Where To Drink With The Locals: The 37 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, so nothing should stop you from bar-hopping until the wee hours. In the warmer months, check out Budapest's top casual outdoor bars, too.

#1 Kisüzem

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.

#2 Dzzs Bár

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.

#3 Fekete Kutya

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.

#4 BÉLA

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 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, which is why the place fills to capacity most evenings.

#5 Lumen Café Budapest

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 plenty of greenery, concrete, and wood finishes, Lumen is more than your average neighborhood café. But it's the patrons — students, artists, and local bohemians — who give soul to the place.

#6 Nemdebár

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.

#7 Nappali Kávéház

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. 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 what Nappali, which tranlates to "living room," excels at.

#8 Három Holló

Amid downtown Budapest's overpriced tourist traps and dime a dozen “Irish pubs” hides Három Holló, a bar with an entirely different philosophy. Named after the favorite watering hole of Endre Ady, one of Hungary’s poet laureates from the early 20th century, Három Holló occupies a three-story space that fuses a bar with an exhibition space and a concert venue. On any given week, there might be a photography pop-up and a couple of contemporary jazz concerts here. (See their packed event calendar; note that they shut down for the summer.)

#9 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.

#10 Telep

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.

#11 Hintaló Iszoda

Hintaló is an atmospheric bar located a bit outside the city center in District 8. Apart from the cozy and dim inside peppered with nooks and crannies — the upstairs is ideal for date nights — you're here for the classic cocktails that won't break the bank (most of them are €5). There are also local craft beers on tap, several kinds of amaros, gins, and rums. Hintaló tends to fill up most evenings with a mixed crowd of international students and locals.

#12 Klub Vittula

Opened in 2004, Vittula comes closest to delivering a dive-bar experience in Budapest. With an adorably 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 here.

#13 Jedermann Café

Founded by the legendary Budapest restaurateur Hans van Vliet, Jedermann Café 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.

#14 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.

#15 Kiadó Kocsma

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 dimly 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 and meetings.

#16 Hivatal Kávézó

Hivatal bar, which opened in 2010, was an early bird on Madách tér, the entry point of Budapest’s party district. This pedestrian-only plaza is home to a number of wildly popular hipster bars like Központ and Telep, 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 grilled sandwiches here (brie!). During the warmer months, the night-time crowd often spills out onto the stairs of the neighboring office building, lending the area a block-party feel.

#17 Gdansk Bookstore Café

Eastern European, bohemian-intellectual vibes ooze from Gdansk Bookstore Café, located on Bartók Béla Boulevard on the Buda side of the city. This dim and densely furnished bar features cheap vodka selections, Polish and Hungarian craft beers, and bookshelves stacked with Polish books. The place is run by a Polish native from Gdansk, the port city on the Baltic coast, and her Hungarian husband. You're also here for the pickled herring, delivered straight from the Baltic Sea and served with onions and rye bread (€6). Note that empty tables are rare, closing times flexible, and the prices wallet-friendly.

#18 Pótkulcs Budapest

Trust me, the address is accurate — persist in your search and you'll be handsomely rewarded. Pótkulcs bar is hidden inside a former light 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.

#19 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.

#20 Központ

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.

#21 Kaptafa

For the better part of the past two decades, Akácfa Street in Budapest's party district was best known for Fogas ruin bar, but recently new places have popped up at a head-spinning pace. One of my favorites is Kaptafa, a hip breakfast-all-day restaurant. The high-ceilinged space used to be home to a shoe repair shop, hence "kaptafa," which means shoe tree in Hungarian. Yes, you could take issue with the cliched design elements — chipped walls and Edison bulbs — but effortlessly cool vibes suffuse the place nonetheless.

#22 Gólya Presszó

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 care deeply 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), but even if you aren't in so high-minded a mood, there's reason to trek out here for the nighttime events, which include small but high-energy concerts of local Hungarian bands.

#23 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.

#24 Bambi Eszpresszó

If you're looking to immerse yourself in a deeply local, communist-era neighborhood bar that doubles as a breakfast joint, I can't think of a better place than Bambi Eszpresszó 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.

#25 Cafe Zsivago

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 (€1).

#26 Macska Budapest

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 are the cute nooks and crannies scattered throughout the two-story space; the secluded upstairs is designed for wholehearted conversations. Like any good bar, Macska draws a mixed crowd — you'll find here everyone from students to graying regulars. Once here, you could also stop by Hintaló Iszoda or Auróra, lively bars just minutes away.

#27 Keksz

Part café, part restaurant, part bar, Keksz is a hybrid space located under the impressive arch that marks the entry point of Budapest's party district. There are a handful of passable traditional Hungarian dishes here — goulash soup, catfish paprikash, and lecsó — but you're best off sticking to the breakfast-all-day offerings like the scrambled eggs and the panini selections. The crowd consists of a healthy mix of locals and tourists, many of whom come here for coffee or drinks only (the house IPA on draft, "Keksz," is especially popular). Note that Keksz is cheaper than most places in this hopping neighborhood.

#28 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!

#29 Kőleves Kert (Outdoor Only)

Bars on the tourist-heavy Kazinczy Street must be taken with a grain of salt, but you can still find some 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.

#30 Szabad Bisztró

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

#31 Auróra

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.

#32 Pagony (Outdoor Only)

Pagony is the result of a brilliant idea: what was formerly the children's section of the historic Gellért Baths has been transformed into an outdoor bar. For example, the bar counter is inside the sauna building and tables have been lowered into the emptied swimming pools. Next to the entrance, you can still see the underpass that connects to the still-functional wing of Gellért across the street. Pagony is especially enjoyable at night when the original wrought-iron lamps emit a soft glow.

#33 Jurányi Suterene

Located on the ground floor of a gigantic performing center for independent theater and dance troupes, Jurányi Suterene 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 shows in the evenings that Suterene reaches its full potential, when an alternative crowd of theatergoers and performers drink away here happily. In the summer, the activity shifts onto the spacious outdoor terrace. If you're in the area, also consider stopping by Nemdebár, a lively neighborhood bar not far from here.

#34 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.

#35 Pántlika Bistro (Outdoor Only)

Pántlika is a laid-back 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, Széchenyi Thermal Bath — you can refuel here with a cold beer and snacks. Pántlika offers a truly local experience as most tourists don't come all the way to this side of the park. Note that they're open only during the outdoor season (usually from April to mid-October).

#36 Hunnia Bisztró

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 '70s and '80s. 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.

#37 Keret Klub

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.

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.