Just as Hungary’s history is full of rich texture and interesting tales, Hungarian food consists of outstanding dishes and street food you’d be mad not to try. And with so many tasty options on offer – you’d kick yourself for leaving Budapest without trying as many as possible. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the finest Hungarian cuisine, outline the best places to eat in Budapest, and even provide a few drink recommendations too.

Where to Eat

Before we go into more detail about the dishes you should try on your ‘tastes of Budapest’ tour, we thought we’d tell you about the best places to find some of the superb menu items you will encounter. 

The best place to start is with a visit to the Great Market Hall, quite literally one of the best things to do in Budapest. Found right in the centre of the city and with unique interiors which resemble a grand railway station, it boasts almost 100,000 square feet of space where you can find everything from locally sourced vegetables to handmade souvenirs. 

The ground floor is where to look for food – raw, smoked or preserved, it’s got everything going on. The first floor is devoted to souvenirs and bric-a-brac, as well as a few choice fast food stalls and cafés. And finally, the basement is where you’ll find meats, fish and pickles. This basement floor has every type of local sausage, both raw and cured, a myriad of cheeses as well as more delicate offerings such as truffles (the black variety), lavender jellies and jams, honey, and a whole host of mushrooms. 

You will find many of the best restaurants in Budapest in the old Jewish quarter – with quite a few located around Gozsdu Passage. The best street food in Budapest can be found at Street Food Karavan – very close to the popular ruin bar, Szimpla Kert. And if you’re looking for vegan food in Budapest, Anker’T (another ruin bar) is the place to go. Not only does its regular menu contain vegan options, there’s also a vegan food market held there on Sundays.

What to Eat

Now we’ve figured out where the best restaurants in Budapest are located, it’s time to focus on what you should order. But be warned, reading the rest of this blog on an empty stomach could start some rumbles. Hungarian food is mostly meat-based with lots of Transylvanian and Turkish influences, but don’t worry, we’ll be sure to include some plant-based options too.

Let’s start with goulash, the most popular dish in all of Hungary: A rich stew consisting mainly of beef (occasionally with pork), carrots, potatoes and paprika. A national dish in almost every village and region, you’ll notice subtle differences in the recipe wherever you order it. And you really can order it everywhere – in bistros, street stalls and pubs. So be sure to let us know your favourite!

Fisherman’s Soup, or ‘halaszle’ in native Hungarian, is a great dish for seafood lovers to try. It’s a mix of river fish such as carp, perch and pike cooked in a similar fashion to goulash with some paprika, Hungary’s national spice, added for good measure. If you’re visiting Budapest over Christmas, the locals consider this a very popular festive dish.  

Street food staples include langos, a sort of fried pizza served with garlic sprinkled on top and slathered with sour cream and cheese; kolbase, a traditional spicy sausage; and kurtoskalacs, a Transylvanian dessert made from leavened dough layered with sugar. 

Vegetarians can enjoy fozelek, a thick vegetable stew served with sour cream and lots of paprika, while vegans can find both vegan burgers and Chinese and Japanese vegan options. There’s also a 100% vegan bakery in town.

What to Drink

With so much great food on offer, you’ll need something to help wash it down. Beer is a huge market in Budapest and there many to choose from. As well as classic Dreher, Borsodi and Sopronis, craft beer is on the rise in Hungary and offers a number of great up-and-coming drinks. Élesztő is a fantastic bar with a rotating set of 25 craft options always on tap, including everything from light crowd-pleasers to sour IPAs. 

Wines are also incredibly popular in Budapest, and Hungary is renowned for its rich reds, the most famous of which is undoubtedly Bull’s Blood. Try Tokay if you’re looking for a sweeter, more elegant dessert wine.   

And when all your cultured drinking and dining has come to an end and you want to finish the night in style, be sure to try one of Hungary’s two national shots: palinka fruit brandy and unicum, a herbal liqueur. Originally created as a medicine made from over forty different herbs and spices, unicum is now a favoured hangover cure. Sip it slowly because the alcohol content is around 40%.

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