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.

#1 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 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!).

#2 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. 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.

#3 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 never have heard of.

#4 Madal Cafe (Ferenciek tere)

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.

#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 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.

#6 Kastner Kommunity

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.

#7 Kolibri Kávézó

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.

#8 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 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.

#9 Caphe by Hai Nam

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.

#10 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, 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.

#11 Portobello (Coffee & Wine)

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.

#12 Dorado Café

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.

#13 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.

#14 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.

#15 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 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.

#16 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.

#17 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.

#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 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.

#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. Also here: 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. 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.

#21 Mesterbike & coffee project

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.

#22 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 a young Otto Wanger, who went on to become Austria's most famous architect.

#23 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 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.

#24 The Goat Herder - Espresso Bar

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.

#25 Budapest Baristas

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.

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 also never accept money in exchange for coverage. But this means I must rely on readers to support my work. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider making a one-time payment (PayPal) or becoming an Offbeat Patron.