The Danube cuts the city of Budapest into two halves: Buda and Pest. On the Pest side, there are loads of amazing bars overlooking the river, where locals go to have a beer and enjoy the view. Here are nine of the best, plus an extra special bonus at the end!
Pontoon is the perfect spot for summer nights, located right at the base of the Chain Bridge with an unbeatable view of Buda Castle and the Fishermen’s Bastion, which are lit up at night. DJs and live music get the party started on the small dance floor, tucked alongside a full bar, with tables and chairs upstairs. The rest of the seating stretches along the length of the river, and the line blurs between where Pontoon ends and the rest of the city begins. If no seats are available, you can sit on the edge of the river itself – your feet dangling over the Danube as it churns and gurgles past. Check out the Facebook page where upcoming DJs, parties and events are announced.
Vogue Boat Restaurant
If you’re looking for something more formal, it’s hard to beat the Vogue Boat Restaurant. Moored off the Pest side with a view of Margaret Island, this contemporary, elegant floating restaurant sports warm wood panelling, chic engraved glass surfaces and luxury comfort. Three-course meals are available at a range of 6,000-10,000 forints, featuring Hungarian, Serbian, Mediterranean and other international cuisines. On the drinks menu, there are lemonades, homemade iced teas, smoothies, sodas and milkshakes in the non-alcoholic category, with draught and bottled beers, wines, Prosecco, spirits and of course, pálinka on offer as well. If that’s not enough, you can even rent an apartment on the boat, with a view of the river and several breakfast options to pamper yourself with.
Champs is where all the football fans go to get in the mood. Shirts from all different teams hang in full display, the screens are always showing a match and the menu is bursting at the seams with domestic and foreign beers, spirits, wines and food, as well. Located on Margaret Island, Champs is easily accessible by the 4/6 tram and 26 bus. The whole island is waiting to be explored after you’ve had a couple of drinks, and the sparkling river invites you to stop along the way and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.
Kabin / Vasmacska / Wasser Bar and Grill / Perem
On the island of Népsziget, really just a big peninsula, in the north of Budapest, a few bars and restaurants sit close together overlooking the more natural banks of the Danube. Approaching by the blue metro, you alight at Újpest-városkapu and walk west. You’ll know you’re heading in the right direction when you come to the bridge! Pedestrians and cyclists share the road here, and you come first to the Vasmacska Söröző. Enjoy fish and chips and a nice IPA in their beer garden, and then continue to Kabin, where chairs are spread across a couple of deck areas looking out at the flowing water. All sorts of drinks and food are available here, as well as little sitting booths along the riverbanks, perfect for two people to snuggle up close together. Music is always playing, there’s a small climbing wall for kids, and locals enjoy watching the sun set over the water here. The Wasser Bar and Grill is just a few steps away, serving burgers, and a little further up the coast is Perem, which is nestled more in the trees and has a remote feeling. At night, the whole area is lit up by fairy lights, and it’s easy to spend a whole evening here enjoying the music, company and atmosphere.
Jónás Kézműves Sörház
One of the iconic modern buildings in Budapest is the Bálna, 'whale' in Hungarian, a glass-fronted events and leisure centre. At the southern entrance you’ll find the Jónás Craft Beer House, which has made a real name for itself selling delicious beers and gourmet hamburgers. The view from its outdoor seating is unbeatable, with Citadella just upstream. A foot and cycle path runs along the riverbank, making this a popular place to enjoy a beer and people watch, while boats meander down the river in the background.
EscoBar & Cafe
Just a few steps upriver, you come to the EscoBar & Café, also located in the Bálna. The outdoor tables are covered in cute red-and-white checkered tablecloths, with a stunning view of Liberty Bridge and Citadella. There’s also ample indoor seating, and top-quality food available on the menu, as well as a full bar serving cocktails, beers, wines, spirits and refreshing lemonades. You also get a sense here that the wait- and cook-staff are appreciated by the management, as a chalkboard behind the bar proudly shows the names of those working there today.
Hepaj Party Boat
If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience on the Danube, you don’t have to look any further than the Hepaj Party Boat, which we’ve added as a special plus one here. It’s not technically a bar, but it’s yours to rent, and transforms into a personal floating bar in minutes! Run by a husband-and-wife team, the Hepaj Party Boat has been floating down the Danube for 12 years and counting, and with the wind in your hair and the open waters glittering before you, it’s easy to see why this boat has been so popular! Launching from District XXI, the cruise heads south, down the Little Danube. This is purposeful, as the waters are calmer here and more scenic. The boat measures 10.5 metres long and 3.5 metres across, with a small kitchen and toilet area, plastic cups, plates and cutlery all provided. “You bring the booze,” says Captain Zsaneer, “and we bring all the rest!” To book, call the Captain on +36 30 965 0065, or ask for his wife Brigitta if you don’t speak Hungarian.