Departures is published by Meredith Corp. and owned by American Express. While American Express Card Member benefits are highlighted in this publication, including through the links indicated below, the content of this article was independently written by the editorial staff at Meredith. Other Departures content paid for by American Express is explicitly marked as such.
While crowded tourist hubs like Paris, Florence, and Barcelona have been busy fighting for Europe’s foodie spotlight, Hungary’s romantic, cosmopolitan capital city has quietly bloomed into a world-class dining destination. Easy access to freshwater seafood, highly rated Hungarian wine, amazing meat and produce, and a never-ending bounty of incredible herbs and spices has fostered Budapest’s recent gastronomy boom and international visitors are reaping the benefits like never before. Get a jump start on planning your next indulgent adventure by checking out this standout list of gourmand-approved restaurants and bars.
Where to Dine
Whether you’re in the mood for a humble bowl of peppery goulash or a multi-course Michelin-starred tasting menu, these culinary gems have you covered.
While this award-winner’s traditional Hungarian fare, endlessly flavorful and presented with artful precision, keeps the nightly crowds fed and happy, it’s the awe-inspiring wine list from sommelier Kő Gergely and ninth-generation winemaker József Bock that truly steals the show. Inside, the decor mirrors the cuisine—comfortable, inviting, and lacking a whiff of pretension. Start with an uplifting glass of Bock Rosé Cuvée paired with the decadent foie gras trio before setting your sights on soulful comforts like the chicken paprikash.
Up-and-coming young chef János Mizsei is behind this modern, industrial-chic concept on the banks of the Danube River. Local, seasonal ingredients like foraged forest mushrooms and verdant ramson sprouts come together to form masterful Scandinavian-inspired takes on European specialties, from perfectly seared white perch to tender duck breast atop a vibrant bed of yellow beetroot and quince, available either a la carte or as a formal prix-fixe. The wine selection is equally stunning, of course, emphasizing hard-to-find Hungarian picks from small, independent producers.
Another Michelin-starred contender, this can’t-miss eatery from chef Ákos Sárközi serves forward-thinking takes on Eastern European cuisine alongside a monstrous 200-strong Hungarian wine list in a sundrenched, markedly laid-back environment. Warm up with a bowl of tarragon lamb soup flecked with pickled peppers before ending the evening with a serving of melt-in-your-mouth pavlova dotted with zesty gooseberries.
This French-influenced fine dining stalwart from Ádám Mészáros sports two Michelin stars and was the first restaurant in Central Eastern Europe to earn such a distinction. Sparkling crystal chandeliers illuminate ornate textured wallpaper, glossy dark wood accents, and pristine white tablecloths set a sophisticated, luxurious tone, the ideal backdrop for exquisitely plated four- to six-course themed tasting menus. Expect boundary-pushing creations like water buffalo tartare, rooster consommé, and, for dessert, a sweet and savory hazelnut gianduja tart laced with bergamot and finished with housemade ice cream, served alongside excellent regional wines.
Step back in time at this charmingly retro cafe and bar, a Soviet Era neighborhood relic that’s been peddling strong coffee, cold beer, and tasty snacks at bargain price since 1961. On any given day, locals line the well-loved red vinyl banquette or crowd around the small bistro tables, sipping frothy cappuccinos and gossipping over flaky pastries from sunrise to last call and in warmer months, the corner sidewalk patio offers prime people-watching.
Chef Marvin Gauci helms this fine dining emporium inside the posh Corinthia Hotel where the who’s who of downtown Budapst can routinely be spotted amid the plush cream-hued interior. Caviar tops the menu, of course, escorted to the plate by a parade of mouthwatering blinis and rich Hungarian sour cream. Other highlights include housemade agnolotti stuffed with succulent duck leg confit, black angus tartare crowned with piquant wasabi ice-cream, and inventive cocktails like the The Forest Nymph, a velvety blend of Russian Standard Vodka, Amaretto, vanilla, cardamom bitters, lemon and smoky Lapsang Souchong tea.
Chef Eszter Palágyi shows off her ample skills at this sleek Ráday Street eatery, the very first in Budapest to earn a Michelin star. Diners feast on elevated Hungarian fare like Danube salmon with white beans and bone marrow, Mangalica pork, Tokaji-marinated duck liver, and creative desserts accompanied by ambrosial Royal Tokaji sweet wines while basking in the space’s elegant, minimalist design. Prefer something a bit more bubbly? Mix things up by completing your four- to seven-course tasting menu with an optional beer pairing.
This long-running central city institution serves up homey Hungarian staples in a historic venue complete with high arched ceilings, framed black and white period photographs, well-loved bistro wooden chairs, and an intricate Persion carpet that works to warm the room. On one wall, a large paper scroll displays daily menu items scrawled in both Hungarian and English, detailing favorites like squash stew swimming with meatballs, grilled duck livers with spiced Calvados sauce, and belly-warming beef stroganoff. Crack open a cold Arany Ászok lager, loosen your belt a notch, and settle in for some old-school deliciousness.
Where to Sip
From elite cocktail dens to dingy rock and roll clubs, here’s where to experience the best of Budapest’s bar scene.
With its comfortable overstuffed recliners, dim lighting, and huge assortment of interesting European wines by the glass, this half bottle shop-half wine bar has long been a cozy escape for the local afterwork crowd. Drink your way through the hand-picked vintages listed on the chalkboard menu as you scan the crowded shelves for yet another bucket list bottle.
This colorful wine bar gets its name from fröccs, the ultra-refreshing dry white or rosé and sparkling water combo that’s long been every Hungarian’s summertime go-to. Settle into a spot at the long, glossy stainless steel bar and sip away to the sounds of a live band or, if the weather’s right, tote your glass out to the sprawling outdoor patio and soak up the lively, youthful atmosphere.
Lustrous marble floors, gaping floor-to-ceiling windows, stately interior pillars, and a gold-accented bar evoke an air of refined sophistication inside this celebrated downtown fixture—also, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property. The broad, varied wine list features a noteworthy array of Hungarian sparkling options and the cocktail menu spans classic concoctions with newfangled touches. Join the fun with a festive Champagne tipple like the Hugo, a fizzy mix of De Kuyper Elderflower Liqueur, sparkling wine, fresh lime and mint.
In Budapest, nightlife is synonymous with the “ruins bars,” a series of cheap, raucous, and perpetually packed dives stationed inside a cluster of abandoned pre war factories and residential buildings in the historic Jewish Quarter. And this 16-year-old hotspot, a winding, multi tiered indoor-outdoor complex marked by heavily graffitied walls, blasting music, and countless knick-knacks hanging from every surface, is undoubtedly the oldest and most famous of the lot. Wander through the various themed bars, stopping to fuel up on strong cocktails, house wine, or craft beer along the way. And stop back on Sunday when the entire place blossoms into a bustling farmers market stocked with locally grown snacks and produce.
Cocktail connoisseurs, take note: This pioneering bar from drinks legend Zoltán Nagy along with Lilla Kocsis and Pál Szakál, is the beating heart of Budapest’s emerging mixology scene. The dark haunt is date night gold, its black tiled bar and sexy red walls illuminated by the warm glow of hanging pendant lights, and the menu is loaded with brilliant boozy creations skillfully designed to stimulate all the senses. It’s no wonder Boutiq'Bar’s talented crew has earned the establishment a prominent place on the prestigious World’s 50 Best Bars list.
There’s no better way to take in Budapest’s beautiful expanse than with a cocktail in hand, so head up to this sky-high retreat atop the chic Hotel Rum and scope out the sweeping cityscape views in style. And unlike many of the area’s other rooftop bars, guests can lounge about TOPRUM’S handsome leather banquettes and sheepskin-covered bistro chairs downing fruity cocktails and globally-inspired bar bites all year round thanks to a bevy of removable winterized windows.