Day drinking isn’t just for degenerates, miscreants, and stag parties; it can also be a sign of a person who takes pleasure in a bit of transgressive but legal fun. It is possible to get classily sloshed before sundown. And in Budapest there are plenty of great options for either day drinking, no matter the reason you are doing it.
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It needn’t be done at a cellar borozó or késdobáló pub, which are the wine bars and ‘dagger-throwing’ pubs where habitual, typically aged, drinkers go to hide away. There are places where such an indulgence can be done in the open, without feeling like you are holed up in a bar drowning your sorrows. Such establishments usually, though not exclusively, also have other purposes as cafes or restaurants.
The choice of where to day drink is often more personal than an evening out. It is a luxury, in a way, but also a personal statement. So even though the best places to have a tipple during working hours are up to the individual, we have a few recommendations to pass along.
Got a favorite place to have a drink during the day? Leave it in the comments!
CSAK A JÓ SÖR
Though it is primarily a bottle shop, ‘Only Good Beer’ keeps several foreign and local craft beers on tap, plus two fridges filled with high-end bottles. For beer enthusiasts, the shop is hallowed ground, as this is the storefront that kicked off the craft beer ‘revolution’ in Budapest. Drinking a few pints on the couch in the side room is a comfortable way to pass a few hours, but not too many, as the store closes at nine.
Budapest’s classic retro ‘presszó—or espresso cafe—attracts a great mix of tourists and locals, the latter of which includes groups of older men playing board games or cards. Unintentionally surly wait-staff serve cheap local beer and wine, along with inexpensive snacks, like unaccountably addictive cheese toast and omelettes. When it’s warm, an afternoon drink on the terrace is a summer ritual worth upholding or starting.
FOUR SEASONS GRESHAM PALACE, THE BAR AND LOBBY LOUNGE
Hotel bars always exist a bit out of time and on their own terms, a bit like fancier airport bars. The Four Seasons has one of the best in the city. It’s the swanky choice for an afternoon cocktail, be it an Old Fashioned or a Negroni. The space is more of a lounge than a bar, but that will only make getting tipsy a more leisurely experience. Moreover, they have one of the best bar menus in the city. Unlike many 4-star hotels, the Gresham makes luxury seem unpretentious, and you might just spot a movie star, as it is the hotel of choice with the film crowd.
The ‘Publisher Pub’ has the right mix of coziness and boho slouch. The dimly-lit, room makes it easy to forget there are people dangerously nearby going about their responsible daily lives. Offering great Hungarian food, including an outstanding gulyás, Kiado will keep you nourished while you sip an afternoon pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy). The gallery makes it easy to hide away, but take care on the steep steps, which are hazardous under any condition.
Riding on the wave of ‘ruin pubs,’ Csendes is more cafe than bar, and it can be its most appealing during the day, when there is a heavy student vibe. Decorated with knick-knacks that may or may not be art installations, plus flea market ware, it brings a bit of fun to the endeavor of getting lightly toasted. Also, for a while at least, Csendes featured the cheapest Guinness in the city. The high ceilings make it easy to drift away into a gentle oblivion.
Similar to a traditional Hungarian worker’ bar, where people drink during the day as a habit more than luxury, the Derby can seem rough at first glance. But it is also dripping with charm and kitschy details, like a parquet floor and jukebox loaded with classic Hungarian pop music. Next to Keleti train station, the Derby is a great place to kill time before your train departs, or to toast a return to Budapest. With a good mix of travelers, tourists, and local regulars, it also has a friendly staff. The only real questionable aspect of Derby is that the lock on the men’s room is on the outside of the door. Just why, we may never know.