Most Beautiful Café in the World: New York Café Budapest

The world famous New York Café Budapest (New York Kávéház) is located on the Erzsébet körút section of the Grand Boulevard of Budapest and is considered one of the best and most beautiful cafés in the world. The building itself was originally constructed from 1892-94 as the Hungarian offices of the New York Life Insurance Company. The Italian hotel chain, Boscolo Hotels, renovated the building after it had fallen into disrepair and reopened the hotel in 2007 as the five star luxury hotel, Boscolo Budapest Hotel with New York Café located on the ground floor.  It may be off the beaten path, which required us to go a little out of the way to find the New York Café, but my travel partner for this trip, Karla, had this on her must see places in Budapest during our our Viking River cruise. As I’m always up for an adventure, I had no problem tagging along and exploring.

When you enter the doors of the New York Café, which is located on the ground floor of the Boscolo Budapest Hotel, you immediately sense that this is like no other café.  The café’s renovated design includes soft, muted colors, marble columns, frescoes, murals, decorative moldings, and exquisite Venetian chandeliers all while preserving its original charm. But not for Karla I would’ve probably turned around as soon we approached the hostess stand because initially it felt touristy and somewhat snobbish, but I’m glad I pushed past my initial reaction and proceeded inside.  After all, this New Yorker didn’t want to judge the New York Café by first impressions alone.

New York Café opened in 1894 by Sándor Steuer, a Hungarian coffee baron and member of a large kávéház (coffee house) family who, if he were alive today, would be my CBFF (coffee BFF).  At the turn of the 20th century, writers, editors, poets, actors, and artists used to frequent the café on a regular basis. After the war New York Café was no more and for a while it was a sporting goods store (sorry Sándor!).  In 1954 it reopened as a café called Hungária and then Boscolo Hotels‘ renovation turned it back into the beloved New York Café.  Today it’s filled mostly with tourists and usually packed to full capacity, but ignore the people and look around the rooms, the frescoes on the ceiling, the staircases, and make every effort to take it all in.

TSG Tip: It was once said that Ferenc Molnár, the famous Hungarian dramatist and novelist, threw the café’s keys into the Danube River in an attempt to force management to stay open 24 hours a day.  Today the café is open from open every day from 8 am until midnight so I’m guessing they eventually found the keys.

We were seated in the mélyvíz or lower floor and presented with our menus, or should I say menu books? The menu contains multiple pages of food, including their much talked about breakfast, but also an abundance of other options including sandwiches, starters, entrees, snacks, hot and cold beverages including alcohol and coffee, and of course, to die for desserts including cakes, sorbet, and ice cream sundaes.  If you don’t speak Hungarian, don’t worry as the menu is in both Hungarian and English.  You can view the entire menu on the New York Café website here.

Now let’s get back to the interior of the New York Café and that glorious ceiling depicting muses. All of the detailed and intricate original frescoes were created by Gusztav Mannheimer and Ferenc Eisenhut and later restored during the renovation process.

TSG Tip: Don’t worry about getting up and wandering around to take pictures of the frescoes and other areas of interest, including the hotel lobby that connects to the café. Just use common sense and avoid interrupting someone’s meal while attempting that perfect shot.

After waiting some time for someone to wait on us, a server did venture over to our table and took our order. To cool off on an otherwise steamy Budapest afternoon, Karla ordered a pint of Borsodi, a Hungarian beer, while I opted for a girly drink with bubbles, a bellini, a champagne cocktail made with white peach, and I could’ve had several. Karla ordered a cheeseburger that was accompanied by both potato chips and a side mixed salad and she definitely seemed to enjoy it.  I’m fairly certain but not 100% positive because I was face down in my New York cake selection, a collection of tiny New York Café cakes that were chocolatey, decadent, and delicious.

Overall, the food and beverages at New York Café are beautiful presented and considerably scrumptious, but $15 for the bite sized mini cake sampler seems slightly overpriced to me.  Conversely, I will admit that a $10 bellini and a $7 beer seems more than appropriately priced and comparable to what I might pay back in Boston. While we weren’t rushing to leave, no one ever checked back on us to see if we wanted anything, which then forced us to search out a way to get our bill.

TSG Tip: No matter what you do when you travel there’s flexibility needed.  I always find that there seems to be a trade off and here I was able to wander around and take pictures of this beautifully renovated café, which more than made up for the price and any questionable service we received.   Moral of the story? Be flexible!

These pictures are a few of my favorites that I took while we wandered around after eating.  I kept looking up and snapping pics, but at one point I looked down into a mirrored table and saw a jagged reflection of the ceiling and decided to photograph that.  It’s my favorite of the bunch!

New York Café often shows up on everyone’s must see list when they visit Budapest as well as one of the most beautiful cafés in the world and for good reason.  The café’s history combined with its decor magically transports you to back to a more interesting and simpler time and place.  As a writer, I wanted to experience where many pieces of Hungarian literature first took shape and I could only imagine having a reserved table in which to create my own literary masterpiece.  After all, I wasn’t just visiting a café.  I was visiting the New York Café, the best and most beautiful grand café of Budapest, if not the world.

New York Café 
Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 9-11, 1073 Hungary
Open Monday to Sunday 8:00 – 24:00

Have you visited New York Café in Budapest? Where’s your favorite café located?

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