25 Excellent Specialty Coffee in Budapest

The fetishization of craft coffee has enveloped 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: an eclectic crowd of college students, chic Millennials, and local residents.

Espresso Embassy is a paradise on earth for specialty coffee fans in Budapest. This high-traffic 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, exposed brick walls, and sleek concrete and blond wood finishes. Customers comprise tourists and yuppie bankers. Lingering is welcome, wifi available.

Madal is a popular specialty coffee chain in Budapest with three locations. This one, on Ferenciek tere, is my favorite and most central. I usually head to the seats upstairs which afford open vistas toward the action below. Madal uses a rotating set of coffee beans based on seasonal harvest schedules, and if you get here before noon, they might still have some of the flaky whole-wheat croissants. The inside is fitted with blond wood and motivational photos of Sri Chinmoy, the Indian spiritual leader whose nickname inspired Madal's moniker.

Kontakt is a Budapest 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. Not to mention the strict no-sugar policy, which, in case of their drip coffees, comes in addition to a ban on milk, since, they argue, it's without additives that the rich and aromatic coffee flavors can fully express themselves.

If you'd like a bite to eat, try Szimply next door, a small breakfast restaurant run by the same team in similar fashion. In case you need to wait for a table, you could pop into Rododendron, a 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 come here for the spacious inside and to watch the comings and goings of the park across the street through the massive windows. Lingering is welcome, but remember to order a drink occasionally if you decide to camp out. Breakfast pastries and sandwiches are also available. The co-working area is upstairs and requires a ticket (€4-8 depending on the length of your stay).

The average quality of specialty coffee in Budapest is so good these days that I often pick my destination based on kindness of service (and proximity). 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). Price points are somewhat below the neighborhood’s average. A few outdoor benches and tables are available in the warmer season. Closed on weekends!

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 increasingly touristy-heavy Jewish Quarter. Filter coffees are made 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.

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 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 arrive from Ethiopia, Brazil, and Honduras and there's also a few kinds of teas. The inside is fitted with Persian carpets, yellow leather couches, comfortable chairs, and big windows – yes, an ideal place for lingering. Open on Sundays, too.

Thanks to Budapest's sizable Vietnamese community and its many restaurants, 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, 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. In the outdoor garden you might be witness to philosophical conversations fueled by alcohol. There are two Lumens a smaller location around the corner from here operates under the same name but this one, in Horánszky utca, is where most of the action is.

Flaky almond 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 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 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 circular interior features mid-century modern and Art Deco furnishings complete with hanging globe lamps, bright 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, crisped-up bacon, and marinated shallots. Also good is the French toast, enlivened with fresh seasonal fruits. Price points are steep, the customers mainly chic Millennial tourists. Breakfast is served daily until 4 p.m. and they're closed on Sunday.

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). Inside, I'm glad they retained the original terrazzo floors. These gray-and-white speckled square tiles used to be ubiquitous in Budapest but now fast disappearing. Once here, you could glimpse the wonderful Hunyadi Market across the square for a bit of time travel (an excellent pickled veggies vendor in the corner).

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 board hung over the bar lists the key parameters of the coffee beans on offer varietal, processing method, farm name and altitude. A wide range of coffee options, many dairy alternatives, sandwiches and cakes.

Dorado is a new-wave coffee shop situated on the rapidly gentrifying Klauzál utca inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. 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 global trends, lately also serving natural wines to the emphatically hipster-leaning crowd. If you'd like a bite to eat, there are pricey favorites along the lines of an avocado and salmon toast.

Portobello is a hip specialty coffee shop and breakfast restaurant in downtown Budapest. 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. The slim breakfast menu, served all day, includes a granola bowl, sourdough bread piled with scrambled eggs, kale, and raclette, and a "Turkish Breakfast." Local natural wines are available for purchase and by the glass.

Marrying an English-language bookstore with a café, Massolit is a snug hideaway within Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. Fortified by 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 students and brainy tourists monopolize 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 and you can stumble into treasures (in part thanks to yours truly).

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, but the atmosphere that makes me come back here after all, who doesn’t like being surrounded by mountains of books? I suggest you sip your coffee while presiding on the pressed-wood platform overlooking the bookish crowd that camps out here with laptops. Wifi is free, lingering welcome. The books on display were published by Magvető, one of Hungary's main publishers and the operator of this café.

Plenty of new-wave coffee shops line Pozsonyi út, the artery of Újlipótváros, a chic, middle-class residential neighborhood north of the Parliament building. While you can’t go wrong with any of them, My Green Cup, part of the My Little Melbourne chain, stands out with a tastefully polished and spacious interior, and an outdoor terrace in the summer that overlooks the action on Pozsonyi. Also here: cakes, vegetable juices, and teas.

Apricot is a small and inviting specialty coffee shop in Budapest's Palace Quarter of District 8. They serve both espresso-based (cortado, flat white, cappuccino, latte) and filter coffees (V60, Aeropress, cold brews). Also here: morning pastries, a wonderful cherry-and-pistachio cake, and tasty grilled sandwiches. You could amble over to the nearby National Museum to see its astonishing exhibition or the palatial homes that ring it (once the homes of the Hungarian aristocracy).

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 are local regulars who drop 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. Closed on the weekend!

Blue Bird is a coffee roaster and specialty coffee shop inside Budapest's 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 Wagner, 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, French Press, 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 quiches. Fekete is a 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 swanky specialty coffee shop packed with foreign students doing in a sleepy, working class part of Budapest's District 7? The answer literally lies across the street in the form of the University of Veterinary Medicine, which is 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 gaping market opportunity 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. They opened another location in the city center.

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 other on-trend international breakfast foods like pancakes, granola bowls, and eggs Benedict. Portions are on the small side. A La Marzocco machine is in charge of the espresso-based drinks, which are supplemented by matchas and filter coffee.