Hungarian food: What to eat in Budapest

Hungarian food is a unique cuisine, and the best place to sample it on river cruises is Budapest. Famously spiced with paprika, this sweet seasoning gives the city’s must-try dishes a characteristic flavour you’ll be dying to recreate at home.

Not sure what to eat in Budapest? Start your culinary journey with these six Hungarian favourites.


A hot bowl of fresh goulash on a table in Budapest

Probably the most famous dish in Budapest, goulash (or gulyás) is a delicious stew that is particularly good at staving off the cold during Danube river cruises in the wintertime. Slow-cooked beef, tender vegetables and paprika broth work in perfect harmony to create the ultimate comfort food, especially when accompanied by a little added sauerkraut.


A plate of Hungarian lecso served on a bed of rice
Paleokeittiö /, CC BY-ND 2.0

Particularly popular during Hungarian summers, lecsó is another example of the Hungarians’ talent for stews. It is essentially vegetable soup with an edge; a thick, stewy mix of green and red peppers, tomatoes, onions, lard and paprika. Lecsó is a great side dish but also makes for a hearty dinner when served with rice, Hungarian sausage (kolbász) or a fried egg.

Hungarian sausage

A man slicing into a Hungarian sausage on a table outside
Európa Pont /, CC BY 2.0

Speaking of Hungarian sausage, this isn’t a mere accompaniment to another dish. These delicious sausages come from all over Hungary, each with their own distinct recipe and taste. In fact, they could contain anything from bacon to pork, beef or lamb, seasoned with paprika, garlic, pepper and nutmeg.

Fisherman’s soup

A bowl of fisherman's soup on the table in a restaurant in Budapest
János Korom Dr. /, CC BY-SA 2.0

Fisherman’s soup, or halászlé, is something of a national dish. Traditionally cooked in a kettle over an open fire, fisherman’s soup usually contains a mix of freshly-caught fish such as carp, catfish and perch. Of course, it is cooked with plenty of paprika to give it that characteristic red colour, and can be made with thick pasta for a heartier meal.

Chicken paprikash

A bowl of chicken paprikash topped with Hungarian sour cream
stu_spivack /, CC BY-SA 2.0

If you still aren’t sure what to eat in Budapest, try chicken paprikash. Known locally as paprikás csirke, this creamy soup is packed with vegetables, paprika and unbelievably tender stewed chicken leg. If you really want to give this crowd-pleaser a kick, however, ask your waiter for some tejföl sour cream, a Hungarian favourite that is used to top virtually everything!

Dobos torte

Dobos torte in a restaurant in Budapest, topped with syrup
stu_spivack /, CC BY-SA 2.0

You haven’t tried cake until you have sampled a big slice of dobos torte. This layered sponge has been enshrined in Hungarian history, incorporating a tantalising mix of chocolate buttercream and caramel that will have you craving another helping for the remainder of your river cruise.

Have you tried any of these Hungarian specialities during a river cruise to Budapest? Let us know what you thought using the comment box, below.

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About Emma Smith

Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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