Nothing better to experience the spirit of Hungary’s Capital than to try the local food, made with fresh ingredients in the best restaurants in town! Here is my personal list of the best restaurants in Budapest.
Similarly to Austrian cuisine, the Hungarian one is mostly Central European. Drawing comparisons between the two is quite inevitable, as they were for a long time part of the same empire, the Austro-Hungarian, and therefore shared a lot of cultural traits.
Typical Hungarian food is rich in dairy, cheese, and meats (mostly simple meats such as beef, pork, and chicken), almost always served with bread. Also important to point is that here you will find some of the highest quality salamis and sausages in the whole of Europe and for quite inexpensive prices.
Meals are often divided into those which require side dishes, and those that do not. If a side dish is not formally required for a meal, Hungarians would find it a bit weird to order any. The most common side dishes being potatoes prepared in many different styles, as well as white rice or steamed vegetables.
What to eat in Budapest
Just like Vienna, Budapest is rich in big and fancy coffee houses that attracted artists from all over the continent. Make sure to visit at least one early in the morning to experience the elaborate menus and beautiful architecture these places have to offer.
As the main meal of the day, be it lunch or dinner, make sure to try the traditional Hungarian Goulash, the national dish. Another popular pick is the Csirkepaprikás (chicken paprikash), which is a chicken stew with a lot of sweet paprika, and a specific sour cream called tejföl. A personal favorite of mine, though, is the Csülök, or pork knuckle.
For a dessert or snack, you should definitely try the local Kürtőskalács. Many people mistake it for Prague’s Trdelník, but the Hungarian version of this delicious pastry is the real deal, as well as a must-try when visiting Budapest. Another option for a sweet snack would be the Gundel Palacsinta (crêpe) filled with nuts and chocolate sauce.
Where to eat in Budapest
Coffee & Breakfast
Centrál Coffee House
Location: Károlyi utca 9 | Near Károlyi Garden
Opening: Mon-Sun 08:00 – 00:00
The Centrál Coffee House opened its doors in 1887 and quickly became the meeting point for elite Hungarian writers, poets, composers, and scientists throughout the centuries.
Despite taking a large hit during World War II, just like the rest of the city, this lovely coffee house reopened as a canteen for students as well as a night-time club. But in 2000, it reopened its doors as the classical coffee house, with its current mission of reviving the golden era of Hungarian gastronomy.
The ambiance of the Centrál Coffee House is very calm and classy. Early in the morning, they already have some very soft live music playing in the background, and the service couldn’t be more polite.
The space, in general, is very open and bright, with wooden and golden furniture, as well as plants everywhere. It makes for a very peaceful beginning of the day, perfect for getting into the mood for exploring the city.
Although this place is both a coffee house and a restaurant, I mostly come here for their breakfasts. It’s one of the few places in town that serve quality imperial era breakfasts, very similar to the ones in Vienna.
If you come here, make sure to order their “Perfect Day” breakfast, which is only served between 9:30 and 11:30. It comes with eggs benedict, 6 gourmet canapés, a mini cake selection, muesli, yogurt, pastry, honey, jam, butter, freshly squeezed orange juice, a warm drink (either hot coffee, tea, or hot chocolate), and a glass of prosecco.
But if you are not so hungry, you can also go for a “Centrál 1887 Granola“, which comes with Greek yogurt, honey, cottage cheese, jam, and fresh fruits. That’s the one in the picture above.
Lunch & Dinner
Location: Vámház krt. 1-3 | Inside the Great Market Hall
Opening: Mon 09:00 – 17:00, Tue-Fri 09:00 – 18:00,
Sat 09:00 – 15:00, Sun CLOSED
Located inside what is known to be the most beautiful market hall in all of Europe, the Fakanál Étterem restaurant offers hearty Hungarian home food at its best. They are proud to offer home-made flavors made from fresh ingredients from the market, just as if they had come from the local grandmother’s or mother’s stove.
The place is even cozier than you can imagine, quite unexpected for a crowded city market. It is very spacious, and the decoration makes you feel like you are dining in a cute little Hungarian village. Definitely one of the coziest restaurants in Budapest.
Here you can order either through a menu, or serve yourself on their buffet. The latter being my preference, as they tend to be cheaper, and not a bit less delicious. You will be surprised by the quality you will get for so cheap.
My favorite go for the Fakanál Étterem is the Csülök pékné módra, a classic Hungarian pork knuckle baked together with potatoes. I cannot stress enough how delicious this dish is.
Apparently, the fresh seasoning and vegetables gathered from the market hall do make a difference in taste, and it is something you have to experience for yourself. Together with a local unfiltered beer, this hearty dish will surely satisfy.
VakVarjú Étterem Pest
Location: Paulay Ede u. 7. | Near St. Stephen’s Basilica
Opening: Mon-Sun 11:30 – 00:00
VakVarjú (The Blind Crow) is a popular dining option among locals, and for those reasons, the restaurant has many branches across Budapest. My favorite one being the one right at the center of Pest.
Their gastronomy is based on the reimagining of classic Hungarian dishes with a modern touch, while still keeping in touch with tradition. And to be honest, they are quite successful at it.
Right upon arrival you will notice the homely atmosphere. The place is very well lit, by either large windows during the day or modern chandeliers during the night. Here you will also find a variety of different tables and seats to choose from, whatever makes you more comfortable.
This Budapest restaurant also has live music during the evenings, which adds to the whole atmosphere. Apart from that, it is important to note that they have a kid’s corner with a lot of toys, so if you bring children, they can have some fun on their own as well.
What better place than VakVarjú, to experience the classic Hungarian Goulash soup with a freshly baked dough on top. It makes for a great appetizer, before ordering a Beef tenderloin with mustard seeded cream cheese, fried onions, sweet potato cream, and sugar snap peas, or Soft pork tenderloin with porcini Paprikash, smoked bacon greaves, and sheep’s cheesy Kaiserschmarren.
Location: Ybl Miklós tér 6 | Near Buda Castle
Opening: Mon-Sun 11:30 – 00:00
Bárkert Bistro is located in the Várkert Bazár, a neo-renaissance building dreamt up by architect Miklós Ybl, Hungary’s most influential architect during his career, around the end of the 19th century.
After 130 years of history, this place has managed to maintain is popularity and elegance, attracting many people from all over the world. They are known for what they call ‘fusion cuisine‘, a pairing of fine traditional Hungarian food with characteristic international flavors.
This lovely Budapest restaurant tends more towards the elegant side than the cozy one. But the comfort they promise, they deliver. They have a really spacious interior, accompanied by a panoramic terrace overlooking the Danube river.
Service here will be of utmost quality as they pride themselves on their skilled waiters and state-of-the-art technical equipment.
When visiting the Bárkert Bistro, make sure to order a Friss lecsó (Fresh Hungarian ratatouille) as a starter; followed by either a duck leg with polenta and marinated baby vegetables, or an Angus Rib-eye steak, served with smoked paprika-gorgonzola sauce, and Chérie potato. They also serve vegan food, so if that is your pick, make sure to order their wild mushroom pappardelle.
They also have the ‘menu of the day’ option, which offers simpler food, but nonetheless as delicious. That was my pick last time I visited this place, when I ordered chicken breast coated with breadcrumbs served together with potato purée.
Location: Szófia u. 33 | Near Terror Museum
Opening: Mon-Sun 12:00 – 22:00
Regős Vendéglő is a small family-owned restaurant, run by Péter Regős. As much as 80% of their clients are locals who work in the neighboring office buildings, which means their menu reflects the taste and wishes of fellow local Hungarians, making this restaurant a true hidden gem in Budapest.
With its exposed brick walls and comfy wooden furniture, the interior gives a very strong underground vibe. Regős Vendéglő makes for a perfect pick for a casual lunch with friends outside of the crowded city center.
Not only their food is very hearty and delicious but is also much less expensive than its alternatives downtown. Also important to note, is that if you manage to get there between 12:00 and 15:00, you can get a 3-course lunch menu for only 2000 Ft.
If you go for the 3-course lunch menu, I would suggest starting with a bean soup ‘Jókai’ style; followed by chicken breast with mushroom cream sauce and rice; finished by a delicious cherry strudel as dessert. I can guarantee you will not find this amount of flavor for this price anywhere in town, making this one of my top picks for the best restaurants in Budapest.
Sweets & Desserts
Location: Váci u. 31 | Near Elisabeth Bridge
Opening: Sun-Thu 10:00 – 20:00, Fri-Sat10:00 – 21:00
Molnár’s Kürtőskalács is famous across the city as the best place to eat this delicious treat made out of chopped walnuts glued to the hot and sticky caramel layer of melted sugar, know as Kürtőskalács.
Located in the heart of the inner district of Budapest, it is the perfect place to have a nice dessert or snack while exploring the city.
This place is not very fancy, but do not get fooled, as the food here is delicious. Due to local laws, they are not allowed to prepare Kürtőskalács in its traditional way, since it would involve a large fireplace which can be hazardous indoors. But they managed to come up with a substitute that cooks it just as good.
Keep also in mind that there are not many seats to compensate for the popularity of this snack. If you come here, especially during the evening, the place will be packed. But no worries, most locals just come to pick them up to eat them somewhere else, by the river or in a park, for example.
At Molnár’s Kürtőskalács you will find a wide variety of granulated toppings for your Kürtőskalács, my favorites being chocolate and walnut. There is also the option of getting it either cut in half, or as a bowl with ice-cream inside. I recommend getting both to try them out and see how you prefer eating it.