An article for tourists that will provide a general overview of restaurants and cafes in Hungary. You will learn about taxes, tipping, portion sizes, how to read menus, and much more. There will be tips and life hacks that can even save you money, as in recent years, the Hungarian dining scene has become more expensive than ever.

Restaurants and Cafes in Hungary: General Information

In summary, here’s what you need to know:

  • Hungarian dining is thriving. In any town, you will find a vast number of cafes and restaurants. Finding a place to eat is never a problem.
  • The national cuisine is delicious and hearty. There are no spicy dishes, except for the spicier versions of goulash. There are no specific spices like in Asia. The dishes mainly consist of meat and vegetables. You can find more about Hungarian cuisine and what a tourist should try in the article linked here.
  • The operating hours of eateries are quite limited. Typically, most restaurants open no earlier than 12 PM, and many can close by 8-9 PM. Only coffee shops are open in the mornings. Some also have weekends off, sometimes even two days, often Saturdays and Sundays.
restaurants and cafes in Hungary
Here is the usual operating schedule for most places, especially if you’re not in Budapest.

Advice:

In small towns, if you’re traveling through Hungary, it’s best to plan dinner before 8-9 PM because you might risk going without it after that time. In larger cities, such as Debrecen, you can certainly find places to eat late in the evening, but options are limited. Budapest, on the other hand, has a vibrant nightlife, and in the city center, you won’t go hungry even at 2 AM. Check out our Budapest review: where to eat and stay.
  • From a general perspective, I can also add that service in the country is quite fast. Orders are typically delivered in 10-15 minutes, with occasional exceptions. In general, Hungary isn’t a place where you wait for your order for an hour.

About Portion Sizes

I want to draw your attention specifically to the portion sizes in restaurants and cafes in Hungary.

There’s a common belief, often found on the internet, that portions in Hungarian eateries in are enormous, enough for two people. Afterward, you might have a hard time getting up from the table.

hungarian dining
Regarding the photo, the portion of Halaszle (fisherman’s soup with tomatoes) is substantial, while the classic Pörkölt (a Hungarian stew) comes in a moderately sized portion. This is what you can expect in terms of portion sizes at restaurants and cafes in Hungary.

The Reality:

About ten years ago, yes, portions were enormous everywhere, and prices were low. However, Hungary has now almost fully integrated into the EU’s economy, resulting in constantly rising prices and gradually diminishing portion sizes to meet commonly accepted standards.

Currently, it’s challenging to find eateries with huge portions. I would advise tourists who are just arriving here not to set high expectations regarding this matter. The prevailing trend is that main dishes today are of standard size, meant for one person. The only exception is large portions in soups, where they typically serve a big pot. Additionally, the menu often specifies the soup’s volume, offering various options, including a small bowl.

My recommendation is to order two main dishes for two people and one soup, which is usually sufficient for my wife and me, especially when the soup is served as shown in the photo above.

  • Remember: the closer the eatery is to the city center, the higher the prices and the smaller the portions.
prices in hungarian restaurants
In the center of Budapest, there are venues specifically catering to tourists. They still serve large portions, but the prices are quite high. For example, a plate like the one in the photo costs around 30 euros. I can’t say there’s a lot of meat on it: it includes a salad, side dish, potatoes, and onion rings. It appears like a lot, but at the same time, it’s not. Specifically, this photo is from Budapest’s central market, where there’s a food court on the second floor.

About Taxes and Tipping

Here, it’s more of a mixed bag than a clear-cut system, and it’s essential to understand what options are available and what you might encounter on your bill:

  • In Hungary, there’s a tax called AFA, with rates ranging from 5% to 27%.
  • AFA, in simple terms, is equivalent to our VAT (Value Added Tax). It is applied to all goods, services, food products, and more.
  • Most restaurants in Hungary already include this tax in the cost of their dishes, and prices on the menu are shown with AFA included. However, not all of them do; occasionally (rarely), you might come across places where they add AFA separately to the bill. This is usually indicated in small print at the bottom of the menu.
  • Sometimes, they might hide service charges under AFA, so tourists, without realizing, might leave additional tips. Be attentive!
where to eat in budapest
Pay attention to the last two lines on the bill. They added a 12% service charge here. If you don’t know better, you might think it’s AFA and leave a tip on top of it. It’s not exactly deception but a small trick in Hungarian restaurants and cafes to earn a bit more from tourists. Also, notice that at the bottom, there’s a sum in euros, and you can pay in euros. In total, 20 euros in a budget eatery: 1 soup, 1 hot dish, 2 beers.
  • There are restaurants in Hungary that include tips in the bill. Some don’t. The standard tip rate is usually 10%, sometimes 12%. They often refer to it as a service charge, and this information is typically found at the bottom of the menu.
  • The situation with tipping in Hungary is as follows: tipping is not mandatory but appreciated. If the bill includes a service charge, you don’t need to leave an additional tip; you pay the bill and leave. If there’s no service charge, tipping is at your discretion.
  • In the country, many restaurants have mandatory service charges, while others don’t.
tipping in hungary
Here’s an example of how they mention the mandatory service charge at the bottom of each menu page. It might be written in Hungarian to avoid your notice.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that you can use cards for payment at virtually any eatery in the country, even in small fast-food stalls that sell lángos (Hungarian fast food) under the trees in the park – you’ll almost always find card payment terminals.

About Menus, Prices, and Specifics

Now, let’s dive into the most intriguing topic: the menu. Here are some general points that tourists should be aware of:

  • English menus are prevalent but not universal. In touristy places, you’ll find menus in English, but the challenge lies in the fact that traditional Hungarian dishes are often challenging to spot on English menus. For instance, Hungarian fish soup (Halászlé) might simply be labeled as “Fisherman Soup” in the English menu. Similarly, Pörkölt, a traditional Hungarian stew, might be listed as “Meat with Sour Cream and Dumplings,” leaving you unsure if it’s the traditional Pörkölt or just meat with a side dish.
  • I always ask for the Hungarian menu, but it can be a struggle. Your eyes may start to bulge as you attempt to decipher it. If you’re not familiar with Hungarian, it can be challenging. You’ll find some helpful tips in an article about the Hungarian language, which is unlike any other. This article provides advice on how to tackle reading menus, price tags in stores, signs, and more – you’ll need to read all of these things. With the Hungarian language, even if you understand the context, it might still be unclear.
menu in hungarian restaurant
Restaurants and cafes in Hungary have fairly standard menus. They typically present the dish in Hungarian in bold font, followed by the translation. Try to challenge yourself to understand what the dish is just by reading the Hungarian, without looking at the translation. That’s the extent of the complexity of the Hungarian language that you need to know about.

Regarding prices, I’ve touched upon this topic a couple of times in this article, but to summarize, prices have increased significantly in the past five years. Restaurants and cafes in Hungary have experienced some of the most substantial price hikes in all the tourist sectors. Furthermore, portions have become noticeably smaller than in the past.

  • The standard price for a full dinner for two with a bottle of wine or beer in a restaurant is between 50-100 euros. And this is Hungary, not Switzerland.
  • If you order two main dishes and two beers with a tip, it will come to about 30 euros.
  • A bowl of soup: 5-7 euros
  • Main course: around 10 euros
  • Salads: around 6 euros
  • A glass of local beer: about 3-4 euros
  • 40g of pálinka (local plum brandy): 3 euros

These were the average prices in restaurants and cafes across the country. In the center of Budapest, it’s even more expensive. For example, a burger in a street-side fast-food joint, which you might eat while standing on the sidewalk, can easily cost 10-13 euros.

The crucial thing to remember is not to expect Hungary to be as cheap as Albania or Montenegro. Prices in Hungary have already reached the level of Central Europe, and in some respects, they’ve even surpassed it. For instance, dining in restaurants in Italy or neighboring Bratislava in Slovakia is often cheaper.

I recommend reading a general article about vacation in Hungary to learn about trends, what to expect, and what to prepare for.

portion sizes in Hungarian restaurants
When it comes to soups in Hungarian restaurants and cafes, they typically indicate the volume. For instance, 6 dl translates to 600 ml. However, oddly enough, the weight of the dish is only mentioned for soups. It’s not provided for main courses.

Let’s explore some more menu peculiarities in Hungarian restaurants and cafes:

  • Usually, only soups have their volume or weight specified, and this is typically in deciliters (dl). For those who remember the metric system, 1 dl is equivalent to 100 ml. For weight measurements, 1 dkg equals 100 grams. Take a look at the photo above.
  • As for main dishes, the size or weight isn’t usually mentioned – it’s a bit of a lottery. You’ll get what they serve.
  • Next, you’ll often find numbers separated by commas from 1 to 14 next to each dish. These are the codes for European allergens, and they’re consistent throughout Europe. If you have any food allergies, make sure to learn the codes for the ingredients you’re allergic to. For example, here’s what I know:
    • 1 – contains gluten
    • 4 – contains fish products
    • 5 – contains nuts
    • 7 – contains lactose-based products
menus in Hungarian restaurants prices
I’ve marked with red arrows how allergens are listed next to each dish.

Travel Tips

Here are some general tips that will assist you during your trip to Hungary and might even help you save some money:

  • In most restaurants and cafes in Hungary, they offer lunch menus known as “NAPI MENU” – look out for these words. They are akin to business lunches in our establishments. Typically available from 11 am until 2 or 3 pm, the price for a set lunch, including soup, main course, and dessert, ranges from 5 to 7 euros.
  • Many restaurants now accept cash payments in euros, with some even displaying two sums on the bill: one in forints and one in euros. While it’s not yet everywhere, it’s prevalent. If this is essential to you, it’s best to inquire in advance. Hungary is expected to fully transition to the euro by 2030, and its economy is currently closely integrating with the Eurozone.
    • You can find more information about the currency situation in Hungary in an article about currency in Hungary.
restaurants and cafes in Hungary menu
The image above shows a standard lunch menu, “Napi menu.” I’ve underlined in red how to recognize it. There’s no choice of dishes. The price is 2,100 forints, at an exchange rate of 380 forints per 1 euro, which is about 6 euros. The menu specifies the time when you can order a lunch set. It typically includes three courses: a 2 dl soup, the main course, and dessert. Drinks are usually paid for separately, and water is often served for free.

In conclusion, Hungary’s hospitality industry is thriving. Hungarian restaurants and cafes can compete with any gastronomic region in Europe. The food is delicious, the ambiance is cozy, and the portions are filling. Yes, there are some quirks, such as the operating hours and the challenging-to-read menu, but these add more flavor to your journey.

Wishing you delightful evenings in Hungarian eateries!


IMPORTANT: Below are useful links that will help organize your trip to Hungary and Budapest:

  • Flight: Aviasales – compares prices for flights among 30+ airlines flying to Budapest.
  • Tours and excursions:
    • Viator and GetYourGuide – the best services for finding tours in Budapest and Hungary with the largest database of activities in Hungary. They offer river cruises on the Danube, tickets to baths, and 1000+ tours (available in different languages).
  • Accommodation, apartments, hotels, hostels:
    • Hotellook compares the prices among dozens of other booking services and offer the best price
    • Booking – the most popular booking platform
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Hungary
  • Car rental: DiscoverCars – the leading and largest car rental service in Hungary.
  • Travel Insurance: EKTA.
  • eSIMAiralo virtual SIM card in Hungary.
  • Taxi and airport transfers: Intui.Travel