The 25 Best Specialty Coffee in Budapest

The fetishization of craft coffee has taken over Budapest, too — plenty of 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 countless places with excellent coffee. Good news for freelancers and remote workers: most of these cafés provide free wifi and don’t mind lingerers.

Some pockets of Buda can be as lively as Pest, but they're few and far between. Bartók Béla Boulevard is one such revitalized neighborhood, featuring art galleries, cafés, and bars. Kelet, a snug new-wave café lined with walls of books, was one of the early birds here that breathed life into the area. They serve the whole range of coffees, Chinese (oolong) and Japanese (sencha, matcha) loose leaf tea varieties, and also pastries (carrot cake!).

The floor-to-ceiling windows are ideal for people-watching during the day, but I also come here in the evenings when the small, crammed tables fill to capacity and quiet chatter drifts from the dim space. Also here: a hipster-free crowd of college students, chic Millennials, and local residents.

When it opened in 2012, My Little Melbourne was one of the first specialty coffee shops in Budapest so it quickly gained a cult following. Today the company operates several locations across the city. This first one, on Madách tér, is smack in the middle of the fashionable and sometimes touristy-heavy Jewish Quarter.

They make filter coffees with surgical precision using V60, Chemex, and AeroPress equipment and there's also espresso-based drinks like cappuccino and an array of cakes and breakfast pastries. Price points aren't low, but this is true for most other specialty cafés in 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 slick Victoria Arduino machine, and a range of tasty cakes from plant-based ingredients you might never have heard of.

The inside of the repurposed neoclassical building features a vaulted ceiling and exposed brick walls. Following contemporary design trends, sleek concrete and blond wood finishes appear throughout. Customers comprise tourists and yuppie bankers. Lingering is welcome, wifi available.

Madal is a popular specialty coffee chain in Budapest with three locations across the city. Although the one near the Hungarian Parliament building is the biggest and has the shortest lines, this one, on Ferenciek tere, is a bit cozier with nooks and crannies. They use a rotating set of coffee beans based on seasonal harvest schedules for the espressos and filter coffees. If you get here before noon, chances are they'll still have some of the flaky whole-wheat croissants.

The inside features plenty of blond wood and motivational photos of Sri Chinmoy, the Indian spiritual leader who inspired Madal's moniker (his nickname). My favorite seats are upstairs, looking down at the action below. Being in the heart of downtown, Madal is easily accessible from almost everywhere in the city center.

Kontakt is a specialty coffee shop nestled inside the cobblestoned courtyard of a pre-war downtown building. With a radically minimalist interior, heavily-bearded staff, and customers glued to their smartphones, Kontakt delivers a predictable craft coffee ambiance. They have a strict no-sugar policy, which, in the case of their drip coffees, comes in addition to a ban on milk, believing it's without these additives the rich and aromatic coffee flavors can fully express themselves.

If you'd like a bite to eat, try Szimply next door, a popular breakfast joint run by the same owners in similar fashion. And in case you need to wait for a table, pop into Rododendron, a cute design store across the courtyard.

Kastner is a slick specialty café and community working space located in the outer part of Budapest's District 8. I like to come here for the spacious inside and to perch on the comfy mid-century chairs and watch the comings and goings of the park across the street through the massive windows.

The co-working area is upstairs and requires a ticket (€4-8 depending on the length of your stay). Lingering is welcome on the downstairs, too, but remember to order a drink periodically if you camp out. Breakfast pastries and sandwiches are also available.

The average quality of specialty coffee in Budapest has become so high that I usually pick my destination simply based on kindness of service (and promixity). The twin sisters in charge of Kolibri, a tiny, to-go café tucked away in the Palace Quarter, reliably deliver on this front.

Apart from coffee, they serve sandwiches, excellent cakes, and fruit juices (the cherry juice was a favorite of New York Times journalist Stephen Hiltner during his Budapest stay). A few outdoor benches and tables are available in the warmer season. Also: price points are slightly below the neighborhood’s average. Closed on weekends!

Mantra is a specialty coffee shop in Budapest located on a charming downtown backstreet lined with trees and wrought-iron street lamps. Ironically, this quiet area is just a block away from the tourist-heavy Váci Street. Mantra serves an especially broad range of filter coffees made with AeroPress, Chemex, V60, and Gina equipment. The light-roasted coffee beans come from Ethiopia, Brazil, and Honduras. There's also a few kinds of tea.

Unlike most Budapest coffee shops, Mantra has a sizable and well-furnished interior fitted with a wooded floor, yellow leather couches, and comfortable chairs, making it a perfect place for lingering. Another good news: Mantra is open on Sundays, too.

Thanks to the sizable Vietnamese community and its many restaurant in Budapest, local Hungarians have come to learn and love Vietnamese food over the past two decades. Caphé, a chic specialty café and breakfast restaurant along the fashionable Bartók Béla Boulevard, is the latest project of a Vietnamese restaurateur family in charge of Hai Nam Pho Bistro.

Apart from standard egg-based breakfasts and pastries, they serve Vietnamese dishes, including banh mi sandwiches (classic and vegetarian), spring rolls, and a fried-egg and meat-heavy Vietnamese breakfast plate called banh mi chao. There's regular and Vietnamese coffee – espresso dripping over sweetened condensed milk – and a range of teas (white tea, sencha, matcha, oolong, black tea). Caphé is mainly a haunt of locals, who come here for meetings or to camp out with their laptops (wifi available).

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, a full-service kitchen, and a sleek interior featuring plenty of greens, concrete, and wood finishes, Lumen is more than your average neighborhood café. But it's the patrons — students, artists, and local bohemians — who give soul to the place.

Lumen's performance hall hosts daily live music concerts with some of the leading lights of Hungarian jazz, folk, and indie music. Also, keep an eye out for the outdoor garden in the back where you might be witness to deeply philosophical conversations fueled by alcohol. There are two Lumens — there's a smaller location around the corner from here and operating under the same name — but this one, on Horánszky Street, is where most of the action is.

Budapest has plenty of specialty coffee shops, several cool wine bars, and an increasing number of hip breakfast restaurants, but the tiny Portobello is the first that triples as all three at once. This pricey, high-ceilinged establishment is tucked away on a cobblestoned downtown side street, with a sleek coffee machine, blond wood, oversized windows, and a communal table dominating the polished interior.

On a recent visit, my coffee was made from beans harvested on a high-altitude farm in Rwanda and sourced from a renowned Berlin-based roastery. This might sound high-minded, but the batch brew was deeply flavorful (and pricey, too). Of the slim breakfast menu, served all day, I most enjoyed the granola bowl, the sourdough bread piled with scrambled eggs, kale, and raclette, and the "Turkish Breakfast." Local natural wines are also available, both to purchase and to order by the glass.

Dorado is a plant-filled coffee shop situated on the rapidly gentrifying Klauzál Street inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Unlike in the hole-in-the-wall cafés so common in Budapest, here patrons are welcome to linger at the long communal table without feeling rushed. There's everything from a V60 hand pour-over to espresso-based drinks and cold brew in the warmer months.

The Hungarian-Spanish owner duo, Emese Görföl and Mario Jimenez, keeps a vigilant eye on international trends, lately also serving kombucha and natural wines to the hipster-leaning crowd. If you'd like a bite to eat, go for the fresh pastries, or the avocado toast, which, served on sourdough and strewn with pickled onions and walnuts, is especially good.

Many Budapest baristas would tell you to drop by Tamp & Pull in District 9’s Czuczor Street if you’re serious about your coffee. This tiny operation, next to Corvinus University, was one of the first in Budapest to advance the cause of specialty coffee when it opened in 2012. A blackboard hung above the bar lists the key parameters of the coffee beans currently in use — varietal, processing method, farm name and altitude. On my most recent visit, they were from Brazil and Honduras.

You'll find the standard options with espresso-based drinks (cappuccino, cortado, latte), and filter coffees, both handmade and batch brews. Oat milk and rice milk are the available dairy alternatives, and there's also the usual repertoire of cakes and sandwiches.

Flaky croissants studded with pecans, fresh OJ, 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 owner for opening a roastery and coffee shop in a less privileged slice of Budapest. Rather than bringing a "downtown attitude" along with the pour-overs, Műterem is an all-welcoming space attracting neighborhood residents with reasonable price points.

Once here, it's worth wandering the nearby streets to glimpse the streets of everyday Budapest (the neighborhood is very safe during the day). Local attractions include an impressive late-Baroque church, a former telephone exchange in a beautiful Art Nouveau building (the five-star Kozmo Hotel today), Hungary's top high school, and a playfully eclectic residential building with a non-matching top floor added during the Communist-era.

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 side. This hip café and breakfast restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows used to be a movie theater's ticket office. Following a gut renovation, the round 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 filter coffees and espresso-based drinks.

The perfectly runny scrambled eggs come speckled with chive and jazzed up with crispy bacon and marinated shallots. Also good is the French toast, enlivened with fresh seasonal fruits. Price points are steep hence the customers consist mainly of chic Millennial tourists. Breakfast is served daily until 4 p.m. but they're closed on Sundays.

Unlike the city center, the outer part of District 6, beyond the Grand Boulevard, isn't swarming with specialty coffee shops. 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 span the whole range, with both espresso-based (cappuccino, cortado, flat white) and filter coffees (V60, cold brew). The interior decorated with exposed bricks, subway tiles, and Edison light bulbs isn't revolutionary, but I'm glad they retained the original terrazzo floors. These gray-and-white square tiles used to be ubiquitous across Budapest but now fast disappearing. Once here, be sure to glimpse the Hunyadi Market across the street for a bit of time travel.

Massolit is a snug hideaway within Budapest's old Jewish Quarter, marrying an English-language bookstore with a café. Fortified with pricey caffeine, it's easy to spend hours in one of the nooks and crannies accompanied by a page-turner. That is, if you manage to find an open seat, which is rare during peak hours because tourists and international students tend to mob Massolit most of the time.

If you need some peace and quiet, check the room in the back, or the outdoor patio during the warmer months. The book selections are limited, but some Hungarian classics are available in English translations.

Magvető is a snug bookstore café located 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 me come back here — after all, who doesn’t like to be surrounded by walls of books? For the best experience, enjoy your drink from the pressed-wood platform overlooking the bookish crowd that camps out here with their laptops. Wifi is free, lingering welcome. All books sold here were published by Magvető, one of Hungary's main publishers and the operator of this café.

Plenty of new-wave coffee shops line Pozsonyi Road, the main artery of Újlipótváros, a chic, middle-class residential neighborhood. While you can’t really go wrong with any of them, My Green Cup, part of the My Little Melbourne mini chain, stands out from the rest with a tastefully polished and spacious interior, and a summer outdoor terrace overlooking the action on Pozsonyi. Also here: cakes, vegetable juices, and teas.

In Budapest's Jewish Quarter it can feel as if pricey cold brews lurk behind every tourist-trafficked corner. Just a couple of blocks away, the Palace Quarter is less infiltrated with specialty coffee shops (and tourists). One of them is Apricot, a tiny café within the and estate-filled streets of District 8 — amble through Horánszky, Reviczky, and Ötpacsirta streets and the area behind the National Museum to appreciate the architecture.

Apricot serves both espresso-based drinks (cortado, flat white, cappuccino, latte) and filter coffees (V60, Aeropress, cold brews). There’s a wonderful cherry-and-pistachio cake here, morning pastries, and tasty grilled sandwiches.

Mesterbike is a hip bike repair shop doubling as a specialty café. Unlike most new-wave coffee shops in Budapest, Mesterbike is away from the city center on a residential street in the up-and-coming part of District 9. Accordingly, most customers here are local regulars who pop in for coffee, often accompanied by their bicycles. Besides two-wheelers and filter coffee, Mesterbike also sells fashionable Hungarian outdoor designer products such as Blind Chic's multifunctional cotton canvas backpacks. Refer to this neighborhood guide for more gems in the neighborhood.

Never mind the uncanny resemblance to Blue Bottle Coffee, the pioneering California-based coffee company, Blue Bird is a Hungarian coffee roaster and specialty coffee shop inside Budapest's tourist-heavy Jewish Quarter. Before you enter, take a peek at the impressive synagogue soaring on the opposite side of the street, designed in 1872 by a young Otto Wanger, who went on to become Austria's most famous architect.

Blue Bird’s extensive filter coffee options would make most coffee shops look like mere beginners: V60, Chemex, Aeropress, Frenchpress, Siphon, and cold brew. The premium Arabica beans are sourced from nine countries and you can also buy them packaged.

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 quiet courtyard is one of those Budapest surprises hiding behind many sooty facades. Fekete serves on-trend breakfast dishes, such as shakshuka, granola bowl, and various quiches. Pricey new-wave coffee, both espresso-based and hand pour-overs, are also available along with bottled craft beers to help lift the mood.

Fekete is a very popular tourist destination so expect some wait for a table, especially on weekends. The place is most enjoyable during the warmer months once the spacious courtyard has opened.

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

Besides specialty coffee, there's also sandwiches, pastries, snacks, salads, and fresh fruit juices (no egg-based or other cooked breakfast food, though). The place's moniker pays homage to the Ethiopian goat herder from the 9th century, who is believed to have discovered coffee after seeing its stimulating effect on his goats.

Budapest Baristas is a small specialty café and breakfast restaurant in Budapest's downtown. They serve seven kinds of bagels (yes, the boiled-and-baked version, but they aren't made in-house), including one with a classic smoked salmon topping. They're tasty, but keep in mind that Budapest is no bagel capital like Montreal or New York. There's also other on-trend international breakfast foods like pancakes, granola bowls, and eggs Benedict. Portions are on the small side — most people can easily handle two plates.

A La Marzocco machine is in charge of the espresso-based drinks, which are supplemented by pricey matchas and filter coffee. Note that depending on who's behind the counter, service can be a little testy here.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. I never accept money in exchange for coverage. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider supporting me by making a one-time payment (PayPal, Venmo).