Budapest has no shortage of cafes oozing that good-old-day feeling. Some have been around for ages and haven’t changed a bit, and some newer ones try very hard to re-create the past. Check out these retro chic places for strong espresso served in glass cups, old-school decor, and classic Budapest coffeehouse charm.
Frankel Leó út 2/4, Budapest 1027
+36 1 212 3171
An oasis of real vintage coolness, this small neighbourhood bar near the foot of the Margit bridge has been a Buda fixture since the height of the Communist era. The interior retains its decades-long charm with red leather seating, crochet tablecloths, and faded checkerboard tiles. And the service remains efficient but decidedly rude. The retro character also extends to the menu offerings, from a simple range of coffees (either in glass cups or polka dot cups), beers and liquors to a handful of traditional nibbles (pogácsa, creamy cakes, frankfurters, and simple sandwiches) to go with them. This place has a loyal long-time clientele, and a patio which fills up on warm evenings with people coming for cheap beer and spritzers (fröccs).
Papnövelde utca 8, Budapest 1053
+36 1 266 0413
Like a time capsule dug up 50 years after it was buried, Táskarádió offers a glimpse of the design and feel of 1960s Hungary. The glowing neon sign next to the University square signals the location of this funky old-timer, but it’s the colorful interior full of period furniture, artwork and memorabilia that really shines. But it’s not just the appearance—the new-age take on classic dishes, as well as the coffee and wine selection is fantastic.
Andrássy út 29, Budapest 1061
+36 1 343 3544
There’s no doubt Művész Kávézó has class. Like its counterparts, Centrál Kávéház and Auguszt Cukrászda, the interiors breath heavy with elegance and old-world finesse, but here it’s overwhelmingly of the faded glory variety. The cordial service and neo-Baroque furnishings play to its advantage, with tall windows giving views of Andrassy út and allowing for shafts of sunlight to stream in. It all makes for a pleasant morning if, all you are after, is a heady cup of coffee and a classic pastry (of which there are numerous options of delicious choices).
Károlyi Mihály utca 9, Budapest 1053
+36 1 266 2110
With class and style that endures the test of time, the Centrál Kávéház has been a perennial favourite of discerning locals and visitors who wile away the hours over coffee, cakes, animated conversations and an assortment of dog-eared newspapers. This is, after all, a century-old landmark, restored in 2000 to its original splendor of dark wood and leather furnishings, brass fixtures and grand windows. Besides the gourmet range of coffees, Hungarian standards play alongside more continental offerings on the food front, from Hortobágyi meaty pancakes and pan-roasted duck to slow-cooked venison. With its decent wine list, full menu (which is quite delicious), and wonderful pastries, you could easily stay for awhile after you finish your cup of coffee.
Ferenciek tere 10, Budapest 1053
+36 1 318 6205
In the ‘cafes that changed Budapest’ category, this long-standing bistro and confectioner’s shop on Ferenciek tere ranks close to the top. Not for its revolutionary food offering or design, mind you, but more for its always-there-and-ready-to-serve quality that it has upheld since its establishment in 1952. If it’s an authentic retro atmosphere, a good pastry or traditional cake and a cup of coffee you seek, it’s worth a shot. However, you must be willing to stand as there are only stand-up counters. Now there is also a Buda location (Fény utca 15, Budapest 1024).