City guide
The best date ideas in Budapest
Photo : László Balkányi / WLB

It’s the run up to Valentine’s… restaurant or bar? Romantic, practical or laid-back? A sensuous spot or something buzzing? Whether you’re out to impress a first date, rekindle the romance with your special someone or pop the question, there are loads of loved-up spots around the city. Buda or Pest, wine or beer, lovey-dovey or non-naff, we’ve plucked out the best places in Budapest that should send sparks flying.

If you’re reading this, that means you’ve got as far as doing something other than cuddling up with Netflix. Good news, you’re in Budapest, a place full to the brim with spots for wooing. While there are so many breathtaking sights that provide a perfect backdrop for a lovely walk and romantic rendezvous, the weather is not on your side so you’ll probably need somewhere to take cover. Below we collate a few soppy spots from Buda to Pest that will earn you brownie points. But if you’re still thinking about the Netflix thing, just keep to the one rule: it’s her choice.

For a drink or two – Buda For a drink or two – Pest For a special atmosphere For coffee, tea and hot chocolate For eating out For something to do

For a drink or two – Buda

The more serene ambience of the Buda side already sets the mood for an intimate evening. Truth be told, although there are far fewer options than across the river, life is somewhat calmer and slower over here. If you both like the sound of this, there is a whole arsenal of romantic places on Bartók Béla BoulevardKelet Café is really lovely, while Hadik is perfect for literature buffs.

BÉLAPhoto: Kristóf Hölvényi / WLB

BÉLA is a cool hangout with a lot of plants, but if you’d rather a lot of beer, KEG is your place. A bit further away on Bem rakpart is a charmingly retro spot called Bambi, while close to Margaret Bridge, check out the bottom floor of Bookta for a more secluded drink.

For a drink or two – Pest

Options on the busy side of the river are endless, but most times, so are crowds and noise. At many downtown places, it’s not too easy to seek out an intimate little space just for the two of you. If you still find yourselves in the party district, the top floor of Központ is cool.

DobloPhoto: Tamás Kőrösi / WLB

If you like wine – and in Hungary, you better do – a professional wine bar is a great choice. Kadarka on Király utca, Doblo on Dob utca, 0,75 – with a view to the BasilicaMy Wine and Fill the Winebox all provide a sensual spot. If you prefer beer, head to Neked Csak Dezső on Rákóczi út, First on Dob utca, Monyo Tap House on Kálvin tér or Beer Brothers at Astoria – the latter has a separate top floor. Nearby Három Holló on Ferenciek tere used to be a haunt of one of Hungary’s most famous poets, Endre Ady – drop that into the conversation to seem smart.  

CintányérosPhoto: Norbert Hartyányi / WLB

Cintányéros in District VIII has a unique atmosphere, especially when the piano’s at work, while Csiga on Rákóczi tér also buzzes. If you like ruin bars, you can always opt for the ultimate ones, or check out Pótkulcs, which is like a separate island, Mélypont, which is just as ramshackle as it needs to be or Csendes.

For a special atmosphere

Looks do matter here: a great concept or décor can set the mood for the evening. Centre of craft beer and steampunk salon Krak’n Town is an excellent choice – earwheels, pilot goggles, copper sections and Victorian motifs adorn the walls, while hot-air balloons hang from the ceiling. If you are out of subjects to talk about, just ask the staff about the Kraken. Café Zsivágó flies you back in time with lace tablecloths, vintage furniture, a piano and flower-dotted tapestry. But worry not, the craft-beer and cocktail selection assures that this place is not only for Victorian-style tea parties. If you want to overdo the romance, Vintage Garden is the one, while for a soupçon of Paris, Le Petit Bistro is the place to go. If you are both into music, check out Klinika bar in District XIII for themed books and vinyl.

Vintage GardenPhoto: László Balkányi / WLB

Getting high is a great idea in Budapest as the breathtaking panorama is sure to impress. Winterised High Note Sky Bar, 360 Bar or Toprum are the safest bets. Cocktail bars are also a perfect choice, Boutiq’Bar, Tuk Tuk, Barside and Hotsy Totsy all have an elegant, intimate atmosphere and professional staff. If you choose a cocktail bar, book a table.

For coffee, tea and hot chocolate

If you are planning more of a daytime date, or want to start early, a specialty café or a hot-chocolate place is perfect. New-wave places are often small, but any of the Madal cafés, Budapest Baristas or Flow should have a table for you. For the best hot chocolate in town, head to Csészényi, Ahoy or Rengeteg Romcafé – which is decorated with teddy bears and vintage toys, just saying – while HERbar awaits with healthy blends.

Photo: László Balkányi / WLB

The best teahouses are 1000 tea, Flying bird, Altair, Vörös Oroszlán and Mozaik, while the intimate nooks and crannies of Sirius are for those who have already hit it off. Massolit Café has a lot of books and a lovely garden, while Café Smúz has a perfect view to the Parliament. For animal lovers, Zoo Café is the one. Going out for brunch can also be really sweet, see our round-up for options.

For eating out

A dinner (and a movie) is best of all, especially if you spice things up with exotic flavours at Middle-Eastern Dobrumba or tapas at Padron or Vicky Barcelona. Mazel Tov is always a perfect place for a date, but when it comes to romance, riverside Marvelosa takes top prize – even Mark Zuckerberg has been here. Close by is the cosy Lánchíd Söröző and the Beef Bar within the Clark Hotel.

Photo: László Balkányi / WLB

We recommend Klassz for its sophisticated and elegant style, while Hilda’s mosaic décor is pretty impressive. Esca, Émile, Kiosk, Pierrot and Villa Bagatelle are really lovely, and for old-school nostalgia, Gettó Gulyás is great. Jamie’s Italian up near the Castle is a well known favourite, while Deák St. Kitchen in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel will definitely not disappoint.

For something to do

Since it’s winter, jumping into the thermal pools at the Széchenyi, the Gellért or the Rudas is super soothing, but bear in mind that they might be a bit busy. If you’re fine being outdoors for a bit, a ride on the Budapest Eye, on the Children’s Railway or a public BKK boat can be very romantic, as well as a hike at Normafa in the Buda Hills – or even ice-skating on Városliget Lake.

Photo: Norbert Hartyányi / WLB

If you are playful, head to Barcraft, Game Up Pub or the Board Game Café, try an escape room game or play on old-school machines in the arcade at Gozsdu Udvar. And, last but not least, you can’t ever go wrong with a romantic movie, so check out the selection at one of the art-house cinemas, Moorish-designed Uránia or the Bem.