Exploring the Hungarian capital on a budget? Fill your boots for minimum spend with the help of our guide to Budapest’s best cheap restaurants.
Frici Papa, Budapest
This inexpensive restaurant is commonly recommended to tourists looking for classic Hungarian dishes because Frici Papa has it all. Gulyás (goulash), chicken paprikás (paprika sauce with dumplings) and rakott krumpli (layered potato with sour cream and sausage) all make an appearance, but choose the daily menu for a filling meal that costs less than £4. And that’s kind of its benefit; don’t expect a gourmet dinner, and you’ll manage to get a taste of Hungary on a budget.
Despite its popularity among Hungarians, one sort of food that doesn’t get much of a look-in within the city’s eateries is főzelék – or thick soups and stews made with a variety of beans and peas. Hokedli is without a doubt the best place to try such dishes, with flavoursome varieties of these meals complete with a greater depth of flavours than a home-cooked equivalent might offer. It’s not a big place and so better for lunch than a full dinner, but worth a visit for an inexpensive taste of Hungary you might not find offered elsewhere.
“There’s two places that come to mind where lángos is really popular among local people, and this is one of them,” Tamas says. Nestled on the top floor of Fény Street Market in Buda, Lángos Land is a cheap and cheerful market stall, complete with a charmingly unsophisticated vibe and what many people consider the best lángos in Budapest. Customers can choose from a traditional lángos flatbread with a selection of toppings, or go the extra mile with a lángos folded in half and stuffed with traditional Hungarian sausage.
Retró Lángos Büfé offers an old-school lángos experience | Courtesy of Retro Langos Bufe
If you’re looking to experience your first taste of lángos in a truly old-school setting, Retró Lángos Büfé is the best place to do just that. This pint-sized food stall situated above a 1980s metro station is a reminder of Hungary’s Communist past, having not altered an awful lot in the several decades it has stood there. Popular amongst locals, particularly those with hangovers in the wee hours, the lángos here is not only cheap, but also some of the best in the city.
Bar, Bistro, Restaurant, Coffee Shop, Hungarian, Mediterranean, Coffee, Tapas, $$$
Két Szerecsen offers a wide range of international dishes | Courtesy of Két Szerecsen
Set on what is known as the ‘Broadway of Budapest’ thanks to its numerous theatres, Két Szerecsen dubs itself “a coffeehouse in the old sense”. Mautner describes the venue as casual, and it is this relaxed vibe that makes Két Szerecsen such a great choice for any time of day. You can drop by the bistro for breakfast, lunch, dinner or coffee and expect to be captivated by the diverse array of flavours on offer. With options ranging from Spanish tapas to Moroccan-inspired dishes, the bistro’s changing weekly menus span global cuisines. If you prefer to stay local, Mautner suggests trying the chicken paprikash or the red wine-braised beef cheek with cottage cheese pasta – along with all of the desserts!
This bistro not only offers delicious pizzas, sandwiches and all sorts of good-quality fast food, it is also a place with many Hungarian specialties on the menu, such as the beef steak Budapest style with mashed potatoes and onions. The café is located in the heart of the city and has a lovely terrace outside, on the corner of street, to sit and watch the passers-by.
This option isn’t really one for its quality, but instead to fill a particular need. Perfect for families looking to keep their kids going, this chain of restaurants is scattered throughout Budapest and beyond and offers all-you-can-eat options. Its restaurant at the end of Margaret Bridge might be the closest the franchise gets to classy, but don’t expect a gastronomic delight and you’ll come away with a satisfying slice of Hungary at a slither of the cost of many places on this list.
What used to be a pub is now a delightful restaurant that prides itself on serving simple home cooked food. The menu includes options like grilled sausages, oven baked flamed pies, and goulash soup. Pest-Buda Bistro is close to the castle and the cathedral, making it the perfect lunch or dinner break with excellent service and a charming seating area outside.
Ráday Street has countless restaurants, bistros and even some bars to while away the evening in, stretching from Kálvin Square to Boráros Square to cover a considerable distance and making it easy to access from any part of the city. Vörös Postakocsi is not fine dining, and there are certainly trendier places on this very street; however, it is home to some traditional dishes made with traditional recipes and produced with a good deal of care. The fish soup, in particular, is worth trying.