If you are on a shoestring budget in Budapest, either because of your limited financial means, or because you are a student or a backpacker or an exchange worker or just a nice volunteer in Budapest Hungary, you can still find affordable, really really good budget restaurants in Budapest – with Hungarian cuisine or with some kind of cosmopolitan food (Chinese, Indian, Mexican, etc.). Here is our Map of Budapest Cheap Restaurants: nice restaurants with cheap menus, eateries, vegetarian food bars, butchers with great sausages by the counter, self service restaurants.
Your best bet is to have a good lunch in Hungary. Lunch is the main meal of the day, which is sometime between 12pm and 2pm. Consequently, lunch menus abundant in the city of Budapest, as they attract all the employees flocking out of the workplaces to get some decent lunch and socialize – but priced favourably in view of low Hungarian salaries.
Lunch meals in Budapest are quite good deals. The 3-6 Euro lunch deals usually include some kind of soup and the main course of your choice, however, there are no drinks, no salads, no desserts included in this truly shoestring budget price (if you have something even cheaper in mind, you will have to go to the grocery for some bakery products and other cheap foods)
Soups of Hungarian Lunch Deals
Hungarians love soups and many eat a big bowl of soup to start with. The most typical Hungarian soups are: Hungarian chicken soup, tomato soup, potato soup, pea soup, green bean soup, sour cherry soup, bean soup, goulash soup (yes, it is a soup in Hungary, not a stew), but there are all kinds of soups from cheese soup through broccoli cream soup to onion soup. Lighter soups – mostly soups with vegetables and fruits – are typically paired with more substantial main courses, while heavier, meat based soups like bean soup with smoked ham or goulash soup with beef cubes, or tarragon chicken soup are paired with lighter main courses like veggie casseroles or pasta dishes.
Main Courses of Hungarian Lunch Deals
Main courses at cheap restaurants may seem to be mostly meat based, and they are indeed. But there are lots of vegetarian meals available too (especially soups and the wide range of stewed vegetable dishes called ‘fozelek’, say fur-zel-lake). Main courses are quite cosmopolitan, with frequent Hungarian – Italian – Eastern European options to choose from.
Types of Cheap Places to Eat in Budapest
Let’s assume, that you would not want to spend more than 4-8 Euros per meals (for lunch and dinner) in Budapest. Your best options are cheap Hungarian restaurants (étterem is restaurant) or other types of dining places called:
- eatery: étkezde (ate-kez-deh), or kifőzde (ki-furs-deh): usually open all day, crowded at lunch hours, but at dinner time eateries are not busy
- self-service restaurants: onkiszolgalo (önkiszolgáló, say earn-ki-sol-gah-low) – mostly focusing on cheap lunches
- buffet: bufe (büfé, say bur-fay) – sandwiches, frankfurters, sausages, grilled meat, salads, Hungarian style burgers, pickles, etc. e.g. Burek Kiraly (in Hegedus Gyula street, close to Nyugati Train Station) or Csirkefogo close to Deak Square in Bajcsy Zsilinszky street)
Budapest Budget Restaurants
Eateries and Restaurants in Budapest: budget but good places to eat, with good foods and modest prices, approx. 4-8€. The budget prices usually mean that you can expect a not so good service (American tourists please note that the European style catering is far less dynamic and proactive than the American style “the waiter checks upon the guests every 5 min” to refill, to ask, to offer, to make sure, etc.. The traditional Hungarian style catering, and in general European style, is more like ” please hail down the waiter / waitress if you need anything, otherwise we don’t want to bother you in your privacy”).
So let’s see the list of cheap places to eat in Budapest: these are the best budget restaurants in Budapest at the time of writing.
Menza Restaurant on the unavoidable Liszt Ferenc Square by Andrassy Avenue (close to Oktogon). Liszt Square has a dozen restaurants of various styles, Menza is one of the most visited for its cheap prices, and lovely retro atmosphere. Is it perfect? No it is not, yet it is still one of the most visited dining places in Budapest by locals and tourists alike. It has a great location if you are walking along Andrassy, taking a tour in the nearby Opera House, or heading to / from the House of Terror and the Heroes Square. 4-5 Euros for a soup-main course lunch menu: Menzaetterem.hu
Ruben Restaurant in District V is one of the best budget restaurants in Budapest with its highly popular cheap daily lunch menu for 3-4 Euros. Ruben is at 12 Magyar Street, close to Astoria M2 metro station (just a few minutes from this cheap Hungarian restaurant, there is a nice little park, Karolyi kert, where you can sit down to have some quiet and peace in the bustling city): Ruben Restaurant
Frici Papa Kifozdeje is a genuine cheap eatery / budget restaurant in Budapest. Do not expect anything fancy, just something like a nice cosy canteen with lots of happily dining very satisfied locals who are on a budget (as are Hungarian wages). Official website of Frici Papa Budapest.
Hunyadi Kisvendeglo close to the House of Terror at 10 Hunyadi Square Budapest is indeed a cosy traditional Hungarian restaurant with cheap prices and good foods. Official website of Hunyadi Kisvendeglo
Fruccola is a light eatery with healthy salads, sandwiches and lots of fresh veegetables and fruits for the health conscious tourists in Budapest (locals love Fruccola’s places) More info on Fruccola.hu
Leves is a trendy Hungarian eatery specializing in soups. It is in face a good soup bar for take away soups, fresh baguettes, cookies, etc. Leves (or more precisely Leves! with an exclamation mark – I have mentioned that Hungarians looove soups!) is very very popular among students. No wonder: the soups are substantial, very nice and fresh, perfect for a dirt cheap budget main course. The budget eatery is close to the Central market hall (Vamhaz korut street 14). Official Facebook page of Leves here.
Cafe Zappa The daily cheap lunch menu deal includes two courses plus 3 dl lemonade for about 5-6 euros. Isn’t it budget Budapest? More details about Cafe Zappa Budapest here.
Cafe Alibi a cosy and cheap student hangout by the Hungarian National Museum on Egyetem Square should be on your Budapest cheap restaurant list in downtown Budapest (hot tip: nearby Chocoroom is a great place for a cuppa hot chocolate) See the image video of Cafe Alibi at the bottom. Official facebook page of Budapest Cafe Alibi.
Cafe Bocadillo in the city centre of Budapest, on Astoria Square is an ideal cheap place to eat a quick lunch, snack or a nice budget breakfast if you happen to be in the neighbourhood (close to the Jewish Quarter, the Great Synagogue, the National Museum, Urania Film Theatre, etc.). The terrace is definitely an advantage. More info here
Cafe Bali (officially known as Bali Caffe) is a small cafe with 13 tables by Astoria Square, in central Budapest. Their cheap lunch deals are great value for money (for about 4 Euros soup and main course) if you are close by Astoria Square M2 metro station. Official website of the cafeis here.
Atrium Restaurant is very close to the Heroes Square in Budapest, opposite the nearby 1956 Memorial on Dozsa Gyorgy Way, in the modern glass building of the ING. The modern self-service / canteen / cafe is a pleasant and cheap place to have a decent lunch on weekdays. Not to be confused with Atrium Cafe on Vorosmarty Square.
Belvarosi Disznotoros is not even an eatery, still a warmly recommended cheap place to eat in Budapest – for meat lovers exclusively, who are happy to grab some lovely sausages, grilled chiken, duck thighs, blood pudding (the latter of which could be the closest translation to the Hungairan liver and blood sausages), etc. If you like meat and don’t mind eating while standing at a counter amongst fresh butcher products, it could be your potential best budget ‘meatery’ in Budapest. Belvarosi Disznotoros (‘Downtown pork platter’) is super centrally located and open all day long on weekdays (until 8pm). It is a short walk from the Elisabeth Bridge, from Astoria (M2 station) or from Kalvin Square (M3 Station) and the National Museum in Budapest. Official Facebook page
Makos Guba is a budget restaurant on the Buda side, close to the Tunnel under the Castle Hill on Krisztina korut street, District I in Budapest. The place is packed with locals at lunch time, with an average waiting time of 10-15 min, but is a lot more relaxed outside peak lunch hours. Right across the street from Makos Guba you will see a CBA grocery store – well this corner shop has a pretty good and very cheap eatery section – with a very limited number of tables (5-6?), but many are happy to take their lunch boxes away for a cheap meal (maybe eat it at the nearby little park). Official website of Makos Guba Restaurant here.
Popular canteens: there are some really popular canteens in Budapest, which are usually not attractive by sight, so you need to lower your expectations before entering the canteens. Some of them have been around for many decades, and have a definite retro feeling, like Pajtas Etterem (self service canteen) in Gyorskocsi Street, close to Batthyany Square M2 metro station. Pajtas (poy-tah-sh) attracts anyone of any ages trying to get a decent lunch on a budget (weekday lunch place only).
Most universities also has cheap canteens, you can ask any of the students to give your directions. For instance, if you are staying by Petofi Bridge, you can try the canteen of the Technical University for a cheap lunch.
Miscellaneous budget places to eat
Cosmopolitan cuisine in Budapest with reasonable / budget prices
Arriba Taqueria Mexican foods on Terez korut street, not far from Liszt Ferenc square and Menza (which is usually full)
Hummus Bar for great vegitarian dishes in Alkotmany street, close to the Parliament and Szabadsag square
Szeraj Restaurant Turkish eatery close to the Margaret Bridge (13 Szt Istvan korut street)
Momotaro Ramen Chinese restaurant close to the Chain Bridge and the Parliament and the Basilica in Szechenyi street
Montenegroi Gurman in Rakoczi way (54 Rákóczi út)
California Coffee for sandwiches on Kalvin Square (American urban trendy sort of place)
Regarding Hungarian cuisine, of which you have already must have heard that the meals are heavy, I would recommend trying anything ‘typical Hungarian’ for lunch so that you have time to digest it. We ourselves eat our heavy national deals mostly for lunch time, maybe for this very reason, but maybe also as midday lunch is the main meal of the day for Hungarians, while dinners are lighter, faster, less fancy on average. Midday lunch is sometime between noon and 2 pm, but some places open earlier at about half to 12 as early arrivals will be happy to get before the long queues building up by 12pm.
Taking a critical look at our own Hungarian cuisine (and mind you, we are not relying on statistics here as simply there are no stats only assumptions and observations), we could say that Hungarian savoury cuisine can be summed up in 3 words: stews, pickles and sour cream. However, the desserts in Hungary, eaten at a good place can be won-der-ful! Delicious, yummy, mouthwatering. Let’s add that the best place to eat is always a good Hungarian home with a nice housewife, possibly in her mature years. But most tourists are not that lucky to get invited for a real home made meal in Hungary. Never mind, some places will let you have a feel for what you could have.
If you eat goulash, be prepared that in Hungary, where it is from, goulash is a soup with more liquid and lots of veggies, maybe dumplings, beef cubes and paprika. Most foreigners expect to get stew when they order goulash, but in Hungarian stew is pörkölt, goulash is gulyás (soup).
Last updated: 11 August, 2012