When preparing a trip to the capital of Hungary we should not only focus on its great monumental and historical heritage. Among the main attractions of Budapest is the life that bustles in its streets and that does not stop when the night arrives. In fact, with the sunset, the city acquires a new atmosphere that makes it, if possible, even more beautiful.
To organize your evening activities in Budapest you must take into account that, despite having the same schedule as Spain, the time of sunset is much earlier. Thus, in winter you can see how it gets dark at 16:00, while in summer it does it around 20:45. For this reason, knowing what to do after dark is essential to make the most of your time.
1. Take a night tour of the city as a small appetizer.
A good way to start to know the night of Budapest is to hire a guided tour through its streets that takes place when the sun has set. During the tour you will be able to see some of the most important monuments of the city illuminated, something that completely changes its aesthetics.
Normally, these tours also dedicate part of their time to walk along the river bank. From this area you can admire some of the most impressive views of Budapest, from its bridges to the Buda Castle on the hill.
2. Bathe in the Széchenyi hot springs without worrying about the cold outside.
Although there are several spas in Budapest, all of them of great quality, there is no doubt that the jewel of the crown in this area is the spa of Széchenyi. There you can take advantage of its facilities until well after dark.
Located in the beautiful City Park, the inner part of the spa is housed in an impressive Baroque building built in 1913. With its more than 15 pools of different sizes and characteristics, it is considered the largest in Europe.
The exterior part does not detract at all in beauty with respect to its interior. Outside the building there are three different pools (two heated), along with a thermometer that marks the temperature in the street. Inside, meanwhile, you can find more than a dozen pools, including saunas and Turkish baths.
One of the most pleasant experiences you can have in Budapest is to go to this spa in the afternoon. Although the indoor area closes earlier, the outdoor pools remain open until later and you can stay in them after sunset.
If you go in winter, the sensation of taking a warm bath in the middle of the snow is priceless (getting out of the pool is also another interesting experience in those cases, but for other less pleasant reasons).
I recommend that you get your tickets with some time in advance, as on some dates it can fill up.
Join a Sparty
While you will be able to bathe at night in the Széchenyi spa for most of the year, there are some dates when you can go to a big party on the premises.
The so-called Sparty are big celebrations that take place in the pools of this spa. During them you will be able to listen to music, dance or have a drink while you are bathing in a thermal pool. Normally, these parties take place on Saturdays, but I recommend you to check the information on this website.
3. Have a beer (or something else) in a dingy pub
One of the best activities to enjoy the night in Budapest is to go to one of its many ruin bars. If you have done a tour of the Jewish quarter (or you have gone on your own) you have probably seen one of them, as it is where many of them are located.
The main peculiarity of this type of pub is that they are located in old buildings that were practically in ruins, a fact that has given them their name. From around the year 2000, they began to be conditioned until they became spaces with a somewhat decadent urban aesthetic that makes them unique.
The ruin bars (here is the list of the best ones in Budapest) are perfect for having a beer, dancing or even eating something. Many of them close quite late, around 4 or 5 in the morning, and the atmosphere changes as the hours go by.
Entering one of these places is a must if you go to Budapest, to the point that you can hire a guided tour of the ruin bars that include a drink in case you do not feel like going alone to look for them.
4. Embark on a night cruise on the Danube River
There is nothing more romantic than taking a boat ride on the Danube, illuminated by the night lights of Budapest. After a long day of sightseeing, these small cruises will allow you to relax and, at the same time, enjoy a unique panorama.
The routes of the different night cruises usually run through the center of the city. During the same you will be able to see illuminated both the Liberty Bridge and the Chain Bridge, as well as monuments located on the Gellért Hill, the Parliament and the Buda Castle.
Within these cruises you will find some that also offer dinner on board while live music plays. Another interesting option is to hire one of the boats that organize wine tastings while cruising the river.
Most of these cruises depart from the piers located between the Chain Bridge and the Parliament, near the Shoes Monument.
5. Stroll through the illuminated streets of Budapest
It is practically impossible to name all the corners of Budapest that are worth visiting at night. Some of them are worth the visit for their own illumination, such as St. Stephen's Basilica or the Opera House, while others are worth the visit for the views they offer to the rest of the city.
This large number of places is going to make you spend more than one night if you want to see them all, as they are located in both parts of the city, both in Buda and Pest.
For starters, the Parliament area (next to the Shoe Monument) offers a great view of the building itself as well as the opposite bank, with the Buda Castle crowning the city.
However, in the case of the Parliament I prefer the view from the other side of the Danube, already in the Buda area.
On the other hand, almost anywhere along the river is good to get a good perspective of the illuminated Chain Bridge, although perhaps the best view is from Buda Hill.
Of course, few places in Budapest offer a better view of the city than the Fisherman's Bastion, which you may have visited during the day with a tour to the Buda Castle and its neighborhood.
To get there on foot (you can also go by bus with line 16) just cross the bridge from Erzsébet Square and go up to the Matthias Church, whose illumination is also worthwhile. The bastion, next to the church, is open until 23:00 and in winter the entrance at that time is free.
6. Enter the Buddha's Labyrinth when the lights go out
Although during part of the year it is not dark yet, the characteristics of this place make it deserve to be on the list of what to do in Budapest at night. If you like strong emotions, you can't miss the visit to the Buda Labyrinth in the dark (or almost).
Much of the hill on which the Buda Castle is located is pierced by tunnels and grottoes product of erosion caused by groundwater. One of these tunnel systems has been conditioned so that its first 1,200 meters can be visited.
Inside you will be able to see a lot of different elements, from columns to statues, through cave paintings or fountains.
If you can adjust your schedule, I recommend that you make this visit after 18:00. It is then when the lights of the labyrinth are turned off and only a small oil lamp illuminates the labyrinth. The shadows cast, the darkness in the background and the sounds of the tunnels create a totally unique atmosphere.
Look for the footprint of Vlad Dracul (Dracula)
Inside the labyrinth you can find a surprise. Next to some rubble (possibly the remains of a statue) is a poster with the image of Vlad Tepes, the historical character who inspired the creation of Dracula.
Above the image you can read a few words: Dracula's Chamber. The reason is that the tunnels were used for a time as a prison and, in the 15th century, received one of its most famous prisoners, Vlad Tepes himself.
7. Enjoy the city from a rooftop terrace
Those who do not want to end the day too early, especially in good weather, have at their disposal several terraces located on rooftops where they can have a drink while contemplating the illuminated city. Here are three of them, but I suggest you venture to discover some more during your stay:
- Intermezzo Rooftop Terrace: the rooftop terrace of the Hotel President Intermezzo, eight stories high, was until a few years ago a helipad. Today it houses a bar and a restaurant (in winter there is also a small ice rink). In the bar you can have a quiet drink while contemplating the nearby Parliament.
- High Note Roof Bar: for many, this is the most romantic rooftop in the city. Its location, of course, could not be better, right next to St. Stephen's Basilica. You will be able to sit on its comfortable sofas while having a drink while watching the sunset.
- Leo: this summer bar is located in the Buda Castle district. With a tropical decor (including parrot-shaped glasses), this place has a great view of the Chain Bridge.
8. Climb the Statue of Liberty in Budapest
No, you don't have to go to New York to see the famous statue. Budapest has its own statue known by that name, which was built to celebrate the liberation of the country after World War II. Although the Soviet style with which it is built is not to everyone's liking, climbing up to the place where it stands is one of the best things you can do at sunset.
This statue is located on a part of the Gellért hill, next to the Citadel. Its location makes this place the one with possibly the best views of Budapest. Not only will you be able to contemplate the most important monuments, but also the neighborhoods with Soviet-style buildings located on the other side.
Getting to the statue is not easy, as it will take you about 45 minutes from Erzsébet Square. Part of the way up is through a forest where you will find the statue of St. Gellért, which is also worth a visit. While you're there, it might be the perfect time to approach the Fisherman's Bastion to take advantage of the walk.
9. Ride the Budapest Ferris wheel
One of the activities you can do at night in Budapest is to climb the Ferris wheel located in Erzsébet Square and has been named (in the style of London) as Budapest Eye. From its heights you will be able to see good views without having to go to Buda.
The Ferris wheel, which opens around 10:00 in the morning, works at least until 23:00 on weekdays and until 1:00 on weekends. The truth is that going up is not too cheap, as it costs about 9 €. However, once you are at the top you realize that it was worth it.
10. Choose your type of music and go to a concert
Fortunately for music lovers, in Budapest you will be able to find concerts of all kinds of styles. You just have to look for the place where most performances usually take place and choose the one you like the most, either in specialized bars or in the Opera of the city. Although there are many places, here are three recommendations in case they suit your tastes:
- Budapest Jazz Club: it is one of the few places in the city where you can see live jazz performances. In addition to the concerts, you can also have dinner there. The time of the performances depends on the day, as you can find them at 19:00, 20:00 or even 22:00. The venue is located at Hollán Ernő utca 7,
- Pótkulcs: this little hidden gem hides a multicultural atmosphere rare in the city. The venue hosts performances by violinists, Hungarian folk music and Roma musicians. Note that they start early, although the evening usually lasts well into the night.
- Budapest Opera House: ballet, classical music and, of course, opera are performed inside this fantastic building. As an institution, it is home to the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, considered one of the best orchestras in Europe.
How to get around Budapest at night
Although most of the time you will move around Budapest on foot, there may come a time when you will need to use public transport, especially in the evening when you are returning to your hotel.
Fortunately, the Hungarian capital has a good transport system consisting of metro, streetcar and bus.
- Subway: unfortunately, the subway schedule at night will only allow you to use it until 23:00 hours or after 04:30.
- Streetcars: on the positive side, the city has more than 40 tram lines, many of them in the city center. However, the timetable is the same as that of the metro: from 04:30 to 23:00.
- Buses: in addition to the normal lines, which have the same schedule as the previous transport, there are also night buses that provide service from 23:00 to 5:00.
- Cabs: cabs are not expensive in Budapest, so they can be a good alternative to move at night. Of course, you must verify that it is legal looking if the license plate is yellow. It is best to call by phone to request them, which also reduces the rate by about 5%.
Is Budapest safe at night?
In general, Budapest is considered a safe city at night. As in all capitals, there are some areas that are not too recommendable, but it is difficult to go to any of them due to the lack of tourist attractions.
It is usually recommended, however, to be careful with the pickpockets in the most crowded areas, as well as with the tricksters who usually place themselves at the top of the Gellért hill.
On the other hand, it has been reported some cases of young Hungarian girls who lure a tourist to enter a certain pub where, finally, they present an exorbitant bill. Although it is not frequent, the recommendation is to go only to guaranteed places.