The regulation on alcohol consumption in public places is rather fuzzy in Budapest and in Hungary. Want to know where you are allowed to drink legally in the streets of Budapest? Keep reading.
Walking around Budapest, there’s a good chance you’ll see people drinking in the streets. They are the so-called “beer walkers” holding a can of beer wandering around at different points of the city. Then, there are those sitting on a bench in parks relaxing with a bottle of alcohol. Last but not least, there are the guys gathering right outside corner shops because they don’t like to drink alone.
This might lead tourists to draw the wrong conclusion, that is, that drinking alcohol in public places in Budapest is actually allowed, so why not open a bottle of beer or wine or just take a shot?
By shots, I mean spirits, and they are also called ‘feles’ (half) in Hungarian. All in all, you may rightfully believe that drinking alcohol in the streets of Budapest is okay. However, that is not true.
So, what is the truth – can we drink alcohol in the streets in Budapest?
Alcohol consumption in public places in the city is prohibited. The only exceptions are festivals and concerts. But no need to worry, cops won’t take you in just for drinking alcohol in public places unless you disturb others.
So far, so good. But why do so many break the rules by drinking under the open sky? Want to know in which part of the city you can drink legally? Continue reading and you’ll find out.
Regulations on alcohol consumption in the streets are rather confusing both in Hungary and in Budapest. We might as well say it is completely incoherent due to the fact that regulations vary from district to district.
There is no state decree; rather it is in the scope of the local government to decide on the appropriate retaliation for public drinking.
The one thing that applies everywhere is that drinks with an alcohol content of over 1.2% are considered alcoholic beverages.
It also follows from this chaotic situation that police officers are quite tolerant with public drinkers especially if they are caught breaking the law for the first time (since public drinking is officially considered breaking the law).
How far can you go? Where not to drink in the streets?
If you decide to open and consume a bottle of pálinka (fruit brandy) just outside the Parliament, there’s a good chance you’ll get a nice colorful bill with a 50,000 forint fine.
However, if you walk a bit further away to the bank of the Danube, you will most probably be left undisturbed. Even when do you get caught, you will be told that what you are doing is not allowed, and you will be asked politely to drink at home instead.
If you aren’t that lucky, you may be requested to hand over your ID and police officers will tell you this was your first warning and next time you won’t get away with it. Unfortunately, if it’s the next time and you are caught once again for drinking in public, you will most probably get a 5000-forint fine.
It’s probably not a good idea to walk around shouting or making a lot of noise while drinking either, as this may only increase the amount of fine you get. Public drinking being a violation of rules, police officers may fine you anywhere from 5000 to 50,000 forints. So, you don’t want to add fuel to the fire.
Go out or head to Buda Castle
Of course, this doesn’t mean that alcohol consumption is forbidden wherever you can enjoy a breath of fresh air – the situation is not that terrible.
For instance, if you are on holiday in a resort area, you can drink as much as you like. The same goes for beaches and – more importantly – public beaches. Római Part (Roman Coast) is also considered a resort. So, you can walk around with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer in your hand there.
If you decide to go hiking somewhere near Budapest, you can open a bottle of alcohol in the forest as the prohibition does not apply there either.
It may come as a surprise, but there is also a place in Budapest where you can drink alcohol without worrying, and that is the Buda Castle and its surroundings. Source.
District I may have decided on this regulation due to tourism. In any case, there you can drink whatever you want also while walking. All you have to pay attention to is the fact that alcohol consumption is prohibited in the five-meter area of the shops.
Checkings are typical in more frequented parts of the city, that is, in downtown areas or places such as Heroes’ Square. Public space maintenance officers will only warn you as they are not allowed to impose fines. Police officers however have every right to fine you.
I don’t want to encourage anyone to drink alcohol, but if you’re already drinking outside instead of at a catering unit or at home, try not to stand out. If you’re loud while drinking, you’re much more likely to get caught by the police than if you quietly have a glass of drink somewhere.
Where do tourists drink in Budapest?
There are frequented places in the city where drinking alcohol is prohibited in theory, however you can still do so as long as you do it in a civilized way.
These are generally places visited by lots of tourists including Margaret Island, Kopaszi-gát, City Park, Normafa, and Liberty Bridge. If you open a bottle of wine with a few friends or your partner, no one will bother you.
It is an unspoken rule to turn a blind eye to this activity. However, if you are loud and disturb others or do not behave properly when drinking, there is a great chance you will be punished for your actions.
If you are already in Budapest, it is worth visiting one of the famous ruin bars. The atmosphere is given, and the prices are acceptable. There is everything you need to have fun.
You can find useful information about ruin bars in this article.
Drinking alcohol in downtown Budapest – except for Buda Castle – is prohibited. However, if you do it in a civilized way and not in the busiest parts of the city, there is a good chance you won’t be disturbed.
You can only expect punishment at the first check if you are also loud while drinking or behave in a way that disturbs other people’s peace of mind.
It is completely understandable to chill out during holidays, and this also applies to consuming alcoholic beverages. There is no need to worry when opening a bottle of beer or having a glass of wine in Budapest, but it’s important to do it in a civilized way. Cheers!