Budapest is a great place to imbibe — be that coffee, a beer, or the many, many delicious (and under-appreciated, on American shores) Hungarian wines. As in my restaurant disclaimer, there are far too many places to list very great bar, coffeeshop or cafe I have visited — these just represent a few of the best, regular “go-to” places I hit up.

Coffee Houses …

One of the lovely holdovers from the Austro-Hungarian empire is the tradition of fancy coffee and cake shops. I need hardly say how happy this makes me. Most of your guidebooks recommend Gerbeaud (which is in Vorosmarty ter, at the end of the infamous Vaci utca shopping street). Gerbeaud is fine and very pretty, but I find it overrated. Two I prefer, for the big fancy coffee house fun are:

Centrál Kávéház – located just south of the t M3/Blue Metro stop at Ferenciek tere. Amazing fancy coffees (try the Arkadia – made with honey and whipped cream, it sounds weird but tastes divine, or any of the alcoholic coffees). Decent sandwiches and salads too, and yummy yummy cakes. They will let you sit FOREVER and just dawdle the day away.

Ruszwurm — run, don’t walk. This historic coffeehouse on Castle Hill has been serving deliciousness since 1827. With its fancy little tables, delicate cakes and extensive list of every form of coffee drink one could imagine, it exudes old-timey charm.  With the fact that its main internal equipment survived both the Hungarian Revolution in 1849 and the siege of the city in 1944 at the end of World War II, one might be tempted to call it miraculous. Then, when you taste the cakes, you’ll know it is.

A Happy Ruszwurm Customer!

A Happy Ruszwurm Customer!

The cream cake was apparently a favorite of Hapsburg empress Maria Theresa. Try it, note that all that jiggly, creamy goodness will soon appear on your thighs — and then happily continue to eat it anyway. Located very near the Matyas Church, on Szentháromság utca. (

Gerlóczy – smaller and more intimate, it is an awesome place to have a big, late, breakfast. On Gerlóczy utca, it is near both the Ferenciek ter and Deak Ferenc ter metro stops

… and, er, Houses Dedicated to  Things A Wee Bit Stronger

I love  the bar scene in Budapest. Clubs tend not to dominate, but rather more chill, dive-y places (perhaps it is my inner Pittsburgher coming out, in love of dive-y-ness). I especially love the advent of the “ruin pub” which became popular in the 90s, as tourists began flowing in: it basically means you take a falling-down building, usually still bearing the marks of WWII bomb-outs, and throw a bunch of random stuff together to make a bar that is deliberately rough looking.

Bar Ladino– Hip place with a great vibe of young intellectual types and cute, scruffy boys who work behind the counter. (this is where we met for our “Hungary for Obama” meetings when we were trying to make sure ex-pats voted right). Decent food, too. Located at 53 Dob utca, which is between Wesselényi and Kiraly utca stops on the 4/6 tram

Szimpla/Dupla – Szimpla Kert is one of my favorite places in the world. From Blaha Lujza tér on the 4/6 tram or red metro, walk down Rackozi ut (away from the Ring Road) and turn right on Kazinczy utca. Walk till you see a little yellow sign that says “Szimpla” and go through the plastic flaps to get inside (it looks ghetto, but I assure you, it is AWESOME)
Dupla is a smaller version, located a few blocks away at 48 Kertesz utca (it is right across the street from the hummus

Inside Szimpla

Inside Szimpla

bar, on of my fave eating spots)

Instant – Another great ruin pub, which sometimes has great DJs as well. You have to love the dentist’s chair you can sit in. Located on Nagymező utca 38 (near Oktogon)

Potkulc- I would have never found this one without my awesomely awesome Hungarian colleagues. But I am so glad I did. A super-hidden spot (it’s name means “backdoor key”), it has a super-chill vibe, the best forralt bor or hot wine, in the city and often gets interesting live music in. Nice mixed crowd of Hungarians and wanna-be Hungarians.

To find it: the address is 65B Csengery Utca. Get off the 4/6 tram at Oktogon, walk down Andrassy utca about three blocks, turn left on Csengery. Near the end of the street, you will see a green metal door. It is labeled Potkulc, it is just small and hard to find. In the summer, you can hear the crowd in the awesome little garden, but in the winter it will be quiet (so much so you might think you are breaking into someone’s house). Don’t be scared off – persist and enter into a fun night!

Kiado Kocsma– A very cool little bar that fills up quickly! Tends to attract a nice crowd of crunchy, biker (that is bicycle, not Harley) types — for the Washingtonians out there, it reminds me heavily of Wonderland up in Columbia Heights, if that helps you visualize. Located just off of the ring road – if you take the 4/6 tram to Oktogon, walk down Andrassy in the direction of the Danube, and you will find Jókai tér on your left. The bar has two entrances: one to the very low key basement pub, but I personally prefer going into the very cozy upstairs portion. It is hard to find a table on weekends! Located at Jókai tér 3

Sirály – A relaxed bar and art space that has the feel of a library – in a good way: dark, wood built-in bookshelves, intellectual types. It has three levels, with this cool HUGE spiral staircase leading up it. A great place to start a night out. Located at Király u. 50 (4/6 tram to Király utca)

A heated, intellectual debate at Siraly

A heated, intellectual debate at Siraly

Kuplung – Another nice, big dive-y bar, just a few steps down from Siraly. Usually has some good music and dancing later on the weekend nights (doesn’t really get going till closer to midnight). Located at Király u. 48

…. If you are in the mood for more of a dance-y vibe, I’d recommend:

Gödör Klub —  one of my favorites in the summer time because it has a HUGE set of stairs where you can sit out and drink your Dreher and Unicum out of plastic cups. Still fun in the winter, with an eclectic mix of art and dance and DJs and bands that come in.

A38 — on a boat in the Danube,, does lots of international groups in concert (


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