Budapest » Shopping in Budapest
Shopping in Budapest
Nowadays Budapest is once again becoming known to visitors as much for being a mecca for shoppers – a reputation which last held true a century ago – as for being a country that for half of that century had been held in the ruthless grip of Communism. Whilst from the 1950’s onwards there was never any shortage of basic foods, generations of locals and visitors alike were denied the finer things in life. Nowadays there are two trends discernable amongst retailers in Budapest: “big is beautiful” and “small is beautiful.” Which is to say that there are now a host of huge shopping malls which have revolutionized people’s approach to shopping. The biggest, and from an architectural point of view perhaps the most interesting, is the West End City Centre (www.westend.hu), situated between Nyugati tér and Lehel tér in Pest. But perhaps surprisingly, the number of smaller outlets offering “luxury” goods and services has also mushroomed. There are now, for example, places where one can buy antique style building materials, where one can have pictures framed, or buy fine cheeses, pipes and tobacco, books from the time of Newton, bakelite records, Wagner manuscripts and antique clocks. Two elements of the Budapest shopping experience that really should not be missed out on are a visit to one of the market halls and a trip out to the Ecseri Flea Market. But then there is also much to be discovered by taking a walk down Falk Miksa utca. This Pest street, like certain areas in Paris and Rome, has become a centre for antique shops.
Central Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) (V. Vámház körút 1-3.) In olden times this most famous of market halls was connected to the River Danube by a tunnel so that goods could be directly offloaded from barges and taken inside to the stalls for sale. Upstairs is a stunning – although sometimes pricey – range of folk art inspired goods.
Hold utca Market (V. Hold utca 13.) Like a jewel in the centre of Pest, quite close to the Parliament.
Rákóczi tér Market (VIII. Rákóczi tér 7-9.) More representative of everyday Budapest, rarely frequented by tourists.
Hunyadi tér Market (VI. Hunyadi tér) Dating from 1897, this is the only one that has not been renovated since the political changes in 1990. There is a good delicatessen.
Klauzál tér Market (VII. Klauzál tér) In the centre of the old Jewish Quarter.
Batthyány tér Market (I. Batthyány tér 5.) This, the only one in Buda, was lovingly restored in 2003. Upstairs are shops, a nice café and a fantastic view over one of the city’s finest squares and across the River Danube towards the Parliament.
Other Interesting Market and Shops
Ecseri Flea Market
1194 Nagykőrösi út 156.
Budapest Flea Market,
(outside the Petőfi Hall)
1146 Zichy Mihály út 14.
V. Falk Miksa utca 10.
V. Budapest, Balaton utca 8., corner of Falk Miksa utca.
What to bring back from Hungary
(Centre for antiquarian booksellers)
V. Múzeum körút, from Astoria to Kálvin tér.
(apart from memories)
Tokaji Wine: It is a fact that only white grapes tend to be grown in the Tokaj region of northeastern Hungary. What might be less known is that this encompasses several different types of grape, leading to the production of a variety of fine but distinct white wines, ranging from dry to sweet. The most famous sweet wine from the region is the Tokaji “Aszú” dessert wine. The various qualities of it are graded from 3 to 6 puttonyos; the higher the grading the more expensive the price. The whole Tokaj area has seen a great deal of new investment in recent years, much of it by companies from France.
Unicum: This is a bitters sold in a distinctive round black bottle. Its origins are over two centuries old, and it is best drunk cold. Available in a range of sizes. (www.unicum.hu)
Red paprika, in a cloth sachet: Although paprika itself is of American origin, the grinding of it is a particularly Hungarian invention. It is an absolutely essential ingredient in traditional Hungarian cooking.
Modern print of a 1930’s photograph: Several of the world’s historically most renowned photographers came from Hungary. But whilst they were making their names abroad, their lesser known contemporaries stayed behind. Now, beautiful prints of their photographs are available at very reasonable prices from the Mai Manó Ház bookshop (VI. Nagymező utca 20., www.maimano.hu,.)