Grand Cafés of Budapest
I recently spent three work related weeks in Budapest and one of my favorite memories is having coffee in the Cafés on the pest side of Budapest. So, this trip report will only cover cafés. The ones that I visited were beautiful old world cafés which took one back to the turn of the (20th) century. Although there are certainly a lot more cafés in the city besides those listed here, I found these most interesting. They each had beautiful interiors, elegant chandeliers, and coffee served on a silver tray with a small cookie (or something similar) on the side. I had occasion to have coffee in five different cafés, a few more than once, and one of them more than a few times. I drank a lot of coffee — double espressos to be exact. No milk, no sugar. And, they were good. I also usually ordered a croissant or pastry to go along with it. I loved those breaks in the Cafés.
My absolute favorite was the Central Kavehaz on Károlyi Mihály utca 9. It’s kind of tricky to find since it isn’t on a main tourist corridor. If one walks towards Kalvin Ter from Ferenciek Ter on Károlyi Mihály you’ll pass it. But for some reason I always approached it from different directions, and always seemed to get lost. Once inside this beautiful oasis one can sit and relax without being hurried or hassled to finish up and move along. Plus the other clientele, mostly locals I believe, seemed to have the same intentions, so it brought about a good feeling, a relaxed feeling. The seating was comfortable and not crowded. I returned three more times, the last time having a complete meal there.
My second favorite was Gerlóczy Café on Gerlóczy u. 1. It has a corner location that opens on to a small triangular space and is located between the City Hall and the County Hall buildings. It also is off the main tourist corridor, and on a map could be interpreted as somewhat tricky to find, but wasn’t somehow. I returned again for coffee here because the upstairs non-smoking seating area was quiet, relaxing, and usually not crowded or busy. And the coffee, pastries, and service were all very good.
Third was Café Gerbeaud, on Vörösmarty tér 7. It was a good, centrally located Café busy with tourists (who I think were probably tourists), and had some of the best pastries of my trip. It may have been a little too hectic for the atmosphere I wanted.
Fourth was the New York Café on Erzsébet körút 9-11. It was easy to find, located on a major Boulevard, but kind of out of the way for most tourist wanderings. The New York Palace (a Boscolo Hotel) is attached. Actually, I should say that the café is attached to the hotel. This interior was stunning. It was very ornate, very elaborate, and very baroque in style. But it was too posh, too imposing for the coffee break mood I was in. Plus I felt a bit rushed and awkward there.
Fifth and in last place for me was the Muvesz Kavehaz, on Andrássy út 29. This was my least favorite, mainly because of the wait-staff, but also because the seat I had was in an uncomfortable, crowded place, so I was in a hurry to leave. This is where I had a slight issue with the server. I had ordered an espresso and after a long wait he brought some sort of latte. When I indicated to him that I didn’t order this, he seemed annoyed to have to exchange it for what I had ordered. It shouldn’t have been anything, but to him it was a nuisance.
One café that I didn’t go into, but should have, was Callas near the Opera on Andrássy út. I had occasion to pass it several times, even stopped to read the menu posted outside, but just didn’t go in. I’m not sure why.
I also didn’t get to go to Café Bouchon nor Café Kor. Both of these were mentioned by wiselindig in her recent trip report, and were located within easy walking distance for me. Somehow I didn’t get there and I probably will regret not doing so.
It was winter and Budapest was cold, so these coffee breaks were perfect for me. If it had been summer, things may have been different. I also think that staying in Budapest for a longer length of time than most tourists gave me a somewhat different perspective on the city and its residents. Basically, I was an extended stay visitor.
Budapest has its own style with beautiful, grand old buildings, some very good museums, synagogues, and churches. It also has a sense of modernity that is beginning to show itself through young, resourceful individuals with emerging enterprising spirits. The continuously torn up streets (new metro line is coming in) were a pain for everyone including residents who have tired of it all. Still, I truly believe that Budapest is a city well worth visiting — in any season of the year and for any reason.
Thanks to all those who posted their Budapest reports, others who asked questions, and those who answered questions on this board. I read most of them before my trip and gained valuable insights and made use of many tips.
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Grand Cafés of Budapest