Ratings Key (0-10)
A: Choice and/or quality of drinks
B: Style and décor
C: Atmosphere and feel
D: Amenities, Events & Community
E: Value for money
F: The Pub Going Factor
Bars marked (*) will take you to our full profile write-up!
|Lehuto Kezmuves Sorozo||Budapest||9||6||8||8||6||8|
|Wichmann’s Pub *||Budapest||6||7||8||6||9||8|
|3. Felido Sorozo||Debrecen||5||8||8||4||8||8|
|Jazz Kocsma *||Szeged||4||7||10||7||8||9|
Give me a pint of that Hungarian lager, said no-one ever.
While beer may certainly be cheap in Hungary, a couple of days drinking the likes of Borsodi and Dreher will have you willingly offering double, triple the money for anything resembling a real beer. The working class bar scene is resolutely unglamorous, without having any of the historical bells and whistles that make Czech pubs atmospheric and, as mentioned, have shit beer.
However, you will be pleased to know the scene is currently in the process of being saved from this position of ignominy.
In Budapest Pilsner Urquell has always unsurprisingly been very popular, while Hofbrau have cornered the market for wheatbeer. What is really on the up though, at long last, are a renaissance of small breweries as Hungary’s own Craft Beer revolution gets underway. While this scene makes me feel ambivalent in countries such as England, Hungary could only be improved at this stage by drastically increasing the standards of beer, forming their own brewing traditions (even if it must be from scratch) and kicking the awful Hungarian lagers into the dirt. Don’t expect to see many of these new beers outside of Budapest but keep your eyes peeled for these refreshing alternatives to drinking faintly disinfected gassy lager.
The main talking point of going out in Hungary is something you may already even be aware of: the ruin bars. Briefly, these abandoned and derelict warehouses and apartment blocks have been taken over and turned into bars with attractive courtyards and green space, showing films, throwing parties, and allowing incomers to stroll around the often ramshackle, crumbling remnants of their interiors. Very alternative.
These ruin bars are becoming steadily more gentrified and middle class (I wouldn’t consider Ankert or Mazel Tov to be true ruin pubs for example) but there are so many options out there (new, more alternative venues are appearring) that you can stick to the very best. The scene itself is vibrant, and the atmosphere at the venues is fantastic on a warm evening, so very different from a night out in any other country or city and helps turn Budapest into perhaps the number one city destination in Europe. I would suggest the time to go is now before it gets any more gentrified and touristy.
Outside of Budapest’s ruin bars and craft ale bars, and the odd sparkling sorozo or presszo here and there, expect very many plain, down to earth and slightly smokey farty old corner bars and drab cafés in the rest of the country all serving really terrible lagers. There may even be a need for you to venture into Irish bars just for respite, but don’t entirely lose faith there are – if you keep studiously researched – some interesting curios and gems out there that just had to be different.