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 best 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. There are wallet-friendly Hungarian wines and beer, and rum aficionados can pamper themselves with excellent top-shelf selections.

#2 Dzzs Bár

Dzzs Bár, down the block from Kisüzem, attracts an eccentric and bohemian 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, dimly lit space. Unfortunately, the owners have recently jacked up the prices, which is leading to a rapid erosion of locals.

#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 millennial locals.

#4 BÉLA

Part café, part restaurant, and part bar, BÉLA is a laid back, all-welcoming neighborhood joint on the Buda side of the city, along the increasingly fashionable Bartók Béla Boulevard. The homey 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 tends to fill 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 neighborhood 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 Pest. One of the notable exceptions is Nemdebár. This dark neighborhood joint fills to capacity most evenings, drawing an eclectic local crowd of hip college students, office workers, and favorite-uncle-type bohemians pushing fifty.

#7 Nappali Kávéház

The bars in Budapest generally fall into two categories: there are low-priced, bare-bones ruin bars on the one hand, and posh cocktail 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 where Nappali, which tranlates to "living room," comes into play.

#8 Három Holló

Like it or not, Budapest’s booming tourism has inspired many local business owners to profit off visitors. Overpriced restaurants hawking “authentic goulash” and dime a dozen “Irish pubs” are all too common in Budapest’s downtown. Három Holló bar, however, is the fruit of an entirely different philosophy.

#9 Úri Muri

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, where plenty of 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 where high-energy live music concerts take place.

#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, making 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. On the upstairs section there are often exhibits by local artists.

#11 Hintaló Iszoda

In Hungarian "hintaló" means rocking horse, of which you'll find plenty in this charmingly grungy bar located a bit outside the city center in District 8. The place gets packed most evenings with a crowd heavy on international students, many of them German. Hintaló boasts a more interesting drinks menu than what you'd find at your typical neighborhood bar: there are local craft beers on tap, several kinds of amaros, gins, and rums.

#12 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 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 Kaptafa exudes effortlessly chic vibes nonetheless. There are relaxed-looking, millennial waiters who kindly chat with customers while indie-pop is drifting through the speakers.

#13 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 nooks and crannies here.

#14 Jedermann Café

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 hidden on a quiet street in District 9, not far from the city center, but away from the throngs clogging the party district.

#15 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 dimly lit and densely furnished bar features cheap vodka selections, Polish and Hungarian craft beers, and bookshelves stacked with Polish books. The place is the brainchild of a Polish native from Gdansk, a port city on the Baltic coast, and her Hungarian husband.

#16 Kiadó Kocsma

Kiadó is a snug, unfussy bar nestled in a quiet side street near Andrássy Avenue. Regular patrons comprise local artists, office workers, and international grad students, but some wondering tourists with a nose for hidden treasures also stumble in from Andrássy.

#17 Lámpás

Lámpás is an atmospheric 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. The crowd here is a good mix of local and foreign twentysomethings.

#18 Pótkulcs Budapest

Trust me, the address is accurate—persist in your search and you'll 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 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 lots of Hungarian folk music). The vibes are laid back and the crowd skews bohemian. During the warmer months, the action shifts to the outdoor patio.

#19 Hivatal Kávézó

Hivatal Kávézó, which opened in 2010, was an early bird on Madách tér, the entry point of Budapest’s party district. This pedestrian-only plaza has a cult reputation since the late aughts thanks to the hip bars that line it, including Központ, Telep, and Hivatal.

#20 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 neighboring 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 elite and expensive neighborhood—let's hope it stays that way.

#21 Központ

Központ is a coffee shop, breakfast restaurant, and bar, all in one, located near the red-brick arch that signals the entry of Budapest's party district. During the day, fashionable foreigners linger here with their MacBooks and flat whites for hours on end. Come night-time, the crowd turns more local as journalists, musicians, and people from the fashion industry appear (there's a dance floor downstairs).

#22 Gólya Presszó

Gólya is a popular 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.

#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 here for everything from first dates to business meetings for over half a century. 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 go here, I feel a sense of discovery. The snug interior features antique furnitures, maroon and white floral wallpapers, dense carpeting, and small, round tables.

#26 Macska Budapest

Macska, located a bit outside the city center in District 8, is the type of bar we all wish to have in our neighborhoods. What makes it the real deal? Relaxed vibes, a friendly service, cute nooks and crannies (look upstairs!), low-priced craft beers, and tasty vegetarian dishes.

#27 Keksz

Part café, part restaurant, part bar, Keksz is a hybrid space located under the stately arch that marks the entry point of Budapest's party district. There are a handful of passable traditional Hungarian dishes here—including a goulash soup (€5), a catfish paprikash (€7), and a lecsó (€6), which is similar to a ratatouille—but you're best off sticking to the breakfast-all-day offerings like the scrambled eggs or the panini selections.

#28 Fahéj Kávézó

Fahéj is an adorable café and bar on a quite backstreet in Budapest's downtown. Fahéj eschews the trendy vibes and the tourist-targeting 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 atmospheric, high-ceilinged rooms with wooden floors, bookshelves, and small round tables.

#29 Szabad Bisztró

Szabad is a vegan bar and restaurant with an adorably bohemian spirit. Though the menu changes daily, some of the hits are the ginger-infused carrot soup (€2.5), the tofu-drizzled polenta (€4), and, my favorite, the "phony túrós csusza" (€4), which convincingly mimics this classic Hungarian noodle dish normally made with cottage cheese, sour cream, and pork cracklings. There are also vegetable dips and spreads.

#30 Auróra

Auróra is a community center in the outer part of District 8, an area with many low-income and minority Budapest 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).

#31 Kertem (Outdoor Only)

Kertem (“My garden”) is an enormous beer garden inside Budapest's City Park. The place somehow flies under the radar of most tourists, even though it's not far from Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Tall trees tower over this tranquil area and block out the noises of the nearby streets, which feel a world away. Apart from cold beers, there are grilled sandwiches, of which the "Balkan," a Serbian hamburger-like pljeskavica (€5), is my favorite. The crowd here is a melting pot of laid-back local residents, many of them accompanied by their dogs. Note that Kertem shuts down for the cold months.

#32 Pagony (Outdoor Only)

Pagony is the product 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 former sauna building and tables have been lowered into the now-empty 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 in the evenings when the original wrought-iron lamps provide soft lighting.

#33 Jurányi Suterene

Located in Buda within a 6,700 sqm (72,000 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 is an unfussy bar and community space hiding on the ground floor of the premises. During the day, artists from upstairs come here for meetings or to scarf down the two-course lunch prix fixe.

#34 Grinzingi Borozó

Grinzingi is an unpretentious downtown wine tavern with a simple formula: serve cheap drinks in the center of Budapest that's otherwise teeming with overpriced, tourist-oriented bars. When Grinzingi opened in 1983, it was difficult to find decent wine in the city, so word spread that this wine bar served up low-priced, drinkable stuff. Fast forward 30 years, some of those early patrons still pay repeated visits, as do plenty of college students from nearby universities. The inside hasn't changed much. A dark wood-heavy interior evokes 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 over its decades-long past.

#35 Pántlika Bistro (Outdoor Only)

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 cold beer and snacks. Pántlika offers a truly local experience as most people here are Budapest residents.

#36 Hunnia Bisztró

From the outside, Hunnia isn't an inviting place but trust me, it's worth proceeding down the stairs to this adorably grungy, below-ground music bar. Hunnia is best known for its Friday and Saturday live concerts, when A and B-level Hungarian bands take over the tiny stage for a high-energy concert. Many of the bands who play here were part of Budapest's alternative music scene during the later years of communism, in the '70s and '80s. Today, some of them are still going strong, as are their graying but loyal fans (they tend to sing along louder and more passionately as the night progresses).

#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.

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.