The red wine of Buda was once famous throughout Europe. These days, the vineyards that once lined the hillsides have all but disappeared but that doesn’t mean to say that you can’t find decent wine on this side of the river – on the contrary, several specialist bars stock the best Hungary has to offer. We sampled seven of them.
A long-term legend on this side of town, the Borpatika now sits in the middle of the most trend-setting part of the city, Bartók Béla út, hip urban bars opening up around it while it casually serves affordable wine in timeless surroundings.
Here, taste, price and quality are all in line with what can be expected from a Budapest borozó, a standard neighbourhood spot selling wine.
The clientele is multi-generational, ranging from the rheumy-eyed old guys to collegiate hordes especially proud of their wine tastes.
District XI. Bertalan Lajos utca 26
Open: Daily 9am-midnight
Do not be fooled by the fact that the sign says ‘Café’, because Galéria 12 isn’t. Of course, you can sip fine coffee here, but the main draw is still wine, which is obvious as soon as you enter. The place also exhibits works by local artists, underlining the concept of linking wine consumption with art admiration, attracting younger creatives and local wine buffs.
District XII. Hajnóczy József utca 21
Open: Mon-Fri noon-11pm, Sat 4pm-11pm
A special place for a special mission, as its name (‘Little Vienna’) implies: aficionados of Austrian wine are catered to here, with a variety of coffees and local dishes also available. All this is done in a communal, tranquil atmosphere in Buda’s green belt. You can also have breakfast under shady foliage, as KisBécs is not only a wine outlet. Opening from 7am, if offers snacks before and/or after work, with a few sips in between.
District XII. Németvölgyi út 36-38
Open: Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat 8.30am-2.30pm
Another place designed to be something more than just another wine bar in town, this offers a convivial space to sit down with colleagues or friends, over dinner with wine. Late afternoon opening lends itself to the post-work trade. Kóstolom also hosts tastings and various wine events, presentations by winemakers and professional workshops.
District II. Káplár utca 19
Open: Mon-Tue 4pm-10pm, Wed-Thur 4pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-1am
Another venerable legend, the Mátra is interesting for many reasons. On the one hand, it opened shortly after the war, in 1948, and thus embodies History with a capital H. Over the decades, the Mátra has hardly changed, making it a mecca for local retro-lovers, and desirable for location scouts in the film industry. And then there’s its dynastic ownership, having been run by the same family since its opening, passed from mother to son.
As its name suggests, here you can taste mainly the wines of the Mátra region, but there are other varieties as well, and the palinka selection offers plenty of choice. With a warm, friendly, even cinematic atmosphere, the Mátra is made for friendly wine drinking while travelling back in time.
District I. Corvin tér 1
Open: Mon-Sat noon-midnight
A nu-skool spot on Gellért tér, Palack is all about cultured imbibing, where you sip stylishly in trendy surroundings, and staggering out is a no-no. This is a place for low-key chatter and snacking – it’s also a tapas bar – with a little commerce thrown in. Palack is not only a wine bar but also a wine shop.
District XI. Szent Gellért tér 3
Open: Mon noon-11pm, Tue-Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-10pm
This wine bar and café next door to the Millenáris Park promises a bohemian experience to all who visit. After all, the better salons usually generated livelier arty chatter once the booze started to flow. Keep an eye on the bill if you’re staying awhile – everything is impeccable, wines, cuisine and staff, but it’s just not as cheap as other spots in Buda. A great place if you’re in good company.
District II. Lövőház utca 17
Open: Mon-Sat noon-midnight, Sun 4pm-midnight