New York Café

Budapest's New York Café is a glitzy historic coffeehouse on the ground floor of the New York Palace, a grand 1894 building that was once the local headquarters of the New York Life Insurance Company (and today home to a five-star hotel). The café's fame harkens back to the pre-war days, when renowned Hungarian journalists, artists, and entertainers spent raucous nights here fueled by cigarettes and alcohol. Countless stories of their debauchery have become part of Budapest’s collective memory.

The space itself has had its ups and downs—during the early years of communism, in the 1950s, a sports retail store operated here, selling sneakers beneath the frescoed ceilings. It is thanks to a 2006 gut-renovation that the New York Café has regained its former glow: Marble columns, bronze statues, and stuccoed angels burst once again from the gilded interior.

Today, the New York Café is one of the city's main tourist attractions, meaning that you'll likely have to wait in line before being seated and that prices aren't exactly wallet-friendly: a cappuccino runs €10 including the mandatory service charge. There's a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu of pricey Hungarian classics, but most people come here just for coffee and cakes. Every day, a live band performs cabaret music between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Despite a somewhat engineered experience and a tourist-heavy crowd, you may still want to visit the New York Café for a glimpse of Budapest's once thriving, now-vanished coffeehouse culture.

We visit all places incognito, pay for our own meals and drinks, and write independent reviews.