Budapest – an unexpected café and bar scene!

budapest hungary things to do

Sometimes when travelling the places you expect the least from turn out to deliver the most – our 36 hour stop-over in Budapest was a prime example of this. With only 36 hours to get a taste of the city we chose roam without a fixed agenda and seek out as many free or budget friendly experiences the city has to offer. This meant we didn’t have time to visit some of the more popular tourist sites like the Szechenyi baths or Buda castle (although we hope to return one day!). This post will instead primarily focus on Budapest’s lively neighbourhoods, foodie culture and out-of-this-world nightlife.

Where we stayed in Budapest

Budapest as a city is divided into two very conveniently named halves – Buda and Pest. In keeping with tradition, we chose to stay in the heart of Pest’s Jewish Quarter (you can read more about wandering the Jewish Quarters of Paris, Seville, Granada, Rome here). This area is a real multicultural melting pot, with Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and more traditional Hungarian food options easily accessible. Creative types spill onto the streets lined by giant murals around every second corner. While it seems Hungary as a country is slightly less progressive than some of its former soviet counterparts when it comes to the LGBTQI+ community, we noted numerous pride flags in the Jewish Quarter of Pest and overall got the impression attitudes are slowly but surely changing, especially amongst the younger generations.


The ‘ruin pub’ scene of Budapest is something that only began in the early 2000’s however in just 20 years they have become a cornerstone of the Budapest experience. Originally ruin pubs or ‘Romkocsmal’ as they’re known in Hungarian were pop-up style venues set up in old, abandoned buildings as a meeting place for young locals and students. Over the years however their popularity has grown to the point that they now draw thousands of tourists a year.

Szimpla kert

If you only have time to visit one ruin pub during your visit it has to be Szimpla kert. This is the OG of ruin bars and what I can only describe as adult version Alice in Wonderland on steroids. You could literally spend hours wandering from one themed room to the next and stumble out onto the street in the early hours of the morning unsure whether what you just experienced was real life or something out of a fever dream. This place is INSANE.

Koloves kert

A much more chill vibe than Szimpla kert, Koloves kert is situated right next to our favourite lunch spot Koleves vendeglo (see below). This place is perfect to find a little nook with friends and settle in for the night.   


While classified as a ‘ruin pub’ on some of the lists we looked at, Telep is more of a bar on the street. While is had great vibes we wouldn’t necessarily recommend prioritising this one if you’re tight on time like we were.

The ones that got away:
  • Kospont
  • Mika tivador kert
  • Ellato Kert
  • Doboz
  • Anker’t
  • Fuge Udvar


My little Melbourne

As Melbournians and coffee addicts surely it would be rude not to try this place right? The piccolo latte here was one of the best coffees we’ve had to Europe and would rival some of Melbourne’s best. 10/10 would recommend.


We stopped in here for a bite to eat and rejoiced when we saw smashed avo was on the menu (classic Melbournians). Perhaps a little pricy for the portions, but definitely tasty. The specialty coffee definitely attracted in a caffeine hungry crowd.


As promised Cirkusz delivered a high quality cuppa joe although the aesthetic and vibe were a little more commercial than what we were after. We opted for take away instead and wandered the streets before the heat of the day. We hear they do a mean breaky/brunch though and from what we saw we couldn’t disagree.

The ones that got away:
  • Aran bakery
  • Kontact specialty coffee bar
  • Gerbeaud cade
  • New York Café



Dobrumba was mentioned multiple times when researching some of the best Middle Eastern inspired food in Budapest and we knew we had to try it. What we weren’t quite prepared for though was how hard it would be to get in. While you can book online, the place is often booked out up to a week in advance. They do reserve a few tables for walk-ins however, so we tried our luck and arrived early by European standards to secure ourselves a table – thankfully our plan worked. We devoured the piri-piri chicken, whole roasted aubergine and lentil salad. There were honestly so many impressive dishes on the menu we wish we could have ordered it all! If you happen to know the exact dates you’re going to be in town we would recommend trying to make a booking, otherwise aim to arrive around 6-6.30pm as a walk-in and be prepared to wait.

Koleves vendeglo

Another one of our top picks with a very tasty lunchtime menu and even tastier prices. During the day the menu consists of 5-6 main dishes and a couple of desserts to choose from, all of which come with either wine spritz or iced tea. We had the chicken ragout and schnitzel with mashes potato. All up we left with full bellies and paid somewhere between $12-15 AUD total. Can’t complain with that. They also do a dinner menu which was considerably more expensive, so if you can, head here for lunch!


When you step inside this little shopfront you get the impression it’s a bit of an institution. Photos of the owners and staff line the walls and well as an extensive sandwich and soup menu. Ky slurped up a delicious bowl of eggplant soup which may not actually sound as good as it tasted, but trust us it was good. And once again cheap. They also do a bunch of ‘famous’ sandwiches which were popular.

The one’s that got away:
  • Blue Agori – Authentic Greek street food at seemingly reasonable prices. It looks like there might be a few of these scattered around the city
  • Mazel Tov – Another middle eastern restaurant and slightly fancier take on the ruin bar scene. Supposedly the food is good, but a little pricier.
  • Ghetto gulyas – We walked past here a few times and peered in. The menu showed an array of authentic looking stews at reasonable prices and a crowd of happy diners. A great aesthetic and one we wished we’d managed to get to.

Want to stay in Budapest?

We staying Budapest for 2 nights in the Jewish Quarter (as mentioned above). We stayed in a great little AirBnb with loads of space and excellent value for money (see here).

For those looking for a little more luxury, or want to browse other options, take a look below:

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Want to see our travels to one of Europe’s best off the radar destinations? Take a look at our memories and travels in Albania!

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