Widely considered to be one of Central Europe’s nightlife hotspots, Budapest has an impressive range of bars. A local mixologist of more than 20 years, Zoltán Nagy, shares his picks of Budapest’s best bars for wine, cocktails, beer and live music.
Budapest’s bar scene spans microbreweries, elegant cocktail lounges and edgy ruin bars. Zoltán Nagy owns the popular Budapest bar Boutiq and has been giving mixology seminars across the globe for close to a decade. When it comes to bars in the Hungarian capital, it’s fair to say he’s an expert. “Budapest’s special vibe comes from the way we live and party,” he tells Culture Trip. “We’re a dual city, combining both picturesque Buda and lively Pest, and we love to burn the candle at both ends… but we always consider the fact that we need the candle for tomorrow too.”
DOBLO Wine Bar and Shop, Budapest
Wine Bar, European, Hungarian, Wine, $$$
Doblo Wine Bar is a comfortable place to enjoy a glass of wine | Courtesy of DOBLO
Hungary is finally being recognised for its high-quality wine production, and this place is all about its incredible wine list. The food also offers typical tastes of the country, each selected to complement your wine choice. That doesn’t mean Doblo is pretentious. Instead, it presents an honest view of a country varied in tastes.
Sometimes what you need is a glass of wine | Courtesy of DiVino/Socially
Just a stone’s throw away from the impressive St Stephen’s Basilica, DiVino is renowned for its modern, spacious and minimalist interior design. Visitors can choose from a selection of wines on the menu – centring on up-and-coming Hungarian vintners – as well as delicious gourmet light bites served on charcoal platters. Nagy says, “For me, DiVino would be one of the top picks for wine bars in Budapest. It was established by Junibor, an association of young Hungarian winemakers, and they are experts in local wines.”
Set up in 2008 by Zoltán Nagy and his wife Lilla Kocsis, together with Pál Szakál, Boutiq Bar has won an array of national and international awards. “It’s the first bar of its kind in Budapest – the pioneer of the cocktail bars here, if you like. We run an apprentice program for the mixologists at Boutiq, and the main thing we teach them is to be humble towards everything they do. That way, they have a chance to succeed in a service-oriented industry,” explains Nagy. “Our goal when opening the bar was to establish a different approach to mixed drinks in this country.” Located in the heart of Pest, the bar offers visitors a variety of cocktails, from the bubbling (and very Instagrammable) Lab Master Flash to the infamous Die Kaiser, which combines the Hungarian spirit Unicum with morello cherries, grenadine and rhubarb bitters.
“Black Swan is one of my top picks for cocktail bars in Budapest for its upscale vibe and stylish black-and-gold interior design,” says Nagy. Just a five-minute drive from the House of Terror Museum, it’s the perfect spot to unwind after a day of sightseeing in vibrant Pest. Guests can marvel at the bar’s unique decor – from its eye-catching, Art Deco-style door to the gigantic mirror behind the bar – as well as the distinguished ‘old New York’ vibe the venue exudes.
Situated in a house built in 1907 alongside a leafy courtyard, Mika Tivadar Mulató combines live music with reasonably priced drinks. Recognisable thanks to the colourful graffiti adorning its outside walls, this nightlife hotspot is the epitome of ‘shabby chic’. “What makes Mika Tivadar Mulató one of the best live music spots in Budapest is the variety on offer. There’s a range of music performances throughout the week, so there’s something to suit every taste,” says Nagy. Although Mika Tivadar Mulató is particularly known for its live jazz performances, genres covered here include funk, jazz, swing and punk.
“Akvárium is the biggest open-air pub in the centre of the city, with a generously sized concert hall hosting acts from all over the world,” explains Nagy. This staple of Budapest nightlife attracts a wide range of partygoers, thanks to the sheer variety of live music events on offer. Visitors can dance the night away to some of the best electronic music one evening and catch a rock show the next. Its location in the heart of the city, along with the glass-bottomed pool that forms its ceiling, are just a couple of reasons this much-loved nightspot stands out. Pro tip: Be sure to sample the Lucky Star (vodka with rose lemonade, peach and lime) and Bitter Raspberry (a fusion of vodka and raspberry with bitters) cocktails.
Patrons of Szimpla set aside their worries and have a good time | Courtesy of Szimpla
By night one of Budapest’s most popular ruin pubs, by day Szimpla Kert is awash with natural light, making for the perfect place to snap a photo or two. Quirky decorations mean there’s always something unique and unusual to photograph.
Situated within the glass-fronted commercial, cultural and leisure centre the Bálna (meaning ‘the Whale’), just beside the Danube, Jonas Craft Beer House is the ideal spot for anyone with a passion for beer. Visitors can sample the team’s own beers, the Arany Jónás (Golden Jonas) and the Ravasz Hordó (Cunning Beaver), both of which are one-of-a-kind compositions of malt, hops, water and yeast. Alternatively, guests can try a wide range of craft beer from elsewhere, along with varieties of the traditional Hungarian fruit brandy pálinka. Nagy says, “What makes Jonas Bar stand out is the amazing view from its terrace, which overlooks the Danube River.”
Situated in a small and intimate spot in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, Horizont Taproom is an ideal setting for a casual meet-up with friends or a low-key lunch of burgers and beers, perhaps following a tour of the famous Rumbach Synagogue. “This place has a great selection of Hungarian craft beers,” Nagy tells Culture Trip, in addition to tap and bottled beers from the USA, UK, Czech Republic, Germany and Austria.
“I’d say that this place is one of the true pioneers of the craft beer movement,” Nagy says of Élesztő. “Complete with a craft beer bar, a cask ale bar (the first of its kind in Central Europe), a tea and coffee parlour with vintage teddy bears dotted amongst the tables, and even a beer-themed hotel, Élesztő – which means “yeast” in Hungarian – is certainly not your average bar. Guests can even take a day-long masterclass on brewing, which includes presentations and plentiful tastings.