The 12 Best Goulash in Budapest

Hungary's most famous dish, the goulash ("gulyás" in Hungarian), is named after the nomadic herdsmen who used to prepare this hearty soup in iron couldrons. Few people cook it over open fire these days, but the goulash is still a beloved staple across households in Hungary.

Myriad goulash variations exist, some made with pork—it's cheaper than beef and quicker to prepare—others with ingredients that goulash purists frown upon. When done well, the end result is a rich beef-and-vegetable soup laced with pinched egg noodles (csipetke), and imparting the sharp-sweet flavor of fresh paprika. Price points range from €4 to €7 for a plate. Without further ado, below, the absolute best goulash soups in Budapest.

#1 Gettó Gulyás

In retrospect, it's strange that it took so long for someone to finally open a traditional Hungarian restaurant inside Budapest's party district, also known as the old Jewish Quarter. After all, most tourists are after local dishes before they hit the neighborhood bars. Gettó Gulyás's moniker makes its culinary priorities clear—the short menu features the heart of Magyar cuisine with staples like goulash (€4), chicken paprikash (€7), and pörkölt, which is a beef stew. (The "gettó" in the restaurant's name refers to the Jewish ghetto, which this area was turned into during the winter of 1944, the darkest time of WWII in Budapest).

Read more

#2 Stand25 Bistro

When in 2017 Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll (a European Bocuse d'Or winner and celebrity-chef in Hungary) announced that they were leaving the Michelin-starred Onyx restaurant to venture out on their own, one didn’t need a business degree to predict success. The idea of Stand25 Bistro was to prove that traditional Hungarian fare can be more than a high-carb, greasy affair. The restaurant's success was immediate: a well-heeled local office crowd and tourists fill Stand25's small tables inside the Hold Street market-hall-turned food-court in downtown. In 2018, the restaurant won a Bib Gourmand by Michelin.

#3 Kiosk Budapest

Kiosk is a buzzing restaurant and cocktail bar in the heart of Budapest, favored by trendy locals and plenty of tourists. Kiosk has at least two things going for it: a stunning view of the Danube and the Elisabeth Bridge from its outdoor patio, and a dramatically high-ceilinged, industrial-chic interior. (Interestingly, the building houses a Roman Catholic high school upstairs, in fact, there's a chapel right above Kiosk.)

#4 Rosenstein Restaurant

Rosenstein Restaurant, located a bit outside the city center, serves some of the best traditional Hungarian, and Hungarian-Jewish food in Budapest. Tibor Rosenstein opened this family-run operation in 1996, which is currently helmed by his son, Róbert. Most of the long menu is a hat-tip to classic Hungarian fare: patrons can sample expertly prepared goulash soup (€7), beef stew (pörkölt), paprikash (€12), and stuffed cabbage (€9)—traditional Hungarian foods that have changed little over the generations.

#5 Menza Restaurant

In the early aughts, Liszt Ferenc Square in District 6 was a popular hangout for trendy, well-heeled locals. But as the wheel of trends turned, local people moved on to other pockets of the city. Today, you'll find plenty of tourist trap restaurants here emblazoned with "Hungarian cuisine" and "tourist menu" signs, and it’s also here that Hungary's only Hooters operated until recently. You don't need me to tell you: proceed with caution.

#6 Fricska Gastropub

Following stints at well-known Budapest restaurants, two young, local chefs, Andor Giczi and Szabolcs Nagy, struck out on their own, opening Fricska restaurant in 2014. Since then, Fricska has earned a reputation for outstanding modern Hungarian dishes, and it also won a Bib Gourmand award from Michelin in 2017. The restaurant is located on the far end of the party district, inside a below-ground space that manages to be cozy despite the absence of natural lighting.

#7 Bock Bisztro

In 2004, Bock Bisztró was one of the first Budapest restaurants to push the boundaries of traditional Hungarian food. Executive chef Lajos Bíró showed that contemporary cooking techniques, top ingredients, and a little boldness can jolt into the 21st century some centuries-old national dishes. For example, that crunchy bits of celery root adds a welcome freshness to the goulash soup (€7). That the paprikash can work as haute cuisine when made with beef tenderloins and enclosed in a pastry crust. That a delicately plated lecsó (€8) tastes better than one served carelessly.

#8 HILDA

HILDA is a chic downtown restaurant on the increasingly fashionable Nádor Street, an area that has come to life as a growing number of tourists and international students from the nearby Central European University pass through. HILDA has a perfect curb appeal and Instagrammable interior: An oversized stained glass mosaic covers one of the walls in its entirety, and the bar is studded with dark blue, glazed Zsolnay ceramic tiles, the same brand that decorates the lobby of the Four Seasons around the corner from here.

Read more

#9 Börze Budapest

Börze is a sleek downtown restaurant serving traditional Hungarian fare from early morning until midnight, seven days a week. With red banquettes and a chic interior designed to the minute detail, the vibes evoke a Keith McNally restaurant. Börze's moniker is a hat-tip to the enormous, 1907 building across the street that used to be the Budapest Stock and Commodity Exchange. The restaurant is a 2017 offshoot of Menza, and like its sister restaurant, Börze is a well-oiled machine with reliable dishes and a good-natured waitstaff.

#10 Tüköry Étterem

If the hunger for inexpensive Hungarian food strikes while you’re near downtown's tourist sites like the Parliament building and Liberty Square, Tüköry restaurant is your best bet. Since its opening in 1958, Tüköry has been serving reasonably priced and reliable traditional Hungarian staples on red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Although there exists better Hungarian food in Budapest, Tüköry’s pörkölt (beef stew; €6), made-to-order schnitzel-dishes like the cordon bleu (frissensültek; €6), and the palacsinta desserts (Hungarian crepes; €3) can hold their own against most restaurants in Budapest. Most of the mains are €6-8.

#11 Király 100 Restaurant

The Jewish Quarter’s stag-party apocalypse doesn’t extend to the outer part of the Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút), meaning that the streets quiet down as night falls, and residents are still mainly locals rather than Airbnb folks. The neighborhood’s mom-and-pop stores and dilapidated buildings serve as a reminder of what much of Budapest looked like in the '90s.

#12 Spíler Bistro

Located inside the tourist-heavy Gozsdu Courtyard, Spíler is one of the hottest restaurants in Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter. It's a massive place with three, highly-Instagrammable dining rooms that operate at capacity most evenings. The menu features reliably made popular international fare (nachos, wings, burgers) alongside traditional Hungarian classics like goulash (€6), chicken paprikash (€9), and paprika-laced beef stew with egg barley (pörkölt; €13). Local wines, and almost 30 types of bottled craft beers are available for pairing. With most dishes below €10, prices are reasonable for the prime location.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito.