Visiting neighborhood bars is the best way to see the true face of a city and its residents. Budapest is no exception. You’ll come away from these places with a sense of excitement and discovery.
If you're looking to immerse yourself in an old school, lively, communist-era neighborhood bar in Buda, Bambi Eszpresszó should be high on the 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.Read more
Wichmann is a must-see. This dimly-lit, grungy bar has been around since way before Kazinczy Street, the epicenter of the party district in the former Jewish Quarter, became popular. Wichmann feels like a time travel back to communist times, partly because the original interior from the opening in 1987 is still in place. Many of the regulars have been coming here for decades.Read more
Opened in 1968, this iconic café/bar is a relic from the socialist era with a corresponding interior, which in this case means sticky faux leather chair upholstery and orange plexiglass lighting fixtures. Prices used to be too good to be true but are less so now due to the increasing popularity among tourists. Nonetheless, it’s still a popular stopover among locals for watching weekday-night soccer and wolfing down a toasted ham and cheese sandwich smothered by ketchup before they hit the sack. The tables upstairs are often monopolized by teenage lovebirds from the neighboring schools.Read more
For a bit of time travel you don’t even have to leave downtown. The “villányi” in the name is tongue-in-cheek, since the wine they serve in this socialist-era grungy neighborhood bar is hardly the premium stuff from the Villány region, but that isn’t the point. Places like this will soon be extinct, so take your chances before it’s too late. Expect a juke box that looks like it’s rented from a museum, a price board with uneven and unmatching number stickers, horrendous plastic wall paneling, ridiculously low prices, and an amiable, non-pretentious crowd with a fondness for alcohol..Read more
The formula for success at this unpretentious wine bar is simple: serve cheap drinks in the center of a city otherwise crowded with tourist traps. But what gives this place soul is its longevity, the variety of its patrons, and the “interior design”. When Grinzingi opened in 1983, it was difficult to find decent wine in the city, so word spread that this wine bar served up cheap, drinkable stuff. Fast forward 30 years, some of those early patrons still pay repeated visits, as do plenty of college students from nearby universities.Read more
The Grand Boulevard is not only a dividing line between inner and outer Pest, but also between the pristine and the gritty, the predictable and the mysterious. As a result, bars along here draw eclectic crowds from all facets of Budapest life. Krúdy Söröző, an unpretentious, no-frills communist-era bar, is one of these. Despite the wifi and flat screen TVs, the space feels distinctively 1980s, as do the prices.Read more
Visiting Tóth Kocsma is the ultimate immersion into everyday Hungarian life, where you can be quite certain to be the only non-Hungarian. It's not fancy, not trendy, not hipster, just a good honest no-frills basement bar. They don’t make ‘em this way anymore. The fact that the unpretentious Tóth Kocsma is located in the middle of the expensive gallery district along Falk Miksa Street just adds an element of irony and a notch to its appeal.Read more
Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito.