The 25 Best Specialty Coffee in Budapest, Winter 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. This 2018 newcomer occupies a sizable plant-filled space on the rapidly gentrifying Klauzál Street inside the old Jewish Quarter. Unlike in the hole-in-the-wall cafés 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 cobblestoned downtown side street, with a sleek coffee machine, blond wood, oversized windows, and a communal table dominating the 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 neighborhood, featuring art galleries, cafés, and bars. Kelet, 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. Apart from the usual coffee options, they also serve Turkish coffee and a range of tasty cakes (don't sleep on the carrot cake). There's Chinese (oolong) and Japanese (sencha, matcha) loose leaf tea varieties as well as local beers and wine.

#5 Barako Café

It’s not so easy to find specialty coffee on the Buda side so when the tiny Barako opened in 2014 it filled a gaping void in Buda’s craft coffee scene. This is thanks to Filipino owner Ryan Andres, who eschewed the tourist-heavy downtown areas, setting up shop here instead. He imports the Barako coffee beans — a variation of the rare Liberica species — from land he cultivates back in the Philippines.

#6 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 delivers the expected 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 that the rich and aromatic coffee flavors can fully speak for themselves. Coffee geeks can order a nitro brew (Kontakt is one of the few places in Budapest that serves it).

#7 Tamp & Pull

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.

#8 Madal Cafe (Ferenciek tere)

Madal is a popular specialty coffee chain in Budapest operating 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. 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.

#9 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 it quickly gained a cult following and today the company operates several locations across the city. The first one, on Madách tér, is smack in the middle of the fashionable and touristy-heavy Jewish Quarter.

#10 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. Before you enter, take a peek at the impressive synagogue soaring on the opposite side of the street, designed in 1872 by the famous Austrian architect, Otto Wagner.

#11 Műterem Kávézó

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.

#12 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 local bohemians — who give soul to the place.

#13 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 side. This hip café and breakfast restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows used to be a movie theater's ticket office. Following a recent 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.

#14 Cube Coffee Bar

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.

#15 Mantra Specialty Coffee Bar

Mantra is a specialty coffee shop in Budapest located on a charming 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 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.

#16 Massolit Books & Café in Budapest

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.

#17 WARMCUP

At the turn of the 20th century, Budapest’s Grand Boulevard was teeming with coffeehouses. The coffeehouse was a home away from home for countless people, many of them artists, who went there to socialize and to work while nursing precious cups of coffee. But today, the Grand Boulevard paints a gloomy picture — second-hand clothing stores and overlit gyro joints swarm this once beautiful street.

#18 Magvető Café

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 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.

#19 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 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. Besides coffee, there's also cakes, vegetable juices, and teas.

#20 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 is still less infiltrated with specialty coffee shops (and tourists). One of the few 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.

#21 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 within the tourist-heavy areas, 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.

#22 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 quiet courtyard is one of those Budapest surprises hiding behind many sooty facades. Fekete serves a range of on-trend dishes like shakshuka, granola, 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.

#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 The Goat Herder - Espresso Bar

What's this specialty coffee shop packed with foreign students doing in a sleepy, working class part of Budapest's District 7? This is the question that will likely 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 from the city center.

#25 Budapest Baristas

Budapest Baristas is a small specialty café and breakfast restaurant in 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. While they're tasty, 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.

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.