11 Excellent Pastry Shops in Budapest

Before long, you'll stumble into a pastry shop (cukrászda) in Budapest. The city's vibrant pastry culture harks back to the period of Austria-Hungary (1867-1918) when people started to socialize over luscious cakes and rich tortes. Most places listed below serve both traditional Hungarian cakes such as Dobos and Esterházy and contemporary concoctions. Note that Cafe Gerbeaud and Ruszwurm are usually mobbed by tourists; the neighborhood favorites (Auguszt, Nándori, Sommer) will better convey a sense of place and aren't so crowded.

Gerbeaud is a historic pastry shop and café in Budapest's downtown. 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.

Today, still, Gerbeaud puts out some of the best traditional Austro-Hungarian pastries, including Dobos, Esterházy, and Sacher tortes, krémes, and the namesake Gerbeaud cake. You can also try two of their signature treats: konyakmeggy, a brandied sour cherry bonbon enclosed by a chocolate shell, and macskanyelv, a milk chocolate shaped like a cat’s tongue.

The inside is lavishly decorated with crystal chandeliers, marble-topped tables, and cherrywood paneling. Gerbeaud was the see-and-be-seen hangout for Budapest's upper crust; it maintained an air of splendor even in the Communist era (1947-1989), under national ownership and a less Western-sounding name (Vörösmarty Cukrászda).

Today, Gerbeaud is mainly a tourist attraction, but I recommend you stop by for the pastries and a glimpse of the city's now-vanished coffeehouse culture. Part of the experience is basking in the historic glow of the space, but note that all to-go orders are half-priced.

Known as the "Gerbeaud of Buda," Auguszt is a pastry shop and a Budapest landmark. The family operation dates back to 1870 and is currently helmed by the fourth generation: 74-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 (1947-1989), 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 makes a wide assortment of pastries and cakes, which means you can try flódni, a Jewish-Hungarian favorite, and things like an indiáner and rigó jancsi, once classics but rarely available these days. Prices are higher than elsewhere, as is the quality. The upstairs is reserved for sit-down clients and features some furnishings of the original location. The Auguszt pastry shops on the Pest side are run separately by another branch of the family.

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 such as Central that stayed open around the clock and people 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 elegant space complete with mahogany wall paneling and red leather banquettes didn’t escape Budapest’s tragic post-war history, but in 2000, Central was restored to its former glory, preserving an essential slice of the city's cultural history. The place wears many hats these days, being a pricey café, a bar, and a restaurant all at once. Most people come here for breakfast, coffee, or cakes, and also to people-watch from the outdoor tables. The pastries are among the best in Budapest.

The recently restored garden of the Hungarian National Museum is an amazingly relaxing and wonderful hangout, filled with greens, benches, and sculptures. This peaceful island hides also Geraldine pastry shop, inside a small Neoclassical building that was once the gardener’s house. In the cold months, tuck yourself into a corner of the “winter garden” with large windows, otherwise the outdoor terrace is most enjoyable. Classic and modern pastries are served, both delicious and sourced by the Auguszt family dynasty to which this location also belongs.

If you feel that downtown’s pastry shops offer a touristy experience and prefer someplace that locals also frequent, head to Nándori Cukrászda. This popular neighborhood joint, which is reachable from downtown on foot, has been going strong since 1957. You'll find here classic Hungarian cakes, tarts, savory biscuits, marzipan figurines, and also ice cream in the warmer months. They're remarkably consistent and just a notch below those served at Budapest's celebrated hotspots like Auguszt.

Most recently, I’ve had an excellent Rákóczi túrós here, and an unexpected find was the light and tasty képviselő fánk, a profiterole-like cream puff with vanilla custard and whipped cream. On Saturdays, it’s not unusual that a line stretches outside the premises. Across the street from here is Jedermann Café, a local’s favorite jazz bar that’s also worth a visit.

Presiding over the Castle Hill, Ruszwurm is the oldest existing pastry shop in Budapest. Since its 1827 opening, the place has attracted an enviable cast of customers, most notably Queen Sisi (1837-1898), wife of the Habsburg Hungarian King Franz Joseph. Ruszwurm was nationalized during the Communist era (1947-1989), but continued to operate as a confectionery.

You’re here for the historic air, the landmark-protected cherry wood paneling and Biedermeider furnishings, and the krémes, a vanilla custard cake to which all others in Budapest pale in comparison. During the colder months, also order a creamy hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. Being a famous establishment near the tourist-heavy Matthias Church means that Ruszwurm is packed at all times, but some locals, mainly senior citizens from the neighborhood, also come here.

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.

You’ll find both traditional and contemporary cakes here, including a Dobos and an Esterházy torte, krémes, isler, and marzipan figurines, as well as chocolate mousse, and sugar and lactose-free cakes. Unlike other downtown pastry shops, Auguszt isn't overrun by tourists and attracts a mainly local crowd. It's closed on Sunday and Monday.

Strudel House is located on a tourist-saturated downtown street, but if you’d like to try some of the top strudels in Budapest there’s no escaping fellow visitors. Strudels evolved from the baklava that were introduced in Hungary during its occupation by Ottoman Turkey and spread across Central Europe. In Austria, the apple strudel became a national treasure.

At Strudel House, you can watch a dedicated baker freshly prepare the paper-thin strudel dough in an open kitchen right before you. I usually get one with a mixed filling of sweet cottage cheese (túró) and apricots. Unique to Hungary is the savory cabbage strudel (káposztás rétes), which tastes much better than it sounds. Strudels run a few euros apiece, and a couple of them make for a perfectly satisfying dessert. You can also take some to go, as many locals do.

Szamos is a well-known family-owned pastry shop operating more than a dozen locations across Budapest. This one, on Vörösmarty tér, is right in the heart of downtown, inside an elegant, high-ceilinged space once home to a bank. If you need a breather from sightseeing, it’s an ideal stop for coffee and sweets (less crowded than Gerbeaud across the square). You’re here for the light and creamy krémes and the tortes, of which the szatmári plum cake and the Sacher are especially tasty.

But don't skimp on the marzipans Szamos started as an artisan marzipan producer and there’s an entire counter here dedicated to figurines of all shapes and sizes. (The company even has a marzipan museum in Szentendre, the small town outside Budapest where the family empire hails from.)

Sommer is far from the top pastry shops in Budapest, but if you’re curious to experience a beloved old-school confectionery, then head to this decor-deprived neighborhood favorite. The place is located a bit outside the city center but easily reachable on foot. Sommer serves an unusually wide range of dependable classic Hungarian and Jewish-Hungarian pastries, including a Dobos and Esterházy torte, flódni, and also less commonly seen treats like a Rákóczi túrós, which is an apricot jam and meringue-topped sweet cottage cheese tart.

There's also strudels, savory biscuits like pogácsa, and sajtos roló, a tube-shaped baked pastry filled with cream cheese. If you go in the winter, try the bejgli, a Christmas roll laced with ground poppy seeds and ground walnuts. Wallet-friendly prices!

Located in Budapest's Jewish Quarter, Strudel Hugó is a small strudel shop (its moniker pays respect to modernist Hungarian painter, Hugó Scheiber, who lived in the building). Fillings include cottage cheese (túró), chestnut-raspberry, cherry, cherry-chocolate and many more. The strudels run a few euros apiece and two of them make for a satisfying dessert. Note that there are only a few seats inside, but you can take your order to go, as most people do. Closed on the weekends!