Cafés and Wine Bars: Experience the Real Budapest
Budapest, Hungary’s captivating capital, provides an intoxicating mix of old-world charm and pulsating contemporary culture. This diverse city is known for its historic buildings, thermal baths, and rich food and beverage scene, including cafés, wine bars, cocktail bars, and much more.
CAFÉS & COFFEE HOUSES
Hungary’s centuries-old coffee-drinking tradition makes it a veritable haven for coffee lovers. The Turks introduced coffee in the mid-16th century, and by the 19th century, Budapest was a hub of intellectual activity, with close to 600 kávéház (cafés) dotting the city.
Centers of creativity like the New York Café, adorned with frescoes by leading artists, and the lively Centrál Kávéház café were beacons for the literati and continue to preserve a vibrant slice of the past. In contrast, more modern establishments like Moyo Café, Menza, Barokko, Paris, Texas, and Leroy cater to a younger crowd.
For a traditional Budapest coffee-house experience, head to Gerbeaud Cukrászda, known for its exquisite coffee and cakes, or the Gellért Eszpresszó, located in the Gellért Hotel. Both offer an authentic taste of Habsburg-era charm.
Wine bars in Hungary serve up more than just exquisite drinks; they offer a glimpse into the country’s social fabric. Borozók, a traditional wine cellar, serves wines straight from the barrel and remains integral to Budapest’s vinous landscape.
For an authentic experience, try 6:3 Borozó or Vidocq Borozó, unpretentious places where the wine flows freely. The stylish Rondella Borozó offers wine in curious tap-bottomed jugs, while Várfok Borozó in the Castle District offers a simple but authentic experience.
Budapest’s nightlife pulsates with chic cocktail bars. Liszt Ferenc tér, the social hub of Budapest, is dotted with trendy spots like Incognito and Karma. Oscar’s American Bar is a favorite for its extensive cocktail list. For a luxurious experience, head to the Four Seasons Bar in the opulent Gresham Palace Hotel.
FOOD AND CUSTOMS
Although wine bars typically focus on drinks, some serve light snacks like bread dripping with raw onion and paprika, pogácsa (a yeast pan-bread) served with various toppings, frankfurters, or knuckle.
However, remember a key Hungarian custom: unlike in most European countries, clinking beer glasses are seen as offensive due to their association with the execution of Hungarian generals by the Austrians in 1848–1849.
Immersing yourself in Budapest’s café and wine bar scene offers a unique perspective on the city, its history, and its people. From traditional coffee houses to trendy wine bars and cocktail joints, the city promises a rich tapestry of tastes for the discerning traveler.