Budapest is known the world over for its history, architecture, arts and culture events, stunning churches, museums, world-class cuisine and scenic views from the top of the Buda Hills to the banks of the Danube.
It is also a superior destination for its variety of shopping, with arts and crafts, leather shoes and bags, artisan jewellery, decorative goods, designer clothing, and more.
All around the city there are specialty shops, supermarkets with local and international foods, large shopping malls with international chains, food courts, cinemas, and tech shops (West End City Centre, Mammut Mall and Arena Mall), souvenir shops that stock the standard trinkets, and, of course, Budapest memorabilia, like wooden dolls, spoons, and boxes decorated with folk motifs. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of shopping, all accessible by tram, bus, or on foot.
Here are some ideas for great places to shop by category:
Specialty Foods and Farmer’s Markets
Where can you get the best Hungarian Paprika, Csabai spicy sausage, and tasty, whimsical gingerbread embroidered with lace-like icing designs? Only in Hungary! You can’t miss the historic Central Market Hall on the Pest side of the Liberty Bridge. Vaulted glass ceilings hover over the second floor where local chefs vend Hungarian favourites, like Langos (soft fried dough topped with sour cream, garlic, and gooey cheese), Toltott Kapusta (stuffed cabbage rolls with pork), Gulyas (beef and tomato stew) and Silvas Gombac (plum dumplings).
Upstairs, you can find local souvenirs, linens, and other traditional goods made in Hungary. On the first floor, you will find fresh produce and Hungarian specialty foods—paprika, sausage, farm cheeses, chocolates, and bottles of Hungary’s own sweet and syrupy Tokaji wine, made from the ‘raisin’ of a local white grape. Also try the paprika and sour cherry dark chocolates for a spicy burst of flavour.
If you have the time, there are tours available that explore the various farmer’s markets, where you can learn about Hungarian recipes and taste the deliciousness of Hungary. In the mornings, you will find markets at almost every large square in selected neighbourhoods around the city, at the MOM Cultural Centre, known for its organic foods, plants and flowers, and at Lehel Ter, a big, ship-like building where the locals go for meats, breads, cheeses, and produce.
Jewellery and Accessories
Diamonds and precious gems are available in all price ranges, along with handmade jewellery fashioned from stones, metals, and glass. Diamonds are the star at Dorottya Diamond Palace in District 5. And a walk along Andrassy Utca, nearby the Hungarian State Opera, showcases many shops where you can buy designer jewellery and fashion accessories.
One of the most trendy bookshops in Budapest is Massolit Books and Cafe in District 5, with great coffee, pastries and a sitting area for reading. They have a plenty of English titles, classics, and foreign language selections, in addition to academic texts. You will also find many antiquarian bookstores in the city, some of which also sell rare stamps and coins.
Art and Antiques
For rows of exclusive stores with crystal, glassware, lamps, vases, porcelain figurines, bronze sculptures, prints, and paintings among other European antiques, Falk Miksa Utca in District 5 is just right for the connoisseur of finery.
If you’re looking for vintage, then check out the Gozsdu Weekend Market off of Kiraly Utca, where you can buy old and new artisan items and artefacts, as well as antiques and furnishings in a lively flea market in an historic alleyway in the old Jewish Quarter.
Homegoods, Artistic Accents, and Eclectic Decor
To get your fill of some of the most artistic and unique designs for your home, apartment, or for gift-giving, head down to Kiraly Utca. There are many shops along what is referred to as “Design Street;” my favourite being Goa where there are a host of colour-coordinated room displays, heavily dressed with accessories: throw pillows, wall hangings, tableware, chairs and sofas, lights, and accent pieces.
New and Used Clothing
Head across the street from the Central Market Hall and meander toward Vigado Ter to find all kinds of clothing shopping, from internationally exclusive chains, like Ferragamo and Louis Vuitton, to locally owned vintage clothing shops and trendy boutiques with formal and casual wear from all over Europe. A host of storefronts can be found among the impressive buildings and premiere restaurants like the famous Gerbeaud Cafe (where you can have a delectable dessert while contemplating the view and what you will buy next), and shoe stores galore, stocking reasonably priced and stylish leather boots, sandals and shoes—some made by Hungarian craftsmen.There are also a few really hip concept stores like Printa with a chic cafe, retail floor, and studio art gallery, located in the 7th District on Rumbach Sebestyen Utca.
Budapest is also known for its second-hand shops. My favourite is Cream, with several outlets located throughout the city – one near Corvin Ter, another at the underground of Nyugati Palyaudvar – for thousands of quality items to add to your seasonal wardrobe, at rock-bottom prices.
Budapest is humming with too many great shopping opportunities to list here. But half the fun of shopping is strolling along and searching through random streets, coming across an interesting and inviting window display, opening the door and looking inside. You never know what you might find.
Come to Budapest and admire the old buildings and the views in the squares, the open markets, and the artistic store windows. Enjoy the shopping experience, whether it’s for that ripe tomato on the vine, a glittering pendant made of glass, or a pair of winter boots in supple hide. Budapest is welcoming, budget-friendly and a true shopper’s dream.