Budapest is gorgeous at ground level, but when you’re 10 storeys above its fin-de-siècle splendour with a creatively mixed cocktail in hand, it takes on a whole new dimension. Swaying to a soft DJ set with the sun on your back in summer or warming up with a cinnamon-scented drink inside a cosy communal igloo in winter, you’ll mingle with a cosmopolitan crowd against the backdrop of Habsburg-era rooftops, stunning urban landmarks and the distant Buda hills. So take a front-row seat overlooking one of Europe’s most captivating capitals and toast the high life.
A stunning sunset view of Budapest's iconic buildings from Intermezzo Rooftop Terrace © Kata Fári / Lonely Planet
Stargazing at Intermezzo Rooftop Terrace
Perched eight floors up at Hotel President, Intermezzo provides a panorama to die for. In the past, the hotel’s roof terrace used to attract attention by accommodating a helicopter-landing pad. Today, it’s home to an al fresco bar and restaurant – winter-proof with stylish igloos – that hosts yoga sessions in summer and an elevated ice rink in winter. Here you can sip drinks or enjoy dinner in style underneath the colourful fairy lights; the highlight is the view of the Parliament over the roof of the Hungarian State Treasury adorned with vibrant Zsolnay porcelain tiles. Walk-ins are welcome, but you need to request a (free) entry card at the hotel reception and take the lift to the 8th floor (note you have to change rides on the 5th floor).
St Stephen's Basilica is an impressive backdrop for Budapest's High Note Roof Bar © Kata Fári / Lonely Planet
A romantic rendezvous at High Note Roof Bar
Need to impress? At Budapest’s most romantic rooftop bar, you can end the day on a high note. This upscale hangout snuggled next to St Stephen’s Basilica has enough comfy sofas to cuddle up on and watch the slowly sinking sun paint all kinds of colours across the evening sky. The roomy terraces provide floor-to-ceiling views of the whole city and beyond, with the cathedral’s dome within arm’s reach. When the weather gets chilly, you can retreat to the elegant burgundy-coloured indoor section that's open year-round. Cocktails inspired by bucket-list destinations, plenty of Hungarian and international wines and an impressive list of spirits further elevate the mood. To reach High Note Roof Bar, cross the lavish lobby of the music-themed Aria Hotel and take the lift to the top. Although walk-ins are accepted, you might be turned away if you just waltz in, so be sure to make a reservation.
Impressive close-up view of the Széchenyi Bridge from Leo rooftop bar © Hefkó Kristóf / Leo
Roaring summer nights at Leo
Buda’s first rooftop bar is a summer-only destination, but it’s well worth crossing the river for. As you wave hello to Budapest’s amazing attractions from its more serene side, Leo transports you to the tropics with green-hued patterns and parrot-shaped glasses. And then there’s the unfettered close-up view of the Széchenyi Bridge from an unusual angle. Crowning Hotel Clark, this skyward space is also a great place to catch your breath after a lengthy walk exploring the nearby Castle District. Although you may have to compete for a seat here when the sun comes out, their creative cocktails, G&Ts, burgers and other treats are totally worth it. According to urban legend, the iconic lion sculptures adorning the Chain Bridge don’t have tongues – from here, you’ll find out.
The huge glass windows at Toprum enable visitors to enjoy a pretty panorama of Budapest © Kata Fári / Lonely Planet
Brunch with a view at Toprum
For a lazy weekend brunch, trendy Toprum is the place to go. Avocado toast, salmon bagels and egg-based dishes will satisfy the cravings, so you can sit back, survey the skyline and decide which landmark to explore next. On weekdays, bar food, cocktails, wine and G&Ts take over. Open until late daily, sleek and chic Toprum attracts everyone from families to groups of friends and Friday night socialites. The presentations are always Instagram-worthy here, so snapping photos is only natural. And the pretty panorama, dotted with Budapest’s top sights, is the perfect backdrop for the huge glass windows. Toprum operates year-round.
The alfresco terrace at St Andrea Wine & Sky Bar offers sweeping Budapest views © Kata Fári / Lonely Planet
Exclusive elegance at St Andrea Wine & Sky Bar
If you’re in for reds, whites and rosés, St Andrea is a great choice. Having started out as a small winery in the eastern Hungarian town of Eger, the label became world-renowned, enabling the owners to first open a fine-dining restaurant followed by a rooftop bar. At St Andrea you can enjoy the high life with soft jazz tunes, excellent Eger wines and gourmet bar food galore. In addition to a year-round indoor section, this deluxe drinking destination boasts two al fresco terraces with far-fetching views. A night out here will cost you a pretty penny, but the experience is undoubtedly the most elegant and exclusive of all Budapest’s rooftop options.
Heated see-through igloos at Budapest's 360Bar make it a buzzing rooftop hangout even in winter © Kata Fári / Lonely Planet
Wrap-around city views at 360Bar
Boasting the best panorama of Budapest, 360Bar is a true institution. Half the city heads up here in summer to catch the day’s last light, and the bar even buzzes in winter as heated see-through igloos keep out the cold. A lift takes you up straight from the street; when it pings at its highest point, be ready for your jaw to drop. You can admire all of the stunning landmarks studding the city’s skyline until the greeting from a smiley bartender snaps you back to reality. Every evening, the coolest crowd sways here to music from the DJ booth or a live acoustic set, while fancy cocktails, fruit-infused lemonades and seasonal specialities take care of the cravings. Located in the heart of the city on Andrássy út (Budapest’s very own Champs Élysées), this laid-back bar is perfect for a fuss-free sundowner with friends.
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