With temperatures rising in town, what better way to beat the heat and get a bird’s-eye view of Europe’s most beautiful capital than a cool cocktail at one of Budapest’s many panoramic rooftop bars? Here we select our favourites where, along with the cityscape, superior snacks are on offer, too.
To reach the highest building on showcase boulevard Andrássy út, take the lift alongside the once stylish department store, Párisi Nagy Áruház. You arrive to find a unique, 360-degree view of the city, hence the name. The 360 Bar was a pioneer, in that it offered a special atmosphere and refreshing drinks back when rooftop bars were few and far between. Time your visit for twilight and the sun sinking over the top of Parliament, bathing the city in pink light. No wonder the 360 Bar is the drinking destination many first-time visitors head for. While enjoying the view, you can sample a homemade lemonade, a signature or classic cocktail and a tasty burger.
To find this hidden cocktail bar on top of the Matild Palace, follow the key logo, enter through a side door, taking a sneak peek at the cakes being made in the kitchen as you do so. Then head up to the roof in Budapest’s first ever lift, and come out to a bar with a buzzing atmosphere, done out in Art Deco style, before you set eyes on an unparalleled panorama. It’s as if you’re floating above Elizabeth Bridge, watching the boats gliding way below on the Danube, and the wonderful view of Gellért Hill beyond. A top team mixes superb cocktails, and the bar food has been conceived by star Hollywood chef Wolfgang Puck. At some point, you’ll have to head back down via the same historic elevator – but not just yet.
The Buda sibling of the long-established namesake ruin bar in Pest brings rooftop views into the equation, along with the craft beer for which Élesztő (‘Yeast’) is justifiably renowned. True, it’s above a mall, the huge Mammut near Széll Kálmán tér, but this shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment of a more down-to-earth, bohemian ambience when compared to the exclusivity of the other locations in this elevated selection. All told, 15 types of beer are served on tap, and with so many specialties, you can even sink a a gluten-free variety. Spirits are similarly well-chosen, as the crew at Élesztő have given this field special focus, encouraging a regular crowd even though the venue only opened shortly before the summer season.
High Note SkyBar
Above the music-themed Aria Hotel, the High Note Skybar is where savvy mixologist Marcell Sárközi and team scour the globe to come up with their seasonal creations, accompanied by jaw-dropping views at eye level with the clock atop St Stephen’s Basilica. You can even book at table on an elevated terrace so you’re almost touching distance from the equal highest building in downtown Budapest. But the panorama of the Buda hills will soon draw your attention away from the Habsburg-era landmark alongside, as your friendly waiter brings you your mixed drink and an enticing platter of cold cuts or main dish of equal quality.
Intermezzo Roof Terrace
The roof of the Hotel President on Hold utca in the city centre, previously used as a helipad, has been given a new, more communal function. The view of Buda Castle and Parliament is prefaced in the foreground by the roof of the Post Office Savings Bank, designed by Art Nouveau master Ödön Lechner, covered with bright Zsolnay tiles, where the organic floral motifs decorating the edges almost come to life in twilight. The location also favours a more relaxed atmosphere and group visits, although nothing is set in stone. The curved booths allow you to sit back and take it all in, but if you’re here for dinner, opt for a table at the right height. They’re open all week, the roof terrace from 4pm to 11pm.
Above the Hotel Clark at the foot of Chain Bridge, the Leo Rooftop basks in a magnificent view of Budapest’s most revered landmark, with the Danube below, the embankments either side and Buda Castle aloft. Also in the mix are exciting drinks and excellent bar food, although you can also tuck into international dishes in the bistro below. The focus up here on the roof is on excellent cocktails and premium spirits. There’s plenty of opportunity to take in the wonderful surroundings, as they open at noon, when you can cool off with a long drink under welcome shade. Perhaps the best time, though, is twilight, the so-called blue hour often seized upon by top photographers, when the sky turns sapphire.
The rooftop bar of the Hotel Memories OldTown, located in the immediate vicinity of downtown square Kálvin tér, offers an unparalleled view of Citadella and the diverse surrounding cityscape. It all feels a bit Parisian, zinc rooftops interspersed with the traditional tiled ones. The classic cocktails are equally attractive, with a few originals conceived by the bartenders, and there’s a reason why this is popular for family get-togethers, anniversaries, romantic rendezvous and even weddings. They await regular guests from Wednesdays to Saturdays, 6pm-10pm, meaning you can sink at least another after sunset. They also run a bistro up here, so in addition to tapas, you can order salads, burgers and even steak.
Roxy Rooftop Lounge
We’ve already visited the Hard Rock Hotel Budapest and its Sessions restaurant, but since then, a rooftop lounge, the Roxy, has also opened. On Fridays and Saturdays, the panoramic bar on the seventh floor welcomes not only hotel guests, but anyone who would like to take in the rooftops, Budapest’s most beautiful domes, Gellért Hill and the Statue of Lady Liberty from above lively Nagymező utca. Their cocktail selection is exciting and wide – it doesn't matter if you go up to the Roxy for an apéritif before dinner or clink glasses after your meal at Sessions. What is certain is the professional service, first-class drinks, well-chosen music and, of course, the view, which you can never tire of. The comfortable seating and the panoramic perspective do the rest! (x)
St. Andrea Wine & Skybar
Since 2017, this elegant bar stretching over focal square Vörösmarty tér has offered an unparalleled view of Gellért Hill and the Basilica. Open year-round, this is a real idyll for lovers of quality bar culture and, of course, wine. In addition to the family’s own famed label from Eger, you can choose from a number of international ones and creative cocktails, accompanied by sophisticated gourmet snacks. Many visit for romantic rendezvous and anniversaries, but any special occasion can be made even more memorable by the experienced hospitality, excellent wine and the panorama. It’s a bit more upscale than others in this selection, so ditch the shorts and sandals for something a little more elegant.
The Sky Garden
The rooftop of the Mystery Hotel on Podmaniczky utca is festooned with greenery, lending a Mediterranean atmosphere as you gaze over the lights of nearby Nyugati station. Buda Castle and Citadella are also very much in sight, of course. They open all week, from 3pm-11pm, for cocktails and chat, mezze and more hearty dishes between Doric columns. The design avoids the minimalist to play up a sense of mystique – the building was constructed for the Freemasons well over a century ago.
The younger sister of housemate SALT, whose philosophy is based on proximity to nature and the rediscovery of traditional ingredients, has developed as a wine bar atop the restaurant in the city centre. Since the Hotel Rum also operates in the building, breakfast is served upstairs, dovetailing into by a brunch option between 11am and 2pm at weekends. Perhaps SOLID shows its most attractive face in the late afternoon and early evening, when you can select from international champagnes and wines, also available by the glass. Alongside the drinks, the bar food is exquisite and follows the SALT concept, with emphasis placed on fine ingredients from Satu Mare. The view of sunset and the Statue of Lady Liberty is sublime.
Westend Roof Garden
Above the mall of the same name by Nyugati station, the Westend Rooftop Garden is picking up speed, already planning for the whole year with markets, themed gastronomic weekends, festivals and events. This may not be a classic rooftop bar of the hotel ilk, as it covers a huge area, and the audience and atmosphere change depending on the occasion. There’s even an outdoor gym. You can access the Roof Garden both from the outside and from within the shopping complex. For all that, there’s a lot of greenery, so it can feel like your own private oasis, and architecture fans will enjoy picking out the detail in Eiffel’s rail terminus alongside.
This month, a cool cocktail bar opens at Buda
Castle, its character as rare as the bird it’s named after. A lift whisks you to the top of the Hilton Hotel to the White Raven skybar, where manager and cocktail creator Mátyás Barta has used
legends associated with the namesake bird’s tail feathers for his inspiration. Colour,
atmosphere and presentation of drinks are no coincidence. To accompany are dishes
conceived by Imre Maráczi and team. High above the surrounding World Heritage Site, the White Raven allows you to escape the tourist whirl below to provide
sublime views and themed relaxation. It opens on 23 July.