City guide
12 Budapest hangouts where students can work and play
Photo : Norbert Hartyányi / We Love Budapest

With the arrival of autumn and the beginning of a new school semester, students are hitting the books once again. For a change of scenery from the library, it’s always nice to find a clean well-lighted place to study during daytime… but of course, students are well known for their hard-partying ways – so are there any places where these seemingly opposing activities can happily coexist? In Budapest, the answer is definitely yes: we present a dozen laid-back downtown cafés, bars, and eateries that are perfect havens to read and write while it’s light outside, but which become partying hotspots after sunset.

Café Zsivágó Csendes Létterem Jelen Kelet Café and Gallery Konyha Könyvtár Klub Központ Lumen Café Pótkulcs Púder Bárszínház és Galéria Toldi Klub Typo Bar Gallery & Showroom

Café Zsivágó

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi / We Love Budapest

This stylishly old-fashioned coffeehouse looks like the home of a beloved elderly relative, complete with numerous nooks and plush chairs that are perfect for sinking into with a book and a pot of hot tea – but evenings here are enlivened by groups of chums chatting over high-quality Hungarian craft beers and wines, sometimes scored by cabaret-style concerts.

Café Zsivágó
  • 1061 Budapest, Paulay Ede utca 55.

Csendes Létterem

Photo: László Balkányi / We Love Budapest

Located across the street from ELTE’s campus near Astoria, this funky pub is often full of students cramming for exams, or procrastinating by examining all of the broken toys and surreal murals covering the walls. At night, this place gets packed with couples and philosophizing friends grooving to the sounds of avant-garde DJ sets and sipping fine liquors.

Csendes Létterem
  • 1053 Budapest, Ferenczy István utca 5.

Jelen

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi / We Love Budapest

Tucked around the block from Blaha Square, this sprawling restaurant has many big wooden tables perfect for spreading out notebooks or hosting a study group, but this is also a great spot for a casual date or an evening out with old pals. Live music is offered frequently – check out Open-mic Nights on Mondays, hosted by Tito Slack of Mookie Brando almost-fame.

Jelen
  • 1085 Budapest, Blaha Lujza tér 1-2.

Kelet Café and Gallery

Photo: László Balkányi / We Love Budapest

Books line the walls of this multistory mainstay hangout of Béla Bartók Boulevard on the Buda side near Gellért Square, where intellectuals gather regularly to share quiet conversation or to get lost in a novel amid a quiet corner. It doesn’t get too loud here as afternoon succumbs to evening, but occasional performances and forums get brainy hearts beating fast. 

Kelet Café and Gallery
  • 1114 Budapest, Bartók Béla út 29.

Konyha

Photo: László Balkányi / We Love Budapest

The sunshiny upstairs section of this artsy downtown-Pest eatery is especially inviting for plunging into a good book, while the downstairs dining area can be ideal for study groups – and both of these spaces are great for gathering with friends for glasses of fine Hungarian wine and hearty meals, all served at reasonable prices for their commendable level of quality. 

Konyha
  • 1075 Budapest, Madách Imre út 8.

Könyvtár Klub

Photo: Könyvtár Klub Facebook

Hidden within the ELTE university campus near Astoria, this basement bar is open to the public and attracts students from across the city (and world) to study here during the daytime, either inside or at the huge expanse of terrace tables… but at night, don’t even bother bringing your books here, because this is one of the liveliest nightlife scenes anywhere in town.

  • 1088 Budapest, Múzeum körút

Központ

Photo: Norbert Juhász / We Love Budapest

Meetings of the mind frequently occur by plan or happenstance at this cool café on a bustling corner by Madách Square, where people congregate and converse at the outdoor seating area or hunker down over their notebook at one of the indoor tables. In the evenings, this is an excellent site for enjoying lively concerts by up-and-coming musicians from near and far.

Központ
  • 1075 Budapest, Madách Imre út 5.

Lumen Café

Photo: László Balkányi / We Love Budapest

Strong coffee and minimal decorations make this a perfect place to focus on urgent projects amid an inspiring atmosphere – but considering the creative crowd that hangs out here, you just might end up getting into a long conversation instead of studying. Live music and fascinating presentations often pack this place with Magyar movers and shakers in the evening. 

Lumen Café
  • 1088 Budapest, Mikszáth Kálmán tér 2-3.

Pótkulcs

Photo: Pótkúlcs Facebook

Many international students never learn about this hidden-away hangout behind a brick wall on a side street near Nyugati Station, which is their loss – here a variety of cozy nooks with big tables present perfect zones for harnessing brainpower, although by sunset the combined din of commingled conversations may prove to be too pleasantly distracting for work.

  • 1067 Budapest, Csengery utca 65b.

Púder Bárszínház és Galéria

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi / We Love Budapest

Among the trendy restaurants of Ráday Street, Púder stands out as a laid-back haven welcoming locals to hang out in the colorfully cozy interior or at one of the charming terrace tables to take their time reading or writing. During the evenings, film screenings, concerts, and other cultural events enliven this setting that is a perfect place for a first date.

Púder Bárszínház és Galéria
  • 1092 Budapest, Ráday utca 8.

Toldi Klub

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi / We Love Budapest

This is probably one of Budapest’s most multipurpose establishments: a historic cinema that welcomes guests in its lobby as a café (where nobody minds if you take a table for hours) while movies are shown during the daytime and early evening, while at nighttime the bar gets hopping as DJ sets and live music turns this scene into a wildly fun dance club.

Toldi Klub
  • 1054 Budapest, Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út 36-38.
  • The opening hours may change depending on events.

Typo Bar Gallery & Showroom

Photo: Norbert Hartyányi / We Love Budapest

Bringing a slice of Berlin to Budapest near Blaha Square, Typo offers a little of everything – good drinks and food, interesting art on the walls, and a clothing store up in the gallery. With huge windows allowing ample sunlight in during the daytime, this can be a great place to study for a few hours, but the evening blasts of techno music are preferable for partying.

Typo Bar Gallery & Showroom
  • 1085 Budapest, Stáhly utca 14.