Six of the best

30 Mar 2015 by GrahamSmith

John Brunton reveals top places for a tipple in the Hungarian capital

Budapest boasts a vibrant 24-hour bar and café culture. From sipping a hot chocolate in an art nouveau café in the morning, or sitting out for afternoon tea on a sunny terrace, to discovering Hungarian cocktails, local wines, and innovative craft beer in one of the city’s unique “ruin pubs”, you won’t go thirsty. Here are the best spots to head for.

BEST CAFE - Book Cafe

The Mitteleuropa tradition of lavish literary cafés is alive and flourishing.

The most authentic address is hidden away inside the iconic art nouveau Paris Department Store, now a vast bookshop, on Andrassy Avenue, Budapest’s equivalent of the Champs-Elysées.

Locals refer to it as the Lotz Café, after the artist who painted the spectacular murals in the salon, and it’s a firm favourite for afternoon tea. Despite the plush surroundings, prices are low, and an irresistible slice of sachertorte (chocolate cake) is only £1.

Open daily 10am-10pm. 39 Andrassy Utca; parisi.hu

BEST WINE BAR - Bock Bisztro 

Hungarian wine is nothing less than a revelation – not just the famous Tokaji and Bull’s Blood, but Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Riesling and Furmint, a surprising native grape.

On the ground floor of the monumental Royal Corinthia hotel – inspiration for the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel – renowned vigneron Josef Bock opened the cosy Bock Bisztro to showcase his own vintages, and now has a cellar of more than 200 Hungarian wines.

Sit at the bar and order a glass, or sample local charcuterie and traditional pickles.

Open Mon-Sat 12pm-12am. 43 Erzsebet Korut; bockbisztropest.hu

BEST TERRACE - Gerloczy Cafe 

Close to Vaci Utca, the main pedestrian shopping drag, the Gerloczy is housed in a 19th-century townhouse.

The pastel-hued mansion is dwarfed by a giant elm tree that shades the café terrace. The bistro tables and chairs could be from a black-and-white French movie, and there is always an animated crowd of arty locals and expats from the moment it opens for its legendary breakfast.

Drinks range from a great tea selection to Hungarian palinka, a lethal fruit brandy made from plums, pears, apples or even beetroot, at £4 a shot.

Open daily 7am-12am. 1 Gerloczy Utca; gerloczy.hu


The square surrounding St Stephen’s Basilica is lined with hip, noisy bars, but walk one street over to the discreet Boutiq and you’ll discover a seriously classy watering hole that is considered one of the world’s best.

Pull up a red velvet stool at the dimly-lit bar and let the friendly mixologist talk you through their palinka-based concoctions inspired by old cocktail books from the 1920s.

Try the Puszta Cocktail 13, an intriguing mix of sweet Tokaji wine, apricot palinka and Mecsek, a Hungarian bitter.

Open Tues-Sat 6pm-2am. 5 Paulay Ede Utca; boutiqbar.hu

BEST ARTISAN BEER - Lehuto Craft Beer Bar

Craft beer is big in Budapest right now, with small local breweries producing brilliant artisan ales rather than lagers for mass consumption.

The best bet if you want to sample the likes of Flying Dog, Hopfanatic IPA and Pokerface Pale Ale is to head for Lehuto, a funky bar with vintage Hungarian beer posters and a hipster vibe – think exposed lightbulbs and eclectic furniture.

The bar is located in the nightlife Bermuda triangle around Gozsdu Passage.

Open daily 4pm-4am. 12 Hollo Utca; facebook.com/lehuto.kezmuvessorozo

BEST RUIN PUB - Szimpla Kert

Ruin pubs are a Budapest phenomenon, with abandoned factories and tenements transformed into stunning anarchic bars.

There are more than 20 dotted around the city (ruinpubs.com), but the first, and still everyone’s favourite, is Szimpla Kert in the Jewish district, a labyrinth of chaotic rooms and gardens filled with flea-market furniture, artwork, and a Trabant car used as a table.

With live music, a farmer’s market on Sundays and cheap drinks (£2 for a Bombay Sapphire and tonic), it is not to be missed.

Open daily 12pm-4am. 14 Kazinczy Ucta; szimpla.hu

Loading comments...

Search Flight

See a whole year of Reward Seat Availability on one page at SeatSpy.com

The cover of the Business Traveller April 2024 edition
The cover of the Business Traveller April 2024 edition
Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription
To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below