If you’ve seen enough churches, museums and architecture in the Hungarian capital, perhaps it’s time to take a little break from culture and go on a Budapest shopping tour. Being often called the “Paris of the East”, Budapest has plenty of opportunities when it comes to shopping and in this aspect, it doesn’t fall too far behind its French counterpart. Whether you’re looking to buy a souvenir or just want to spend some money on yourself, this Budapest shopping guide will help you make the choice – what to buy and where.
What to buy in Budapest?
Hungarian paprika is the most traditional Hungarian souvenir, a symbol of the local cuisine. It’s available practically everywhere from souvenir shops to grocery stores and markets. You can buy it in powdered form in plastic sachets or colorful little fabric bags, as a paprika paste in tubes under the name Piros Arany (red gold), or in small jars under the brand Erős Pista (hot), and Édes Anna (sweet). A string of dried red paprika can also be a great souvenir from Hungary.
Goose liver paté, salami & sausages
If you want to bring home a taste of the Hungarian cuisine, buying a small jar of paté is a good choice. A canister of goose liver paté is a big classic, but you can also buy deer paté, wild boar paté or duck liver paté in small jars in various delicious flavours just as green pepper, orange and apricot, or woody mushroom. A good place to buy these is the Hold Street Gastro Market (1054, 13 Hold Street) or the Budapest Great Market Hall. Another great choice when it comes to Hungarian food is the local “winter salami” (téliszalámi), produced by the more than 130-year-old Pick company in Szeged. Hungary also produces some great sausage, made from pork meat and spiced with red paprika. Two well-known brands are Gyulai and Csabai.
Hungarian wine, pálinka & Unicum
Hungary has more than 20 wine regions and Hungarians are big wine lovers. The most recommended Hungarian wine to take home is Tokaji Aszú, also referred to as the „king of wines”, as this famous, sweet delicacy is Hungary’s most well-known dessert wine. Other notable Hungarian wines include Egri Bikavér, Kékfrankos, Irsai Olivér, Cserszegi Fűszeres, and Tokaji Furmint. Another popular Hungarian alcohol is Unicum. The “unique” dark-coloured herbal elixir is a beloved aperitif of the Hungarians. For an extra special treat, buy a bottle of Pálinka, Hungary’s high-spirited fruit brandy. To hunt down local alcohol, go to any supermarket or souvenir shops. You can also buy great Hungarian wines and a wide variety of pálinka at Magyar Pálinka Háza (1088 Budapest, Rákóczi Road 17) and buy your Unicum directly from the factory shop where you can find various other souvenirs as well (Budapest, Dandár u. 1, 1095).
The Rubik’s Cube is one of the most famous Hungarian inventions and is a great gift to take home. More than just a puzzle game, it has a large fan base worldwide with international championships organized every two years. Apparently, more than one million Rubik’s cubes have been sold in Hungary alone, meaning every tenth Hungarian owns one. If you want to see how quick you can solve the Rubik’s cube, get your own at any toy store in Hungary.
Hungarian souvenir dolls
A Hungarian doll can be a great souvenir for little girls or anyone who appreciates folk traditions. The delicate dolls are made of porcelain, plaster and cloth and wear beautiful, colorful costumes representing the authentic wear of the many regions of Hungary. Their faces are hand painted and the needlework and embroidery on their dresses are also done by hand. The Memories of Hungary souvenir shops, the Handicraft & Gift Shop in Váci Street and the Great Market Hall are all good sources to purchase these dolls.
Szamos marzipan from the well-known Hungarian Szamos confectionary is a real local dessert delicacy and a great Hungarian souvenir for anyone with a sweet tooth. The Szamos marzipan comes in all shapes and sizes, their brand icon being the marzipan rose. You can also buy various delicious bonbons, other sweet treats and gift packages in their flagship store, Szamos Gourmet House at Vörösmarty Square (1052 Budapest, Váci u.1.). Szamos is one of the most successful family businesses in Hungary, they also have a chocolate museum in Budapest and a marzipan museum and confectionary in Szentendre.
If you enjoyed the local food specialities and want to explore the Hungarian cuisine in more detail, or just have a friend who is a foodie, then an authentic Hungarian cookbook can be a great gift to take home from Budapest with you. Hungarians love to eat and their cuisine is somewhat special as it combines both Eastern and Western gastronomic traditions. You can get English language Hungarian cook books at larger book stores and souvenir shops all over Budapest.
Hungary is proud of its folk-art traditions and is well-known for its special embroidery. There are many traditional embroidery techniques in the country depending on the region, the two best known are „matyó” and „kalocsai”. Both are characterized by their large flowery patterns and bright colours. Embroidered shirts, linens, table cloths and table runners are very beautiful and popular Hungarian souvenirs. Get yours at the Great Market Hall or in one of the many souvenir shops in Váci utca.
Hungarians make some of the world’s most beautiful gingerbread (in Hungarian “mézeskalács”) cookies. These gorgeous cookies come in various forms, one of the most popular being the gingerbread heart. All cookies are hand decorated, and the icing often resembles the lace embroidery of folk dresses. Gingerbread cookies are popular items of fairs and Christmas markets, but you can buy them at souvenir shops as well.
If you are a collector of china, you’ll be happy to hear Hungarians have great traditions of hand-crafted porcelain. The three best known manufacturers are Zsolnay, Herendi and Hollóházi. They all have their distinct characteristics patterns and their tableware and coffee cups have served many royalties over the centuries. As there are also fakes on the market, it’s best to buy Hungarian porcelain directly from factory shops or from a registered distributor.
Clothes from Hungarian fashion brands
Being an eastern European country and having had 40 years of communism, you would probably think Hungarians don’t have much of a fashion sense. But you would be mistaken. There are a number of Hungarian fashion brands that are quite successful, and not just locally. Nanushka is one of the most well-known Hungarian designer brands in the world – even world-famous stars like Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, Angelina Jolie and Taylor Swift own some Nanushka items. If you want to check out the latest Nanushka collection, their flagship store in Budapest is located in the 5th district under Bécsi Street 3. Other well-known Hungarian brands include Heavy Tools and Budmil which are selling sport- and leisurewear, Sandstone, Sherpa, Fundango which are all outdoor brands, Retro Jeans and Thomas Jeans which are both are Hungarian jeans brands, Tisza Shoes, a cool sports shoe manufacturer, Sugarbird, Keyo Paris and Mayo Chix which are all selling clothes and accessories for women only, while Saxoo London and Griff Gentlemen’s both sells quality clothes for men.
Where to go shopping in Budapest?
Budapest shopping malls
If you love shopping malls, you’ve come to the right place because Budapest has the biggest number of shopping centres in Central Europe. Just like in other countries, malls in Budapest sell everything from food, clothes, shoes, to electronic devices, books, home decoration items, jewellery and cosmetics. Apart from the well-known clothing retailers (e.g. Zara, H&M, Springfield, Esprit, C&A, Orsay, Benetton etc.), you’ll also find a post office, a pharmacy, ATMs, a currency exchange office, a newspaper kiosk and a bank at most shopping malls. All Budapest shopping centres have cafés and a food court with fast food restaurants as well.
Please keep in mind that shopping malls tend to get very hectic around the holidays – especially the month before Christmas. Weekends are also very busy, so for a more relaxed shopping experience, visit them during weekdays.
Most Budapest shopping malls have a cinema and a large supermarket. They all have very convenient opening hours, they are usually open from Mon-Sat 10 am – 8 or 9 pm and 10 am – 6 or 7 pm on Sunday. Budapest shopping malls are easiest to access with public transport, most of them are built near a busy metro or tram station. If you go by car, the first two hours of parking is usually free.
The biggest shopping malls in Pest are: Aréna Plaza, Westend City Center, Allee Shopping Center, Árkád Shopping center, Corvin Pláza, Europeum Shopping Center, Duna Pláza, Pólus Center, Lurdy Ház and KÖKI Terminál.
The biggest shopping malls in Buda are: Mammut I and Mammut II. Shopping centers, Mom Park, Campona Shopping Center and Budagyöngye Shopping Center.
Budapest shopping malls featuring the biggest number of premium brands are Aréna Pláza and Western City Center (in Pest) and Mom Park (in Buda).
Budapest shopping streets
Váci Street and Vörösmarty Square
Budapest’s number one shopping street is Váci Street. The street starts at Vörösmarty Square and ends at Fővám Square, opposite from the Great Market Hall. The heart of Budapest’s pedestrian zone is Vörösmarty Square where you’ll find a number of clothing stores (Pull and Bear, Bershka, H&M, Springfield, C&A), some great restaurants from the Michelin-star Onyx, the modern Boom&Brass Restaurant to the famous Hard Rock Café, and confectioneries like Szamos Gourmet House and the famous Gerbeaud, Budapest’s most well-known, 19th century coffeehouse. Váci utca is also lined up with many stores, restaurants and souvenir shops. Due to its lively atmosphere and impressive 19th century architecture, Váci utca is one of the most beautiful pedestrian shopping streets in Central Europe.
Deák Ferenc utca – Fashion Street
Another great place to do some shopping in Budapest is Deák Ferenc utca. This beautiful street leading up to Vörösmarty Square is also called “Fashion street” as it features many designer labels such as Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, Furla and Massimo Dutti.
Andrássy Avenue is an elegant, broad street in the city centre that leads from Deák Ferenc tér to Heroes’ Square and City Park. The street has many cafés and restaurants, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its beautiful neo-renaissance buildings that are mostly used as embassies and private villas. But architecture is not the only thing this street is famous for. The street is flanked with upscale designer stores like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Burberry, Tag Heuer, MaxMara and Dolce & Gabbana, but it has jewellery shops and some nice souvenir shops as well – especially in the area between Deák Tér and Oktogon. No wonder Andrássy Avenue has been nicknamed the Champs-Élysées of Budapest.
Budapest Design Fairs
Gozsdu Weekend Market
The Gozsdu weekend market is a great place to find unique local souvenirs. It’s organized every weekend in downtown Budapest, in Gozsdu udvar. The whole market has a very cool and cozy vibe as local artists and craftsmen are selling their art, jewelry, and other handmade products here. You’ll also find vendors selling antique stuff like paintings, bracelets and necklaces, communist pins and many other things. If you happen to be visiting Budapest on the weekend, it’s definitely worth a visit. And if you get hungry or thirsty while you’re there, the market is surrounded by many bars and restaurants.
WAMP Design Fair
The monthly design market called WAMP is aiming to bring local fashion and design closer to the public. The word WAMP stands for Vasárnapi Művészeti Piac meaning Sunday Art Fair. It’s organized in downtown Budapest, in Erzsébet Square (near Deák Square metro station) in the summer and moves indoors to Millenáris Park in Buda during the winter. The fair features more than a hundred local designers selling unique clothing, handmade jewellery, paintings, limited series wallets and bags, artsy accessories and stylish home decoration items. It’s a wonderful place to refresh your wardrobe with unique items or buy cool, handmade Budapest souvenirs.
Second-Hand Stores in Budapest
As Hungarian salaries are not up to the western-European level, Budapest has a great number second hand stores where you can buy designer labels at affordable prices. Second- hand stores also sell large sizes and all their items are unique. Háda is a Hungarian second-hand chain that probably has the most stores and widest selection of clothes and accessories. Although they’re not the cheapest, their items are fairly good quality. Cream is also worth a visit and has a number of stores downtown. Humana second-hand stores get their clothes from donations while the profit they make also goes to charity. They have several shops in Nagykörút (Grand Boulevard). If you buy something in their stores, you’ll not only spare your wallet, but do some good as well.
Cool vintage and designer stores in Budapest
Budapest has a very artsy underground scene which shows in its ruin pubs, cool little eateries, party places and small designer shops as well. The little stores sell carefully selected, unique fashion items that you won’t find anywhere else. Some of the best examples are: Retrock – Budapest, Anker köz 2-4, 1061, Szputnyik Shop – Budapest, Dohány u. 20, 1074 Hungary, Lollipop Factory Budapest, or Paloma designer Courtyard which is a shared showroom space aiming to promote contemporary design and fine & craft arts in the 5th district.
Markets in the Hungarian capital offer a unique shopping experience and a chance to mingle with locals and get a taste of everyday Budapest life. There are several markets spread out throughout Budapest. If you only have time to visit one, then visit the Great Market Hall (1093 Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3), Budapest’s largest and most famous indoor market. It has three floors selling everything from fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and dairy products to pickles, pots and pans, and even clothes. It’s also an ideal place to shop for Budapest souvenirs. Other notable Budapest markets include Hold Street Market Hall (1054 Budapest, Hold u. 13.), Rákóczi Square Market Hall (1084 Budapest, Rákóczi tér 7-9.) and Fény Street Market (1024 Budapest, Lövőház utca 12.).
Dos and don’ts of shopping in Budapest
- do visit a Budapest market, but have some cash with you as you won’t be able pay with card at the market. Also, most markets don’t have an ATM machine, except for The Great Market Hall and Rákóczi Square Market Hall
- don’t buy all your souvenirs at Great Market Hall, you’ll find souvenir shops all over the city
- don’t buy mobile phones, electronic devices, jewelry, leather gloves or other items from people who approach you on the street. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scammers.
- don’t buy fake hand-painted porcelain. Buy from factory stores or registered shops. If the porcelain is authentic, they’ll give you a little card of authenticity with your purchase.