Eating on the cheap comes naturally in Budapest. Hearty Hungarian staples like kolbasz (spiced sausages) and kacsamell (seared duck breast) are always keenly priced, and even this foodie city’s legion of Michelin star recipients go surprisingly easy on the wallet.
Menus tend to be meat-heavy, but there are plentiful vegan and vegetarian options too. Happily, some of the best restaurants in Budapest also draw inspiration from the city’s sizeable Jewish community, with Mediterranean and Israeli-leaning sharing plates a locals’ go-to. We’re pretty sure we haven’t had better mezze.
Basically, your taste buds are in for a treat in Budapest – and your bank balance will go away dented, but not disastrously. So get out there, fill up at one of these tip-top cafés or restaurants, then head out and discover this city’s cutting-edge nightlife and excellent array of things to do. What a city, and what food! Egészségére!
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Best restaurants in Budapest
What is it? A spacious glass-roof restaurant that serves a moreish hybrid of Israeli-Mediterranean food and totally on-point cocktails.
Why go? If dining in a huge, open-plan courtyard peppered with plants is your thing, head here. Opt for the falafel burger in a sweet potato bun, or the chicken shawarma. Oh, and don’t scrimp on the selection of fresh, zingy dips and salads either – we say go for anything with beetroot and aubergine in it.
What is it? A kitsch café with a modern menu and a few unusual twists.
Why go? Enjoy contemporary dining in a retro setting. Menza means ‘canteen’ in English and the hip décor is a nod to the country’s Socialist era. But don’t let that throw you – the food is anything but basic, with highlights including cold strawberry soup, duck leg with ratatouille, and oven-baked kohlrabi stuffed with minced veal.
What is it? A Michelin-starred restaurant with meat-laden dishes and more than 200 wines.
Why go? This restaurant isn’t just for Michelin glory-hunters – foodies will love the first-class menu, too. Although a trip here won’t be the cheapest meal of your Budapest break, it’s hard not to be impressed by what’s available on the five-course and à la carte lists, whether it’s lettuce soup with scallops or quail with pearl barley and cranberries. The simple but flavourful desserts aren’t to be missed.
What is it? An award-winning, family-run hole-in-the-wall.
Why go? Rosenstein prides itself on its extensive menu, a hybrid of Jewish classics and Hungarian favourites. It’s casual yet classy, offering fabulous pairings such as catfish fillet and homemade noodles and chicken and dumplings. Something to please pretty much all palettes.
What is it? A popular all-day spot with impeccable service and typical Hungarian dishes.
Why go? Just around the corner from St Stephen’s Basilica, the popular Café Kor is busy from breakfast through lunch to dinner. Make a reservation or arrive before the evening rush – daily specials are served only until they run out, which is usually around lunchtime.
What is it? An Italian with ambience.
Why go? Stylishly-presented small plates, charcuterie, pasta dishes and cheese boards make this restaurant stand out among the plentiful Italian offerings in the city. Pick at the melt-in-the-mouth arancini to start, and later, prepare to be utterly mesmerised by a hearty portion of duck pasta. Good value and ridiculously moreish.
What is it? Fresh, moreish Turkish grub in a relaxed setting.
Why go? Budapest’s Turkish influence isn’t just evident in its opulent bathhouses – there are plenty of places to taste it, too. Szeráj serves speedy, inexpensive stews, salads, side dishes and baklava. Great for any time of day.
What is it? An understated restaurant with a select Hungarian menu and more than 100 excellent wines.
Why go? The rave reviews are well deserved. Opt for the exquisite tuna tartare to start, juicy pork tenderloin as a main, and ambrosial lemon tart for dessert. We suggest you take your meal out on the terrace (you’re welcome). Reservations recommended.
What is it? A lively and trendy 7th District restaurant that looks to the Middle East and the Mediterranean for inspiration.
Why go? If you’re looking for a break from traditional Hungarian, this Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-leaning restaurant should be one of your go-tos. The founders’ influences span far and wide, picking up on Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Moroccan, Israeli, Lebanese, Georgian, Armenian and Turkish flavours. Patatas bravas sit next to hummus, shakshuka and piri piri chicken. The drinks menu is equally varied.
What is it? Impeccably blended flavours in a cosy, sophisticated setting in the heart of the city’s trendy Jewish quarter in the 7th District.
Why go? The seafood dishes are beautifully presented and packed with light, delicate flavours that won’t break the bank. Try the salmon with sweet potato mash, or grilled pike with cauliflower risotto. Your tastebuds will thank you for it.
What is it? An award-winning restaurant with a wine list longer than your table.
Why go? József Bock is the man behind the wine list here. His ancestors have been making wine for nine generations in the Villány region of Hungary. More than two dozen of the family’s wines are on the menu at this little gem in the 7th District – along with other vintages. Food-wise, the joint keeps it old school too, with a menu of traditional Hungarian dishes and classic local flavours. Think steak, beef tartare ‘sandwiches’ and cucumber salads. Make sure to book – you’re unlikely to get a table otherwise.
Discover Time Out Market: the best of the city under one roof
Now you’re fed, here’s where to head
You’d struggle find somewhere more laid-back – or rather, permissive – than central Budapest. Curfews that feel non-existent, venues popping up in abandoned buildings, drinkers spilling out on to pavements, street food whichever way you turn. It all makes for a fun (and fascinating) city break for families, friends and couples alike.