Edited by Elodi Troskie
Nightlife in Budapest is different from what you’ll find in most other European cities. Many old buildings have been revamped to pubs and bars, showing the city’s appreciation for its own history and architectural beauty. The night time hangout spots around here are laid-back and affordable, and if you’re interested in meeting new people, it’s really easy to strike up a conversation with the friendly locals. Budapest is really safe at night, so an evening out is always a pleasant experience! There are so many different things to do in Budapest – whether you’re looking for crazy nightlife experiences or want to relax at a thermal spa, you’ll find something tailor-made for you. As a local here, these are my recommendations for the best things to do in Budapest at night.
Go to a ruin pub
Ruin pubs are probably the best places to visit in Budapest at night. The concept of the popular ruin pubs is to give new life to old abandoned buildings – many dating back to World War ll – by using the space for bars and restaurants while keeping the culture and history of the age-old buildings intact. The first of its kind was opened in the early 2000s and since then the idea has really taken off all across the city. One of my favourites is Szimpla Kert, an old factory that has been converted into a pub that hosts regular concerts and theatre shows. If you only have one night in Budapest, I definitely recommend a visit here. I’d advise you to go early in the evening to get a good spot for the free concerts that usually start around 20:00. Szimpla Kert is a relaxed and social place, making it really easy to meet new people. I find myself returning here time on time again! Located in Kazinczy Street, the pub is open from 12:00 until 04:00 every night except Sundays, when opening hours are 09:00 until midnight.
Go dancing at Fogas Haz
If you’re in the mood for dancing after a few drinks at a ruin pub, you can go to Fogas Haz in Akacfa Street (quite close to Szimpla Kert), where you’ll find the best nightclubs in Budapest. Fogas Ház is a party complex with a couple of bars and dance clubs inside. The name means “House of Teeth”, referring to the age-old dental advertisement sign that was found in the building during renovation. Although there are bars where you can sit down, Fogas Haz is better known for its dancing and clubbing scene. On the first floor you’ll find Larm, an electronic music club with live DJs. Only a few metres away is the upbeat and colourful Instant, one of the most popular pop music clubs in Budapest. In general, Budapest’s nightlife is very reasonably priced with cheap drinks and little to no entrance fees. Fogas Haz is open every day from 16:00 until 06:00 the next morning. The party never stops here!
Eat local in the Jewish district
If you’re ever wondering what to do in Budapest, head to the Jewish district – a small but very energetic part of the city. This area is home to many museums and cultural landmarks encapsulating the history of the Jewish community that inhabited this neighbourhood during World War ll. Today, the Jewish district is the coolest part of Budapest. Apart from the hub of ruin bars you’ll find here, this is also the best place to go for eating in Budapest at night. If you want to try Hungarian street food, head to Karavan, a street food courtyard just down the street from Szimpla Kert I mentioned earlier. You can order Hungarian favourites like gulyás (goulash), Kurtoskalacs (chimney cake) and Palacsinta (crepes). If you’re looking for vegan food, you’ll have a ball at Karaván. Note that this market is closed during the winter and reopens in March. One of my favourite places to eat in Budapest is Frici Papa, a local diner in the charming Kiraly Street. The atmosphere is really relaxed and homely with good food and quick service at very affordable prices. Perfect for a laid-back local Hungarian dining experience.
Cruise along the Danube
The Danube, the second-longest river in Europe, is one of Budapest’s most famous landmarks. A cruise down the Danube definitely makes it on the list of best things to do in Budapest, especially during summer. Depending on your style and budget, you can either opt for a simple trip or spice it up with cocktails and dinner. A popular choice is the Operettaship, a two-hour-long night cruise departing from the Pest’s Vigado Square at 8pm and returning to the dock at 9pm. These two hours are packed with culture and activities – classical music by composers like Mozart, Strauss, and Brahms, Hungarian folk dance performances, and learning about Budapest’s architectural history. A highlight of the trip is passing by the beautiful waterside Hungarian Parliament building. Tickets for this cruise are 11 500 forints per person, or 5000 if you choose to exclude dinner.
Relax at the Szechenyi Baths
Spending a few hours in one of the biggest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe is definitely one of the best things to do in Budapest. The Szechenyi Baths are more than 100 years old and have been faithfully serving as a place of rest and relaxation for locals and visitors. Altogether there are 18 pools which are open every single day of the year regardless of season. In addition to the many geothermal pools, you can workout at the gym, detox in the saunas or treat yourself to a massage. Surrounding the pools are cafes and restaurants where you can get food and drinks and even taste the natural waters sourced from more than 1000 meters below surface. The different areas of the baths have different opening hours, but if you visit anytime between 6am and 10pm you’re sure to find more than enough to keep you entertained. Tickets start around 6000 forints.
Stroll down the beautiful Andrassy Street
The beautiful Andrassy Street is considered the Champs-Élysées of Hungary. The street was built in the late 1890’s for Budapest’s millennial celebrations and, along with the Millennium Underground underneath, forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage today. It is because of the beauty of Andrassy Street that the Millennium Underground was built – the oldest underground system in the world after that of London – because the city didn’t want the street to be crowded with public transport. If you stroll down Andrassy Street, you’ll come across many impressive sites like the Opera House and the Liszt Ferenc Square. The shops in this area are quite expensive since there are a lot of international luxury brands. But you don’t necessarily come her for the shopping – the charm of Andrassy Street alone is more than enough! Definitely a must-do if you’re looking for free things to do in Budapest at night.
Escape the tourist crowds
The downside to the popular pubs and clubs I’ve mentioned so far is that those places are always pretty crowded. Over the years I’ve come across a few less touristy places in the city – Budapest’s hidden gems, if you will. Perfect if you want to experience Budapest’s nightlife but don’t want to be surrounded by tourists. One of these is Kisuzem, a relatively new bar that is located in the busy Jewish district but isn’t overrun with tourists. Kisuzem is a popular hangout spot for local artists and students who study at the nearby Central European University. Food and drinks are very reasonably priced and if you go there on a Sunday evening, you’ll even catch a free live music show. Just down the street you’ll find Lampas, a bohemian style underground watering hole with amazing beer and concerts that range from rock to jazz. Almost just next door you’ll find Fekete Kutya, or Black Dog, an animal-friendly pub known for its craft beers and artisanal drinks.
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