Festive Christmas markets, our hands wrapped around cups of mulled wine while peering at vendors’ handmade jewelry and notebooks, lift our spirits, but those will soon shutter until next year. Instead, we shall find comfort in mugs of hot chocolate savored in the confines of cozy cafes. Quality versions of the liquid abound in Budapest.
Here are five excellent ones to help alleviate the season’s inevitable chills.
Purists will gravitate to the light, creamy hot chocolate reminiscent of childhood afternoons—although if you’re settled into a banquette come evening, you may want to linger with a more adult-friendly, rum-spiked rendition—served at Centrál Kávéház. While the beverage could stand alone as dessert, cakes, like the vanilla-walnut Eszterházy, are the stars of this late 19th-century landmark. A slice, no matter how full you are, should be mandatory.
The confections on display at historic Book Café-Lotz Hall, atop the former Paris Department Store, are far less spectacular than those of Centrál Kávéház. But the setting, with its ornate ceiling, arches and chandeliers is so seductive that such a triviality is forgivable—especially when the hot chocolate is exquisite. There are a number of variations, including classic cocoa brightened with orange. Enjoy one while cracking open the spine of a new tome just purchased downstairs at Alexandra.
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A year ago today I was sitting in the gorgeous Book Cafe off Andrassy Street! Budapest is definitely one of my top favorite cities and this semi-hidden cafe was extra memorable. ☕ Where's the coolest place you've stopped for a coffee? . . . #coffeelovers #Budapest #buda #bookcafe #lotzterem #andrassyut #hungary #amazingplaces #travelgram #budapesttourism #verytravelpeople #girlslovetravel
Another bibliophile mecca is Buda’s Kelet Café and Gallery, where towering shelves of books create an inviting, library-like ambience. Regulars drop in for filtered coffees and tofu-mushroom curries, and once the temperatures plummet, rich hot chocolate blends. A spicy, Caribbean-tinged one made with 70 percent dark chocolate is the perfect way to keep relaxed vibes flowing after a floating session at the nearby Gellért Thermal Baths.
Close to the Hungarian State Opera House awaits Noir ChocoBar, a subterranean oasis ideal for atmospheric dates at hushed tables separated by screens. Hot chocolate varieties, presented in artful gravy boat-esque vessels, are plentiful here, whether plumped up with nostalgic candies like After Eight thin mints, or sweetened with pistachio syrup and drizzled with a smattering of crushed nuts. Counter the chocolate intensity with a plate of savory sesame pretzels.
Sounds of uplifting jazz greet guests at the wee Fair Trade haven, Azték Choxolat. The array of hot chocolate flavors is overwhelming, but the velvety one kissed with fiery chile powder is beautifully balanced with a mound of thick, must-have whipped cream. Before shopping for groceries at the SPAR across the quaint courtyard, stock up on the salon’s top-notch marzipan.