Destination: Hungary: Budapest
This expansive coffeehouse hails from the height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (it opened in 1887, and to this day the menu features a selection of “Viennese coffee drinks”). After being shuttered in 1949, the Café Central was bought in 1997 by a local businessman, and the restored main dining room, with its soaring ceiling, large windows, parquet floors and Art Deco–inspired lamps, reopened in 2000. Located in Downtown Pest, near the Central Market Hall and adjacent to the Ernst Galéria, the Café Central is a great place for coffee, hot chocolate or tea, accompanied by rich Hungarian pastries, of course. Open daily.
Cyrano Restaurant, Café, and Bar
Serving delicious French and international dishes, Cyrano is the ideal spot to stop for lunch while traversing the shopping streets. In warm weather, the outdoor terrace is prime people-watching real estate. The wine selection is very good featuring wines from around the world.
The book-lined walls of this café/bistro/wine bar create a homey atmosphere where visitors can stop to warm up while walking around the Buda part of the city. Channel the great writers of the historic city and bring your laptop—the café offers free wifi and electrical plugs under every table.
Founded in 1858, Budapest’s most famous coffeehouse sits on pretty Vörösmarty Square, and though it draws numerous tourists, it’s worth a visit if only to sit in the beautifully restored 19th-century space and enjoy a coffee. The most popular pastry here is the Gerbeaud beigli, a rolled pastry stuffed with poppy seeds or walnuts. Open daily.
If you’re sightseeing in the neighborhood (St. Stephen’s Basilica is nearby), stop by the Four Seasons bar in the Peacock Passage for a cocktail. The surroundings make the somewhat hefty bill bearable: the lounge’s velvet-clad seating areas, under a magnificent glass cupola, feature Zsolnay tile–covered walls and lead to wrought-iron gates depicting peacocks, a popular Secession-style motif. _Open daily. _
New York Café
One of the city’s most famous coffeehouses, the New York Café was the preferred meeting place for intellectuals and artists in the early 1900s. Shuttered Closed on and off since World War II, it was recently reopened by Italian hotel company Boscolo, which also operates the luxury hotel it is housed in. It’s an awesome, soaring space that looks like a cross between a Baroque church and a Viennese Käffeehaus, with pastel-colored ceiling frescoes, gilt-framed balconies, sculpted putti and red velvet fauteuils. (New York designer Adam Tihany was originally involved in the project, but after some disputes over the concept, he withdrew.) There’s a nice selection of teas and coffees as well as homemade cakes and pastries. Open daily.
Located in Buda’s Castle Hill district, this venerable café—the city’s oldest—is considered by many locals and loyal visitors to be the best in the city. It’s certainly the most charming: the small patisserie has original cherrywood paneling that dates from its founding in 1827, and the adjacent tearoom looks like the pretty salon of a well-heeled Hungarian aunt. If timing and luck are on your side, you’ll claim one of the velvet fauteuils, under faded photographs and beside a white tiled stove, and while away the afternoon over coffee and Ruszwurm’s famous homemade pastries.
The cakes, tarts and desserts in the multitiered display case look like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory: there are stacked cakes, like the walnut-filled Estherházy and marzipan-covered Mátyás torte, beside Ruszwurm Krémes (cream-filled phyllo dough) and a large assortment of strudels made with poppy seed, cherries and apples. If you fall for the café’s delicious creations, you’re in good company: during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a courier was dispatched weekly to bring back cakes and pastries to Vienna (home of the Sachertorte, no less). Today, it’s owned by the Szamos clan, marzipan manufacturers who also have a boutique in Pest. Open daily.
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