Destination Budapest

Ruins and rooftop terraces: Budapest's best bars

Nathan Kay and Mary Novakovich, CNNUpdated 3rd January 2019
Everything's happening at Szimpla Kert.
(CNN) — People from all over the world descend upon Budapest each year, with the Hungarian capital's unique drinking venues acting as one of its top draws.
There are plenty of stand out watering holes dotted right across the city, with the 6th district boasting some of the best bars, pubs and clubs in Europe.
From ruin bars and bistros, to high-end bars and rooftop venues, there's something for everyone.
We've put together an ultimate guide to the best bars in Budapest to help you narrow it down...

Ruin bars

It's funny that they call them "ruin bars" -- because for their founders, the venues generally lead to good fortune.
It started around 2001, so the story goes, with a bunch of young men looking for cheap places to drink. From their thirst and shallow pockets, some of the most lively and stylish places to drink in Budapest were born -- the so-called ruin bars.
Derelict buildings and unused outdoor spaces have been transformed into friendly, pleasingly chaotic bars where you can still get a large beer for less than $2.
Szimpla Kert
Szimpla Kert was the city's first Budapest ruin bar -- and remains iconic.
Szimpla Kert was the city's first Budapest ruin bar -- and remains iconic.
Courtesy Jorge Franganillo/Creative Commons/Flickr
Szimpla Kert was the first ruin bar and remains iconic, it moved around before settling into its home in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest's 7th district in 2004.
It hosts a regular farmers' market and flea market, while live music and film screenings are also a regular feature.
Delicious pizzas served from a wood-fired oven are available at very reasonable prices.
Szimpla Kert has classic ruin pub traits: willfully mismatched furniture that's seen better days, artwork that some annoying customers have a habit of taking home without and a garden where you can catch the sun during the summer months.
Unlike other ruin pubs, Szimpla Kert has an old Trabant car in the garden that doubles as a table and chairs
Cigarette smoke takes up the place of the exhaust fumes and the ambience harks back to an era when the bloc was under communist times.
Szimpla Kert, Budapest, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075; +36 20 261 8669
Just a few minutes' walk away is one of the area's more recent ruin pubs, Racskert.
A big, ramshackle garden bar in a disused parking lot -- it's a plain spot, with none of the artful disorder of Szimpla.
Water cisterns recycled as lamps provide the illumination, while a mobile burger van serves snacks from the Bosnian Serb owner's homeland.
Racskert, Budapest, Dob u. 40-42, 1072; +36 70 428 1517
Ellato Kert & Taqueria  
There's a Mexican feel to Ellato Kert & Taqueria, a large garden filled with brightly painted tables -- helped, no doubt, by the tacos and tortillas on the menu.
Ellato Kert & Taqueria, Budapest, Kazinczy u. 48, 1075; +36 20 527 3018
Instant and Fogas
Instant and Fogas
Popular ruin bars Instant and Fogas have teamed up to create the ultimate party venue.
Instant and Fogas
Once one of the more popular ruin bars in Budapest, the old Instant bar situated on Nagymező street was bulldozed in 2017 to make way for a new apartment block.
The venue then teamed up with Fogas club to form the largest ruin bar complex in Budapest.
Now situated in Akácfa utca, it opens until 6 a.m. each morning and is always full of partygoers and clubbers, who can alternate between the many bar and dance areas within its large building.
Instant and Fogas, Budapest, Akácfa u. 49-51; +36 30 123 4567
One of the most popular party venues in the city, Anker't is essentially a large courtyard surrounded by bars, dance rooms and a snack area.
Often packed with partygoers, the bar has themed nights on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a great DJ to party the night away.
Anker't, Budapest, Paulay Ede u. 33, 1061; +36 30 360 3389

Rooftop bars

360 Bar
Budapest's 360 Bar is one of the best places to experience, you guessed it, a 360-degree view of the city.
Accessed via Andrassy Avenue, it's a popular spot throughout the year, especially in the summer months.
Top cocktails and bar snacks fill the menu, while a whole host of friendly staff are on hand to ensure you have the best time possible.
360 Bar, Budapest, Andrássy út 39, 1061; +36 30 356 3047
High Note SkyBar at the Aria Hotel
The Aria Hotel plays host to one of the more spectacular rooftop bars in the city.
Nestled in the heart of the 5th district, the High Note SkyBar provides direct views over the nearby Basilica building and is a great spot for taking pictures.
High Note SkyBar at the Aria Hotel, Budapest, Hercegprímás u. 5, 1051; +36 1 445 4055
St. Andrea Wine and Skybar
Accessed via Vörösmarty Square, this rooftop bar is a fabulous drinking spot in both the summer and winter months.
With an array of cocktails on the menu as well as delicious Irish coffees, you'll likely find yourself staying far longer than intended.
St. Andrea Wine and Skybar, Budapest, Deák Ferenc utca 5, 1052; +36 30 300 3930

High-end bars

The Bar and Lobby Lounge at the Four Seasons
The bar at the Four Seasons is one of the places to be seen at this exclusive Budapest hotspot.
Most celebrities stay at this hotel while filming is taking place in the city, so you could spot Jennifer Lawrence or Jude Law sipping a cocktail at the bar.
The Bar & Lobby Lounge, Four Seasons Budapest, Budapest, Széchenyi István tér 5, 1051; +36 1 268 6000
Kupola Bar at The Ritz-Carlton
Kupola Bar - Ritz-Carlton Hotel
The menu at Kupola Bar at The Ritz-Carlton features local wines and innovative cocktails.
Courtesy Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
Relatively new on the Budapest bar scene, the interior of this cocktail bar has been given a five-star makeover.
The cocktails available range anywhere from a Tom Collins to a Moscow Mule, and if you can't find what you're looking for, the barman can rustle it up for you.
The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest, Erzsébet tér 9-10, 1051; +36 1 429 5500
Blue Fox The Bar at the Kempinski
Blue Fox The Bar
Blue Fox The Bar is based at the Kempinski in downtown Budapest.
Courtesy Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest
Blue Fox The Bar at the Kempinski is one of the more quirky high-end bar experiences in Budapest.
Popular with tourists,it offers up a selection of delicious cocktails and bar snacks, accompanied by moody lighting, and is a cool place to chill with friends.
Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest, Budapest, Erzsébet tér 7, 1051; +36 1 429 3777

Mid-range bars

Boutiq' Bar
Boutiq' Bar has been voted among the top 50 cocktail bars in the world and is certainly one to try while visiting Budapest.
This stunning bar offers an interesting selection of drinks and cocktails, accompanied by a devilishly red interior that will leave you feeling mischievous enough to delve into the menu.
Boutiq' Bar, Budapest, Paulay Ede u. 5, 1061; +36 30 554 2323
Farm Gastrobar
This cute city hideaway serves impressive cocktails and bar snacks.
With a cozy courtyard area teamed with two bar and seating areas serving bespoke cocktails and reasonably priced jugs, it's a fantastic hangout spot in both the summer and winter months.
Farm, Budapest, Ó u. 14, 1066; +36 30 622 7500
Brody Studios
More shabby than chic, this once exclusive club is considered past its prime, but you might be lucky enough to spot a celeb or two when film crews are in town.
Although most nights are quiet, some Friday or Saturday evenings can pull in crowds.
Keep a close eye on the website though, as the venue is often closed during the summer months and other key tourist holidays.
Brody Studios, Budapest, Vörösmarty u. 38, 1064; +36 1 266 3707

On a budget

Maláta Bisztró
One of the more quirky budget bars in the city, Maláta Bisztró always has a great atmosphere along with ridiculously cheap drinks -- many are less than $2.
Heaving throughout the year, this place gets especially busy in the summer months when the crowds spill out onto the street, creating a cool party vibe.
Maláta Bisztró, Budapest, Mátyás Utca 11., 1097; +36 70 630 8107
Hauzol Café
While it's a pretty basic bar, Hauzol Café is extremely popular with locals, expats and especially students.
The drink prices here are very reasonable and the vibe is pretty good, although the interior is a bit dated.
Hauzol Café, Budapest, 1073, Erzsébet krt. 26, 1073; +36 30 653 2965
Cheers Pub
One of the cheapest bars in Budapest, Cheers Pub is situated near the end of the popular Nagymező street, one of city's main party spots.
At around $1.50 a pint, you can't go wrong here.
Cheers Pub, Budapest, Nagymező u. 35, 1065, +36 70 660 0812
Editor's note: This article was previously published in 2013. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2018.