The 4 Best Coffeehouses in Budapest

Similar to Vienna, Budapest enjoyed a thriving coffeehouse culture during the Austro Hungarian Empire. Around the turn of the 20th century, more than 500 cafés swarmed across Budapest. Apart from low-priced caffeine, coffeehouses offered a home away from home to the city's fast-growing populace. These high-ceilinged spaces became the center of social life—many artists and journalists camped out for the whole day, even directing their mail to their favored café.

Most coffeehouses shuttered during the communist era (1947-1990). The few that reopened since have become popular popular tourist destinations, especially the New York Cafe, with higher-than-average prices points. But I do recommend that you visit for a coffee, a cake, and a travel back in time. If you're also curious about the contemporary "coffeehouses" of Budapest, drop by some of the best specialty coffee shops, too.

#1 Café Gerbeaud

Gerbeaud is a historic pastry shop and café in Budapest, anchoring downtown's Váci Street. It was Hungarian-Swiss patissier Emil Gerbeaud, who, after taking over the business in 1884, revolutionized Hungarian confectionery with inventive sweets and pastries and the place became a see-and-be-seen venue for the city's upper crust. Gerbeaud was nationalized during the communist era but even then it retained an air of opulence and was a favorite haunt of Budapest's high society, especially among elderly ladies.

#2 New York Café

Budapest's New York Café is a historic coffeehouse on the ground floor of the New York Palace, a grand building from 1894 and 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 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. Today, the New York Café has become 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.

#3 Central Cafe

Central Cafe is one of the few remaining coffeehouses dating back to Budapest’s golden era before WWI. At the time, the city was swarming with all-inviting cafés, like Central, that stayed open around the clock, attracting many 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 Hungarian writers, poets, and editors who were once regulars here.

#4 Gerlóczy Cafe

Gerlóczy is a snug café and restaurant tucked away in an unusually quiet pocket of Budapest's downtown. The tiny plaza outside Gerlóczy, surrounded by elegant pre-war buildings, conjures images of a Paris backstreet. Perhaps this is why the interior exudes French bistro vibes, complete with small round tables, leather banquettes, and a high ceiling. In the warm months, Gerlóczy's outdoor terrace is especially enjoyable (whenever the local municipality isn't using this precious space for construction equipment storage).

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