What makes a city great? Some say it’s the culture and history. Others argue architecture, food, or even location. Now, all these things are true, but I’d suggest differently. A city can be good with all of the mentioned traits, but what makes it great is its nightlife.
Budapest is a great city.
With pubs and clubs littered across the city, Budapest offers a wide and unique array of places ranging from posh rooftop bars to nondescript hole in the walls. The most popular places visitors frequent are the famous ruin pubs whose histories extend back to WWII. A trip to Budapest is incomplete without a stop in the ever popular Szimpla Kert or Instant (pronounced In-shtant). But a stay in the city becomes well rounded with a couple beers or a bottle of Hungarian wine at the Erzsébet Park pond or on banks of the Danube.
As awesome and fun Budapest’s nightlife is, it can be overwhelming to those unfamiliar to the city. No worries though. This multi-part blog post is here to help you orientate yourself with the maze of Budapest’s bars, pubs and clubs. We’ll go over the different districts, with a few specific recommendations or must go to spots, basic drinking culture and etiquette and general information (like, yes you should tip your bartender) you might miss without reading up.
So, what to drink?
- Beer is an obvious choice. The price for half a liter usually runs from 400 to 700HUF; unless you’re somewhere swanky in which case you’ll pay around 1000HUF. At the shop a can of beer will cost you about 300HUF. Popular Hungarian beers most often found on draught include Soproni, Borsodi, Dreher and Arany Ászok. Craft beer is increasingly becoming more popular with craft beer bars and microbreweries popping up all over the city.
- You have to try the wine in Hungary. A lot of people don’t realize that Hungary is a wine country, and as someone who used to hate wine, Hungarian wine convinced me otherwise. I’d be damned if I didn’t have at least a glass or two a night. One deciliter of wine will run you roughly 300 to 600HUF depending on the quality of the wine and the cheapest bottles (that don’t include those 2 liter plastic bottles) hover around 300HUF.
- Very popular in the spring and summer time is Fröccs, which is essentially a spritzer, but taken more seriously. If it’s not a glass of red, I’ll often times order a Fröccs made with two part white wine and one part sparkling water (in Hungarian, “nagy fehér fröccs”) costing me about 500HUF a glass. Fröccs is all about ratios each having their own name, which I won’t take the time to explain, but you can read about on We Love Budapest.
- If you’re into hard liquor Pálinka is the choice of poison amongst the Magyars. Pálinka is a type of fruit brandy that packs a punch into the gut like no other, similar to the Balkan Rakija. The price for Pálinka usually hovers around 1000HUF for four centiliters, but can also shoot way up and fall under depending on the brand and establishment you’re in.
- Your other local option is Unicum, made up of a secret formula based on forty different spices and what I like to think of as a cousin of Jagemeister. It’s popular to pair a shot with a beer. Average price is 750HUF for four centiliters.
- Fruity cocktails are no stranger to Budapest, with pubs offering great Happy Hour Prices. Cocktails range from 1000 to 2000HUF.
- For our non-alcoholic drinkers, you’re in luck. Most bars will have a “house” lemonade or fruit drink of some sort. The usual soft drinks and juices are also available. A lot of non-alcoholic cocktails are also offered.
Happy drinking and cheers! Or rather “Egészségére!”