Is it the cheap flights from neighboring countries that bring people to Budapest? Is it Budapest's proximity to other popular European destinations like Germany, Austria, or Croatia? Is it the thermal springs, since Budapest was once known as the City of Spas? Is it the amazing architecture or incredible “ruin” bars that keep people coming back for more? Budapest, Hungary has quickly become one of the hottest nightlife spots in all of Europe.
The city is named after three cities, Obuda (old Buda), Buda and Pest. These cities were unified in 1867. The unified city's components have a long history stretching into the middle ages and through the Roman Empire. Modern-day Budapest offers food, music, architecture, historical culture, and amazing thermal baths to spend your evenings indulging in. With so many spectacular things to whet a traveler's appetite, Budapest is a solid place to spend your days and an even better place to revel in the night.
To find out exactly how to indulge in Budapest nightlife, read on.
Budapest has some of the most breathtaking architecture in Europe, and “ruin” bars allow you to get your top-shelf Tequila shot at the same time as you take in the ruins of famous spots like Szimpla Kert, located in Budapest’s District VII. Szimpla Kert was once a factory left to rot after World War II, but it’s since been converted into a delicious open-air set of bars where there are concerts, performances, and even art exhibitions. Its walls are covered in aged graffiti, and it gives off a garden-renaissance-meets-post-industrial-mele vibe. It isn’t really even a single bar, but a collection of bars, almost like a bar town.
The old Jewish quarter, also known as District VII is chock-full of great nightlife and an underground bar scene which is no longer underground but very prominently known throughout Europe as a great party place. You won’t recognize your favorite spot to grab cocktails from the street though. The bars are hidden inside homes, without signage telling you you’ve arrived. Once you walk inside the courtyards of these homes though, you’ll find among your fellow party people: artsy, hipster, funky folks ready to throw down some great food, great drinks, and solid conversation. You’re encouraged to keep your outside voice to a minimum as you go back out into the neighborhood so that you don’t disturb the residents living in the area.
Try these fun spots when you're in Budapest:
The WarmUp Bar: Reminiscent of a concrete bunker inside, you can ask for your own custom-made cocktail at the WarmUp Bar, and the bartender will serve it up. They don’t do drink menus.
Blue Bird Karaoke Bar: If you’re ready to sing at the top of your lungs, this karaoke bar in District VII doesn’t disappoint with lots of song choices and an eager crowd.
Ruin Bars Budapest: Aptly named for the abandoned building architecture, this collection of bars is just off the Dohány Street Synagogue and draws an international crowd.
Boutique Bar: Serves up made-to-order online cocktails even during Covid, to thirsty travelers.
If you’re longing to get wet under the moonlight, you’ll fall in love with Budapest’s thermal springs and hot baths. The city sits atop 123 thermal springs that people have indulged in since at least the 4th century B.C. You can visit many public baths that take advantage of these natural springs. Try the following notable nightspots:
Gellert Baths are along the Danube River and adjacent to the Gellert Hotel that opened in 1918. To access the baths, you don’t enter through the hotel, but via a side entrance. Here you’ll find numerous pools, public lockers for rent, and at night, everything is lit up so you can enjoy a calming thermal bath, a pub to get drinks or food, and even an indoor spa where you can schedule a massage or sauna session.
The Rudas Baths were built in part by the Turks in 1566 during their occupation. There is an octagonal bath where you can soak and sip champagne. At the Rudas Sky Terrace and Spa, you can dine and drink. Some of the bathing pools have water fountains that turn on, where you can sit underneath and relax. There are also various wellness therapies that include water massage and at night you can take in a breathtaking view of the Danube from the rooftop.
The Szechenyi Baths are located on the East of the Danube in City Park in a massive architecturally stunning building. There are 3 outdoor thermal pools and 15 indoor pools. During the day this is a leisurely, if not popular place to relax, but at night it turns into a splashing big party. On Saturday nights there are “sparties” that are more like a watery circus with laser shows, and DJs and VJs playing electronic house music.
For a romantic turn of pace, visit Gelert Hill. This 771 foot-high hill was named after Saint Gerard who was thrown from it to his death, but the hill has a more romantic and less tragic vibe in modern times. It offers views of the Danube River and Liberty Bridge.
To take in the grandeur of the Danube on the Pest side of the city, schedule a walking tour in the evening. When you walk along the Danube Promenade you’ll see restaurants, cafes, bars, casinos, and even a few 5-star hotels including the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace. It's important to note that there are more affordable places to stay as well if you're traveling on a budget, all with the same views and proximity to Budapest nightlife as the five-star hotels.
Take in views of Buda Castle, a royal complex for Hungarian Kings, and a breathtaking piece of architectural history in the Gothic style of the Middle Ages completed in 1265, as well as an important nexus for Gothic art. You can also see Gellert Hill, and enjoy the sculptures of famous writers and politicians that line the river.
Perhaps most intriguing is the line of shoe sculptures along the riverside that commemorates the Jewish people that were executed by militiamen during World War II.
For those ready for retail therapy, there’s a 4k walk along Vaci Street or Vaci Utca. There are boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, and enough variety in both price and style that you could spend multiple evenings here looking around for quirky gifts and fashion-forward ensembles. There's something for every person in your family, including traditional Hungarian outfits for your children, and haute-couture for discerning moms and dads. You can take Segueys if you’re feeling worn out from previous nights partying at the bathhouse or just walk for some leisurely exercise, or if you're planning to load up before heading back to your hotel room.
The Budapest music scene is thriving, with many venues to experience every type of music from jazz and blues to classical, rock and roll, and punk. Try the following hot spots:
The Budapest Music Center features jazz and classical other musical offerings with its own restaurant and proximity to other nightlife along the Danube.
The Budapest Symphony Orchestra plays Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, and more during their season, and you can often find great tickets for an evening performance then catch a great dinner spot nearby.
Catch a classical concert in St. Stephen’s Basilica while you drool over the neo-classical architecture and ethereal sounds in one of the most religiously sacred buildings in all of Hungary, or listen to a classical string quartet at St. Anne’s Church, one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in all of Hungary with a breath-taking Baroque style.
You shouldn’t miss the Hungarian State Opera House, a Neo-Renaissance building constructed in 1884 due to a commission from Emperor Franz Joseph and flanked by Hungarian composers Ferenc Erkel and Ferenc Liszt.
There are scores of rock and indie nightclubs and bars where you can let the wilder side out, and listen to talented musicians perform.
Dürer Kert is a nightclub offering rock, indie, and electronic music with hammocks you can swing in while you listen to the artists who play there.
Garden Kobci or Kobuci Kert is at Zichy Palace in Óbuda and offers an outdoor venue to listen to local and international musical artists. You'll find trees strung with lights and a relaxed atmosphere.
Analog Music Hall is a smaller, intimate live music hall that features bands, poets, and tons of live performances.
Lampas is the spot to be if you're jiving with other underground music bohemians. This cellar-type pub hosts bands that play everything from rockabilly to Nine Inch Nails hardcore electronic music.
Akvárium Klub is the cutting-edge, modern spot for couture creatures. Located in Elisabeth Square in the city center it offers rock, electronic, and house dance parties.
There are hundreds more bars and nightclubs in the Szimpla Kert to check out too, described above.
Candlelight dinner river cruises with various musical types are available to book. Eat, boat, and listen to music all under the Budapest stars. One show boasts a 3-hour piano battle while you observe the sights along the river. Other musical cruises include traditional Hungarian dances called Csárdás with traditional costumes, or a visit to Budapest's Castle District. You can even take a luxury river cruise all the way up the 1700 kilometer stretch of the Danube River into other countries like Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Budapest is brimming with delights for any foodie, so before you head out to dinner consider these super fun foodie fetes:
Make your own Hungarian chimney cake, one of the favorite local desserts at a cake-making workshop.
If you haven’t had Goulash, a meat, vegetable, and sauce dish that is a staple in Hungary, then you’re missing out. There are vendors everywhere, each with their own take on this traditional dish. For this dish try The Blue Rose Restaurant or Getto Gulyas.
There’s one more staple you have to try, even if it’s for a late-night breakfast, palacsinta, or Hungarian pancakes. Dunascroa in District V has some delicious palacsintas.
For more tasty traditional Hungarian food, including some dishes with a modern flare, try Regos Vendeglo in District VII, Kispiac Bistro five blocks from the river, or Tukory Etterem, along the riverside.
There are also restaurants that serve every type of cuisine you could dream up, from Asian, Moroccan, Mediterranean, African, Italian, American, and more. No foodie will be disappointed in Budapest.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a leisurely evening with dinner and some music, a shopping extravaganza, a romantic stroll with views of the Danube, or you’re looking to take part in one of Budapest’s notorious bath rave parties, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this historically rich and beautiful city.
Just strolling along Budapest's streets to take in the architecture alone is an evening most people would covet, but when you can mix great music, great food, great company, the healing thermal baths, and glorious views from every vantage point, it's no wonder that people adore nightlife in Budapest, Hungary.