Café society

Famous writers, painters, philosophers and poets have gathered for centuries around coffee-house tables in lively conversations, sampling desserts, drinking strong espressos. There were more than 400 coffeehouses in Budapest at the turn of the 20th century and some of the best are still in business.

No trip to Budapest is complete without visiting one of the many coffeehouses that are vibrant meeting spot for locals and visitors alike. The choice of cakes is always impressive and, together with a coffee of your choice, the coffeehouses provide a welcome break from sightseeing in impressive surroundings.  

There are plenty of coffeehouses to choose from and no matter which café you settle into, remember that taking your time is what it's all about.

Budapest's oldest café is the Ruszwurm in the Castle Hill district of Buda. This Biedermayer gem sports the same cherry-wood panelling and quality service as it did when it first opened in 1824. And you can still indulge in the same high-quality treats. The Ruszwurm's confectionery is so fabulous that couriers were once sent from Vienna to fetch desserts from here.

Café Gerbeaud is another of Europe's oldest cafes and has an extraordinary history, special atmosphere, and world-class pastries. Emile Gerbeaud, a Swiss pâtissier managed the place from 1884 and brought the taste of Paris to the streets of Budapest. It is one of the most famous of all the Budapest cafes and is located on the Pest side on Vörösmarty tér.

Gerlóczy Café is a place always bustling with people, anytime of the day. Once used as a setting in the Steven Spielberg movie Munich, it has seating options indoors or outside on the pavement, where you are promptly accommodated by the black-tied wait staff. Inside, the chalkboard announces the specials for the day. It also provides a great breakfast option for those who are tired of the hotels' buffet with home baked bread and several types of omelette.

Another must on the café trail is the elegant Café Művész whose location opposite the Opera House lends it a certain charged atmosphere. Pick a spot inside, where marble table tops and crystal chandeliers exude an old-world grandeur, or claim your seat on the terrace for prime people-watching.

Café Central was originally also popular with writers for purely practical reasons: it offered a warm refuge from the cold rented rooms they could scarcely afford - and paper and ink were gratis. However, today you are more likely to rub shoulders with fellow tourists rather than struggling scribes.Dobos Cake

Built by an insurance company as a company hall, the New York Café on the ground floor of the Boscolo Hotel in Budapest was a long time centre for Hungarian literature and poetry, almost from its opening on October 23, 1894 to its closure in 2001. The café was reopened on May 5, 2006 in its original Italian renaissance and baroque pomp and serves a wide selection of coffees and famous Hungarian pastries.

Red Lion Tea House is located in Ráday street and at Jókai Square (both on the Pest side) the place offers an amazing selection of teas, peaceful atmosphere and helpful staff.

For those with a sweet tooth, Budapest also offers a couple of other sugary attractions. The Chocolate Museum which organises several themed tours throughout the week, such as the "Praline Tour", "Palatial Tour" and "Deli'Do Extra Program", providing both theoretical and enjoyable hands on knowledge on chocolate making.

Also the Szamos Marzipan and Confectionery Museum, Hungary's first marzipan museum dedicated to this gourmet sweet item that is used in many different ways in Hungary. It is located in Szentendre, just a few miles outside of Budapest and an exhibition displays the art of marzipan making, including some masterpieces of confectionery, such as the 160 centimetre tall model of the Parliament building.