From Akvárium to Zsiráf, alfresco spaces spread across Budapest all summer long, providing panoramic drinks, usually an extensive menu, and occasionally dancing and live music. Locations are as varied and as picturesque as the capital itself, riverside, parkland and even boat deck, with gorgeous cityscape and/or Danube invariably in full view. Some open for breakfast, others thrive by daytime trade, most are most convivial as the sun sets on another balmy day in Budapest. The key here is outdoor relaxation, for which deckchairs and sometimes even hammocks are also provided. Terrace venues in town must number a hundred or more – here we choose our favourite 15.
What was once a stone-carrying barge plying Ukrainian waterways is now Budapest’s prime destination for all kinds of concerts, regularly featuring bands from around the world representing pop, rock, alternative, progressive and jazz styles. However, this floating funhouse permanently moored near Petőfi Bridge on the Buda side is much more than a music club. During the warmer months, a bow bar and rooftop performance area fills with temporary passengers drinking and having fun. Celebrating its 15th year on the Danube, A38 has events every day of the week and if you order cocktails until 7pm, you get two drinks for the price of one.
As it simply couldn’t be more central, Akvárium Klub is the most popular hangout in the heart of town. It is always buzzing with youngsters gathering here night after night to chill out on the steps of the club or around the pool above. Akvárium Klub is more than a simple bar: it is a cultural centre with a wide musical repertoire spanning from the mainstream to the underground. There is always a decent concert and a smashing exhibition, performance or other artsy event happening here, in a friendly ambience.
Near Liberty Bridge on the Pest side, this whale-shaped glass construction is a slightly off-beat, but all the more popular hangout in the city’s nightlife scene. Its riverfront terrace is lined with restaurants and bars, all offering front-row ticket to a quieter stretch of the Danube. Here, one of the most fashionable drinking destinations is Jónás, a beer house pouring a selection of eponymous artisanal suds, including IPA and dark lager, many of them given witty names. Full sit-down meals are also served. The place welcomes guests every day, but it gets busy for the evening, so make sure you reserve a place.
Partner (Társ) of former ruin pub, now ‘vintage bar & café’ Csendes round the corner, this petite locale spreads its terrace around the main entrance to pretty pocket park Károlyi kert, providing welcome calm and shade within the city centre. Out of earshot is the constant tram rumble of nearby Astoria, the only sounds often the occasional satisfying turn of a book page or the clinking of china and glass as friendly waitstaff bring trays of drinks from the tasteful but tiny bar interior. This can provide 30 types of Hungarian wine, each one sold by the glass, Balaton whites a speciality, Légli, Szent Donát and Homola. Snacks start at sausage-and-egg quesadillas and run to humungous house beefburgers. Closing time is 11pm, csendes meaning ‘quiet’ and noise being the ruin of the original ruin pub.
Fellini, or the Fellini Római Kultúrbisztró if you please, encourages a bohemian crowd to trek up to this secluded stretch of the Danube past the mainstream eateries of the Római embankment, order a Belgian Corsendonck or cherry-flavoured Floris Kriek from the gaudy, faux-Gypsy caravan of a bar, pull up a deckchair and let the Danube do the rest. Apart from the calming overspill of the river as an excursion boat or rowing crew passes, the only other sounds will be the determined grunts of enthusiastic canines as they chase after another ball in the water and, on certain nights, acoustic accompaniment to a gentle singing duo. Nothing is too intrusive – guests arrive on two wheels, some walk from the nearest HÉV suburban train station, Római fürdõ. Cars are a distant memory. Do remember, though, to bring mosquito spray.
Wine spritzers (fröccs) rule at central Erzsébet tér, where a casual bar pours a blend of wine with sparkling soda water every day of the week from noon until the late night hours. This popular summertime drink inspired the name of the place, serving all the varying fröccs types that come in different proportions, concocted with changeable decilitre ratios. Guests sit across a gravelled area under shades during the day and colourful floodlights provide a relaxed ambience when it gets dark. At weekends, Fröccsterasz hosts themed parties and plays pop, R’n’B, hip-hop and those unforgettable hits that used to make you move in the ’90s.
Hadik is that rara avis: a Habsburg-era literary café on the Buda side of the river. ‘Since 1906’ it boasts and, indeed, the likes of Dezső Kosztolányi and Zsigmond Móricz did convene here – Frigyes Karinthy is even honoured with a plaque. For decades moribund, renovated and revived exactly a century after its inauguration, Hadik anchors a busy stretch of Bartók Béla út and provides the most convincing argument for its recent push for in inclusion in the pantheon of grand, terrace-blessed Budapest boulevards. This particular terrace extends all the way up to the facing triangle of greenery centrepieced by a statue of historical novelist Géza Gárdonyi, who died when the original Hadik was in its Silver Age pomp. Literary evenings still take place, though the live music accompanying Sunday lunch will be more accessible to non-Hungarian speakers.
If you wish to leave Budapest behind for an afternoon of waterside fun, head to the city’s northernmost island on the river, Népsziget, and look out for colourful Kabin. This cool summertime hangout opened a year ago, gaining swift popularity thanks to its bright awnings and comfortable riverside cabins for two, where watching the sunset while sipping delicious drinks is always an amazing experience. Kabin is located a 15-20-minute walk away from the metro station Újpest Városkapu on blue line 3, sadly affected by long-term renovation work at weekends and on weekday evenings – but a ride on the replacement bus is rewarded with a perfect spot for a night out with that special someone under starry skies.
Stretching between Árpád Bridge and Margaret Bridge, eye-shaped Margaret Island is an ideal refuge during the sun-splashed months. This sprawling parkland features a musical fountain on the southern side, a Japanese garden towards the northern tip of the island, and plenty of facilities for lounging. While recommendable bars and restaurants are few, Kadarka Bárka is one of them, run by the same ownership as the popular Kadarka wine bar in Budapest’s party central. A real summer-only hangout, it’s found near the Athletics Centre in the middle of the island. Built around a sandy patch, the place is ideal for pairing meaty treats with fine Hungarian wines.
Kertem is a big favourite for alfresco fun in Budapest, not only because of its mouth-watering Balkan burgers, cool tunes and sprawling expanse of open-air tables, but also thanks to the many intriguing characters who often hang out here with their furry four-legged friends. Found in the heart of City Park, Kertem is excellent for lounging under the sun far from the buzz of downtown. Beware – nights spin out until 4am.
Just reopened for the summer season, this vibrant chill zone now awaits guests through September within Budapest Park, the city’s main outdoor concert venue. The grass is green, drinks are cold, the deckchairs are comfy – and acoustic concerts and movie nights are scheduled. This District IX hangout is open every day of the week, though concerts and special events may see an admission charge applied. Football takes central stage for the Champions League final and the World Cup, both screened live within the park. From the city centre, take tram 2 – there’s also a bicycle drop-off point.
PONTOON is Budapest’s waterside wonderland, providing a mini festival every day of the summer; people laze around in hammocks, groups of friends gossip, couples canoodle while hanging their legs over the Danube, and when night falls, everybody dances around under the open skies. Surrounding all of this, the Castle, the Chain Bridge, Fishermen’s Bastion and the Buda skyline provide the city’s most picturesque backdrop. PONTOON hosts concerts, film screenings, parties, activities for kids and other events throughout the season. In short, everything you love about summer in Budapest is here in one place at the foot of the Chain Bridge.
Deckchairs and plenty of sunshine make Terasz one of Budapest’s most coveted summertime hangouts. Found on focal Március 15. tér steps away from the Danube, this easily accessible locale provides scenic views over whitewashed Elizabeth Bridge and Buda’s skyline across the river. Refreshing lemonades are sipped with abandon by day, while bartenders get groovy after dark as they mix tumblers of Long Island Tea and Aperol Berry Spritz. But you can also come here for tasty barbecue brisket, burgers, superfood salads and, if you fancy, even for a whole grilled chicken. A large screen broadcasts major sports events.
Valyo Kikötő is Budapest’s latest summertime hotspot. A huge riverside space by Budapest’s red Rákóczi Bridge was transformed into an inner-city festival site for the warmer months. Valyo Kikötő hosts art festivals, cultural events, workshops and community attractions by day, as well as family-friendly and sport events. Concerts, film screenings, theatre shows and other cool nocturnal attractions take over come nightfall. This new community hub, a former dock area, can accommodate 300-500 people at any one time.
Similar to Akvárium, just on a smaller scale, Zsiráf spreads bar tables over a busy, prominent public space, in this case the pedestrianised commercial zone of Eiffel Square alongside Nyugati station. Eiffel himself created the steel-and-glass masterpiece that is the adjoining steam palace, though you see little of it from this terrace, only bland mainstream outlets, the predictable sushi bar and retro disco REMIX. Zsiráf brings primary colours to the party, offset by a neon sign promising retro lángos (is there any other kind?) and easy-on-the-eye decking and grass banking. Burgers and craft beers inevitably dominate the offering, table tennis a hangover from a decade-old UK fad.