Budapest is truly one of my favourite cities in Eastern Europe. This city on the banks of the Danube River has a rich and colourful history, an amazing array of architectural styles, stunning monuments and many atmospheric nooks and corners. It’s no wonder that Budapest is often called the ‘Paris of the East’. There are many places and sights I can recommend but one place I always visit whenever I’m in town is the splendorous Café New York, according to many, ‘the most beautiful café in the world’ – and I wouldn’t disagree.
The café forms part of a larger complex called the New York Palace. Commissioned by the New York Insurance Company in the late-19th century, the palace was opened in 1894 and the magnificent café soon received the billing as the most beautiful in the world and artists, writers and royals flocked to it.
The mix of styles, predominantly Renaissance and Baroque, is absolutely breathtaking. The rich use of marble, gold, bronze, silk and velvet combined with splendid Venetian chandeliers and the gorgeous frescoes on the ceiling are guaranteed to impress. One of my favourite things to do whenever I visit the café is to look at people’s faces when they enter the door. The look of awe and wonder never fails to make me smile.
I discovered this café by chance during my first visit to Budapest in the early-1990’s. The café then was clearly in need of a make-over and a thorough cleaning but even then, its grandeur shone through the layers of soot. Smartly dressed elderly waiters marched around proudly and served with distinct elegance. I’ll never forget that first visit.
The hotel and café underwent a major renovation between 2001-2006. These days, the Café New York forms part of the five-star Boscolo Budapest New York Palace Hotel but even if you’re not staying there, you can have a drink or a meal at the café for an opportunity to marvel at the amazing interior. I highly recommend this to anyone visiting Budapest as it’s simply an unforgettable experience. The café can get crowded around meal times so make a reservation if you plan to have a meal there. An alternative is to drop by for a coffee and cake in the morning or late-afternoon when it’s quieter.
If you’re in Budapest, the Café New York truly is one place you cannot miss!
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