Budapest is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. There are countless eateries, cafés, and bistros, all bragging about serving excellent food. But finding real authentic eateries that are also a good value for your money is difficult. With such a plethora of choices, it’s easy to get confused and fall into a tourist trap. Especially when you don’t know any locals. I know it from my own experience. Despite having friends and family in Budapest, I still had a fair amount of culinary disappointments in this big city. With that in mind, I decided to put together a list of the best Hungarian restaurants in Budapest. Hope that my short reviews will give you some idea about what to expect at each one of them.
If you are looking for a fine dining experience and not just having a meal, the following three restaurants are a great choice for memorable dinner in Budapest:
Best Hungarian Restaurants in Budapest
Gundels is Budapest’s most famous restaurant. This upscale restaurant has been standing proud at its current location for over 150 years. Gundel has an old culinary tradition and serves some of the most delicious Hungarian dishes that I have ever tasted. You can order à la carte, or a prix fixe menu (with up to eight courses). Each corse is paired up with the wine that best compliments the food.
The restaurant also has a gypsy band that plays a wide variety of music, from old Hungarian folk songs, to waltzes and modern hits. Excellent food, good service, nice atmosphere, but very high prices. A dinner for two may cost anywhere from $450-$600, depending on the kind of wine you order.
On the downside, the food portions are rather small, so you are more or less forced to order more courses if you don’t want to leave with an empty stomach. But I guess you don’t go to Gundel to eat, you go for a culinary experience. Dress code is high end casual. Don’t show up without a blazer! Address: 14th district, Gundel Károly street 4.
2. Halászbástya Étterem (Fishermen’s Bastion Restaurant)
If you find yourself in Budapest Old Town on a beautiful summer evening, give the Fishermen’s Bastion Restaurant a try. Perched high up on the wall of the Fisherman’s Bastion, this restaurant will spoil you with a royal interior and the best location in town. Great panoramic city views and live gypsy music. In summer you can enjoy a drink on the terrace. The central section of the restaurant features the Knight Hall, with a round expandable table that can accommodate a party up to 25 guests.
Food is good (but not excellent), the atmosphere is nice and romantic, but prices are high. This is the ideal place if you want to impress your date, or if you want to propose. Address: Fisherman’s Bastion, North Tower, Buda Castle
3. Csalogány 26
This bistro style restaurant is very popular among the locals and almost totally unknown to the visitors. Located in a residential neighborhood in Buda, Csalogány 26 is so well hidden that you can easily miss it. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming appearance and non-ceative name (named after the address). Csalogány 26 is one of Budapest top ten restaurants, despite its remote location.
The food they serve is absolutely divine! They have a great selection of wines. You can choose from an à la carte menu or a prix fixe menu with several courses paired up with wine. Prices are high, but portions are reasonable. I ordered a single entree from the à la carte menu and didn’t leave feeling hungry. The restaurant is small and intimate, with a very cozy atmosphere. Service is great too. Address: Csalogany utca 26, Budapest 1015, Hungary (District I / Buda)
4. Bagolyvár Restaurant (The Owl’s Castle)
The Owl’s Castle is a cheaper version of Gundel (has the same owner and shares a kitchen with the much more expensive establishment). The restaurant which is exclusively run by women, is located just a stone throw away from Gundel, in a reproduction of a Transylvanian house from the 19th century. The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner and also has a patio that is opened during the summer months.
For dinner the restaurant has live piano music, alternated with short appearances of the the gypsy orchestra from Gundel. The food is wonderful, reasonably priced, and the service is good too. This is a better alternative for Gundel if you are looking for a great place to eat. Address: Allatkerti ut 2, Budapest 1146
5. Mátyás Pince (Matthias Cellar)
Matthias Cellar is one of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in Budapest. The restaurant was named after Matthias Corvinus, one of the most beloved Hungarian kings. The restaurant is located in a former brewery, very close to pedestrian Vaci utca right next to the Danube. Although very touristy, the restaurant preserved its atmospheric authenticity.
They serve good, traditional Hungarian food. A Gypsy band plays here every night, from 7 PM to midnight. Prices are a little high, but the restaurant is still a good value. It also serves lunch on week-ends. Address: H-1056 Budapest, Március 15. tér 7
6. Szlovák Sörözö (Slovak Pub)
This little tavern located in the downtown area close to the Comedy Theater, is one of our favorite pubs in Budapest. The pub serves excellent authentic Slovakian and Hungarian cuisine at very cheap prices. Their signature dish is “sztrapacska” (potato dumplings with sheep feta cheese and bacon), but they also serve an excellent Goulash, soups, grilled meats and deserts.
The locale is totally unpretentious, but very atmospheric and is frequented mainly by the locals. If all you want is a tasty, hearty meal after a day of sightseeing, you won’t be disappointed here. Address: Budapest, Bihari János utca 17, (off Szent Istvan körut)
7. Café Gerbeaud
Located at Vörösmarty Square (at one end of the pedestrian Vaci street), Café Gerbeaud is one of Budapest’s landmarks. If you asked me a while ago, I would have told you that no visit to Budapest is complete without savoring a Sisi cave (Sisi coffee) at the opulent Café Gerbeaud. But today the legendary Gerbeaud tries hard to hang on to its old glory. Unfortunately, what was once Budapest’s finest café and the meeting place of the city’s elite, became a touristy, overpriced, and mediocre place.
Still, if you want to see one of the most traditional coffee houses in Europe, you should stop for a visit. The grandeur of its chandelier-lit rooms covered with red velvet may justify your money. Too bad the quality of the service is lost. I used to love Gerbeaud.
8. Café New York
Another historic café in Budapest that served as the gathering spot for famous artist figures of the time is Café New York. Built at the end of the 19th century, this architectural gem went through some bizarre transformations over the years. During the Communist era, the place became a sporting goods store (of all things!) In 1954 it reopened as a restaurant and was renamed Hungaria. Only in 1989 it became a café again and was reopened under its current name. Located on the ground floor of the New York Palace hotel, the coffee house displays a rich and opulent decor made of marble, bronze, silk, crystal, velvet. The place is over the top luxurious! And still maintains the old time tradition of serving coffee on silver trays.
Prices are very high (around 980 HUF/$4 for a regular coffee and 2000 HUF/$8 for a slice of cake). Even so, this place is worth seeing, at least for the sake of enjoying the ambiance of a great coffee house. Address: Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 9-11, 1073
Ruszwurm is one of my favorite spots in Budapest. Their delicious pastries and coffee make your mouth water. Located in the Buda Castle area, the 187 years old tiny little café still operates with great success. Ruszwurm is owned by the Szamos family, a famous confectionary dynasty.
Prices are moderate to high, service is good. Due to its fame and location, it is always a challenge to find a table here. Address: Budapest, Szentháromság u. 7, 1014
10. Europa Café
Europa Café is another very pleasant coffee house, with bot inside and outside sitting. Located on Szent Istvan körut opposite the Comedy Theater and just a few steps from Margaret Bridge, the café has a big selection of pastries and sweets. Europa Café is a popular spot for the locals. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the small Parisian cafés where the old timers meet to catch up with each other.
Prices are moderate, service is good and the atmosphere is very pleasant. Because of its proximity to our apartment in Budapest, we visit the café quite often when we are in town. But even if you don’t stay in the area this place is definitely worth a visit. Address: Budapest, Váci u. 45, 1056
Did you visit any of this great restaurants and cafés in Budapest? Which one was your favorite.
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