“Step inside the New York Café, and you may find yourself wondering if you have accidentally entered the Hungarian equivalent to the Sistine Chapel” – says CNN Travel about one of Budapest’s most beautiful building on Blaha Lujza square.
Tamara Hardingham-Gill and Lianne Turner clear in the article that the magnificent building located on Erzsébet körút, one of Budapest’s main boulevards is built in Italian Renaissance-style. Spectacular frescoes adorn its high ceilings and it is one of the oldest cafés of the Hungarian capital.
It is not only a place to grab a slice of cake and drink a coffee but also a quick turnaround where people come to take some pictures and go. On the busiest days, it welcomes more than 2,000 customers all admiring the marble columns and stuccoed angels of its interior. Otherwise, the menu of the place consists of traditional Hungarian desserts, including 16 different types of cakes.
The café’s story begins in 1894 when the New York Life Insurance Company opened its European headquarters in Budapest and decided to build a coffee house right inside – says the article. After the compromise with the Habsburg dynasty (1867), Hungary started to develop very quickly, and coffee culture began to flourish in Budapest. Thus, New York Café was one of the more than 500 coffee houses opened those days.
The owners of the place wanted to create the most beautiful café in the world (in which they were successful). However, it quickly became the meeting point of poor artists who went there in the hope of meeting with somebody who will support them financially or will just invite them for a meal. Of course, not only the poor but also the already famous artists, writers or poets came here, so the café was the starting point of modern Hungarian literature. As a result, for example, the most influential papers of Hungary were edited on the second floor of the building.
The place was so loved that, allegedly, renowned author Ferenc Molnár and his friends threw its keys into the Danube so that it could stay open all night.
The world wars and the Soviet occupation of Hungary had a devastating impact on the café because the Communists shut many of the famous coffee houses of Budapest. Therefore, it operated as a restaurant and even a sports store in the Socialist era.
The restoration project was begun by the Boscolo Group in 2001, transforming the main building into a luxury hotel and restoring the café to its former glory. Fortunately, the original plans of the building were found in the basement so today the building looks like in 1894. For example, all the original paintings were remastered.
Gabor Foldes, PR & Marketing Manager for the New York Palace hotel added that since the café is a tourist attraction they do not have too many Hungarian guests, but they have even in their slowest days 1,300 diners.