Getting to know any city you're visiting like the back of your hand in just a few days is difficult if not nigh on impossible when they're as large and culturally complex as Budapest is. Immersing yourself in Budapest's nightlife can be even more complicated and you can end up getting stuck in the typical tourist traps that once you've done them, you'll wish you'd avoided.
Reading lots of articles on the internet about what the best things to do at night in Budapest isn't going to help much, especially when those articles are nothing more than regurgitated and rehashed mush written by so-called digital nomads who have never been there. Don't let yourself be misled. Read through this definitive guide to unmissable things to do in Budapest at night and once you get to the Hungarian capital, you'll be patting yourself on the back for being such a savvy traveler.
Whether you're going to do the touristy thing and have a pub crawl around some of Budapest's ruin bars or soak in a thermal spa like the locals do, you can't do it while carrying a suitcase or rucksack. When you can't leave your belongings at your hotel or hostel for whatever reason, the best way to make sure they're secure is to leave them at a location for luggage storage in Budapest while you're out having a good time.
What To Do In Budapest At Night
Everyone’s idea of having a good night out is different, but even if some of the activities detailed below are not what you'd usually do, make time on your vacation agenda to do them as they're what Budapest is all about. You'll see a different side to the city, go home with some great memories and maybe even consider returning for another, much longer stay.
Take A Thermal Spa
Dive right in to what real Budapest nightlife is all about by taking a thermal spa at one of the city's public spa baths. Hungarians have been enjoying the therapeutic benefits of the warm thermal springs waters in Budapest since the city fell under the rule of the Roman Empire and they still haven't run out of water.
Szechenyi Baths and Pool
One of the most popular spas in Budapest is the Szechenyi Baths and Pool which is in City Park. At the Szechenyi Baths, an architecturally outstanding Neo-Baroque palace houses fifteen indoor pools and partly surrounds three huge outdoor ones. There are also massage and treatment rooms where you can get some aromatherapy or a pedicure.
All of the pools at the Szechenyi Baths are mixed bathing so there's no nudity permitted. The normal dress code is decent swimwear that covers your private parts adequately. You don't need to use a swim cap unless you're going to use the lap pool where wearing one is mandatory. If going to the spa was a spur-of-the-moment decision you can purchase towels and bathrobes there, but if possible, it's better to take your own.
Romantic Evening Spa
Only two or three of the outdoor pools stay open until ten in the evening. If you want your spa to be a romantic experience with your partner where you can drink champagne and gaze at the stars, the best thing to do is hire a small, private thermal bath just for the two of you.
The Magic Bath Party
If you don't want to make your spa night a relaxing, therapeutic affair, save your visit for a Saturday night which is Magic Bath Party night. The bath party nights are like going clubbing, but you'll be dancing under the strobe lights while you're up to your waist in water. Expect to end the night as wrinkled as the proverbial prune as the parties start at nine-thirty and don't end until one in the morning. On a scoring scale of one to ten for things to do in Budapest at night, the Magic Bath Party scores a ten.
Go To The Opera
Traveling is all about having new experiences and if you've never been to an operatic performance before, forget waiting until you're in Italy to do it and go to your first opera in Budapest instead.
The Hungarian State Opera House has been hosting the best of the best operatic performances since the late 19th century. The building's opulence is beyond belief and you'll feel like one of the social elite as you make your way through it. The opera house is also home to the Hungarian National Ballet troupe so if you're tone-deaf, but don't have two left feet, you may enjoy a ballet performance more. To be guaranteed a seat at any performance you do need to make an advance reservation.
Don't turn up in jeans and sneakers at the Hungarian State Opera House. This is a night out in Budapest where you need to dress as posh as you can.
Tip: If you don't like it, you can always make a quick, un-noticed exit during the interval and disappear into the Budapest night.
Ride The Budapest Eye
It might not be all the fun of the fair, but by taking a ride on the Budapest Eye you can make seriously short work of sightseeing the city and then spend the rest of the night doing something else.
The sixty-five-meter-high Ferris wheel is located in Elizabeth Square which is in the middle of the Erzsébet téri park. The park is on the opposite side of the Danube River so you get to see it, Buda Castle, the Fisherman's Bastion, the nearby St Stephen's Basilica and, if you take a pair of binoculars, the Budapest Parliament Building.
The Budapest Eye makes its rotary journey most days until eleven at night and on Fridays and Saturdays until midnight. Unless you get stuck at the top and the operator forgets to bring you down, normal rides last between ten to twelve minutes.
Tip: If you're considering trying the traditional Hungarian fruit brandy, pálinka, wait until your ride on the Budapest Eye is over or you could get a lot dizzier than expected. It's a good idea to leave searching for the best street food in Budapest or having some traditional Hungarian food until after too.
Get Spooked In The Buda Castle Labyrinth
For a super creepy, early evening activity in Budapest the Buda Castle Labyrinth is hard to beat. The labyrinth is a set of tunnels and caves carved out of the rocks underneath Buda Castle, the royal palace complex, on Castle Hill.
The labyrinth has a long history dating back to medieval times and has served many purposes from hiding place to WW2 shelter, a wine cellar and escape route as well as being the prison where Vlad The Impaler was incarcerated.
The entire labyrinth is around a kilometer long and, unless you stop frequently to admire the medieval stonework and exhibits, takes about half an hour to get through.
If you don't want to get totally freaked out, skip the Waxworks of the Opera exhibition and the Maze of Darkness where there's reputed to be serious paranormal activity. If you're still trying to decide where to stay in Budapest, believe it, Buda Castle is definitely not where you want to be sleeping in Budapest at night.
Dinner Cruise On The Danube River
While the Danube River may not be as blue as history has made it out to be, it's still a romantic river to take an evening tour on and you’ll find locals making this Budapest night trip as well as visitors. It really is one of the most romantic things to do in Budapest at night.
There are multiple dinner cruises to choose from and they're all as good as each other, so which you choose really depends on your personal taste and your budget. You can go posh and have a waiter serve you an a la carte dinner, go buffet-style, take a dinner cruise with live music or go on one where they serve traditional Hungarian food or a selection of different Hungarian wine.
Most dinner cruises set sail at around seven in the evening and last for a duration of around two and a half to three hours. If you're not into eating while navigating then you can take just a guided night cruise down the Danube River which passes by Buda Castle and the Royal Palace, St Stephen's Basilica, Fisherman's Bastion, and the Budapest Parliament Building.
Explore Budapest By Night On Two Legs, Two Wheels Or More?
There are many different ways to get around Budapest at night, but some are definitely more fun than others. Two will even help burn off any extra calories you've consumed trying the hearty Hungarian food.
Night Cycle Tour Of Budapest
A night cycle tour is one of the more fun things to do in Budapest at night as long as you haven't spent the previous couple of hours in one of the city's ruin bars.
The best time of the year to do bike tours of Budapest is during the summer months when it's warmer. It's still dark though so the luminescent wheels look amazing as you're pedaling around.
Most tours last for around two and a half hours during which time you'll get to explore the Jewish Quarter, around the base of Castle Hill, pass the parliament building, over Chain Bridge and Liberty Bridge, cycle along the Danube promenade and as the evening tour is guided, you'll learn about the mummified hand in St Stephen's Basilica.
Night Walking Tour Of Budapest
Put your comfortable shoes on and hit the streets for a walking tour of Budapest and the great thing about it is, it's one of the few things to do at night in Budapest that's free – not counting the tip for the guide of course.
You can pick up a free walking tour of Budapest by being in Elizabeth Square in the Erzsébet téri park near the Budapest Eye at half-past six in the evening. Tours take around an hour and a half during which you'll get to explore the Great Market Hall, the Fisherman's Bastion, walk up Gellert Hill to see the views, see Vaci Street, and learn about the Jewish Ghetto which is a must-do when visiting Budapest.
Take A Budapest Tuk Tuk Tour
If you really don't feel up to trailing around Budapest on foot, go for a tuk-tuk tour instead. The cute, three-wheel vehicles carry two passengers and are driven by local guides who know the city inside out.
It's not the most economical way of seeing the top sights in Budapest, but you will see pretty much all there is to see during the two-and-a-half-hour tour.
Go On A Ruin Bar Pub Crawl
The question is would you really be visiting Budapest if you didn't go to a ruin bar at least once while you're there? The answer is, probably not. Ruin bars are housed in what were derelict or abandoned buildings that have been renovated to be chic, trendy, and mostly cheap places to go for a drink. You'll find ruin bars and ruin pubs hidden away down back streets and peppering the Jewish Quarter.
NB: If you've seen the write-ups about Budapest's most famous ruin bar and want to go, you'll find Szimpla Kert on Kazinczy Street.
Now you've read through this guide to things to do in Budapest at night you know almost as much as a local does. All you have to do is get your bags packed, book your flights and your accommodation, and get there before you've forgotten what you've read. To make sure you have the best time ever when visiting Budapest, it's a good idea to print this guide to things to do in Budapest at night and take a copy with you.