The 25 Best Specialty Coffee in Budapest, Spring 2020

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 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 slick Victoria Arduino machine, and a range of tasty cakes from plant-based ingredients you might not even have 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 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 on the long communal table without feeling rushed.

#3 Portobello (Coffee & Wine)

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

#4 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 lined with walls of books, was one of the early birds here that helped breathe new life into the area. Boasting a floor-to-ceiling window, it's perfect for people-watching.

#5 Kontakt Budapest

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 could easily be mistaken for a hip café in Brooklyn.

#6 Tamp & Pull

Many Budapest baristas would recommend that 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.

#7 Madal Cafe (Ferenciek tere)

Madal is a beloved specialty coffee chain among Budapest locals operating 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, is more atmospheric and draws locals too. They locally roast the coffee beans, which, subject to the seasonal harvest schedules, arrive from Ethiopia or Brazil. There are both espresso-based and filter coffees, and if you get here before noon, chances are that they'll still have some of the flaky whole-wheat croissants.

#8 My Little Melbourne Coffee & Brew Bar

When it opened in 2012, My Little Melbourne was one of the first specialty coffee shops in Budapest so the place quickly gained a cult following. Today the company is one of the most recognized coffee brands in Budapest, operating a couple of branches across the city. The original location is this one, on Madách tér, smack in the middle of the fashionable and increasingly touristy-heavy Jewish Quarter.

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

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. If you go visit it, take also a glimpse at the stunning synagogue standing tall on the opposite side of the street, designed in 1872 by the prominent Austrian architect, Otto Wagner.

#10 Barako Café

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 downtown areas, setting up shop here instead.

#11 Műterem Kávézó

Flaky pecan croissants, 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 owners for walking the less trodden path and opening a coffee shop in a less privileged slice of Budapest. Rather than bringing a "downtown attitude" along with their pour-overs, Műterem is an all-welcoming place attracting many neighborhood residents with reasonable price points.

#12 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 fashionable interior features polished 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 made from lightly roasted beans imported from places like Colombia, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

#13 Cube Coffee Bar

The outer part of District 6, beyond the Grand Boulevard, isn't swarming 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.

#14 Mantra Specialty Coffee Bar

Mantra is a specialty coffee shop in Budapest located on an atmospheric downtown backstreet lined with trees and wrought-iron street lamps. Ironically, this tranquil area is just a block away from the tourist-heavy Váci Street. Mantra has 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 chai or matcha latte.

#15 Massolit Books & Café in Budapest

Massolit is a snug hideaway in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter, marrying an English-language bookstore with a café. Fortified with pricey caffeine, it's easy to spend hours here 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 mob Massolit most of the time.

#16 WARMCUP

At the turn of the 20th century, Budapest’s Grand Boulevard was teeming with coffeehouses. The coffeehouse served as a home away from home for countless people, many of them artists, who came here to socialize and to work while nursing precious cups of coffee. Today, however, the area paints a gloomy picture—second-hand clothing stores and overlit gyro joints swarm this once truly grand boulevard.

#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 really go wrong with any of them, My Green Cup, part of the pioneering My Little Melbourne brand, stands out from the pack with a tastefully polished interior and a summer outdoor terrace that overlooks the action on Pozsonyi. Besides coffee, there's also cakes, vegetable juices, and teas.

#19 Budapest Baristas

Bagels rarely appear on Budapest breakfast menus, so I automatically order them when they do. Budapest Baristas, a small specialty café and breakfast restaurant in downtown, offers seven kinds (yes, the boiled-and-baked version, although they aren't made in-house). Apart from smoked salmon (€6), the other toppings are unconventional and include things like avocado cream and a combo of brie cheese and cranberry jam. They're perfectly fine, but keep in mind that Budapest isn't a bagel capital like Montreal or New York.

#20 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, 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.

#21 Apricot Coffee

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

#22 Mesterbike & coffee project

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

#23 Kaffeine (Nagymező Street)

Kaffeine is unlikely to win any award for the most creatively named coffee shop chain, but if you need a caffeine jolt while exploring the pre-war palazzos and high-end boutiques of Budapest's Andrássy Avenue, this place won't disappoint (turn into Nagymező Street). You’ll find the usual specialty coffee repertoire — espressos, batch brews, handmade filter coffees.

#24 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 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 elevated platform, made from reclaimed wood chips, overlooking the bookish crowd that tends to camp out here with their laptops. Wifi is free, lingering welcome. Snacks and local wines are also available.

#25 The Goat Herder - Espresso Bar

What's this hopping specialty coffee shop packed with foreign students doing in the sleepy, working class part of Budapest's District 7? 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, 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 who recognized this market opportunity so far from the city center.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito and pays for his own meals and drinks.