Budapest is sometimes called the “Paris of the East”, and when it comes to food, the name is perfect. Read on to discover great places to eat in Budapest, and Hungarian dish recommendations.
The origins of the Magyar cuisine adored in Budapest is tied to Hungarian history, from the eastern influence of the Turks, who introduced cherries, rice and paprika during their 150-year reign to its Austrian rulers. Parisian kitchens also played a role as this is where 19th century Hungarian chefs trained at the height of Budapest’s gilded age.
Budapest’s Regional Delights
Hungarian cuisine will warm you up in the cold local winter just as well as any of Budapest’s famed thermal baths. A plate of savoury goulash, a paprika-heavy meat and vegetable stew, may be the world’s most satisfying comfort food. Since the beginning of the 20th century, when Budapest chefs embraced regional recipes, delectable dishes like töltött paprika (stuffed peppers) and rakott krumpli (a layered dish of potatoes, eggs and sausage) have played a starring role on the menus of Budapest restaurants.
The Best Budapest Restaurants
Many of the best restaurants Budapest has to offer serve both pan-European dishes as well as traditional Hungarian recipes. Ask to see the special of the day, which may often be a regional delicacy like töltött paprika or goulash. As a starter, don’t miss the chance to try meggyleves, a sour cherry soup you’re unlikely to find outside of Hungary. For imaginative versions of Magyar classics in elegant surroundings, Muzeum, Onyx, and the Art Nouveau gem Gundel are top Budapest restaurant choices.
If you’re seeking a more casual vibe, Menza serves up traditional Hungarian food with a dose of retro Communist-era kitsch design. For reasonably priced, contemporary preparations of regional cuisine in an airy setting, head to the whimsically-named Borbiróság, or “Wine Court”.
Budapest Street Food & Markets
The Fény Street Market is the perfect spot to find lángos, a type of fried bread that is Budapest’s most popular street food. Start with the traditional sour cream and cheese version at Lángos Land. With its sit-down cafe, Lángos Papa is a delightful addition to the Budapest restaurant scene: order your lángos topped with deer stew or chicken paprikash, or dig into Hungarian staples such as rakott krumpli.
Nagycsarnok (the Great Market Hall) is another excellent place to enjoy lángos and other regional treats. At lunchtime, you can also stroll upstairs to Fakanál, a beloved local cafeteria.
Budapest Cafes and Legendary Desserts
Got a sweet tooth? Budapest’s ‘Dobos Torte’ should satisfy even the sweetest craving. The Dobos Torte remains one Europe’s most iconic desserts, famous for its pioneering use of chocolate buttercream. Introduced to acclaim in 1884 by local confectioner József C. Dobos, this many-layered sponge cake is a delicious symbol of Budapest’s status as one of the great pastry capitals of Europe.
Alongside the best restaurants Budapest offers truly elegant cafes, like the grand 19th century Gerbeaud Café (try the vanilla krémes) and the historic Central Café, once a gathering spot for dissident writers, sit side by side. The jaw-dropping Renaissance-style frescoes and the classical piano player at the Lotz Terem Café, hidden inside the Alexandra bookstore in Budapest, are the perfect backdrop for a latte and a slice of Dobos torte.
Across the Danube on Buda’s Castle Hill, the venerable pastry shop Ruzswurm has been serving marzipan-covered Mátyás torte and Estherházy tortes since 1827. It’s worth the wait to snag a table: Ruzswurm is Budapest’s oldest café, with a passionate local following.
Feeling peckish? Start planning your culinary adventure in Budapest!