6 Highly Touristy Places In Budapest That Are Actually Good

Most Budapest guide books feature the places below, meaning that throngs of tourists flock to them. Although lack of locals is normally a warning sign, these restaurants, bars, and cafés haven't actually turned into tourist traps. Price-points may be a little higher than usual, but they have retained their native spirit that made them famous in the first place.

#1 Szimpla Kert

If you've spent at least five minutes researching Budapest, then you must have come across Szimpla Kert, Budapest's iconic ruin bar. Likely you're also familiar with the ruin bar (romkocsma) concept: makeshift bars inside dilapidated pre-war buildings furnished with furniture assembled from clearance sales and exuding an inexplicably cool atmosphere.

#2 Mazel Tov Budapest

Head to Mazel Tov if you like the ruin bar concept in theory, but prefer things more upscale. This Middle Eastern restaurant inside Budapest's buzzing Jewish Quarter does have a disintegrating facade like other ruin bars, but the inside is a different story: Cheap drinks have been upgraded to cocktails, ham & cheese sandwiches to mezze plates, self-service to hostesses, and cheap furniture to a chic interior with lush greenery and sleek wood paneling.

#3 Kőleves Restaurant

Kőleves is a wildly popular restaurant in the heart of Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter, today’s party district. The building, which was built in 1851, used to be home to a kosher meat processing facility and butcher shop, so it’s fitting that they honor the building’s past with dishes like matzo ball soup, and cholent, the typical Sabbath dish. They also use leftover articles from the meat plant as design pieces, including a well-worn, leather-bound ledger book and a weathered Talmud.

#4 Café Gerbeaud

Gerbeaud is a historic pastry shop and café in Budapest anchoring downtown's Váci Street. It was Hungarian-Swiss patissier Emil Gerbeaud, who, after taking over the business in 1884, revolutionized Hungarian confectionery with inventive sweets and pastries. The place quickly became a see-and-be-seen hangout for the city's upper crust. Gerbeaud was nationalized during the communist era but even then it preserved an air of opulence and remained a favorite haunt of Budapest's high society, especially for elderly ladies.

#5 Kádár Étkezde

If you wonder what everyday dining was like during communist Hungary, Kádár Étkezde may be able to give you the answer. Or at least that used to be the case before tourists descended on the place in the last few years. Kádár, which opened in 1957, started out as a wallet-friendly neighborhood joint feeding the mainly Jewish local residents—it's inside Budapest's old Jewish Quarter—with unfussy traditional Hungarian foods like stuffed cabbage and beef stew (pörkölt), and also Jewish staples like matzo ball soup and cholent (note that Kádár isn't kosher). The dishes were passable, prices rock-bottom.

#6 Frici Papa Kifőzdéje

Although Frici Papa opened after the fall of the iron curtain, this eatery has rightfully become a darling for tourists who're looking to experience a piece of communist-era dining—prices are rock-bottom, cheap wood panelings decorate the walls, tablecloths are covered with sticky plastic, waiters are dressed as if parachuted here from the '80s.

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.