(Hungary) Café Culture in Budapest

Introduction

During the fin-de-siècle period coffeehouses became an integral part of Danubian culture. With the import of coffee that was brought into the region through the Ottoman Empire a whole new mode of social exchange came into being. First and foremost the cafés served as meeting places for cultural and social elites, they have often even been described as some sort of second home to many writers, journalists and artists of the time.

Especially the coffeehouses of Vienna and Budapest flourished. In order to find out what was going on in the city the cafés were the first places one would go to. But the New York Café or the Hadik Kávéház were not only frequented by intellectuals, famous poets and novelists; on weekends they were full of the burghers of the city, coming in to enjoy a cup of coffee along with beautiful and often imperial architecture.

However, the period of flourishing did not last long, since the World Wars quickly put an end to the success of the cafés. Additionally, many of the grand buildings were destroyed during the bombings of the Second World War. The communist regime was also impedimental to a progressive development of intellectual diversity – and hence, the coffeehouses. Nevertheless the importance of the Central, the New York and the Hadik persisted and in recent years many coffeehouses were reopened in the full splendour of their initial establishment.

The New York

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The New York Café

Hungarian writers, journalists and artists such as Ferenc Molnár, Kálmán Mikszáth, Endre Ady, Dezső Kosztolányi, Gyula Krúdy and Zsigmond Móricz made the New York Cafe famous. It came to be a vital meeting place for intellectual and literary life in the Budapest of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Commissioned in 1894 by the New York Insurance Company, the palace on the Erzsébet körút shows a combination of various styles inspired by the Italian Renaissance.

The beautiful and elegant café, located on the ground floor of the building, quickly became popular amongst writers, poets, and journalists. The founders of the Hungarian literary magazine Nyugat that gave its name to a whole epoch of Hungarian literature held regular meetings at the café.

This high time of literature and art came to a halt in 1914. A short revival followed in the 1930s, only to be interrupted again by the Second World War. The Palace was heavily bombed towards the end of the war. It reopened during the communist regime in 1954, but uprisings in 1956 destroyed it once again.

Finally, in 2006 the Boscolo Group revived the palace and together with a luxury hotel the café was reconstructed and went into business again.

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New York Palace

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The New York

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Hadik Kávéház

Karinthy, Kosztolányi, Móricz and Tibor Déry, famous Hungarians of the 1920s, the so called ‘golden era’, spent a great deal of their time at the Hadik Café. It opened for the first time in the early 20th century and gained popularity rather quickly. The expressionist painter Tivadar Kosztka Csontváry has even lived above the café for some time.

The Hadik Kávéház was restored to its former glory in 2010. The refurbishing stayed true to the original design of the café and the wooden floors, olive armchairs in art-nouveau style and furniture made of cherry-wood take visitors back to the last century. Once again it became a meeting place for artists, writers and particularly musicians, because it occasionally serves as a venue for jazz concerts and readings by contemporary Hungarian authors.

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Centrál

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Centrál

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Centrál Café

Amongst the coffeehouses of the turn of the 19th/20th century the Centrál Café was amongst the grandest, attracting the attention of editors, journalists, writers and all other sorts of artists and intellectuals. It functioned as a focal point of urban social life and served as a regular meeting point for the leaders particular intellectual groupings, such as the editorial team of the magazine Nyugat. Their usual spot was on the gallery, where today the restaurant section of the café is located.

The café saw its highpoint during the interwar period, with famous guests as, for example, the writers Frigyes Karinthy and Lőrinc Szabó. However, the independent thinking enforced by places like the Centrál dissatisfied the communist regime and the café was shut down.

Right after the fall of the communist regime in 1989 the Centrál Café was the first of the grand classical coffeehouses in Budapest to reopen and its success suggests that it managed to recapture the flair that was particular to it when it was first opened. Today the café describes itself as a reference point between tradition and modernity, ‘relying on the roots of Hungarian gastronomy and meeting the expectations of the 21st century’, as it reads on its website.

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Hadik

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Hadik

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Hadik

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Google Map

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