Budapest / Prague

Budapest’s New York Café & Prague’s Café Imperial: For chats sprinkled with history

Mary Elizabeth Collins

Two European cafés where enjoying a cup of coffee is a unique experience.

When you travel to Europe, you have the opportunity to visit the old cafés that were a source of inspiration for artists and intellectuals, and meeting points for some of the most relevant historical figures of centuries past.

The New York Café in Budapest, Hungary, and the Café Imperial in Prague, Czech Republic, are two renowned venues located in countries that once belonged to the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Witnesses to glorious eras and symbols of the former splendor of the Old Continent, these mythical and bohemian enclaves boast stunning architecture and pleasant, bucolic atmospheres. These are places where drinking a cup of coffee becomes a unique experience.

The New York Café – Budapest
Founded in late 1894, this cafe soon became a meeting place for artists, members of the nobility, and also of ordinary citizens.

Regarded by many as the most beautiful cafe in the world, it is located in the luxurious Hotel Boscolo Budapest. Guests walk into an eclectic and lavish décor, evoking the Italian Renaissance with frescoes painted in the mid-19th century by Gusztav Mannheimer and Ferenc Eisenhut.

All that beauty is enhanced by the stunning Venetian chandeliers— providing the right chromatic ambiance for conversation—and the statuesque Solomonic columns.

In the early 20th century, this area was frequented by intellectuals and news editors. In fact, the most influential city newspapers were published in the gallery located atop the café.

Since the Belle Epoque, countless actors, painters and Hungarian writers have participated in lively discussions with their colleagues in this emblematic establishment.

After World War II, the New York Café served as a sporting goods store, and although it reopened its doors in 1954 with the name of Hungária, it was not restored until 2006, when it reached its current splendor. For those with a sweet tooth, nothing can compare to their delicious Sacher Torte.

Photos by:

Café Imperial – Prague
Founded in 1914—a date that marks the beginning of the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—Prague’s Cafe Imperial is part of the Hotel Imperial.
In late 2007, the space reopened after reforms that helped recover its refined Art Deco style with Cubist touches and Art Nouveau mosaics. The colorful lobby boasts tiled walls and a roof adorned with floral and figurative decorations inspired by Egypt, a trend that was popular in the early years of the 20th century.

Since opening, the Café Imperial has been rated as one of the most sought after places in the Czech capital. It also ranks as a mandatory visit while in Prague because brilliant personalities, such as Franz Kafka and Leos Janacek were assiduous patrons.

The café became a favorite of the Nazis during the German occupation, and later was the site chosen by the association of Czech trade unions.

Cafe Imperial is an essential visit for history buffs interested in enjoying succulent sweets like the imperial cake with cream and dates, or the imperial chocolate with grated gingerbread and whipped cream.

Photos by:

© | 2019