27 Jun Where to enjoy a Budapest summer with locals
It might sound cliche, but Budapest really does come alive in the summer, thanks to the long evenings and Hungarian’s natural inclination towards enjoying the good life whenever they can. And, because the cold winters often force people to take cover in basement bars, come summer, everyone wants to be outside for as long as they can.
In this post, we’re going to tell you about where locals go to make the most of the summer, so you can go enjoy it with them.
Located at the northern end of the Buda side of the city, Római is mostly frequented by locals and adventurous tourists seeking a temporary escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and indeed the area feels more like a cute country town than a city district.
You may not have come to Budapest expecting a beach holiday, but you can get one, sort of, with a visit to Fellini Római, a hugely popular open-air bar, that sits right on the banks of the Danube.
Pull up a deck chair, tuck into some ice cream (people come from far and wide for it) and watch the world float by. They also have great food and live entertainment – think jam sessions and poetry – on the weekends.
And, if you fancy a dip in some water while you’re there, check out the Római spa and pool complex nearby.
Located in Buda Hills, Normafa (Norma Tree) is probably the most well-known nature spot in Budapest. You can hike, picnic and even ski and sled there come winter, and at 477 meters high, it affords some stunning panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
Long neglected, the city has finally brought the area up to scratch with new paved paths, trash bins, benches and a sprawling kid’s playground on the adjacent Anna Meadow.
Kertem is not just a bar, but rather an institution. Originally a favourite amongst cyclists and bike messengers, this open-air bar soon grew in popularity to the point where it’s grand opening every year marked the start of summer for many.
Located in City Park it was sadly forced to relocate this year to a new part of the park to make way for upcoming development works. Luckily, it’s taken much of its cosy charm with it and still serves some of the best burgers in Budapest.
It’s one of the few bars in the city with a real atmosphere all day, and a short walk away from the Szechenyi Baths if you’re looking for something to do before or after a visit.
For those of you that like to enjoy a drink on the riverbank, Valyo Kikötő is fast becoming the coolest new spot to do so. On a rugged patch of land next to Rákóczi Bridge, local urban activists have thrown together an outdoor bar reminiscent of early day ruin pubs and will be hosting a summer-long festival dedicated to great music and low-key relaxing.
It’s a bit of a trek to get there – you’ll need to take a scenic walk along the river or jump on the HEV train at Boráros Square – but it’s worth it, with an atmosphere far more relaxed than you’ll find closer to the center of the city, and an abundance of locals, reinforcing the place’s cool credentials.
Madach Imre square
Madach Imre Square, complete with its grandiose archway, sits as a sort of entrance to the Jewish Quarter just behind it. Its history traces back almost a century, but until very recently most of it languished as a carpark.
Recently renovated as a public space, it, and the small strip of pedestrianised road behind it is now a hub for some of Budapest’s hippest establishments, including My Little Melbourne which vies for the title of Budapest’s best coffee shop, along with Telep, an art space meets bar. Hungry? Check out Konyha or Központ for food.
Many people choose to take their beers out into the square and on any given evening in spring or summer you’ll find an eclectic mix of locals, expats and tourists all mingling and enjoying themselves.
Another recently renovated spot, Erzsébet Square has morphed from a former Soviet bus depot into the ultimate summer hangout spot. With two popular open-air bars, Fröccsterasz and Akvárium (which doubles as a nightclub), to keep you well-watered, and Design Terminal offering up great food, the square, like many places in downtown Budapest, does feel a little yuppified these days, but still has a great buzz about it.
That said, rather than spend money at the bars, a favourite pastime for many is to bring a few bottles of beer and sit on the grass with friends. Believe it or not, when the place first opened, guards tried to enforce a no outside alcohol and no sitting on the grass past 10pm policy – thankfully, it lasted all of a few days!
Possibly one of the most beautiful bridges in Budapest, Liberty Bridge is popular with local students from the nearby universities who like to sit on the rails of the bridge – don’t worry, they’re easy to climb and set back from the edge – and watch the sunset with a beer in hand. It’s a practice long-tolerated by police provided you don’t try and climb too high.
And while you’re in the area there are some other nearby places worth checking out. If you don’t mind the walk, you can trek up to the Liberty Statue on the Buda side for some seriously impressive views of the entire city, or, you could head over to Pest side a get a drink on the riverbank at one of the bars located in The Bálna – known locally as ‘The Whale’ given the resemblance. Jónás has great craft beers and Esetleg is known for good food, wine and cocktails.