The coffee houses of Budapest have a unique charm. Guests visiting the coffee shops here can admire the beautiful interiors that are deeply rooted in the city’s history, turning a simple coffee run into a rich cultural experience. Just one visit to a café around town will have you traveling back in time to the early 20th century, when Budapest was known as the city of cafés.
Alexandra Bookcafé, Budapest digitalcosmonaut.com
Before we get to the list of our favorite cafés, let’s look into the history of cafés in Budapest. Coffee culture was thriving in Budapest from around the early 1910’s until the beginning of the 1930’s. In this era the around 500 cafés were scattered around the city. They served as common meeting places of talented writers, poets and artists. Some of them spent most of the day in their favourite place, musing or writing at their regular tables. Ink and paper were free for them and they could eat the “writer’s menu” (bread, cheese and cold cuts) at discounted prices. Besides artists, ordinary people also popped in for a cup a coffee on Sunday afternoons. Coffee houses were a home to vivid cultural life. If you wanted to know the latest news and gossip in town, all you’d have to do was sit in one of these grand cafés. Unfortunately, most of them were destroyed during the world wars, and many others were closed by the communist regime. The leaders of the communist party considered the cafés as a center of underground organizations, so they closed the most popular coffee houses in Budapest in order to put an end to any conspiracy. But luckily, many once-impressive places have been restored to their original splendour to revive coffee culture in recent years.
And now, here is our list of seen-it-all classic Coffee Houses around town:
#5. Centrál Café – The first classic coffee house in town
1053 Budapest, Károlyi Mihály utca 9.
Centrál Café, Budapest centralcafe.hu
As one of the grandest of all historic Budapest coffee houses, the Central was not only a place for drinking coffee and nibbling cakes but also a meeting place for writers, poets, editors and artists. Located in downtown Budapest, the coffee house functioned as a focal point of urban social life where new ideas were discussed and dispersed. Many literary works were inspired and born here during the turn of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century.
#4. Ruszwurm – The oldest-family owned confectionery-café in Budapest
1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 7, Castle Hill
Ruszwurm, Budapest blogstar.hu
Opened in 1827, Ruszwurm is one of the oldest pastry shops in Budapest. Since it’s so small it’s often difficult to get a table here, but it still offers a great experience. The interior recalls the vibe of a 1920s living room, while cakes and pastries remind you that going on a diet is unhealthy for your soul. Outdoor seating is also available in this baroque coffee house, which has been operating since 1827.
#3. Alexandra Bookcafé, Lotz Hall – The Neo-Renaissance ballroom turned Café
1061 Budapest, Andrássy út 39
We couldn’t wish for a more authentic journey back in time to Budapest after the turn of the century. Alexandra Bookcafé is located on Andrássy Avenue, on the first floor of Budapest’s most elegant bookstore. The Lotz Hall (Lotz-Terem) was named after Karl Lotz who painted the murals inside the Alexandra Bookcafé, as well as those of the Budapest Opera, Hungarian Parliament, Hungarian National Museum, St. Stephens Basilica, the ceiling fresco in the Buda Castle, and many, many more.
#2. Café Gerbaud – One of the most famous cafés in Europe
1051 Budapest, Vörösmarty tér 7.
Café Gerbaud, Budapest travelnotesandbeyond.com
Standing in the heart of Budapest in the emblematic venue of Vörösmarty Square, Café Gerbaud has been operating since the middle of the 19th century. This café exudes tradition and style. The first thing that pops in most Hungarian’s mind about Gerbeaud is not coffee but the delicious homemade cakes. Its flagship is the delicious Gerbeaud cake, which is made of ground walnut and jam filling between layers of sponge covered with chocolate.
#1. New York Café – The most beautiful café in the world
1073 Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 9-11.
New York Café, Budapest funzine.hu
Out of the 500 coffee houses in Budapest, the New York Café was the most elegant and popular at the turn of the 20th century. Writers and poets formed the regular guests. Besides writers, actors, journalists, artist people who wanted to enjoy the bustling atmosphere also favoured the New York. The tables in New York Café witnessed creation of many important pieces of Hungarian literature. At the turn of the 20th century the New York Café (New York Kávéház) was the most beautiful and the most beloved coffee house in Budapest. It was a popular place among writers and editors, in fact, the most influential newspapers were edited here, upstairs in the gallery.
Did you know?
Budapest has been getting busy with its own specialty coffee scene. The Hungarians have long held a penchant for coffee with their traditional coffee houses but a new wave of hip downtown cafés have also popped up in town. Try any of My Little Melbourne, Tamp & Pull, Espresso Embassy for your flat white.
My Little Melbourne, Budapest vibu.hu