Updated: Sep 16
Hungarian cuisine, although little known, offers a variety of dishes marked by various influences, including those of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the East (Turkey and the Balkans).
Hungarian cuisine is also distinguished by the use of Hungarian paprika (the spice and the vegetable), known for its bright red colour and strong taste. A typical Hungarian meal consists of soup, a main course, and a dessert. Hungarians accompany their meal with a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, or cabbage, which is often served as a side dish in many traditional restaurants.
We didn't go to many restaurants during our stay in Budapest as we were on a budget. However, we definitely wanted to eat some traditional Hungarian food and try one or two bars and cafes.
In order to cut costs, we didn't eat that much out. However, there is a gem that I think deserves particular attention. We were randomly looking for somewhere to eat when we came across a little restaurant called Retek Biztro. It didn't look like much from the outside but it was packed which is always a good sign. Unfortunately, there were no tables available so we immediately made a reservation for the following afternoon, and we definitely didn't regret it! Simple, affordable, delicious, and traditional Hungarian food. Five stars for the service and cozy setting. Veggie friendly. We loved it so much that we ended up eating there twice! Make sure to book online in advance.
For a nice coffee break, I would recommend Varosliget Cafe which is just next to Heroes' Square. Although a little more on the expensive side, the cafe has a lovely view of the Vajdahunyad Castle and lake (which was frozen and used as an ice rink when I was there) which makes the experience a little more special.
High Note Sky Bar
Another place I recommend for a drink in the evening is the High Note Sky Bar. It was certainly on the higher end of our budget and we were a little surprised by the final bill for two cocktails and two beers (!!) but you do get an incredible view of the city and of St Stephen's Basilica. I recommend going for sunset/evening as the basilica is all lit up. We were lucky to have the outdoors to ourselves for pics! The service was great. Make sure to book beforehand.
This traditional Hungarian pastry that is wrapped around a wooden spool and slowly turned over an open fire (hence the name chimney cake) is a must when visiting Budapest. You can buy them from kiosks that are located on every street corner. A cake costs about 2€ and there are various topping options, I personally believe you can never go wrong with cinnamon and sugar.
We could have gone to many other restaurants and cafes but we decided to spend the rest of the trip living off hummus and Hungarian red wine (not complaining). Food and wine in the supermarkets aren't expensive and you can easily buy a week's worth of food (for 2) for under 50€.