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Café Culture In Budapest

The city of Budapest for many Europeans brings to mind the idea of cafés and of men in top hats sipping the delicious liquid. Budapest was once known for tis cafés, some of which helped to launch the European revolutions of 1848-49, but few people know that even today, this city has a plethora of cafés available to the public, some even rivaling the old café houses of yore.

Then and now

Many things have of course changed over time. You can now buy coffee and coffee making paraphernalia at any store, delegating the café to a place of excess, where one goes to spend some money. The cafés of old were open 24/7, as these were the only establishments where you could buy the addictive substance, and they were almost always full. Many intellectual circles were centered around a particular localé and a particular table even, and many places have kept these traditions alive even today. But nowadays, you would be hard pressed to find a 24/7 café that served good coffee. Much less are intellectuals, artists and scientists spending literally days at a time arguing over the big ideas of the world in these establishments, as this is now done online. Many cafés of the past remain open though, and are still in their original locations, serving coffee, alcohol and perhaps something to eat as well. Let’s look at some of them.

Pilvax

The Pilvax is the archetype of the Budapest coffee house; it is old, it is expensive, and it serves some of the best coffee known to man. The Pilvax was the initial site of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, as the intellectuals who fomented this uprising first met for a cup of joe at this famous institution. Located near Ferenciek tere in the street named after it (Pilvax köz), this café is an amazing slice of history located in the ever throbbing heart of Budapest.

Pilvax Facebook Page

Dreschler café

The Dreschler café is located on the first floor of the Ballet Institute on Andrássy street, and although it is no longer open, it is worth a mention. This was the hangout of the elite, and many opera goers (the National Opera house is just a few blocks away) used to start the night there. The building also had a pub, a salon and a bowling alley, and was a cultural hub at the time. The building still stands and is absolutely beautiful.

Reitter Cafe
Fészek Művészklub

Located opposite of the opera is one of the oldest running establishments in Budapest, namely, the Fészek club. This club (whose name means “Nest”) was founded by the actors, actresses and other artists involved in the Opera and the many theaters in the area. It was initially only frequented by artists, but by now has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. This space has changed the least out of all of the cafés in Budapest, retaining its old eclectic look and its cozy atmosphere.

Official Site
Gerbeaud

Another classic is the Gerbeaud located on Vörösmarty square. This is a confectionary and a café in one, and the two establishments are slightly separated, although now with the EU backed smoking ban, the separation has lost its meaning. It is a beautiful old art deco house with a view to one of the most fabulous squares of Budapest, and has a wider variety of food as well.

Gerbeaud Official Site
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