Hungarian gastronomy is an eclectic mix of regional and foreign influences, making dining out an exhilarating experience. The restaurant scene in Budapest is vibrant, with prices considerably less than most major European cities. The traditional coffee houses serve delicious pastries and cakes alongside strong, fragrant coffee. The national dish is goulash, a rich soup of meat and potatoes spiced with lashings of paprika that are slightly different from the Western version known as porkolt.

Bars and Pubbing in Hungary

Budapest’s buzzing nightlife is second to none, embracing everything from theater, opera and ballet performances to pubs, bars, clubs, and gentlemen’s lounges. From rowdy to ultra-hip and exclusively upscale, the select ambiance is all you want it to be. For a truly Hungarian experience, the borozos (wine pubs), serve local wines at rock-bottom prices.

The hot Budapest clubbing and bar areas are around VII Liszt Ferenc ter and IX Raday utca, with new music venues sprouting up every week. For classy cocktails, Bar Karma (VI Listz Ferenc ter II Budapest) has great background music and semi-Indian décor, while Paris Texas (IX Raday utca, Budapest) was a pioneer in this trendy area for its strong cocktails and vintage décor. Merlin (Gerloczy unta 4, Budapest), is a different kind of club, hosting various music-themed nights all week long and attracting a lively crowd as the night wears on.

A favorite nighttime hotspot is Old Man’s Music Pub (VIII Akacfa utca 13, Budapest), offering live music between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., with DJs taking over and keeping the party going till late. For a spot of culture, the Bartok Memorial House and Museum, (II Csalan utca 29, Budapest), hosts weekly chamber concerts by Hungary’s star performers every Friday, and the Trafo House of Contemporary Arts (IX Liliom utca 41, Budapest) has regular performances of modern dance.

Dining and Cuisine in Hungary

Budapest is at the heart of Hungary’s dining scene, with restaurants to suit all budgets and tastes, from fine dining to traditional foods and international favorites. Menza (Vl Listz Ferenc, ter 2, Budapest) serves authentic Hungarian dishes with a contemporary twist and is set in the city’s liveliest square. Spoon (off V Vigado, ter 3, Budapest), is a floating eatery on the east bank of the Danube, offering international fusion with great views of the castle. For those who like a taste of history along with a delicious meal, Karpatia’s (V Ferensiec, ter 7-9, Budapest) authentic fin-de-siecle surroundings are the perfect place.

For a gourmet treat in stunning surroundings, Uj Sipos Halaszkert (III Fo ter 6, Budapest) won’t disappoint. Set in Old Buda’s most historic square, it’s famous for its signature dish, halaszle (fish soup) served in several different varieties. For a change, Le Jardin de Paris (II Fo utca 20, Budapest) is set in a lovely townhouse and serves a delicious, budget lunch. For traditional savory or sweet Hungarian filled pancakes, try Nagyi Palacsintazoja (I Hatyu ucta 16, Budapest), open 24/7 and always packed.

As one of Hungary’s most-loved getaways, Lake Balaton has its share of excellent dining haunts, including Kedves (Blaha Uzja utca, Lakeside Area, Balaton Fured,), a romantic restaurant with a good reputation for its service and cuisine. Kitschy, quaint and homely, Kakas Csarda (Batthyany utca 1 Tihany) serves authentic Hungarian specialties and, for fine dining and great wines direct from the vintners, Ferenc Pince (Cser-Hegy 9, Tihany) offers lakeside views and chef-inspired dishes.