Some might say that bar hopping is simply a way to drink or worse, get completely drunk while either at home or traveling. But I say that’s completely not true. If you plan things correctly, you can utilize bar hopping to go sightseeing as a way to see a new city like we did in Budapest. When you let an interesting bar or pub call to you, you let the road be your guide instead of a guidebook and everything changes. For someone as OCD as I am who usually has everything planned and mapped out in advance, going into a new city and not having a plan can be scary, but also kind of liberating.
How exactly do you use bar hopping to go sightseeing then? Instead of cramming 20 must see sights into one day, pick your top 2 or 3 that are in one centralized area and take your time exploring that specific area. Find a place to sit and have a drink or a cup of coffee and stop and chat with the locals. I hear some people use services similar to Whistler Helicopter tours to get a lot of sightseeing in, in a small amount of time. Stop rushing around and start exploring and remember why you’re traveling, which is to live in the moment and to enjoy the experience. Follow along and see why bar hopping to go sightseeing can change your life or at the very least, give you a day of sightseeing you won’t soon forget.
On our first day in Budapest, I was immediately drawn to what else, but an Irish pub called Publin with a cute redhead holding a beer in their logo. With draught beers like Dreher (Hungary), Guinness (Ireland), and Hofbrau Weissbier (Germany) as well as bottled beers, ciders, and cocktails, and wine, they have a massive variety of beverages available as well as food. Karla and I chose seats out front on the patio underneath the misting fans while sharing a plate of “nachos,” otherwise known as tortilla chips and salsa. Me thinks the server forgot the cheese sauce, but no matter. The beer was great, the misting fans were fantastic on such a hot day, and I got to tick off another box on my Irish and English pubs list that I visit while traveling.
Sights seen along the way: Hungarian National Museum, Pet?fi Irodalmi Múzeum Budapest (art museum)
Publin Irish Pub & Restaurant
Address: Budapest, Madách Imre tér 5, 1075 Hungary
We stumbled upon Spot Pub, which was literally a hole in the wall as we passed it. I ordered what I thought was an alcoholic beverage (limonádéra fel!), but looks like it was only sparkling lemonade. Perhaps a little vodka could’ve fixed that drink. No problem because we were only stopping in for a second and not the night. This little “dive bar/wine bar,” as they describe themselves on their FaceBook page, also serves food and coffee and my guess is that they are probably way more active later in the day. With free WiFi and clean restrooms, it was a good pit stop before heading onward to other destinations.
Sights seen along the way: Budapest Operetta-theater, a store with Hello Kitty sneakers nearby (I should have bought those!)
Kiraly Utca 50, Budapest, Hungary
Doing the touristy thing sometimes happens – just accept it and move on. We decided to drop in at the Hard Rock Cafe Budapest, which is located inside the Váci shopping and entertainment center in a historic UNESCO world heritage site. Inside you’ll get great views of Vörösmarty Square and Váci Street and of a very technicolor Hard Rock Cafe.
While we were deciding on what exactly we wanted to order, we spent our time inside the Hard Rock Cafe Budapest completely amused by the bartenders and servers. Why? There was a huge football (soccer) game on and everyone was screaming, yelling, and cheering the Hungarian team. Funny how people’s true colors come out when they are completely consumed by winning. While it was the typical Hard Rock Cafe experience as far as cocktails go, the staff made my time there memorable.
Sights seen along the way: Sziget Eye, Erzsébet ter, Harley Davidson Budapest
Hard Rock Cafe Budapest
Address: Budapest, Deák Ferenc u. 3-5, 1051 Hungary
Who has a big head and sticks her tongue out all the time when she’s in Budapest? If you said Miley Cyrus, you’d be wrong. It’s that cute character up high on the walls of Presszó 53. When you’re walking along on an oppressively hot day and you spot others enjoying a tall cold glass of anything, it makes you want some of the same and that’s what happened when we walked by Presszó 53.
Presszó 53 calls itself a cafeteria, bar, and café that serves hot dogs, pizza, and sandwiches along with drinks. In addition to the free WiFi, there’s also slot machines, live sports games on 6 screens, and the open terrace where we sat and enjoyed a couple of Dreher beers. The vibe during the day was relaxed, but I bet in the evenings that this place is packed. While Presszó 53 doesn’t have a website, they do have a FaceBook page if you’re looking for more information.
Sights seen along the way: Hungarian State Opera House
Address: Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 53, 1073 Hungary
Let’s just say that this was not an intentional visit, but more of second choice option. I was determined to visit the famous ruin pub, the Trapéz Pub, as it had a great reputation and vegetarian options, but sadly, it was closed. The next best option would have to be Chili Bistro, whose FaceBook page says it’s a “pizza place – Mexican restaurant.” Because when in Budapest, don’t you always think of pizza and Mexican food in the same place?
My entertainment for this place was its staff with one server and her clearly underaged sister of about 10. Chili Bistro‘s menu is huge, but I did locate a Margarita and was ecstatic to drink something other than beer. That is until it took forever to come to the table and I learned that the server probably doesn’t make mixed drinks often or ever. But sitting outside and watching people go by while planning our next stop was fun, even if the drinks and food were well, different. At one point a young woman walked by wearing an Oreo bag and handing out samples. Tried as I might, I couldn’t get her to give me her bag. I guess I should be happy that she offered me a pack of cookies instead.
Sights seen along the way: Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok), Egyetemi Templom Catholic church
Address: Kalvin ter 5, Budapest, Hungary
From the very first time I saw the signage for Ördög Katlan Söröz?, I knew I had to go inside. Angels and devils, flames, red, black, and beer? Who wouldn’t want to go inside and see what was going on? The Devil’s Cauldron Pub has six types of draft beer, an outside terrace, as well as additional seating and flat screen TVs for watching games. Situated on the beautiful Károly krt., we had great views of passersby and all things Budapest.
Sights seen along the way: Dohány Street Synagogue, Andrassy Út (the Champs-Élysées of Budapest)
Ördög Katlan Söröz?
Address: Budapest, Károly krt. 13-15, 1075 Hungary
While we certainly didn’t go to all these bars in one day, walking around Budapest and then breaking up our sightseeing with a drink was both fun and relaxing. It also meant we had a chance to talk not only with each other, but people we met along the way for a less sight-specific focus and a more authentic overall experience. While some places were perfect as a one and done kind of place, others made you want to linger and experience more. I can honestly say I put my OCD to rest even if only for a bit to experience Budapest in a slightly different way and I’m so glad that I did. I highly recommend giving bar hopping as a way to go sightseeing on your next trip.
Have you ever used bar hopping to go sightseeing?