Budapest is a completely different place once the sun goes down
Buildings and monuments sparkle, and a renewed energy seems to manifest in the people on the street. We experienced this every night on our trip, first at 360 Bar after we checked-in. This bar, located on the top of the former Paris Department Store building at 39 Andrassy (the highest building on Budapest’s answer to Paris’ Champs Elysses) in theTere’zva’ros (Theresa Town) district of Pest (the part of Budapest that is east of the Danube River), offers wonderful views of the city at night.
This past winter, they installed popup plastic igloos to keep guests warm as they enjoy their visit. You enter from a quiet lobby of the highrise, and take the elevator to the top. Booking is essential, even in the cold winter months, as this spot is wildly popular with locals as well as visitors.
Cocktails in a high-rise igloo!
360 has a wide array of creatively crafted cocktails, both warm and cold in winter (3 special ones of each, including Toddy by the Makers, Hunter’s Break, and Melting Point as warm cocktails, and Dreamcatcher, Cafe 360, and Gingle Bells Koktel for chilled), as well as some nice vintages and craft brews. We arrived hungry from our two flights and drive, but sadly realized that the only food available here that evening were chips (fries) and onion rings, as well as goulash (soup, not a stew). Which were lovely and warm, but not a meal. 360 does offer meals at different times but be sure to check, if you want a meal, and not just a lovely view with your cocktails. We tried the Dreamcatcher and Gingle Bells, which were attractive and tasty.
Eight large igloos await your relaxation pleasure – clear so you can see the city still, but nicely insulated and large enough to fit two 2-person tables and one 4-person table in each igloo. The bar also offers free wifi for all guests, for all those instagrammable photos from the rooftop. 360 has a resident hound, who was gloriously friendly but not overwhelming, popping by every few minutes to see if any pats (or chips) were available.
It made for a pleasurable sky-high introduction to Budapest. And we met Welsh folks there (small world, indeed!).
See riverside Budapest from the comfort of a Danube cruise
The next evening we decided on a Danube River cruise, courtesy of Legenda Cruise Line. We chose not to indulge in a dinner cruise, so settled on a one-hour sightseeing cruise, complete with a complimentary drink. Legenda’s craft for this cruise, Delfin I, can hold approximately 120 people in winter (we went in March, but that’s the tail end of winter), and has windows that open on the main deck. We sat inside and tried the English commentary on the complimentary headphones, but wound up heading upstairs to the open upper deck for better views.
The cruise starts by heading under the Elisabeth Bridge, passing the International Port, under Liberty and Petofi Bridges and passing University of Economics, National Theatre and Palace of Arts, before turning back up the river to pass University of Technology, Hotel Gellert (where we visited earlier in the day with Balasz), Gellert Hill Citadel, Royal Palace, as well as going under the famous Chain Bridge and passing the Parliament and Academy of Sciences buildings in their glowing splendor before the end of the cruise.
Note that you get one complimentary beverage on the non-dinner cruise. No purchases of beverages, soft or alcoholic, or snacks are allowed. If you’d prefer a more leisurely exploration of the river to look at the gorgeous flood-lit monumental buildings, consider a dinner cruise, which starts at 9300 HUF without food, or 18600 for a 4-course meal. The dinner cruise lasts 2 and a half hours, so choose what makes sense with your schedule.
The Budapest Eye Ferris Wheel affords a fabulous birds-eye view of night Budapest
We meandered to the Eye after filling up with American-ish food at Hard Rock Cafe Budapest and were able to walk right on, really. Since 2013 (this larger wheel has been on site since 2017), the Eye has been anchored in Elisabeth Square, very near the Danube. An added bonus? The eye itself is floodlit. Your ticket gets you an 8-10 minute ride (3 turns of the wheel, duration depends on the exit and entry of others in different cabins) in a small closed cabin, as well as excellent views of some of the floodlit monuments and buildings not easily visible from the river, namely the nearby basilica. Elizabeth Square has a variety of restaurants, clubs, and activities surrounding it, as well as a memorial to Michael Jackson.
Budapest’s Ruin Bars – old buildings and unused outdoor spaces transformed into friendly, wildly decorated, and cheap bars
Our last night in Budapest, we were determined to explore a few of the ruin bars we’d read about before arriving. “Bar” is an inadequate name for many of these spots. They are part performance space, part art gallery, part community center, part-time farmers market, and all around meeting place. We popped into Ellato Kert, a brand-spanking-new ruin bar that is pretty much a restaurant and bar. Since we’d just finished a hearty dinner at Tukory Etterem, we didn’t try the tacos and chicken, but the menu looked great. Music blares, stag parties abound, and the staff is smilingly efficient and helpful. The decor looked like any number of scruffy night spots in the US.
After chilling at Ellato, we headed toward the mothership — Szimpla Kert, the “original” ruin bar. Szimpla is a complicated facility. Effortlessly hip, it has a copious dance floor, a garden area for coffee and drinks, high tops along the walkway with performance spaces in alcoves throughout. Szimpla hosts loads of programs and groups, as well as a farmers market (closed since it was late in the evening when we arrived). We met many interesting folk, and had some earnest chats before we headed out to find one more spot before calling it a night.
The last space was the least physically compelling, but definitely the most relaxed and friendliest of all the places. A tiny neighborhood pub called Kissarok (Kis Sarki Kocsma) was filled with warm locals who were delighted to discuss politics, culture, and more. We enjoyed their hospitality for quite some time, learning more about the music scene in Hungary (try Mary PopKids, Run Over Dogs, Middlemist Red, and Platon Karataev for a taste of the new music there) and having seriously good conversations. Make sure you have your dinner before you pop in, though – unlike the other spots listed, no food is available.
360 Bar, 1061 Budapest, Andrassy ut. 39, Ph: +36 30 356 3047 Hours: Mon-Wed: 2pm – midnight; Thu-Sat: 2pm – 2am; Sun: noon – 2am. The bar takes reservations via its Facebook page as well.
Legenda Sightseeing Boats, Dock 7 Jane Haining Rakpart, Budapest, Ph. +36 1 317 2203, email@example.com; Hours and pricing vary depending on the cruise. Evening 1-hour sightseeing cruise was 5,500 HUF per adult, including one beverage.
Budapest Eye, Erzsebet Ter., H-1051, Ph. +36 706360629, firstname.lastname@example.org; Hours: M-T, 10am – 11pm; W-T, 10am – midnight; F-Sat, 10 – 1am, Sun 10am – midnight; Prices: Adult: 2700 HUF/9 Euro, Child: 1500 HUF, 5 Euro.
Ellato Kert, Budapest, 48 Kazinczy utca, H-1075, Ph. +36 20 527 3018. Opens at 5pm. Mexican-style food, and a complete cocktail bar.
Szimpla Kert, 14 Kazinczy utca, District VII. Hours and pricing vary by area of the center.
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