Kávéház in Budapest.

When I heard about Budapest’s cafe history I was in pastry heaven. At one time the city was bursting with around five hundred cafe’s. How I wish I’d been able to see it then, before wars and communism changed things so. The cafes were visited by all and sundry. Ordinary folk, at weekends for a spot of the latest news with coffee and cake; while writers, poets and artists spent most of the day in their favourite spot, chasing the muse. They were freely provided with paper and ink and could partake of the ‘writer’s menu’ (bread, cheese and cold cuts) at a discount price.

There is nothing discount about these grand cafes now. But the surroundings are sumptuous and the cakes divine and if you like a slice of the past with your coffee or tea it’s worth paying a visit to at least one.

Our train arrived from Munich at 09.30. Our Airbnb was not ready until 14.00. What to do? I know – hit our first grand cafe. It was a bit early for cake – even for me, so we chose breakfast for two at Cafe Gerbeaud. ‘Oh wow’, I heard an American woman say as she walked through the door. Now, you might think that, as you stuck your head around the door, flitzed your flashbulb and dashed off; but if you were sitting there, trying to enjoy your breakfast amidst a constant stream of tour groups and food tours you’d probably feel differently. Gerbeaud was not a restful place to sit – but it was grand. The breakfast for two was a good deal compared to the price of the cakes and we happily whiled away a couple of hours among chandeliers, marble table tops, plush curtains – and tour groups.

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Ruszwurm, the oldest cafe in Budapest, was a different story. Grand on a human scale. No intimidating high ceilings and cake counters gliding on for miles here. It was cute and cosy, a handful of tables in a back-room, dwarfed by an old ceramic stove. Out front, the original cherry-wood vitrine was crammed with cake. Jim went for the Ruszwurm special, a rich chocolatey melange topped with a glacé cherry, and I asked the waitress what was typically Hungarian. ‘Dobos torta’, she said without missing a beat. They came, we ate, we savoured, we loved. ‘If I was here for a month, I’d come every day and try a different slice’, said Jim. Sissi, (the Austrian Empress and Queen of Hungary liked it too – she sent her courtiers to get her breakfast cakes from Ruszwurm. (Breakfast cakes? Maybe it wasn’t too early at Gerbeaud?)

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If Ruszwurm is a favourite pair of shoes, worn, but still well loved, Grand Cafe New York is that killer pair of high heels, that look great but hurt like hell – off kilter. Billed as the most beautiful cafe in the world, it was a jaw dropping concoction of glitz, gold and all that glitters. We queued for a table. We waited to be served. The afternoon tea was dismal, with three poor apologies for sandwiches and the world’s tiniest scones – savoury, but served with jam ‘because some people like it – to spread it – it’s extra, but we don’t charge for it’, the waiter told us when we asked what we should do with it. ‘So these are the scones’, Jim asked, pointing to the threepenny bit sized pastries’. ‘Yes sir’. We looked at each other and tried not to laugh. A triumph of our expectation over their reality. New York was an experience. Go for the atmosphere, not the food. At least not the afternoon tea.

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Go once, and then go back to dear old Ruszwurm. On my next visit to Budapest that’s where I’ll be, sitting next to that tiled stove, silently working my way through the cakes, dreaming of Sissi and cakes for breakfast.

17 thoughts on “Kávéház in Budapest.

  1. My favorite is the Central. It went downhill at one time but had recovered the last time I was there. I would recommend the Book Cafe on Andrassy Ut., but it has the same problem as the Gerbeaud with intrusive camera hounds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the tips. I will try these out when I next visit Budapest. Oh no! I have just googled the book café and see that it’s closed. Hopefully, by the time I get to Budapest again, it will be brought back to life – it looks gorgeous.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Grand Cafe New York looks amazing! I would love to go there. Once as you say, just to soak up the decor and the atmosphere. But thanks for the tip about the food there, and Ruszwurm where the cakes look delicious. I can see why you’d want to go try everyone. For some reason I’m reminded of a pastry shop/cafe in San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico. I wanted to try all the pastries there too!

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  3. It is difficult not to dream of Sissi and her sumptuous gowns! She must have walked it off in a frenzy if she was indulging in cakes at breakfast. But that’s the way to live, eh? Order up cakes from Ruszwurm — which btw sounds fabulous. We missed out on it, but I shall make up for it next time I am there. As for Gerbeaud and New York Cafe, the bills at both places are not a scream. Yet how charming it is to walk into these old-world cafes with their classic gilded interiors. (*sigh… I miss them!)


  4. It was too bad.. I did not have a chance to explore the cafes in Budapest. My friend and I were too busy to walk around as crazy through its magnificent and mysterious look little streets. Thanks for sharing this, Tracey. At least I could see it through your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tracey, the Ruszwurm definitely looks more to my taste and budget as well. When it comes to historic cafes in Europe, it pays to do a bit of research in advance. Like you, we learned this lesson the hard way in Rome. $14 for one beer … ouch. ~James

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  6. How on earth did I miss quite a few of your posts!! I am following you 🙂
    May have to use the email part. Oh my goodness, that place looks amazing. We may have to try and visit there very soon. Our travels all depend on where we get housesits as you know!


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