Back in the day, it was fairly typical to see many old Hungarian men and woman hanging out well into the night at a traditional coffee house in Budapest. Ideas were discussed and many pastries were consumed.
Today, it’s hard to narrow in on some of these ancient gems (no, we’re not talking about the old men and women), but they do still exist. And, the best part? An old coffee house or confectionery in Budapest can make for a fantastic cheapo’s night out. For the price of a cup of coffee and a yummy confection, you’ll be stepping back in time, connecting with Hungarian culture and often hanging out in a lavish turn-of-the-century building.
Here are five of our favorites:
I. Batthyany ter 7
Open: Monday through Wednesday and on Sundays from 9 am to midnight; Thursday to Saturday from 9 am to 2 am
If the stained-glass windows, vaulted cielings and views of the Danube don’t draw you in, then the unique origin of this coffee house surely will. The Angelika, aptly named, sits inside the former crypt of St. Anne’s Church. Be sure to check out all the fabulous Buda ladies, who tend to sit here for hours sipping on the first-rate hot tea and engaging in conversation.
2) Muvesz Café
VI., Andrassy ut 29
Open: Daily from 9 am to midnight
This is a good bet if you’re planning a longer evening out as it’s one of the few old coffee houses that stays open late. They serve lots of yummy cakes and sandwiches. The décor is late 19th-century. Now, we admit, this isn’t one of the cheaper haunts, but if you want to feel like you’re in a legitimate establishment, Muvesz delivers. Look for ladies in fur hats.
3) Lukács ConfectioneryVI., Andrassy ut 70
Open: Monday through Friday from 9 am to 8 pm and weekends from 10 am to 8 pm
For years, this confectionery was a meeting place for the secret Hungarian police and served as a bank too. Today, it maintains that somewhat buttoned-up, underground vibe. You walk in through the old bank entrance and can even order a cake called the “bankar”. Lots of waitresses in fancy uniforms, pretty carpets and a huge dessert display make for fun distractions.
4) Ruszwurm <I, Szentharomsag ter 7
Open: Daily from 10 am to 8 pm (though we’ve known them to close at 7 pm if they aren’t busy)
Smack dab in the middle of the castle disctrict, this is a true example of a smallish old Baroque coffee house. It opened in 1824. Spend the evening wandering the district’s grounds and then stop in—if you can nab a seat (this place gets packed, especially in summer months). Let yourself eat cake here.
5) Gerbeaud Confectionery
V., Vorosmarty ter 7 (just off Vorosmarty Square)
Founded in 1858, Gerbeaud still has all its charm. Crystal chandeliers hang above the crowds (the Gerbeaud can hold 300 guests at one time) and pastries are of both Hungarian and Viennese origin. Try the cognac cherry cake, a concoction by former owner Emil Gerbeaud. And, if you’re tired of tourists, you can always skip the hubbub at Gerbeaud and head around the corner to Kis Gerbeaud (“Little Gerbaud”) which has cheaper pastries and less flash.