Whether your tastes run to craft beers or cool cocktails, buzzing Budapest will keep you up till the early hours. Forget any images you may have in your mind of noisy stag and hen parties; the best nightlife in Budapest can be found in bohemian 'ruin' pubs, cultured coffee houses, and sleek rooftop bars looking out over the city skyline.
Whatever your poison, you'll find it in Budapest, from full-bodied Hungarian wines and local craft beers to creative cocktails from the city's top mixologists, making generous use of pálinka fruit brandies and herbal liqueurs. Don't worry if you push the boat out a little too far – you can always recover the next day in one of the city's famous thermal baths.
To get you in the mood, here's our pick of the best pubs, bars, clubs and coffeehouses to visit in Budapest.
The best rooftop bars for a drink with a view
The Budapest skyline is awash with art nouveau masterpieces, monumental landmarks, colorful tiled rooftops and rolling green hills, bisected by what is arguably Europe's most famous river. It's well worth appreciating the view from a high vantage point with a drink in hand.
The city has plenty of rooftop bars offering wraparound views of the city, and most of them operate year-round, so you can even enjoy the view with a warming brandy in the depths of winter. Here's a list of the top rooftops in Budapest.
360 Bar: The most popular rooftop bar on Andrássy út, a boulevard that buzzes like a Budapest version of the Champs Élysées; cocktails are creative and the crowd is cosmopolitan.
High Note Sky Bar: A super romantic spot located an arm’s length from the dome of St Stephen's Basilica and just yards from Elizabeth Square; recommended for downtown views.
Intermezzo Roof Terrace: Home to a bar in summer and a rooftop ice-skating rink in winter, with magical views towards the Hungarian Parliament year-round.
Leo Budapest: Buda’s first rooftop bar is tropical and summer-only, but the location at the west end of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge guarantees superior river views.
St Andrea: A sophisticated option for grown-up oenophiles, with a vast selection of wines on the menu, and fine city views from the Pest side of the river.
Budapest's ruin bars are the place for laid-back fun
Budapest is the original home of the ruin bar. What's a ruin bar? Well, take some old discarded furniture, a random assortment of mismatched knick-knacks, cram them into an abandoned building with crumbling walls, add a bar piled high with booze and sprinkle some hipster vibes and – ta-da! – there’s your ruin bar.
These lively party spots are plentiful, especially in party central District VII, where you can bar hop all night if you have the energy and budget. Here is our pick of the best places to get 'ruined'.
Szimpla Kert: Located in Kazinczy utca, the most authentic ruin bar of them all has wild decor, upcycled furniture, movie screenings and live acoustic shows.
Csendes: Mannequins, old toys, chandeliers and a hobby horse hang above your head in this hip hangout that could be a movie location from Blade Runner.
Fogas Ház: A cool party complex enhanced by eclectic, stylish and dilapidated design; cool DJs keep the dance floors crammed with revelers till the early hours.
Budapest's coolest cocktail bars blend local spirits and international trends
Budapest boasts a cutting-edge cocktail culture, with dimly-lit drinking dens and speakeasy vibes galore. As well as bringing classic cocktail favorites to perfection, the city's bartenders are known for creating off-the-cuff, tailored drinks using local fruit spirits and mineral liqueurs. Here are the top spots to imbibe.
Bar Pharma: Come to this sleek spot for originality on full blast, with creative cocktails served at a bar backed by racks of spirits and vintage medicine bottles.
Black Swan: This atmospheric spot honors high-class bar culture with a sleek black-and-gold interior, a cosmopolitan spirit and delicious drinks.
Boutiq’ Bar: One of the pioneers of Budapest’s craft cocktail movement, once ranked among the world’s top 50 cocktail bars and still working its dimly-lit magic today.
Hotsy Totsy: A secret door in a barbershop takes you back to Prohibition-era New York at this hip speakeasy, one block north of the Dohány Street Synagogue.
Warmup: There’s no drinks list at this in-the-know spot; you tell the mixologists what flavors you fancy and they'll concoct a custom-made cocktail to exceed your expectations.
Beer aficionados can drink deep in Budapest's craft beer pubs
A craft beer revolution has hit Budapest in recent years. Now, where there was once little more than mass-produced lager, exciting small-batch pale ales and pilsners come in all kinds of flavors. The pick of the craft beer pubs are around District VII; seek out local brews from microbreweries such as Horizont, MONYO and First. Here are some recommended spots to wet your whistle.
Hopaholic: "In hop we trust" is the motto of this tiny watering hole that features a tastebud-tickling selection of ales from around the world.
First Craft Beer Bar: The hip First brewery runs a pub and kitchen downtown, and a brewing operation further from the center that hosts English-language tours.
Hops Beer Bar: The wallpaper is made of beer coasters, the ceiling of old hop sacks, and the house selection of hoppy brews go down very well.
Élesztő: This ruin pub is a playground for hop-heads, with a rotating set of 25 brews on tap, including top Hungarian craft beers, plus brewing courses and more.
Budapest's wine bars are well-stocked with local vintages
Hungary is rightly famous for its wines – the country has 22 wine regions and bor (wine) has been produced here since at least Roman times. Budapest's best wine bars proudly showcase wines made from grapes native to Hungary, such as red kadarka and kékfrankos or white furmint and hárslevelű. Here are some top spots for oenophiles.
DiVino: The focus is on local labels at DiVino's two venues, one with a perfect view to St Stephen’s Basilica (and always packed) and the other in Gozsdu Udvar.
Doblo: Sample the country’s best reds, whites and sparkling wines at this dimly lit hangout, a short walk from the Astoria metro stop.
Kadarka: This colorful wine bar, named for a dark-skinned Hungarian grape, offers a wide array of mostly local wines to start you on your Hungarian wine journey.
Palack: Located at the bottom of pretty Gellért Hill, Palack offers more than 100 wines to chose from, in a handy location close to the river on the Buda side.
The best clubs in Budapest offer week-long partying
Although Budapest’s clubbing scene isn't on the same scale as London or Berlin, there are still plenty of party places where you can dance the night away. A series of passageways and courtyards in the heart of downtown, Gozsdu Udvar is packed with partygoers every night of the week, and there are more places to drink and groove dotted around other city neighborhoods. Check out the following hotspots.
PONTOON: Dance directly on the Danube River at this alfresco hangout which hosts DJ parties in summer; as of 2022, it's operating from a board on the riverside.
A38 Ship: Moored just south of the Petőfi Bridge, a repurposed Ukrainian cargo vessel has found a new life as a live-music venue and nightclub.
Akvárium Klub: Located in the very heart of Budapest, on pretty Elizabeth Square, this popular hub hosts major parties and live music shows in a prime city location.
Budapest Park: This outdoor space near the Rákóczi Bridge is the perfect summer mini-festival venue; they even have food trucks.
Széchenyi Baths: Yep, this famous thermal bathhouse also hosts summertime Saturday night "Sparties", combining a thermal soak with DJ tunes, though you'll see more tourists than locals.
Budapest's coffee houses offer a calmer after-dark experience
Looking for a quieter night out in Budapest? Just head to one of the city's many coffee houses, most of which are open until midnight. The city's coffee culture dates back centuries, and some of these coffee shops are a sight to behold, set in grand fin-de-siècle edifices. Back in their golden days, these cafes were popular haunts for Hungary’s most prominent creatives, and they still attract a lively crowd of visitors and locals today.
New York Café: Once described as the most beautiful cafe in the world, this popular coffee stop is adorned with marble, gold trim, crystals and frescos and you can listen to live Hungarian music while you sip.
Gerbeaud Café: Located on central Vörösmarty tér, this is one of the oldest and most elegant coffee houses in Budapest; pair a smooth cup with its iconic signature Gerbeaud slice (apricot and chocolate layer cake).
Centrál: For a splendid vintage vibe, look no further than this vintage cafe from 1887, decorated in tiles and dark wood, with long, dangling light fittings.
Hadik: History lingers in this cavernous, brick-lined cafe at the bottom of Gellért Hill; it's a fine spot for a relaxing macchiato with a shot of unicum herbal liqueur.