The 21 Best Specialty Coffee in Budapest, Fall 2019

The fetishization of craft coffee has reached Budapest, too—plenty of new-wave, specialty cafés have opened in recent years where tattooed-and-bearded baristas throw around buzzwords like "single origin" and "small batch" as they prepare pricey cups of pour-overs. Looking at it differently, there now exist plenty of places in Budapest where you can drink excellent coffee.

Good news for freelancers and remote workers: most of these places provide free wifi and don’t mind if you linger for a few hours.

#1 Espresso Embassy Budapest

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 fancy Victoria Arduino machine, and a range of tasty cakes from organic ingredients you've likely never heard of.

#2 Dorado Café

Does Budapest need another specialty coffee shop? The answer is not obvious to me, but if it’s a “yes," then more of them should be like Dorado Café. This 2018 newcomer occupies a large, plant-filled space on the rapidly gentrifying Klauzál Street, inside the old Jewish Quarter. Unlike in the hole-in-the-wall cafés that are so common in Budapest, here patrons are welcome to linger with free wifi on the long communal table without feeling rushed.

#3 Kelet Café

Some pockets of Buda can be as lively as Pest, but they're few and far between. Bartók Béla Boulevard is one such revitalized Buda neighborhood, featuring art galleries, cafés, and bars. Kelet, which is a snug all-day café, was one of the early birds here, helping to breathe new life into the area.

#4 Lumen Café Budapest

Head to Lumen Café if you'd like to avoid the tourist-heavy streets of the Jewish Quarter, but still get a cup of specialty coffee or craft beer in a hip neighborhood. With egg-based breakfast dishes (served until noon), a full-service kitchen, and a sleek interior featuring plenty of greenery, and concrete and wood finishes, Lumen is more than your average neighborhood café. But it's the patrons, students, artists, and neighborhood bohemians, who give soul to the place.

#5 Madal Cafe

Madal is a popular specialty coffee chain in Budapest with three locations across the city. Although the one near the Parliament building is the biggest and has the shortest wait times, this one, at Ferenciek tere, feels more homey.

#6 Barako Káveház Budapest

It’s not easy to find specialty coffee on the Buda side, so when Barako, a closet-sized café, opened in 2014, it filled a gaping void in Buda’s barely-existent craft coffee scene. This is thanks to Filipino owner, Ryan Andres, who eschewed the tourist-heavy areas of downtown Pest, setting up shop here instead.

#7 Kontakt Budapest

Kontakt is a specialty coffee shop nestled inside a charming, cobble-stoned courtyard of a downtown building. With a radically minimalist interior, heavily-bearded staff, and customers glued to their smartphones, Kontakt could easily be mistaken for a hipster café in Brooklyn.

#8 Műterem Kávézó

Flaky pecan croissants, fresh orange juice, and specialty coffee are just three of the reasons to visit Műterem Kávézó, an adorable café a bit outside the city center in District 8. Kudos to the owners for walking the less trodden path and opening a coffee shop in a less privileged slice of the city. Rather than bringing a "downtown attitude" along with their pour-overs, Műterem welcomes everyone, in fact, there are many neighborhood residents among the customers.

#9 WARMCUP Budapest

At the turn of the 20th century, Budapest’s Grand Boulevard was teeming with coffeehouses. They were the haunts of penniless artists from all walks of life, the center of social life, the place to discuss politics, romance, and missed rent payments, while nursing precious cups of coffee. Today, however, the area paints a gloomy picture—second-hand clothing stores and fluorescent-lit gyro joints swarm this once truly grand boulevard.

#10 Horizont Cafe

If the iconic New York Café, located right across the street from here, offers a journey back in time, then Horizont Café shows off Budapest's contemporary self. This circle-shaped café and breakfast restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows used to be a movie theater's ticket office until 1999. Now, following a recent gut renovation, the handsome interior features mid-century modern and Art Deco furnishings complete with hanging globe lamps, vivid colors, and brass finishes. Central to the space is the coffee counter, where a couple of baristas ground, brew, and serve everything from filter coffees (€3) to espressos (€2) made with lightly roasted beans imported from places like Colombia, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

#11 Printa Budapest

Printa was one of the first stores in Budapest to figure out that selling high-quality coffee alongside Hungarian designer products can be a winning combination. Think limited edition prints, clothes, tote bags, and purses made by the local designers—no tchotchkes here. Being in the center of the trendy Jewish Quarter, it was only a matter of time before tourists would discover it. Accordingly, today Printa mainly caters to visitors with somewhat inflated price tags.

#12 Blue Bird Cafe & Roastery (Rumbach Str.)

Never mind the uncanny resemblance to Blue Bottle Coffee, the pioneering California-based specialty coffee company, Blue Bird is a Hungarian coffee roaster and specialty coffee shop inside Budapest's tourist-heavy Jewish Quarter, opposite the 1872 synagogue designed by the famous Austrian architect, Otto Wagner.

#13 My Little Melbourne & Brew Bar

When it opened in 2012, My Little Melbourne was one of the first specialty coffee shops in Budapest. It quickly gained a cult following, and today, still, My Little Melbourne is one of the most recognized coffee brands in Budapest, operating four branches across the city. It also helps business that their original location is in the heart of Budapest's bustling, touristy-heavy Jewish Quarter.

#14 Cube Coffee Bar

The outer part of District 6, beyond the Grand Boulevard, isn't teeming with specialty coffee shops as is the city center. In fact, Cube, a hip café occupying a hole in the wall, is a lonely warrior in the neighborhood, pushing the boundaries of new-wave coffee one batch brew at a time. The options include everything you’d expect with both espresso-based (cappuccino, cortado, flat white) and filter coffee (V60, cold brew). There are also croissants, wraps, salads, cakes, and bottled craft beer. On Sunday mornings, Cube serves a brunch pre-fix until 2 p.m. for €7.

#15 Apricot Coffee

If you walk around Budapest's Jewish Quarter, it can feel as if pricey cold brews lurk behind every tourist-trafficked corner. But just a few blocks away, the Palace Quarter in District 8 is still less infiltrated with specialty coffee shops (and tourists). Apricot Coffee is located near some of the most charming, estate-filled streets of Budapest—if you're in the neighborhood, it's worth ambling through Horánszky, Reviczky, and Ötpacsirta streets, and the area behind the National Museum for some architectural eye candy.

#16 Mantra Specialty Coffee Bar

Mantra is a specialty coffee shop in Budapest, located on a quiet downtown backstreet lined with trees and wrought-iron street lamps. Ironically, it's just a block away from the tourist-heavy Váci Street. From the ever-changing light-roasted coffee beans, Mantra might use Ethiopian, Brazilian, and Honduran selections for their filter and espresso-based coffees. AeroPress, Chemex, V60, and Gina are just some of their available equipment.

#17 Fekete Café

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 tranquil courtyard is one of those Budapest surprises hiding behind many sooty facades. Weather permitting, enjoy your morning coffee in the open-air courtyard.

#18 My Green Cup

Plenty of new-wave coffee shops line Pozsonyi Road, the main artery of Újlipótváros, a chic, middle class residential neighborhood. While you can’t go wrong with any of them, My Green Cup, part of the pioneering My Little Melbourne specialty coffee chain, stands out from the pack thanks to a tastefully modern interior with blond wood finishes, and an outdoor terrace that opens in the summer months.

#19 Mesterbike & coffee project

Mesterbike is a cute bike repair shop doubling as a specialty café. Unlike most new-wave coffee shops in Budapest that are located along popular tourist paths, Mesterbike is away from the city center on a residential street in Budapest’s up-and-coming District 9. Accordingly, most customers are neighborhood regulars, who pop in for coffee, often accompanied by their bicycles.

#20 Magvető Café

Magvető is a snug bookstore café on a narrow side street in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter. It’s not so much their coffee, which is average at best, but the atmosphere that makes a visit here worthwhile—after all, who doesn’t like to be surrounded by walls of books? For the best experience, enjoy your drink from the elevated platform—made from reclaimed wood chips—overlooking the bookish crowd that camps out here with their laptops. Wifi is free, lingering welcome.

#21 The Goat Herder - Espresso Bar

What's this trendy specialty coffee shop packed with foreign students doing in the sleepy, working class outer District 7 of Budapest? This is the question that will likely pop into your head as soon as you step inside The Goat Herder. The answer literally lies across the street, in the form of the University of Veterinary Medicine, attended by plenty of coffee-craving Western European students who don't think twice before ordering a pricey latte. Evidently, The Goat Herder's owner is a savvy businessman for recognizing this market opportunity far from the city center.

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