every evening (with a lineup heavy on Hungarian folk music). During the warmer months, the action shifts to the outdoor patio.

After you leave, it’s worth walking around this mostly working class neighborhood to understand the extent to which Budapest's once grand housing stock was left to decay during the Communist era (1947-1989), and, in parts like this, even after that (whereas in downtown many buildings have been recently refurbished).

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 college bar continues to exist in an otherwise expensive neighborhood — let's hope it stays that way.

Despite the occasionally rowdy crowd — things can get heated around the foosball table — Mélypont works well for a date night too thanks to the many hidden nooks and crannies. There are local craft beers on tap and by the bottle, and also many whiskies, including top-shelf varieties.

Opened in 1968, Ibolya Espresso is an iconic café in Budapest's downtown. Ibolya is deeply anchored in Budapest's collective memory as two generations of locals have been coming to this unpretentious drinking joint for everything from first dates to business meetings to class reunions. The interior is a throwback to the Communist era (1947-1989), featuring Mid-century modern-inspired light fixtures with orange plexiglass and curvilinear chairs topped with red faux leather upholstery.

Despite being in the heart of tourist-heavy downtown, most patrons here are locals, many of them here to watch soccer projected on the big screen, or to wolf down a toasted ham and cheese sandwich blanketed in ketchup before calling it a night. Teenage lovebirds from the neighboring high schools often occupy the secluded tables upstairs. Before you leave, take a glance at Ibolya's timeless typography above the entry door.

Zsivágó is an adorable café and bar nestled on a quiet side street in District 6, under the radar of most people even though it's just a short block from the high-end boutiques of Andrássy Avenue — every time I'm here, I feel a sense of discovery. The snug interior features antique furnishings, maroon and white floral wallpapers, dense carpeting, and small, round tables. In the afternoons, freelancers tend to camp out with their laptops; come evening, a local crowd shows up and spirited chatter fills the high-ceilinged room. Plenty of nooks and crannies, both on the ground floor and upstairs, make Zsivágó an ideal date spot. Besides wine, beer, and tea, there's also hot chocolate, and Polish pierogies.

Bars on the tourist-heavy Kazinczy Street must be taken with a grain of salt, but you can still find worthy places here (rule of thumb: avoid spots emblazoned with "Hungarian goulash" signs). Kőleves Kert, which isn’t to be mistaken with the popular Kőleves restaurant next door, is one of those summertime treasures in the form of a laid-back, all-welcoming outdoor bar. Order at the wooden shed, then trek through the ankle-deep gravel to find yourself an open seat at the colorful tables canopied by overhanging trees.

By day, many freelancers camp out here; in the evening, an endless stream of locals and tourists trickle in. Although most people come for beers and fröccs (wine spritzer), there's also some food, including "tócsni," a fried potato pancake similar to a latke, slathered with cream cheese and sweet chili.

If you're looking to immerse yourself in a deeply local, Communist-era neighborhood cafe and bar (eszpresszó), I can't think of a better place than Bambi on the Buda side. What makes Bambi the real deal? It isn’t trying to show off an artificial (retro), unremembered past – it’s a genuine throwback. The patrons are a mix of graying, beer-drinking men with strong opinions about the world and fashionable Millennials who've discovered the charms of an eszpresszó.

It's the kind of place where customer is not first and where the socialist-modern furnishings with faux-leather upholstery have been in place since the 1961 opening. I most enjoy Bambi for breakfast during the warm-weather months when the cramped tables on its south-facing terrace are bathed in sunshine. The limited food selections consist of a pair of frankfurters with a side of mustard, scrambled eggs, various toasted sandwiches, and Hungarian pastries. Prices are wallet-friendly.

An alternative movie theater that functions as a bar in the evenings? Yes, please. Naturally, posters of classics blanket the walls – Amélie? Yes. Pulp Fiction? Of course! – but this being Hungary means Béla Tarr too is staring at you from the walls. With lots of chairs and cushy couches, Bem Mozi is ideal for a conversation-forward evening. If people watching is also part of your plan, target one of the two VIP tables by the tall windows, overlooking Margit körút. And don’t forget an order of pop-corn with your drink.

Located a bit outside the city center in District 8, Macska is a cozy and laid-back neighborhood bar. There's craft beers, vegan dishes, but best of all is the dim, secluded upstairs designed for wholehearted conversations. Like any excellent bar, Macska draws a mixed crowd — you'll find everyone from students to graying regulars. Once here, you could also stop by Hintaló Iszoda or Auróra, lively bars just minutes away.

Open since 1975, Libella is a longtime watering hole of engineering and architecture students from BME, the university located across the street. This of course means that drinks are low-priced and unpretentious: no, there are no craft IPAs or natural wines here, but you can gulp down a cold lager from the draft for less than two euros.

Order also a melegszendvics; toasted bread topped with ham and melted cheese is hardly a foodie's dream, but it's delicious — especially when smothered in ketchup — and with hangover-mitigating powers. Finally, don't leave without observing the artworks on the wall and the original neon sign above the entrance.

Fecske Presszó is a laid-back, wallet-friendly cafe and restaurant across from the Szabó Ervin Library in Budapest's Palace Quarter. This means students of all ages gather here throughout the day to take study breaks of varying lengths and with varying amounts of alcohol.

Weather permitting, try to snag a table on the outdoor terrace canopied by the overhanging tree. Otherwise, look for a charming nook in the below-ground inside. On weekdays, Fecske serves an affordable two-course lunch and drinks are also cheap. Once here, be sure to visit the library, whose 4th floor has retained the aristocratic splendor of its past (the reception sells low-priced admission tickets).

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. The two softly glowing, high-ceilinged rooms fitted with wooden floors, bookshelves, and small round tables works well for a casual weeknight drink, a date, or a heart-to-heart over a bottle of wine. Affordable hot wine and rum-laced tea during the colder months; tasty toasted sandwiches throughout the year.

Szabad is a laid-back vegan bar and restaurant with an adorably bohemian spirit. Szabad translates to "free" in Hungarian, a moniker open to everyone's own interpretation according to the owners. Customers are local regulars, most of them 30-plus, who all seem to know one another.

Though the menu changes daily, some of the hits are the ginger-infused carrot soup, the tofu-drizzled polenta, and, my favorite, the "phony túrós csusza," which convincingly mimics this classic Hungarian noodle dish normally made with cottage cheese, sour cream, and pork cracklings. Drinks include draft beers, Hungarian wines, and spirits.

Founded by the legendary Budapest restaurateur, Hans van Vliet, Jedermann is a snug, all-inviting café and restaurant for all 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 is buried on a quiet part of District 9, not far from the city center but away from the throngs clogging the party district.

Jazz is the central theme here: jazz posters drape the walls, jazz is playing in the background, and there are live jazz performances on Friday and Saturday evenings (booking via text message: +36 30 4063617; the place fills up quickly; no concerts during the summer). The food isn't going to blow your mind, but the low-priced breakfast dishes, the savory French toast (bundáskenyér), and the hearty goulash soup are perfectly satisfying. A selection of Hungarian wines are available, too.

Grinzingi is an unpretentious downtown wine bar with a simple formula that has changed little since its 1983 opening: serve cheap drinks in Budapest's city center that's otherwise teeming with overpriced, tourist-oriented bars. Fast forward 40 years, some of the early patrons still pay repeated visits, as do plenty of college students from nearby universities. Inside, rustic 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.

Once here, you should try a zsíroskenyér, a traditional Hungarian sandwich slathered with lard and drizzled with salt, pepper, and red onions. A word to the wise: check also downstairs, if the ground level is full of people.

Located on the ground floor of a gigantic performing center for independent theater and dance troupes (Jurányi Ház), Kacagás is an unfussy bar and community space. During the day, artists from upstairs come here for meetings or to scarf down the two-course lunch prix fixe; it's after the evening shows that Kacagás reaches its full potential, when an alternative crowd of theatergoers and performers drink away happily. In the summer, the activity shifts to the spacious outdoor terrace. If you're in the area, also consider Nemdebár, a lively neighborhood bar near here.

Auróra is a community center in the outer part of Budapest's District 8, an area with many low-income and minority residents. During the day, there are workshops and discussions on topics related to social justice and civic engagement (they're generally held in Hungarian, but most people will speak English). Come night-time, Auróra transforms into a lively bar and there's a small below-ground concert hall featuring Hungarian folk, jazz, and indie rock bands. The mixed crowd usually includes local artists, community organizers, students, and foreigners — it's a good place for thought-provoking discussions and to meet interesting people.

Gólya is a bar and community center in Budapest best known for the healthy dose of anarchy that radiates through this high-ceilinged industrial space: You’ll find here left-leaning locals and foreign students who deeply care about things like gentrification, climate change, and identity politics. True to its spirit, Gólya is located a bit outside Budapest’s city center in a grittier section of District 8. The late afternoons are often taken up by panel discussions (they’re in Hungarian, but most people will also speak English). If you aren't in so high-minded a mood, trek out here for the nighttime events, which include high-energy concerts of local Hungarian bands.

Opened in 2004, Vittula comes closest to delivering a dive-bar experience in Budapest. With an charmingly grungy and labyrinthine layout, the space is actually cooler than your average dive bar. Graffiti and witty scribbles blanket the walls of this below-ground space, and, although it would be a stretch to call Vittula cozy, there are snug corners to hide away.

Expect a hipster-leaning, below-25 crowd heavy on international students (the cool cats often congregate outside the nondescript entrance). The music changes throughout the week: Tuesdays tend to be jazz nights, then they gradually turn up the heat as the weekend approaches. Although mainly a bar, it’s not unusual that the pocket-sized dance floor fills up with a high-energy crowd. Prices are rock-bottom.

Pántlika is an easy-going outdoor bar tucked away on the far end of Budapest's City Park. If you need a break from the nearby tourist attractions Heroes Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, Szépművészeti, House of Music, Museum of Ethnography, Széchenyi Thermal Bath you can refuel here with cold beers and snacks. Pántlika offers a true-to-Budapest experience as most tourists don't come all the way to this side of the park. Note that Pántlika is open only during the outdoor season (usually from April to mid-October).

Pántlika's quirky modern building used to be an information desk during the annual international expo that took place in the City Park until 1973 during communist Hungary; the curvilinear five-pointed aluminum roof resembles a red star, a hat-tip to the ruling regime.

Hunnia is an adorably grungy, below-ground music bar best known for its Friday and Saturday night concerts, when A and B-level Hungarian bands take over the tiny stage for a high-energy show. Many of the bands who play here were part of Budapest's alternative music scene in the 1970s and 1980s, most famously Mihály Víg and his Balaton group. Today, some of them are still going strong, as are their graying but loyal fans. If you're looking for a deeply local (musical) experience, this is it. Ironically, Hunnia, a decidedly anti-establishment bar, is located inside Budapest's upscale financial district, almost right across the Hungarian Central Bank.

Since Keret is officially a social club, you'll need to sign up and become a member, a thirty-second exercise, to gain admission to this tiny, dimly lit bar (it's free). The reason for the legal maneuvering is to allow smoking inside. The snug, smoke-filled interior evokes a Prohibition-era ambiance, where the common cause brings out the friendliest side of people. But tobacco isn't the only allure — there are cold beers, grilled sandwiches, and plenty of board games. Also note the paintings on the walls, a positive surprise compared with the check-the-box-type artwork so common in bars these days.