Located on the Buda side of the Danube, 101 Bistro is a new addition to Budapest’s growing group of hip Asian restaurants. It’s the type of place where ear-catching Japanese hip-hop drifts from the speakers and a sleek wood-paneled interior with small tables and low backless stools evoke the chic dining rooms of Tokyo.
Run by three Italian natives, 2 Spaghi is a small pasta shop in Budapest with an endearingly simple mission: serve fresh, made-to-order pasta dishes quickly and well. You're invited to pair a variety of pasta shapes (fusilli, bucatini, tagliatelle, etc.) with a rotating set of sauces. On any day, there might be cacio e pepe, carbonara, puttanesca, amatriciana, and aglio, olio e peperoncino listed on the blackboard. You can't go wrong with any of them and they each cost around €10. Of the stuffed pastas, the ravioli with spinach and ricotta is especially good. If you have some stomach space left, round out your meal with a light panna cotta topped with strawberry sauce (€2).
With panoramic vistas of Budapest, 360 is one the hottest rooftop bars in the city. Trendy locals peppered with tourists nibble on sliders and sip cocktails here, perched atop one of the tallest buildings along Andrássy Avenue, also known as Budapest's Champs-Élysées. From Thursday to Saturday, hip-hop and R&B ooze from the DJs booth. During the colder months, heated igloo structures prevent the winter from interfering with the year-round fun. The regular, open-air season usually begins on May 1st and runs through October. Advance booking is recommended.
In 2014, Lajos Bíró, a Hungarian celebrity chef, opened a fast casual lunch eatery inside the practically empty Hold Street Market. Fast forward to today, this historic downtown market has since transformed into a thriving food court where prominent local chefs operate low-key restaurants and the area swarms with people at lunchtime.
À la Maison Grand is a polished breakfast restaurant in the middle of Budapest's downtown, occupying the ground floor of a 1906 art nouveau building (take a glance at the striking glass mosaic perched atop the building). Chic, tourist-heavy crowds flock here for the breakfast-all-day and brunch offerings that include reliably prepared croque madame, eggs Florentine, waffles, and also zeitgesty things like acai bowl and avocado toast. The only letdowns are the the undersized and forlorn-looking English and Hungarian breakfast plates.
You’re here for both coffee and architecture: the building whose ground floor Aggys hides in was designed in 1904 by Otto Wagner, Austria’s most prominent architect. Originally built for a postal savings bank, it’s an important example of late-period Viennese Art Nouveau. Most striking is the glass vaulted interior hall where the cashiers used to be. Today, a silver La Marzocco machine anchors cashier #21 and stylish art students socialize in the former waiting area fitted with glass tile floors and carpets (the building is home to the University of Applied Arts since 2020). Exemplary repurposing of a historic space. Open weekdays only!
Everyday neighborhood residents and local office workers alike line up for homestyle Hungarian dishes at Akácfa Étkezde, a modest self-service eatery on a side street of Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. The eclectic decor features landscape paintings and pre-war living-room furnishings, while the sticky, checkered tablecloths are pure 1980s nostalgia.
Unhurried groups of elderly Arab regulars tend to socialize at Al-Amir, surely a good sign for a Syrian restaurant in downtown Budapest. Al-Amir marries a counter-service with a sit-down restaurant (most upscale is the downstairs section, usually taken up by hookah-smokers during the cold months; hookahs aren't allowed in the summer).
Al Dente is one of those under-the-radar neighborhood restaurants in Budapest you hope others won't find out about so as to keep it all to yourself. This osteria-type casual eatery within Budapest's charming Palace Quarter serves Italian classics and regional specialties from Puglia (the head chef is from Bari in southern Italy). The ever-changing daily meat, seafood, and vegetarian pastas are cooked simply and well. Of the Roman-style thin-crust pizzas, go for "Bomba," packing salami, mozzarella, and mushrooms, or the vegetarian "Casanova" with eggplant and gorgonzola. Desserts, however, aren't Al Dente's strong suit — you're better off skipping the unremarable tiramisu and panna cotta.
If you like Italian food and would like a break from the bustle of the city center, head over to Alessio. With densely carpeted floors and crammed tables, this charming neighborhood restaurant is tailored to the local residents of this elite Buda neighborhood. Little about the interior will evoke the Tuscan countryside, but the dishes can hold their own. Alessio’s claim to fame, the garlic shrimp (€11), is actually a Spanish classic (gambas al ajillo), arriving in a sizzling sauce of olive oil, chili, and garlic. It's impossible to stop eating (use the bread to mop up the rich leftover sauce to the last drop).
It’s easy to miss Altair, a cozy, below-ground teahouse on a sleepy side street in Budapest's Palace Quarter, but you shouldn't. Defying space limitations, they've squeezed in myriad tiny nooks and crannies that are separated from one another by curtains, pillows, and wooden beams. This faintly lit labyrinthine haunt is an ideal date spot, offering a bit of seclusion from the hustle and bustle of the city center just minutes away. Besides the almost 100 types of teas, including black, white, oolong, and green teas, Altair also has a selection of (hot) wines, beers, spirits, and hookahs (water pipes). Note that there's a no-shoes policy, so make sure your socks are on point.
Budapest's signature gay club, Alterego is a below-ground venue open only on Fridays and Saturdays and hiding in a quiet side street near the city center in District 6. Alterego's claim to fame is the midnight drag shows, available on both days, skillfully moderated by Lady Dömper, a fixture of the Budapest gay scene. The one-hour event features a stand-up, dance performances, and lip syncs by a number of drag queens.
In Budapest's Jewish Quarter it can feel as if pricey cold brews lurk behind every tourist-trafficked corner, but just a couple of blocks away, the Palace Quarter is still less infiltrated with specialty coffee shops (and tourists). One of the few of them is Apricot, a tiny café within the and estate-filled streets of District 8 — amble through Horánszky, Reviczky, and Ötpacsirta streets and the area behind the National Museum to appreciate the architecture.
If you’re looking to dip your toe into the varied cuisine of Georgia in Budapest, Aragvi, named after a Georgian river, is a good place to start. Georgian cuisine reflects Persian, Turkish, and Levantine influences, so brace yourself for a sea of herbs (parsley, coriander, tarragon, dill, mint), vegetables (eggplants, spinach, beets), walnut paste, and pomegranate seeds that somehow manage to be almost unfailingly tasty. Note that Aragvi is occasionally home to traditional Georgian supra festivities so don't be surprised if you find yourself in the middle of a lively dinner banquet celebration with copious amounts of food and alcohol. The restaurant is located in Buda, reachable from downtown Pest by public transport within 20 minutes.
Arán, which means "bread" in Old Irish, is a pricey craft bakery in Budapest's hip Jewish Quarter run by Kinga and Attila Pécsi. The couple spent a decade living in Ireland and it was there that Kinga mastered her baking skills. Arán lives up to its moniker: the whole wheat, rye, and white breads are all wonderful, imparting the signature, slightly sour taste of long-fermented sourdough. On Fridays, they also make kalács, a sweet roll similar to a challah.
Tucked away on a steep side street within the Castle Hill lies one of Budapest's most expensive, special-occasion restaurants: Arany Kaviár. As you'd expect from a place that specializes in high-priced caviars, the exquisite dining rooms, lined with maroon and golden tapestry and heavy drapes, exude an air of opulence. Apart from fish roe, they offer two tasting menus — a “Hungarian Fish” and a “Traditional” Russian — and plenty of chilled vodka and premium wines for pairing.
Specializing in sourdough breads and morning pastries, Artizán is one of the top craft bakeries in Budapest. Under the helm of Gergő Fekete, who honed his skills in countries across Western Europe, Artizán has brought a new level of professionalism to a city where dreary bakery chains and bland croissants are still the standard.
Known as the "Gerbeaud of Buda," Auguszt is an upscale pastry shop and a Budapest landmark. The family operation dates back to 1870 and is currently helmed by the fourth generation: seventy-year-old József Auguszt, donning a chef's hat, still mans the cashier on most days. Auguszt has been through thick and thin in the past 150 years — during the communist era, for example, the business was nationalized and the family deported to the Hungarian countryside. In 1957, they were granted a small space from which grew out the current premises.
Auguszt is a famous family-owned confectionery in Budapest dating back to 1870. Although their Buda location, which is run by a different part of the family, is considered to be the crown jewel, this one, on Kossuth Lajos Street, is more conveniently located for people in Pest. The inside is cozy and comfortable with plush banquettes, floor-to-ceiling windows, and nooks and crannies upstairs.
Auróra is a community center in the outer part of Budapest's District 8, an area with many low-income and minority residents. During the day, there are workshops and discussions on topics related to social justice and civic engagement (they're generally held in Hungarian, but most people will speak English). Come night-time, Auróra transforms into a lively bar and there's a small below-ground concert hall featuring Hungarian folk, jazz, and indie rock bands. The mixed crowd usually includes local artists, community organizers, students, and foreigners — it's a good place for thought-provoking discussions and to meet interesting people.
Part café, part restaurant, and part bar, BÉLA is a laid back, all-welcoming neighborhood joint located on the increasingly fashionable Bartók Béla Boulevard on the Buda side. The snug interior features terra cotta-colored walls, wooden floors, Persian carpets, and lots of greenery hanging from the high ceiling. There are plenty of nooks and crannies — look upstairs and in the back — meaning that BÉLA works well for dates nights, too. In fact, it works well for pretty much anything, which is why the place fills to capacity most evenings.
Babel is a Michelin-starred restaurant in the heart of Budapest's downtown offering a memorable fine dining experience. The hushed, dim, comfortably elegant dining room has only a dozen tables, all set with white linen. The oversized windows overlook the neighboring Gothic cathedral, bathed in soft light.
Babka is a Middle-Eastern restaurant in Budapest named after the Ashkenazi Jewish bready cake originating in Eastern Europe. Perhaps the restaurant's moniker is a hat-tip to the neighborhood, which is home to much of Budapest’s middle-class Jewish residents. The snug, dim interior complete with vintage furnishings and hardwood floors is very inviting.
Opened in 1951, Balla-Hús is one of the few remaining standalone butcher shops in downtown Budapest. Balla's business model has evolved over the decades: instead of raw meat, today they mainly serve low-priced breakfast and lunch dishes to a shrinking number of local residents (Airbnb, I'm looking at you). In the mornings, go for the scrambled eggs, which arrive sprinkled with crisped-up sausages and red paprika powder — expect an especially generous portion if the owner himself prepares it.
Located across the Danube canal in the up-and-coming Leopoldstadt (District 2), Balthasar is a true community coffee shop, drawing elderly locals who come here to read the paper, young families with baby strollers, and a young and chic crowd armed with MacBook Pros. The coffee is distinctly new-wave and deeply flavorful (espresso-based, batch brews, cold brews, handmade filters). The pastry offerings are more imaginative than elsewhere; the cheesecake is especially good.
Let’s get the awkward part out of the way: one of the co-owners of Bamba Marha fashions himself as Hungary's “burger pope,” a curiously narcissistic title, especially in a country where hamburgers don't run very deep. This shouldn’t necessarily deter you from visiting Bamba Marha, a small burger chain in Budapest, as their €5 cheeseburgers offer some of the best value for money in the city’s artisan burgerland: a nicely charred 130 gram / 4.6 ounce patty enclosed by a sesame bun and garnished with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onions, and a slathering of sauce.
If you're looking to immerse yourself in a deeply local, communist-era neighborhood bar that doubles as a breakfast joint, I can't think of a better place than Bambi Eszpresszó on the Buda side. What makes Bambi the real deal? It isn’t trying to show off an artificial (retro), unremembered past — it’s a genuine throwback.
Bangkok Étterem is one of Budapest's oldest Thai restaurants, occupying a below-ground space near the Grand Market Hall and the tourist-heavy Váci Street. Golden Buddha statues and fading celebrity photos line the walls — hello Matt Damon and Yoko Ono! — and lend an adorably dated feel to the inside. The food is a bit hit-or-miss. I've had disappointingly tired papaya salad (som tam; €7) but also bright and silky green curry (€7) here. A highlight is the whole roasted trout, served with a crispy skin and blanketed in a chili-laced sauce (€12). The stir-fried noodles feature the usual suspects: pad see ew, pad thai, drunken noodles, and pad woon sen (glass noodles).
Curious where the Viennese upper crust winds down? Head to the Campari Bar, tucked away in the city center amid Louis Vuitton, Hermés, and Prada stores. As its better known sister location around the corner, Zum Schwarzen Cameel, Campari Bar is a see-and-be-seen destination for the well-to-do. Lots of high heels, slicked-back hair, and champagne popping. The drinks menu is focused on Campari based cocktails, of which the Negroni Sbagliato – campari, vermouth, prosecco – is what the white-suited servers tend to deliver most of. The wine list leans Italian.
It’s not so easy to find specialty coffee on the Buda side so when the tiny Barako opened in 2014 it filled a gaping void in Buda’s craft coffee scene. This is thanks to Filipino owner Ryan Andres, who eschewed the tourist-heavy downtown areas, setting up shop here instead. He imports the Barako coffee beans — a variation of the rare Liberica species — from land he cultivates back in the Philippines.
Bartók is a chic restaurant and café on Bartók Béla Boulevard within the increasingly cool Újbuda neighborhood on the Buda side of the Danube. The interior fittings have a little bit of everything: exposed brick walls, Edison bulbs, subway tiles, rustic table tops, and steel I-beams. The breakfast dishes include eggs Benedict variations (€6), toasted sandwiches, scrambled eggs, and, best of all, a generously portioned goat cheese salad drizzled with walnuts and dried tomatoes (€8). Bartók serves breakfast until 11:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sundays. In the afternoons, the place transforms into a bar, with a selection of top Hungarian wines, draft beers, and a variety of dips and spreads. The crowd is mainly local and 30-plus.
Enter through a garage ramp to get to this tiny underground club with a subversive spirit in the heart of the party district. The atmosphere could be too much for some, but there's a soul to the space that's worth experiencing. The moment of truth here comes way after midnight, but you can build a buzz at the nearby Dzzs Bár or Kisüzem. Walls are covered by funky posters, but you'll likely be too preoccupied to notice as you thrust your way through the throng to get to the bar upstairs. Outside too, there is a lively crowd. Mostly alternative pop/indie beats come from the DJ booth and live bands playing here. Open Thursday to Saturday only!
"A field of dreams, a landscape of braised, and fried, and cured delights," said the late Anthony Bourdain of Belvárosi Disznótoros after his visit in 2015. This wallet-friendly self-service sausage shop in Budapest's downtown does serve a dizzying array of ready-made and to-be-prepared traditional meat dishes. Think paprika and blood sausage, grilled pork chop, wild boar stew, and schnitzel. I usually go for a simple and delicious snappy sausage with a side of mustard and a slice of bread (there's no seating, only high-top tables and standing counters).
Bestia is a buzzing restaurant in the heart of Budapest specializing in pricey grilled meats. With a picture-postcard view of the St. Stephen’s Basilica, an edgy industrial chic decor, and loud music blasting through the speakers, it has quickly become a favorite among trendy tourists and locals alike. If you’re feeling adventurous, start your meal with the roasted bone marrow and toast: silky, jiggly white stuff arriving inside two massive slabs of veal shanks. Scoop out the rich fat and spread it on the whole wheat toast (€10).
For a deeply local experience, trek out to Big Daddy Burger in the south of Budapest, located a half-hour away from downtown by bus. Flanked by drab communist-era high-rises lies this flimsy wooden shack, painted in red, white and blue. The kitschy 'Merican decor — I'm not sure whether it's meant ironically — features plenty of tchotchkes and decorative license plates from states like Texas, Florida, and Missouri.
Coffee, contemporary Hungarian artworks, and a friendly proprietor are the attractions of this adorable designer store nestled in a quiet street behind Budapest's National Museum in District 8. One gets the impression that this store isn't purely run for business reasons and that Bisztrónyúl is at least as much a community hangout as a commercial enterprise.
Biwako fashions itself as a ramen house, but I find their non-ramen Japanese dishes to be their strongest suit: the donburi, the okonomiyaki, and the takoyaki. The restaurant is strategically located across the street from The Japan Foundation in Budapest's District 6, inside a plain, modest below-ground space.
Even among the numerous speakeasy-themed cocktail dens in Budapest, Black Swan tops the list for being the darkest and most exclusive. It’s one of those uppity places where heavy red drapes block the view from outside and whose private room draws the local elite — if you enjoy an upscale experience, it will be right up your alley.
Never mind the uncanny resemblance to Blue Bottle Coffee, the pioneering California-based coffee company, Blue Bird is a Hungarian coffee roaster and specialty coffee shop inside Budapest's tourist-heavy Jewish Quarter. Before you enter, take a peek at the impressive synagogue soaring on the opposite side of the street, designed in 1872 by the famous Austrian architect, Otto Wagner.
Curious about the top restaurants on the less traveled side of the Danube? Visit Bobo in Rózsadomb, an exclusive residential area but reachable within ten minutes from Pest. The restaurant's stated mission is to draw Budapest's Bobos (a term made popular David Brook's book, "Bobos in Paradise"), referring to people who harbor both bourgeois and bohemian sentiments. The restaurant is inside a beautifully refurbished 1885 estate, once the playground of the Hungarian aristocracy. The slightly formal vibes and steep price points — mains range €12-16 — put Bobo a step above Budapest's chic bistros, but it’s also more casual than hushed fine dining venues.
In 2004, Bock Bisztró was one of the first Budapest restaurants to give new meaning to Hungarian food following the decades-long decline during the communist era. Owner and executive chef Lajos Bíró showed that contemporary cooking techniques, top ingredients, and a little boldness can jolt the local favorites into the 21st century. That crunchy bits of celery root add welcome freshness to the goulash soup; that paprikash can be wonderful when enclosed in a delicate pastry crust; that a beautifully plated lecsó tastes better than one served carelessly.
Bölcső may not have the deepest craft beer selections in Budapest, nor does it sling In-N-Out-level Double-Doubles, but the combination of above-average beers and burgers makes this lively neighborhood joint a worthy destination. Once here, you'll also get to experience a charming Buda neighborhood on the less-traveled side of the city. Being in Buda means that the patrons are mainly locals, especially thirty-plus millennials with a taste for craft beers.
Unlike its competitors, Borkonyha, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Budapest's downtown, doesn't put special emphasis on the traditions of Hungarian food — the dishes here wouldn't seem out of place in fine dining restaurants around the world. Instead, Borkonyha's secret lies in its technical expertise: they serve up colorful, visually impressive plates that verge on the artistic. What does lend a local angle are the more than 200 types of Hungarian wines skillfully selected by Wine Director Krisztián Juhász.
Borpatika (“Wine pharmacy”) is a low-priced neighborhood watering hole in Újbuda on the Buda side. Not much has changed here since the place opened in 1986, which is part of the charm. Customers are a blend of students from the nearby Budapest University of Technology and downtrodden neighborhood regulars who come here for spirit-lifting liquors and friendly banter. Apart from the all-welcoming atmosphere, it's the array of food options that draw people to Borpatika: sandwiches, meatballs, and delicious, freshly made pogácsa (savory biscuits) are stacked behind the glass case. Descend to the lower level to find some seating.
This butcher shop (hentes) next to the entrance of the Bosnyák Market is hardly the best sausage vendor in Budapest, but if a truly, deeply local experience is what you’re after, I can’t think of a better place. You'll need to trek out to Zugló, a residential neighborhood a bit outside the city center, but think of it as part of the experience. Come here on a Saturday morning, when the farmers' market is bursting with locals and fresh produce.
Hiding on a side street near the city center, Boutiq Bar is an upscale cocktail bar that pioneered Budapest's craft cocktail movement under the helm of energetic owner Zoltán Nagy. Maroon-colored walls and dim lighting project speakeasy vibes into the snug, two-story space. Each bartender has to go through a rigorous training process before being permitted behind the bar; they serve the drinks with a laser-like focus and a bit of theatrics.
Along with American football and speakeasy-themed bars, another quintessentially American export is gaining ground in Budapest: barbecued meat. Don’t yet go searching for regional barbecue restaurants specialized in Carolina- or Memphis-style, but Budapest’s fledgling smoked meat scene stepped it up a notch when Bp BARbq opened in 2016 in the city's trendy Jewish Quarter.
Little inside this tiny specialty cafe lining the main street of District 6 (Mariahilf) will remind you of Vienna: Edison light bulbs hang from the ceiling and the short menu features things like avocado toast and cupcakes. But if you’ve tired of the city’s classic cafés, their formal waiters, their flavorless espressos, then Brass Monkey can feel refreshingly welcome.
Brody Studios is a members-only bar and club in Budapest run by two Englishmen and favored by the city's expat community. From the outside, Brody, which is located a bit outside the city center in a sleepy part of District 6, looks like just another neglected pre-war building, in need of a serious refurbishment. But the inside is a different story: every inch of the three-story space has been meticulously designed and it's rare to see a hip and edgy contemporary interior mix so well with fading grandeur.
Budapest Baristas is a small specialty café and breakfast restaurant in downtown. They serve seven kinds of bagels (yes, the boiled-and-baked version but they aren't made in-house), including one with a classic smoked salmon topping. While they're tasty, keep in mind that Budapest is no bagel capital like Montreal or New York. There's also other on-trend international breakfast foods like pancakes, granola bowls, and eggs Benedict. Portions are on the small side — most people can easily handle two plates.
Buja Disznó(k) is a food stall on the upper deck of the historic Hold Street Market in downtown Budapest. Over the past few years, this market has transformed into a gourmet food court, where local celebrity chefs operate fast casual restaurants. The culinary mission of Buja Disznó(k) is simple enough: serve delicious, made-to-order pork schnitzels. Hungarians have grown so fond of this breaded cutlet, which originates in northern Italy, not Austria, that schnitzels have become nothing less than a national dish alongside the goulash soup and the chicken paprikash.
Located in the heart of District 7, Bukowski is a grungy and unpretentious bar popular among young Viennese students. Oversized prints of pop legends adorn the walls, those of Charles Bukowski of course, but also MLK, Che Guevara, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. Naturally, cheap booze is the focus here, mainly beer and wine spritzers, but cider fans won’t be disappointed either (apple! pear! strawberry!). Open until 6 a.m., every day.
Opened in 2012, Butter Brothers has been putting out sourdough breads and expertly made croissants for longer than most Budapest bakeries. Today, you can still get a tasty whole wheat bread or kakaós csiga (chocolate roll) here, but not all of the pastries stand up to the ambitious new bakeries around town.
Byblos is an elegant Middle Eastern restaurant tucked away on a quite side street just minutes from the heart of downtown Budapest. Syrian natives Osama and Mohamad Kutaini, brothers who previously worked at a nearby five star hotel restaurant, oversee the operations. The extensive menu features cold and hot mezze, salads, grilled meats, desserts, and there's also water pipes for hookah fans on the upstairs level (Byblos does serve alcohol, too).
Yppenplatz is best known for the long row of Turkish and Middle Eastern produce vendors lining Brunnengasse, but this is also a gentrifying neighborhood with many artistically minded young alternative people and places catering to them. Cafe Ando, right on Yppenplatz, is one of those, serving a wide range of uncomplicated breakfast foods, many of them vegetarian, well into the afternoon. Ando doesn't try to be the hottest ticket in town, but it's a laid-back, welcoming place with a big terrace, which is perfect for lingering and taking in the scenery.
Cafe Anno is a longstanding drinking joint along Vienna’s Lerchenfelder Straße. Despite its location between between bougie District 7 and upscale District 8, this is a dive bar of the best kind. Low lights, wooden floors, maroon walls covered in posters, alternative intellectuals with beers in hand, weekly literary events. It’s easy to love this place. The soft background music leans ‘80s rock: Nancy Sinatra, Chris Isaac, Patti Smith, and more. Fans of foosball and darts can appropriate the designated side room.
Scan the bespectacled and stylishly dressed middle-aged crowd at Anzengruber, and you’ll not be surprised that established creatives and artists like to wind down at this historical cafe off Naschmarkt in the gallery district of District 4. Historically, this was the hangout of Vienna’s Croatian community, and Anzengruber still draws Slavic speakers, especially when soccer plays on the big screen. Today, Anzengruber is more of a restaurant and a bar than a cafe (opens at 4 p.m) and shows its best self in the evenings. Food, coffee, and service are all above-average.
One of the most idiosyncratic bars of Vienna, Bendl is a lively student hangout near the City Hall (Rathaus). I haven’t been able to ascertain why so many of the young clientele sport a suit and a tie, but it surely makes for a merry sight under the yellowed walls covered in worn wall panels. As the night unfolds, the energy level rises, beer coasters fly (keep the tradition alive and join the coaster battle!), and Austrian evergreens stream from the jukebox. €1 will buy you not one, but three songs. Cleanliness doesn't seem to be a priority here, but Bendl makes up for it in good spirit and character.
Comet is a new-wave café in Vienna’s District 6, the fashionable Neubau. Instead of the Scandinavian-inspired design signifiers common with such places, Comet is more relaxed, with an effortless mishmash of artworks and furniture filling the high-ceilinged interior. Accordingly, the crowd tends to be a bit alternative and cerebral (philosophy students from the University of Vienna congregate here). Comet is the official shop of Fürth, one of Austria’s leading coffee roasteries. Options span espresso-based drinks, cold brews, batch brews, Chemex, and AeroPress. Also here: croissants, brownies, and cookies. Laptops are welcome, but only at the designated communal table.
Opened in 1924, Dommayer is a neighborhood institution in Hietzing, within walking distance of the Schönbrunn Palace. Don’t let the crystal chandeliers and suit-and-tie wearing waiters intimidate you, this place is less pretentious than it looks. The crowd consists of elderly citizens from the nearby residential neighborhood of District 13 who wind down here with the paper, an apple strudel, or a chocolate mousse, and well-informed visitors recharging their batteries after a Schönbrunn visit. Dommayer is owned by Oberlaa, an upscale pastry chain, which means that tortes and confections are on point. Try to sit by the oversized windows and take in the scenes both inside and out.
Drawing politicians from the nearby City Hall (Rathaus) and journalists who cover them, Eiles is a historic cafe in District 8. Despite the size of the place, which opened in 1840, there are many snug booths coated in plush red upholstery and ringing small marble-topped tables. Pick one with a view, tuck yourself in, order a cake from the glass display upfront, and observe the scenery. Prices are on the higher end, the food is just average, but you're here for the vibes.
This secluded downtown café doesn’t want to draw attention to itself but it’s a true-to-Vienna establishment. Journalists, actors, businesspeople, well-heeled elderly couples, and even teenage lovebirds come to Cafe Engländer, which is known for its above-average kitchen (schnitzel, fried chicken salad, Carinthian cheese dumplings) and kind, longtime servers. The interior is simple and elegant and there’s something distinctly civilized and bourgeoisie – in the best sense of the word – about this place. The evenings tend to be most lively.
Compared with its self-consciously edgy neighbor, Liebling, Europa is a relaxed and mainstream bar and an institution in District 7. Clean-shaven guys in button–downs, mustache-and-beanie-wearing hipsters, and everyone in between appear here (please make the sartorial equivalent for women customers, too). Europa is big and popular and if you need a bar in Vienna that will deliver any day of the week, this is it.
Located away from the city center, near Augarten, Frame is a true neighborhood bar if there ever was one. The cheap midcentury interior – faux leather upholstery, formica tables – doesn’t seem to bother the mixed group of customers, almost all of whom are recurring faces. Some lean against the counter with paper in hand for hours on end, others play board games in the back, and yet others chat away animatedly with occasional interjections from other guests. Soups and sausages are available to mop up the alcohol. Cash only.
Gerbeaud is a historic pastry shop and café in Budapest's downtown inside a gleaming white building lavishly decorated with crystal chandeliers, marble-topped tables, and cherrywood paneling. It was Swiss-Hungarian patissier Emil Gerbeaud, who, after taking over the business in 1884, revolutionized the Hungarian confectionery industry with inventive sweets and pastries. Café Gerbeaud has always been known as a see-and-be-seen hangout for Budapest's upper crust. Even when it was nationalized during the communist era it maintained an air of splendor.
Habakuk is where hip and alternative Viennese Millennials from District 6 go to drink. At its core, Habakuk is an unfussy dive bar, but it’s a lot more cozy and intimate than that. The main room is dark and lined with small tables and a cushy banquette. Perfect for a date night. As it should, the music gets increasingly better and louder as the night progresses.
Owners Leopold and Josefine Hawelka turned this dim and cozy downtown cafe off the Graben into a legendary bohemian hangout whose golden period was from the 1950s to the 1970s. Then, Viennese painters, architects, and writers sat around the marble-topped tables amid a thick haze of cigarette smoke. Today, the inside is still unquestionably cool: creaking wooden floors; museum posters and playful drawings on the walls; a well-earned patina anywhere you look. But Hawelka is primarily a tourist destination with little of its native spirit still palpable. If you decide to come, show up shortly after 4 p.m. when the freshly made yeast buns – Buchteln – filled with plum jam are served (they run out of them quickly). Prices, as you can expect, are inflated.
If you think only rich people live in Vienna’s District 8 (Josefstadt), spend a couple of hours at Cafe Hummel sitting at the bar counter. The unobstructed views will reveal a motley group: far from furs and glitz, opinionated pensioners, college students, and regular middle-classers fill the enormous space of this neighborhood institution anchoring Josefstädter Straße. Since 1937, the Hummel family has been in charge; the current owner, Christina Hummel, is half-Hungarian, perhaps the reason that the goulash soup is the specialty of the house. Cafe Hummel is open every day of the year.
Jelinek is an especially cozy neighborhood café off Mariahilfer Straße in District 6. The high-ceilinged establishment opened in 1910 and the deeply weathered interior is proof that little has changed here in the past century. In fact, there’s an ornate fireplace at the center of the space into which customers occasionally toss a few logs to keep the flames alive in the cold months.
“Vienna is boring,” is something I often hear from Budapest friends. All the prosperity leaves little room for a bit of irreverence, they say. Too much melange, too little espresso, if you will. I like to point them to Cafe Kafka to prove this isn’t so. Opened in 2001, this edgy, alternative bar draws many art students who would seamlessly blend into Budapest’s bohemian scene (ironically, Kafka is just steps away from Mariahilfer Straße, the main shopping street). No matter whether you come here at 11 am or 11 pm, it’s filled to capacity.
Café Kör makes you feel like you've traveled back in time to pre-war Budapest: This snug downtown restaurant is fitted with bentwood Thonet chairs, a carpeted floor, tightly cramped tables, while the kind waitstaff is donning a formal garb. In a city that increasingly prizes international food above its own, Café Kör is a Budapest essential, serving unadulterated, classic Hungarian dishes without twists or updates.
A 1960s remodeling left its mark on Cafe Korb, a historical cafe in the city center complete with linoleum floors and plastic-topped tables (the futuristic but impractical bathroom merits a visit to the below-ground level). There’s something inviting about the cluttered space which draws many locals alongside tourists who stumble in here. The prices reflect the downtown premium, but the food is very tasty – order the rich goulash soup when in doubt. There’s a charming outdoor area for the summer months, and a below-ground hall with live music concerts.
High-flying businesspeople, local aristocrats, influential politicians, and selfie-stick-carrying tourists share this upscale Viennese coffeeshop across from the City Hall (Rathaus) and beside the Burgtheater. The most striking feature of the inside is the dark wood paneling with inlaid motifs, but I prefer the winterized terrace which provides panoramic views of its Ringstrasse surroundings. Landtmann is a see-and-be-seen destination and among the priciest and most elegant cafes in the city (there’s coat service, so people don’t hang their garbs on the chair). The current owner, the Querfeld family, is in charge of other historic cafes too, such as the Museum and the Mozart.
One of the hidden gems of Mariahilf (District 6), Cafe Monic is an updated dive bar, one that makes no attempt to bring attention to itself. While the outside of the building is covered in graffiti, the inside is dim and cozy with plenty of nooks and crannies. It’s the kind of bar where neither a Campari soda, nor the house lager feels out of place. The crowd consists of alternative-leaning locals in their twenties and thirties who come here for date nights and weekday drinks. Open until 4 a.m. every day.
When you enter this historic café near Vienna’s Opera House, you’ll be accosted by a mouthwatering display of pastries and tortes behind the glass display. Apple and cottage cheese strudels, Esterhazy torte, Cardinal slice, whipped-cream-filled rolls (Schaumroll). If you’re like me, they’ll lure into one of the 1930s-inspired crescent-shaped plush red banquettes. You’ll sit alongside local Viennese who camp out here under the silver globe lighting fixtures and do their reading or socializing with a cup of coffee or a glass of Zweigelt. Note: prices are steep, and the weekends overrun by tourists.
Even in a city known for its spacious cafés, Prückel wins the number one prize. Fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows and giant mirror panels, this enormous venue along the Ringstrasse owes its inviting midcentury interior to a 1955 refurbishment by architect Oswald Haerdtl (the back section has regained its original Art Nouveau details, but I prefer the front).
If you need to give your feet or your wallet a break from Mariahilfer Straẞe, Vienna’s main shopping street, your savior is Café Ritter. It’s the last remaining coffeehouse on this very long stretch of commerce and far better than your number two option, a generic Starbucks. Ritter delivers a true Viennese cafe experience, almost to the point of being a caricature of itself: stuccoed ceilings, hanging chandeliers, wood paneling, grumpy waiters in bow ties, bland dark-roasted coffee (the neon sign and the pastry counter are additions from the 1950s). Patrons are a mix of neighborhood residents and shoppers.
No matter whether you come here at midday or at 11 pm, Rüdigerhof delivers an authentic cafe experience. This historical Viennese cafe, about a half-hour walk from the city center, inhabits the ground floor of a beautiful Art Nouveau building, Rüdigerhof, designed in 1904 by Oskar Marmorek, a pupil of Otto Wagner. There’s a lively and blithe energy here, as evidenced by T-shirted waiters and alternative-leaning regulars, some in their twenties, some in their sixties, some in-between (many cabaret artists and actors). In the warm months, the action shifts to the spacious outdoor terrace which overlooks the slender Vienna River.
I can’t decide for you whether you should visit Cafe Sacher, Vienna’s main tourist destination known for its namesake chocolate sponge cake layered with apricot jam, but I will lay out the facts. The story is well-known: pastry maker Franz Sacher invented the recipe for Austria's all-powerful Chancellor Prince Metternich in 1832. Later, his commercially-savvy son, Eduard opened the Hotel Sacher and cashed in on the name.
If a classic Viennese coffeehouse and a contemporary cafe had an offspring, it would look like Café Schopenhauer. High ceilings, oversized windows, marble-topped tables, creaking floors, yes, but also a sleek concrete counter, casually dressed waiters, a menu of updated classics, and tables laid out with trending books for sale. A fashionable crowd, mainly Millennials, flocks here from the neighborhood, which is near Währing in the well-heeled District 18. Why Schopenhauer? The reason is disappointingly prosaic: the cafe is located right by Schopenhauerstraße.
Opened in 1880, Sperl is one of the nicest cafes in Vienna, one that regained its original look after a thorough restoration a few decades ago. Sperl was known as the hangout of the Viennese Secession artists, whose home base, that strange white building with a golden dome, is just a few blocks away (paper and painting supplies were always within arm’s reach to ensure that Sperl’s marble tables remained free of creative inspirations). The right-hand side of the space is anchored by pool tables, the left is for coffee and socializing. Today, Sperl is a bit of a tourist spot, but not distractingly so. Across the street from here is phil, a new-wave cafe and bookstore, so you can sample both sides of Vienna.
If you are unwilling to wait out the line outside Café Sacher, located around the corner, slip in to Tirolerhof instead. Sure, the interior here is more austere, but today this is a more true-to-Vienna cafe than Sacher. Here, you can still find elderly aristocrats munching on their apple strudels; fur-wearing ladies absorbed by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung; adorably old-school and unpretentious waiters. Also: Thonet chairs, Wiener Werkstätte upholstery, and excellent and not overpriced Viennese classics and pastries.
Weidinger is a very special cafe in Vienna, but – warning! – it may not be for everyone. It’s located along the Gürtel in District 16, well away from downtown and its tourist and bourgeois-heavy crowds. Some decades ago, the brown walls had to have been yellow, the gray upholstery blue, the formica tables unblemished. Here, you’ll be with regular Viennese: mid-level office workers, community organizers, foreign workers, daydreamers, students. Also: card, pool, and bowling players in the evenings (the bowling alley is below-ground). Low price points and an all-inviting atmosphere is what brings together this eclectic group. Apart from alcohol and surprisingly good coffe, there are a few basic dishes – goulash soup, scrambled eggs, pastries. No wifi, of course.
Zsivágó is an adorable café and bar nestled on a quiet side street in District 6, under the radar of most people even though it's just a short block from the high-end boutiques of Andrássy Avenue — every time I'm here, I feel a sense of discovery. The snug interior features antique furnishings, maroon and white floral wallpapers, dense carpeting, and small, round tables. In the afternoons, freelancers tend to camp out with their laptops; come evening, a local crowd shows up and spirited chatter fills the high-ceilinged room. Plenty of nooks and crannies, both on the ground floor and upstairs, make Zsivágó an ideal date spot. Besides wine, beer, and tea, there's also hot chocolate, and Polish pierogies (€1).
Coolness is the main appeal of Café in der Burggasse 24, a sizable breakfast restaurant hiding in Vienna's bougie District 7. The predictable breakfast dishes are solid, the coffee just average, but there’s a bit of a scene here, especially in the eclectically furnished back room filled by local twentysomethings typing away on their MacBooks. The firelogs turn out to be more than decorative: one of the hipster servers will occasionally throw a couple of pieces into the corner fireplace that provides warmth and charm in the winter months. (The main space, anchored by a giant sofa, connects to the designer clothing store next door.)
Caffe Gian Mario is a family-owned restaurant in Budapest run by Italian natives. A charming man in his 70s, wearing a finely cut wool jacket and a smile hinting of a life well lived, is usually in charge of greeting and seating guests. The service staff, most of whom are also Italians, scurry around and shout half-uttered words to one another over the cramped tables. Despite the seeming chaos, the food arrives quickly.
Opened in 2011 with in-house roasting, Casa was a pioneer of new-wave coffee in Vienna. A sense of professionalism pervades the premises: you order, the beans are carefully measured, ground, brewed, and the coffee elegantly presented. There are few seats here – not an ideal place to work from – but the counter behind the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the elegant Servitengasse is the coveted spot. Casa has three locations across town; this one is the original and the nicest.
Caffe vom See is a small and inviting specialty cafe located in a side street off Naschmarkt in District 4. The owner, who also manages a hotel and a cafe roastery at Lake Millstatt in Carinthia, aims for a style that delivers the heft of Italian-style espressos with the finesse of Austrian coffee traditions (filter coffee isn’t even served). Try to snag one of the two comfortable plush chairs by the windows and give it a try. Price points are the lowest within specialty coffee in Vienna. Laptops are welcome, wifi available.
Thanks to the sizable Vietnamese community in Budapest and their many restaurants, local Hungarians have come to learn and love Vietnamese food over the past two decades. Caphé, a chic specialty café and breakfast restaurant along the fashionable Bartók Béla Boulevard, is the latest project of a successful Vietnamese restaurateur family in charge of Hai Nam Pho Bistro.
Furnished with predictable specialty-cafe decor – Eames plastic side chairs, subway tiles – and exuding little charm, there’s nothing especially unique about Carl Ludwig Cafe, but it’s one of the outlets for excellent coffee near Karlsplatz in District 4. The highlight is the outdoor terrace, overlooking the peaceful and green interior courtyard of a historical building. Students from the nearby University of Technology make up most customers. Lingering is welcome, wifi available.
Managed by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Carmel is one of Budapest’s few glatt kosher meat restaurants. During the meal a mashgiach — an official supervising rabbi — is present at all times to ensure that Carmel adheres to kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws. As is the case with Hanna, the other meat restaurant around the corner from here, Carmel gets liveliest for the Shabbat meals, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch. Here too, guests must prepay the meals, which costs €35 per person.
Central is one of the few remaining coffeehouses dating back to Budapest’s golden era, before WWI. At the time, the city was swarming with cafés like Central that stayed open around the clock and attracted artists who've spent endless caffeine-fueled hours working and socializing under the sky-high ceilings. Today, one of Central's walls is blanketed in framed photos of prominent writers, poets, and editors who were once regulars.
The Buda side of the city has begun to catch up to Pest when it comes to having chic, new-wave breakfast joints. New wave? The kinds of places that cater to global tastes with dishes that wouldn’t seem out of place anywhere from Sydney to San Francisco: avocado toast, eggs Benedict, omelet, pancake, granola bowl, you name it. There’s nothing memorable about Cinnamon’s all-day breakfast dishes, but they’re perfectly satisfying. Of the breakfast pastries, I chose the cinnamon-dusted donut and it delivered: a thin layer of sugar-cinnamon coating yielded to a soft inside lined with apple custard (€2).
Cintányéros isn’t so much a posh wine bar as a charming neighborhood wine tavern — the type of place where local residents gather for banter and wallet-friendly house wine. The place is situated inside the once-seedy outer District 8, which is currently undergoing a large-scale real estate development perfectly symbolized by Nokia’s gleaming headquarters towering over the neighborhood.
Located right across the University of Vienna in District 9, CoffeePirates is a lively hub of chic students from the campus. Opened in 2012, Pirates was among the first specialty cafes and roasteries in the city and it’s still going so strong that finding a seat at this spacious and high-volume operation can be a challenge. If the baristas show you a bit of an attitude, rest assured knowing you’re not alone. Lingering is welcome, wifi available, prices a little steep.
Costes Downtown is a 2015 offshoot of Costes, the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Budapest. Downtown is a slightly more casual version of its sister location: instead of a classic fine dining decor, here a sleek, modern design sets the tone with an open kitchen and wooden tables stripped of tablecloths. The restaurant, which has had its own Michelin star since 2016, occupies the ground floor of the posh Prestige Hotel, meaning that the dining area closest to the lobby can feel like a hotel restaurant so try asking for a table in the main hall.
In 2010, Costes Ráday was the first restaurant in Hungary to earn a Michelin star and the establishment still carries a special cachet. The exquisite six-course tasting menu of head-chef Levente Koppány is inspired from near and far and includes a couple of memorable dishes. One of them is the slices of celery root molded in the shape of a ravioli and filled with a flavorful spread of stracciatella cheese and smoked eggplant. Each crunchy bite calls for another. Also delicious is the bite of beef tongue with a flavor-rich side of sliced pear, creamy parnsip, and hazelnuts with a savory Hungarian kadarka (if you opt in for the wine pairing), and the tender venison loin with earthy beets.
Csendes Társ is an adorable outdoor-only café by Károlyi-kert, a spotless park in downtown Budapest known for its colorful flower beds and manicured lawns. The place is an unlikely island of peace and calm within the hustle and bustle of the city. I like to come here for a late breakfast (they open at 10 a.m.), or for drinks in the evening when the neighborhood has quieted down and colorful lanterns provide soft lighting.
Csendes is a popular ruin bar in downtown Budapest tucked away on a quiet backstreet. Unlike some other ruin bars with party vibes, Csendes is a mellower, sit-down venue best for conversations. This high-ceilinged space used to be a grand coffeehouse during the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which makes the current ruin bar decor — featuring a mishmash of furniture including creepy dolls hanging upside down from the walls — all the more bizarre.
Open since 1992, Csirke Csibész is an iconic chicken sandwich shop in Budapest's District 6. As with pizza joints, good poultry vendors tend to be democratic establishments, bringing together people from all walks of life. This is also true for Csirke Csibész, where construction workers and office employees alike line up for the flavorful fried and roasted birds here at lunchtime.
When I'd like to impress my friends that Budapest has restaurants as hip as those in New York's East Village, I take them out to DOBRUMBA. With a chic crowd, effortlessly cool design, and a Middle Eastern menu, DOBRUMBA is a wildly popular place inside Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter. It's especially enjoyable in the warmer months when the oversized windows swing open and the ear-catching electronic music wafts into the street.
Most Japanese restaurants in Budapest specialize in sushi even though local Hungarian tastes and wallets are more compatible with everyday Japanese dishes. Perhaps this is what the Tomokis, a young couple from Tokyo, had in mind when in 2018 they opened DON DOKO DON, Budapest’s first donburi restaurant near the city center. It's a small, counter-service space with a few tables upstairs.
Da Mario is a pricey modern Italian restaurant in Budapest, set on a precious piece of downtown real estate between the Hungarian Parliament building and Liberty Square, with views onto both from its outdoor terrace. Instead of a trattoria vibe, the polished, high-ceilinged space features sleek leather banquettes and dark furnishings. Being within the city's financial and government district, business meals here are more typical than date nights.
There's near consensus within the local Chinese community that Dabao Jiaozi is the place to head to for home-style dumplings in Budapest — quite a statement in a city where more than 30,000 Chinese people live. Dabao makes Shandong-style dumplings, which means that the wrappers are a bit thicker and chewier. There's only two versions; both with a base filling of ground pork and shrimp, with one of them packing napa cabbage, the other shredded Chinese chives. I'm slightly in favor of the chive-version, but there isn't much of a flavor difference and they're both very good.
Dang Muoi is a small family-owned Vietnamese restaurant chain with three locations across Budapest. My favorite one lines the car-saturated Attila út in Buda (with little foot traffic, it's not exactly a restaurateur's dream location). Don't expect on-trend mid-century furnishings or a hip ambiance — it's the food that takes center stage here.
Daohuaxiang restaurant fuses two contemporary Chinese food trends: spicy food and hot potting. The restaurant draws inspiration from the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, known as the birthplace of spicy hotpot, the communal cooking experience where people sit around a boiling broth and cook for themselves an array of meats and vegetables. Daohuaxiang is a 10-minute cab ride away from Budapest's city center, located on the ground floor of an drab, oversized dining room.
Iranian residents in Budapest would tell you that among the half a dozen options, Darband is the city's top Persian restaurant. The nondescript entrance and the modest below-ground space belie some of the wonderful dishes that come out of the restaurant's kitchen, whose head chef is an Iranian native.
Founded in 1786, Demel pastry shop is a legendary institution in Vienna, located near the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) to which it was an official purveyor during the glory days of the Empire. The Baroque Revival interior, the crystal chandeliers, the apron-wearing servers are as much a travel back in time as the experience of waiting out the line outside with fellow tourists is not. Today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the Viennese upper crust here, but the pastries are still delicious (Kaiserschmarrn! Sacher torte! Apple strudel!). And of course expensive.
Curious where the top one percent of Buda residents hang out? Wonder no more. The owners of Déryné Bistro were ahead of the curve when in 2007 they opened this chic restaurant featuring a Balthazar-like interior as if straight out of the Keith McNally playbook. Back then, few places in Budapest offered this brand of casually hip but classy vibes. Déryné has managed to remain popular through all these years, even as comparable restaurants have sprouted up on the other side of the Danube with lower price points.
In addition to the longstanding pastry shops, there's an increasing number of new-wave confectioneries across Budapest. One of the pioneers is Desszert.Neked, ocuppying a spacious, distinctly modern space on a quite backstreet near downtown. Here too, you'll find many of the classics — Dobos torte, Rákóczi túrós, isler — but they feature small twists and updates and beautiful craftsmanship. I can also recommend "Royal," a layered cake packing an intensely chocolatey flavor, and Mademoiselle, which is a white-chocolate mousse laced with raspberry jam.
DiVino is a posh wine bar in the heart of Budapest's downtown with a picture-postcard view of the St. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest's biggest church. Touristy it may be, still, it’s a sight to behold. DiVino is most enjoyable from its outdoor tables during the warm-weather months (you'd better avoid the dim interior with a club-like atmosphere). The selections include 150 types of wines sourced from leading Hungarian wineries, both big (Takler, Heimann, Konyári) and small (Pendits). Split by wine regions, all winemakers are listed on the walls. DiVino's customers are a mix of tourists who pass by the area and 30-plus Hungarians who enjoy sceney spots.
Digó puts out some of the best Naples-style pizza in Budapest. They operate two locations, both of them in the city center. The main one is a polished sit-down venue on Kazinczy Street right in the heart of the Party District, the other a seasonal pizza stand by Akvárium. As other upscale pizza shops around the world, Digó uses a wood-burning oven, extra fine “double-zero” flour, and a long, two-step dough fermentation to enhance flavor.
Dobló was one of the first wine bars in Budapest when it opened in 2010. Being smack in the middle of the Jewish Quarter, today's party district, means that the crowd is heavy on tourists, but you don't usually need to worry about a rowdy stag party ruining the vibes. In fact, thanks to the dim and cozy interior, Dobló is one of the more atmospheric wine bars in Budapest.
Dorado is a plant-filled coffee shop situated on the rapidly gentrifying Klauzál Street inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Unlike in the hole-in-the-wall cafés so common in Budapest, here patrons are welcome to linger at the long communal table without feeling rushed. There's everything from a V60 hand pour-over to espresso-based drinks and cold brew in the warmer months.
Hiding on a quiet downtown side street, Double Shot is a hip breakfast-all-day restaurant and coffee shop in Budapest. They serve the usual suspects of popular international breakfast foods here, including avocado toast, granola bowls, and turmeric latte. They’re all reliably tasty and beautifully plated, even if a bit predictable. Cocktails, craft beers, and Hungarian wines are also available. Note that the prices here reflect a bit of downtown mark-up — for example, a capuccino runs €3.
Chic locals and tourists fill the small marble-topped tables under the barrel vaulted ceiling of Drechsler, one of Vienna’s hottest breakfast restaurants. The dishes, which are available all day, are nearly limitless and not of the Austrian kind: pancake, French toast, granola, omelet, avocado toast are all served, as are fruit juices, beers, sparkling wines, and cocktails. The food is a bit inconsistent, but the vibes reliably cool. Advance booking is highly recommended. Also note that Vienna's popular produce market, Naschmarkt, is right across the street.
Hiding in an elite part of downtown Budapest, near the Parliament building, Drop Shop is a boutique wine bar doubling as a wine store. Unlike most wine bars in the city that stack only local bottles, Drop Shop also carries a carefully curated inventory of international wines anywhere from Austria to Australia, from a traditionally made Brunello to natural wines from the New World. The cheese (€8) and charcuterie (€12) plates are decent, but it's the surprisingly tasty ham and cheese panini (€3) that I usually order.
Dzzs, down the block from Kisüzem, is a tiny, high-energy bar attracting an eccentric crowd of twentysomethings. A late night here can feel like being at the house party of your coolest friend — you can meet local film directors, painters, and musicians in this snug, dim space. Unfortunately, the owners have recently jacked up the prices, leading to a rapid erosion of longtime regulars.
ESCA is a tiny, 16-seat fine dining restaurant in a quiet backstreet of District 7, Budapest’s party district. The dimly-lit interior, featuring sleek, dark wood finishes and chic, Mid-century modern chairs, couldn’t be more different from the kitsch ruin bars nearby. ESCA is helmed by owner-chef Gábor Fehér, a young local talent who's gained experience in France and Copenhagen before setting up shop here.
Head to Élesztő if you're curious about Hungarian craft beers and what Budapest outside the city center looks like. From a total of two hundred options, Élesztő serves a rotating set of 25 beers on tap, ranging from light crowd-pleasers to sour IPAs. The former glass manufacturing plant is an ideal venue for a craft beer bar: the century-old brick walls and the exposed fermentation tanks exude a sense of artisanship and give the (false) impression that an actual brewery is on the premises. The spacious courtyard patio lined with communal tables is ideal for groups. Cash only!
Don't be fooled by the puritan below-ground space, Ennmann is one of the top Japanese restaurants in Budapest. The restaurant's strongest suit is seafood: besides chirashi, sashimi, and regular sushi (nigiri and maki), they serve a host of maki variations. I went with the six-piece nigiri plate (€9), packing a pair of tuna, salmon, and sea bass each, and it didn’t disappoint. The shrimp tempura — seafood dressed in a thin layer of batter and quickly deep-fried — has a crispy crust and juicy meat. Also good is the katsudon (€9), a rice bowl topped with eggs, onions, and sliced pork cutlet, and the yakisoba buckwheat noodles.
Enso is a trendy Asian-inflected fusion restaurant located outside of downtown, in the working class part of Budapest’s District 8. Part of Enso's coolness stems from its premises: you enter the rundown pre-war building on Baross utca, then schlep through the nondescript interior courtyard just to arrive at the dim, exposed brick dining room where good-looking servers scurry under the high ceilings decorated with hanging paper lanterns.
The building, rather than the food, is the main appeal of Építészpince, a no-frills restaurant set on the ground floor of a stunning pre-war mansion in Budapest's Palace Quarter. Take some time to absorb the view from the interior courtyard: ivy-covered facade, inlaid stone patterns, symmetrically curved staircases. Today the building is home to the Chamber of Budapest Architects.
It's tough to beat the location of Esetleg Bistro, a trendy, partially outdoor bar and restaurant situated on the Danube's bank, inside a dramatic, whale-shaped contemporary building in District 9. Esetleg offers sweeping views onto several Budapest landmarks, including the Liberty Bridge, Gellért Hill, and the imposing building of the Budapest University of Technology right across the river. This lively space is ideal to wind down with an afternoon drink during the warmer months.
Part cafe, part breakfast restaurant, part bar, Espresso is an effortlessly cool establishment in Vienna's fashionable Neubau neighborhood (District 7). Opened in 2004, Espresso will take you back in time to the 1960s: neon sign, red leather banquettes, small plastic-topped tables, mid-century chairs (the ceiling shows leftover frescoes from the bakery once here). The coffee is distinctly old school, but the breakfast dishes are excellent. Evenings are most lively, when locals with a bohemian flair – most of them in their 30s, others well past that – consume beers and natural wines in generous quantities. Note that Espresso is closed on the weekends.
Espresso Embassy is a paradise on earth for specialty coffee fans in Budapest. This lively downtown café inside the city's financial district makes hand pour-overs with a Hario V60, espresso-based drinks with a slick Victoria Arduino machine, and a range of tasty cakes from plant-based ingredients you might not even have heard of.
Budapest’s latest Michelin-starred restaurant, Essência is the project of the Portuguese-Hungarian husband and wife duo, Tiago and Éva Sabarigo. Before venturing out on their own, Tiago was head chef at another decorated establishment, Costes Downtown, while Éva came from the hospitality industry. Essência is a casual fine dining restaurant: the high-ceilinged ground floor features exposed brick walls, plush mid-century modern furniture, and bare tables.
Fahéj is an adorable café and bar on a quiet backstreet in Budapest's downtown. Fahéj eschews the trendy vibes and the tourist-centered approach of other places in the neighborhood, relying instead on a loyal group of regulars, both young and old. Apart from the low-priced drinks, the highlight here is the two softly glowing, high-ceilinged rooms fitted with wooden floors, bookshelves, and small round tables. Fahéj works well for a casual weeknight drink, a date, or a heart-to-heart over a bottle of wine. Go for the hot wine or the rum-laced tea during the colder months; also tasty are the grilled sandwiches. Cash only!
Falafel Bar is your best bet for quick and affordable Middle Eastern fare in Budapest's party district. This unfussy place, which does both takeout and sit-down, serves hearty portions of shawarma, sabich, kebab, and various hummus plates. The must-have dish here is the namesake falafel platter (€6) sporting deep-fried chickpea balls that are crunchy on the outside and creamy inside. For a quick snack, I usually order the sabich (€3), an Israeli vegetarian pita packing fried eggplants, vegetables, tahini sauce, and a hard-boiled egg.
Fausto’s Ristorante, which opened in 1994, is a classic fine dining restaurant in Budapest with a hat-tip to northern Italian fare. Forget pizza and Caprese salad; here scallops, foie gras, flatfish, and venison loin are the gastronomic currency. A couple of egg pasta and risotto are also available, made with deliciously rich sauces. The decor is traditional fine dining: soft background music drifts from the background of the dim dining room, which has only a dozen tables, all set with heavy linen tablecloths. Under the vigilant eyes of owner Fausto Di Vora, always dressed in a chef's coat, an army of waiters quietly scurry around the tables that tend to fill up on Friday and Saturday evenings with well-heeled tourists and local businesspeople.
Fecske Presszó is a laid-back, wallet-friendly restaurant and bar just a stone's throw away from the Szabó Ervin Library in Budapest's Palace Quarter. This means that students of all ages tend to gather here throughout the day to take study breaks of varying lengths and with varying amounts of beer.
Escape the noisy downtown street and enter through the yellow ceramic tiles into the 19th-century courtyard of Fekete, a hip café and all-day-breakfast restaurant. The marble well in the center of the quiet courtyard is one of those Budapest surprises hiding behind many sooty facades. Fekete serves a range of on-trend dishes like shakshuka, granola, and various quiches. Pricey new-wave coffee, both espresso-based and hand pour-overs, are also available along with bottled craft beers to help lift the mood.
If you'd like to escape the rowdy bachelor-party tourists in Budapest's party district but stay in the neighborhood, make your way to Fekete Kutya. Despite its location alarmingly near Kazinczy Street, the main artery of the area, Fekete Kutya somehow flies under tourists' radars and remains an unfussy bar still mainly frequented by local Millennials.
A buzzing breakfast and brunch restaurant in Vienna, Figar draws a female-heavy Millennial crowd with internationally inspired and tasty breakfast hits: eggs Benedict on a bed of sourdough; avocado toast; English breakfast, granola bowls. In the afternoons, after 3 p.m., updated burgers and salads take over the slim menu. The location is the fashionable District 7, the inside an industrial-chic room with a full-service bar. Advance booking is recommended.
Around since 1973, Fischer is one of the oldest pastry shops in Budapest. Not much has changed inside this tiny standing-only space over the last century, which is part of its charm. Owner Aurél Fischer, now well into his eighties, still mans the counter on most days. As you can imagine, the selections include many of the Hungarian classics, though not all of them are made equally well; local regulars would tell you to go for the fresh and crumbly pies — red currant jelly! — and the ice creams in the summer. For the full experience, also order a shot of espresso with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Once here, use this guide to discover the neighborhood. Note that Fischer is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Having retained the name of the bespoke shirtmaker’s workshop that used to occupy the premises, Fleischer is a buzzy restaurant along the tree-lined section of Nagymező utca in District 6 (the same team runs the comparably lively Két Szerecsen across the street). The inside, decked out in subway tiles and crammed with tables, projects fashionable bistro vibes.
Florentin is a chic breakfast restaurant in Neubau, Vienna’s bougie District 7. Accordingly, the small space serves on-trend international morning dishes with lots of Middle Eastern, Turkish, and avocado-based inspirations. And there’s of course the namesake Eggs Florentin. Tourists and female-heavy local Millennials make up most customers. Prices are above average, as is the coffee, which is sourced from the venerable Alt Wien Kaffee roastery.
A hipster paradise, Freyja bakery brings a pocket of East Williamsburg to Budapest complete with tattooed bakers, bearded baristas, and minimalist design elements. And, unfortunately, prices too. Freyja specializes in croissants, which are among the best you'll find in Budapest: rich and flaky and buttery and wonderful. Every three months, they rotate the fillings, but you'll usually find pistachio cream, marzipan, and raspberry jam among the options (some savory stuffings are also available). There's new-wave coffee and enough space to sit and linger for a bit. Freya also delivers its croissants to coffee shops across Budapest, so if their bakery in the outer District 7 is too far for you, try Espresso Embassy or Dorado instead.
Frici Papa is a tourist-heavy restaurant in Budapest favored by visitors and locals looking for low-priced Hungarian food and old-school vibes. With main dishes rarely exceeding €5-6, the prices are truly rock-bottom, even by local standards. The humble two-story interior features cheap wood paneling, tablecloths covered with sticky plastic, and waiters dressed as if parachuted here from the '80s.
Budapest’s one and only kosher pastry shop is, you guessed it, inside the city's old Jewish Quarter. Frőhlich set up shop in 1953, when more Jewish people lived in the neighborhood and long before it became the city's party center. They serve low-priced traditional Hungarian tortes, pastries, and strudels, including Esterházy, Dobos, and krémes. Frőhlich is far from the top pastry shops in Budapest, but I enjoy coming here for a throwback as little has changed inside this family-run operation over the decades. Although now mainly a tourist destination, a shrinking group of local regulars also appear from time to time.
In the late aughts, Fruccola was one of the first restaurants to pioneer fast casual dining in Budapest, especially within the healthy segment specializing in salads and fruit juices. Fruccola has since become a recognized brand and a mini-chain with three locations across the city. Besides salads, smoothies, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, they also serve excellent breakfast omelets (spinach & goat cheese is the way to go). On weekdays, they offer a seasonal, two-course lunch prix fixe heavy on vegetables, though not strictly vegetarian. Note that this location, on Arany János Street, is closed on weekends, but there's another one on Kristóf tér, a 10-minute walk from here.
When it opened in 1991, Fuji was one of the first Japanese restaurants in Budapest. From a Japan-inspired wood-paneled dining room, it served pricey dishes to well-off locals and expats who were looking for exotic tastes in post-communist Budapest. Almost three decades hence — an eternity in restaurant years — Fuji is still around and it's still one of the few upscale Japanese restaurants in Budapest.
Fülemüle is an old-school Hungarian-Jewish restaurant hiding on a quiet side street in Budapest’s Palace Quarter. The unhurried, relaxed vibes are just one of the things to like about this modest family-run establishment, where swarms of family photos and ornate seder plates crowd the walls.
Dim space, disco lights, ear-catching electronic music drifting from the background – what else can you wish for on a Saturday night in Vienna? Affordable drinks and good company perhaps, and that too Futuregarden, a longtime atmospheric bar in the heart of Mariahilf (District 6), delivers. It’s a good place to meet people and even to move your feet as the night progresses. Weekdays tend to be slower.
I love craft beers, but bars that serve them are often a bit too polished, too pristine, without the patina that accrues from being in the business for long years. Ganz Söröző isn't very fashionable, but has a lot of charm. This tiny place hides on a peaceful, car-free street behind the Ottoman-era dome of Király Baths in Buda, within the below-ground level of a residential building.
Opened in 1957, Grünauer is a small, traditional restaurant in a District 7 side street, a bit away from Vienna's city center. There are only a few tables here and an informal atmosphere where family members make and serve the food. Despite, or because of, the rustic-puritan decor and the handwritten menu, the dishes are very good – deeply local fare heavy on offal plates. Sour lungs, veal kidney, dumplings filled with pork cracklings (Grammelknödel). The extensive wine list covers all regions of Austria. Open weekdays only and advance booking, by phone, is a must.
It’s a challenge to find true-to-Vienna traditional Austrian restaurants in the tourist-saturated downtown (District 1), which makes the existence of Gasthaus Pöschl, hidden just blocks away from Kärntner Straße, all the more precious. Yes, some tourists also stumble in here, but you’ll notice the lively banter between the kind waitstaff and the longtime regulars (“Christian Gihl, from 6 p.m.” shows a small brass plate bolted onto the bar counter).
Rebhuhn is a tried-and-tested traditional restaurant near the city center in District 9. Both Viennese families and tourists come here for uncomplicated but reliable local Austrian fare – potato soup, fried chicken salad, schnitzel, goulash, roasted pork belly, apple strudel, you name it. The mains, which are priced €10-17, aren’t all going to blow your mind, but Rebhuhn is an authentic portal into everyday Austrian dining. Beers and low-priced wines are available. Service is kind and efficient. Advance booking, by phone, is an absolute must.
Don’t be deceived by the unusual and puritan furnishings – a taxidermied cow’s head here, a Virgin Mary painting there – Gasthaus Wolf is a popular neighborhood restaurant in Vienna’s elegant inner-District 4. The dishes, which are meat-heavy, are consistently excellent. Spreadable pork fat with rye, roasted discs of blood sausage (blunzenradl) with bean salad, beef tartare, three kinds of schnitzel, knödels, slow-cooked duck layered with braised red cabbage. The wine list is local and very well curated, featuring many top producers (Weninger, Uwe Schiefer). Mains are €17-23.
Gastwirtschaft Heidenkummer masks itself as a neighborhood restaurant, but it’s well-worth a visit from downtown. This being Vienna’s well-off District 8 means that a bourgeoisie air pervades the rusticly furnished premises, but not in a pretentious way. Waiters know most customers by name and treat newcomers with friendly deference. The walls are crowded with artworks, most of them modern but there’s a curious concentration of Franz Joseph paintings and busts throughout. Positively quirky.