15 Must Buy Hungarian Things in Budapest

15 Must Buy Hungarian Things in Budapest

Other than the standalone language and catchy Czardas tune, there's a lot more to memorize Hungary by. Here are some of the things you might want to carry from Budapest to your family and friends back home.
(To visit the venues mentioned in this article, check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Budapest)
Image Courtesy of: Walt Hubis

1. Porcelain

The Hungarian traditional of hand crafted porcelain dates back hundreds of years. Truly the porcelain of royalty, Herend porcelain has been used in royal courts from Austria to Mexico. Queen Victoria was so impressed by Hungarian porcelain when it was shown at exhibitions around Europe, that she ordered some for her palace. Today, Herend still make their famous products at a small factory in the Hungarian countryside. Using a mixture of quartz, kaolin and feldspar the porcelain is fired at tremendous heat and then hand painted by craftsman.

Beautiful coffee cups, soup tureens, plates and bowls are decorated with patterns of leaves, birds and flowers. Herend also makes beautiful porcelain figurines-- delicate, hand painted figures of carnival workers, horses and traditional soldiers. Herend porcelain is not inexpensive, running anywhere from between $75-$300, but it is well worth the price. There are a lot of imitation Herend products sold in Budapest, so you’ll want to be careful about where you buy it. The best place to purchase Herend porcelain is from one of the company’s show rooms around the city, such as the Herend Porcelain store at Szentharomsag utca 5, Budapest, Hungary. They are open every day from 10:00am-7:00pm and their employees speak quite good English.
Where to find it:
Herend Porcelain:
Address: Szentharomsag utca 5, Budapest, Hungary.
Opening Hours: Every day from 10:00am-7:00pm
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2. Ajka Crystal

Ajka Crystal
Founded in 1897, the Ajka Crystal Factory is world famous for the beautiful handmade crystal products they produce. Their beautiful tableware and decor products are available in up to 20 different colors and come in beautiful, luxurious gift boxes. At the factory, Ajka’s master glass blowers blow the glass into a wooden mold and then subject it to a continuous cooling process for four hours. The crystal then has a design etched into it by hand.

The factory’s unique process insures that no two pieces of Ajka crystal are ever exactly alike. No wonder the company boasts that as you hold a piece of Ajka crystal “not only are you touching a masterpiece, but also the heart of the master.” If you can’t make it out into the country side to visit the factory, the company has a number of beautiful show rooms around Budapest. They have locations at 10 Kossuth Utca and 7 Jozsef Attila Street, both of which are easily accessible. Their store at 18. Szent Istvan Korter is especially lovely and has a wonderful selection of Ajka products available. It is open Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm.
Where to find it:
Ajka crystal:
Address: Szent Istvan Korter 18, Budapest, Hungary.
Opening Hours: Monday - Friday from 9am-5pm.
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3. Painted Eggs

Painted Eggs
Although their popularity soars around Easter, hand painted eggs are a staple of gift shops and market stalls in Budapest. Traditionally, a man would visit his beloved on Easter Monday and would sprinkle water on her. In return, the woman would give him a hand painted egg as a gift. Today, these beautiful eggs come in a variety of different colors and designs and are painted and sold by Hungarian craftsmen. Incredibly beautiful and delicate, the designs on these eggs are often depictions of flowers, animals or religious symbols.

Some of them are sold as ornaments -either for Easter or Christmas- and some are sold in egg cartons, giving the buyer the freedom to use them as he or she desires. Some Hungarians hang them on pussy willow branches, making them an ornament that is appropriate all year round. The eggs are sold in almost every store on Vaci Street, as well as in the wonderful craft market on the Castle Hill.

The market is open every day of the week, although individual stalls have their own opening and closing hours, which are not always consistent. You’ll be able to buy them anywhere there though, so make sure you browse all the stalls and look at all the different designs, before making a choice!
Offline reading and travel directions:
With GPSmyCity App you can read this article offline on your mobile device, use the embedded offline city map and GPS navigation, as well as create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured in the article.

4. Traditional Hungarian Shirts

Traditional Hungarian Shirts
Put a little color into your wardrobe, or the wardrobe of a friend, by bringing a traditional Hungarian shirt back from Budapest. Although no longer worn every day, Hungarians still enjoy donning their more traditional garb for folk dancing events or national celebrations. Folk costumes from Hungary are very colorful and have beautiful designs embroidered on them.

Women’s clothing tends to consist of flared skirts with petticoats, and blouses with puffed sleeves. Men’s costumes tend to be long sleeved and complimented with a vest or a sash. Boots and embroidered shoes are also a staple of their traditional dress. Folk shirts are usually white and hand embroidered with colorful designs. Sometimes ribbons are used to decorate the collar or cuffs.

Vaci utca is home to a host of shops that sell these wonderful souvenirs. Particularly recommended is Folkart Centrum at 58. Vaci utca. Located near the old town hall, their selection is vast and the look and feel of the shop are charming. Folkart Centrum is open every day of the week from 10:00 am-7:00 pm.
Where to find it:
Folkart Centrum:
Address: Vaci utca 58, Budapest, Hungary.
Opening Hours: Every day of the week from 10:00 am-7:00 pm.

5. Traditional Dolls

Traditional Dolls
Hungarian dolls have been exhibited at museums around the world. Their beautiful costumes, delicate features and embroidered hats, make them admired wherever they are shown. Hungarian dolls make a wonderful souvenir to bring back either as a gift or a collectible item. These beautiful handmade dolls come dressed in either traditional Hungarian peasant costumes, or in elegant, old fashioned, ball gowns. Their beautiful porcelain faces are hand painted and the stitching, beading and embroidery on their dresses are all done by hand.

You can buy small, six inch dolls to set on a dressing table or full sized dolls to display. The smallest dolls cost around $6.50, medium sized ones around $35 and the beautiful, large dolls can cost upwards of $150. The Handicraft & Gift Shop at 32 Vaci Street is a treasure trove of dolls, embroidery, and traditional Hungarian crafts. The staff speak English and the prices are quite reasonable. They are open every day of the week from 9:00am-8:00pm.
Where to find it:
Handicraft & Gift Shop:
Address: Vaci utca 32, Budapest, Hungary.
Opening Hours: Every day of the week from 9:00am-8:00pm.

6. Tokaji Wine

Tokaji Wine
Every year on Queen Victoria’s birthday, Emperor Franz Josef would send her one bottle of Tokaji Wine for every month she had been alive (a grand total of 972 bottles on her 81st birthday!) During your trip to Budapest, we recommend that you follow the Emperor’s example and purchase some Tokaji for your friends and family at home. Mentioned in the Hungarian national anthem, this wine has been a Hungarian treasure for centuries.

Produced only in North Eastern Hungary, Tokaji wine comes in a variety of different tastes including dry, Szamorodni, Aszu, Eszencia, Fordiatas and Maslas. Its light color and fantastic taste, coupled with the slender, elegant bottles it comes in, make Tokaji a beautiful and delicious gift. Wine in Budapest is very cheap and prices for Tokaji range from $7-$25. Tokaji is easily purchased at the Bacchus Borkereskedes liquor store located at 23 Vaci Utca. Right in the heart of the biggest shopping street in Budapest, the store is large, reasonably priced and the very friendly employees speak some English. It is open every day of the week from 10:00am-8:00pm.
Where to find it:
Bacchus Borkereskedes:
Address: Vaci utca 23, Budapest, Hungary.
Opening Hours: Every day of the week from 10:00am-8:00pm.

7. Tablecloths

Give your dining room table an elegant, traditional look with a beautiful hand embroidered table cloth from Budapest. There are several different styles of embroidery that are popular in Hungary, the most prevalent of which are the blue on white patterns and the colorful floral designs.

Blue thread is used to hand embroider white cloths with delicate designs that evoke a traditional elegance, similar to patterns on china tea cups. For a more colorful look, consider the bright red and green floral patterns that are embroidered onto white and black cloths. Lace making is another craft Hungarians are well known for and some cloths are hemmed with beautiful hand made lace as well.

The cost of table cloths varies widely based on the size and the quality of the embroidery. You can buy small, end table sized, clothes for around $50 but full sized clothes will probably be several hundred dollars. You’ll find these in stalls at the Nagy Csarnok (The Great Market Hall) at Fovam Ter. The selection is vast, so make sure you shop around before making a decision. The market’s hours are Monday from 6:00am-5:00pm, Tuesday- Friday from 6:00am-6:00pm and on Saturday from 6:00am-2:00pm
Where to find it:
Central Market Hall:
Address: Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093, Budapest, Hungary.
Phone:+36 1 366 3300
Opening Hours:
Monday from 6:00am-5:00pm,
Tuesday- Friday from 6:00am-6:00pm
Saturday from 6:00am-2:00pm

8. The Hungarian Secret Box

The Hungarian Secret Box
At first glance, you may think these lovely wooden boxes are ordinary jewelry boxes. That is, until you attempt to open one and discover that the lid does not move upon command. Only after the shop keeper has shown you how to slide open the secret panels, uncover the key and the hidden lock, will you have access to the inside of this clever puzzle box. And, if that’s not enough to satisfy your cravings for secrecy, there is a hidden compartment inside the box itself, in which you can store your most treasured possessions. Hand carved out of wood, these boxes make a wonderful gift for anyone who enjoys puzzles or values their privacy.

There are a number of aesthetic choices to make when purchasing this gift: the boxes come in many different sizes -from tiny ring sized boxes to full sized jewelry boxes- some are painted and some retain the original look of the wood they are carved from. Many vendors will also offer to engrave a name and date on the box as well- often at no additional cost. The cost of the boxes runs from $10-$20 and they are widely available throughout the city. They are on sale at many of the stands in the Nagy Csarnok (The Great Market Hall) which is located on the Danube at Fovam Ter. Designed in 1896, this beautiful market is open Monday from 6:00am-5:00pm, Tuesday- Friday from 6:00am-6:00pm and on Saturday from 6:00am-2:00pm. Please note that the market is closed on Sundays.
Where to find it:
Central Market Hall:
Address: Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093, Budapest, Hungary.
Phone:+36 1 366 3300
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9. Palinka

According to EU regulation, Palinka must be distilled in Hungary. This makes Budapest the perfect location to purchase some of this delicious liqueur. A traditional drink at dances, wedding and celebrations, Palinka is arguably the most popular drink in Hungary. Go to any bar or restaurant in Budapest and Palinka will be on the menu. Palinka is very strong, with an alcohol content between 37.5% and 86% ABV, and has a fruity flavor.

The most common form of Palinka is distilled from plums, but other fruits such as apricot, pear, peach, apple and cherry are also used. The fruit is mashed up and then the fermentation process is begun. Finally, the Palinka is distilled using either a pot still or a column still. A nice gift set, containing different flavors of this traditional treat, will cost you around $25, although individual bottles will cost between $15-$20.

You can buy Palinka all over the city, including the Bacchus Borkereskedes Store at 23 Vaci Street. They have a wide variety of different flavors and types of palinka and their employees will be more than happy to make some suggestions. They are open every day of the week from 10:00am-8:00pm.
Where to find it:
Bacchus Borkereskedes Store
Address: Vaci utca 23, Budapest, Hungary.
Opening Hours: Every day of the week from 10:00am-8:00pm.

10. Leather Shoes

Leather Shoes
Nestled in the heart of Budapest’s biggest shopping district, Laszlo Vass’ shoe store is a must visit for travelers to Hungary. Vass is one of the last remaining craftsmen to create handmade leather shoes using traditional methods, and his shoes are famous for their beauty and their durability. In the store’s workshop, Vass and his employees use the same tools that craftsmen used centuries ago in order to create shoes unlike any produced in factories.

Only high quality leather is used and then cut, shaped and patterned by hand. Using wooden pegs, nails and hammers the upper part of the shoe is stretched apart and sewed on last. Vass’ techniques are so fascinating that he and his partners have written a book about their craft, “Handmade Shoes For Men,” which has been translated into over eight languages. Vass’ most famous shoe, The Budapest Shoe, is famous for its comfort, durability and easy elegance.

Pricing for these shoes range from several hundred dollars for the cheaper models to a thousand dollars for the more expensive, custom made shoes. Laszlo Vass’ shop is located at Haris Koz 2, right off of Vaci Utca. You’ll be able to either order an already crafted shoe, or request a custom made one.
Where to find it:
Vass’ Shoes:
Address: Haris köz 6, Budapest, Hungary.
Phone: +36-1 780-7418
Opening Hours:
Monday - Friday 10:00-19:00
Saturday 10:00-16:00

11. Rubik’s Cube

Rubik’s Cube
Although you are probably familiar with these colorful puzzles, it may surprise you to learn that the original inventor was Hungarian. Erno Rubik, a sculptor and professor of architecture, invented this game in 1974 while working at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest.

Today, it is the world’s best selling toy with over 350 million cubes sold worldwide. This six sided cube has a different color on every side and a pivoting mechanism which allows each side to turn independent of the others. With over 43 quintillion possible permutations, solving this puzzle and lining up all the colors will keep even the most seasoned puzzle solver occupied.

You can buy Rubik’s cube at any number of toy stores around the city, a number of which are located in the large West End Shopping Center. Located in the heart of Nyugati Square, and next to the old train station, the shopping center houses many different toy stores. On the ground floor, Bambini Jatek (“Children’s Toys”) is well worth visiting if you are traveling with young children, or are a child at heart yourself. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00am-9:00pm and Sunday from 10:00am-8:00pm.
Where to find it:
Bambini Jatek (“Children’s Toys”)
Address: Váci út 1-3, 1069, Budapest, Hungary.

West End Shopping Center:
Address: Váci út 1-3, Budapest, Hungary.
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12. Paintings of the Danube

Paintings of the Danube
Walk along the Danube on a golden Autumn morning, and you’ll be sure to spot Hungarian artists sitting by the water with their sketchpads and paints by their side. The Danube river, which flows from Germany down to the black sea, divides Budapest into its two halves: Buda and Pest. Paintings of this river, and the beautiful bridges that cross it, are a staple of Hungarian market stands.

Browsing through the many different depictions of the river, you’ll find paintings, pastel drawings and black and white sketches. For an image that captures the color, the excitement and the energy of the city, try a beautiful water color painting. Or for a taste of an older, more elegant Budapest, search for a charcoal drawing. Pricing varies greatly with the scale of the pictures- smaller pictures will be around $10, while larger images will fall in the $30-$50 price range.

Although you can find individual artists selling their work by the river, there is also a lovely antique store at 67 Vaci utca that sells a wide selection of paintings, prints and drawing. The store is open every day of the week from 10:00am-6:00pm.
Where to find it:
Millenium Antik:
Address: Vaci utca 67, Budapest, Hungary.
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday from 10:00am-6:00pm.
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13. Unicum

Bottled in beautiful green bottles, this bitter herbal liqueur is made from over 40 spices, using a recipe that has remained a secret for centuries! Unicum is a beautiful dark, amber color, which it gets from the oak barrels it’s aged in at Zwack’s Budapest factory. Many Hungarians swear by the medicinal properties of this drink, which was originally brewed as a tonic for Emperor Joseph II in 1790. With a history almost as fascinating as its striking taste, Unicum is best bought at the Zwack Unicum Heritage Visitors’ Centre in Budapest.

Watch a twenty minute film in English, explore the centuries of history on display and end up in a turn of the century tasting room to try some Unicum for yourself. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll need to stop at the gift shop to buy some of your own. Prices range from $5 for a tiny flask to $115 for a giant bottle, with more moderate options falling between these extremes. The museum and gift shop are located at Dandár utca 1. The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10am-5pm.
Where to find it:
Zwack Unicum Museum:
Address: Dandár utca 1, Budapest, Hungary.
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday from 10am-5pm.

14. Paprika

After your first taste of the famous Hungarian dish “Paprikas Csirke” (Chicken with Paprika) you’ll be dying to get your hands on this magnificent spice. Hungarian cuisine is famous for its flavor and zest, and one of the essential ingredients is Paprika. This spice is not only delicious and colorful, but is also rich in Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants. Grown in Hungary, the peppers are dried, ground up and sold in stores all around Budapest. Paprika comes in a variety of different strengths, flavors and grades, including: special quality, delicate, exquisite delicate, pungent exquisite delicate, rose, noble sweet, half-sweet and strong. Although you can buy paprika in the grocery store, lovely gift sets are sold in many of the stores on Vaci street.

Most shops will sell a package of three cloth bags, containing sweet, spicy and very spicy types of paprika. Small wooden serving spoons are also usually included. Pricing will be between $6-$14, depending on the size of the bags and whether or not you want the wooden serving spoons included. Best place to buy paprika of all shapes and sizes is the Central Market Hall at Vámház krt. 1-3.
Where to find it:
Central Market Hall:
Address: Vámház krt. 1-3, Budapest, Hungary.
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15. Kurtos Kalacs

Kurtos Kalacs
Originally baked by Hungarian settlers in Transylvania, Kurtos Kalacs (“Chimney Cakes”, so named because of their cylindrical shape and the steam that rises out of the hot, freshly baked pastry) are one of the oldest, and arguably most delicious, pastries produced in Hungary. Although their traditional use was to celebrate weddings, christenings and the arrival of important guests, Kurtos Kalacs are now sold fresh on street corners all over Budapest.

When you buy these delicious treats from a street vendor, you’ll probably be able to see the vendor’s special oven turning the freshly baked cakes over the heat. Bakers take ribbons of thin dough, wind them around wooden cylinders and then bake them over an open fire. Afterwards, the baked cakes are sprinkled with caramelized sugar and other flavorings like vanilla, chocolate, coconut and cinnamon. And, as if that weren’t enough, the desert is often then topped off with almonds or walnuts.

Kurtos Kalacs are especially popular around Christmas time when you can purchase them hot in the Christmas markets. At any time of year, however, they are a delicious and inexpensive gift to bring back with you from Budapest. The cakes will cost around $2-4 a piece, depending on where you purchase them. There’s Molnar's Kurtoskalacs on Vaci street 31 that is open from Monday to Friday 7:00 am - 9:00 pm and on the weekend 9:00 am - 6:00 pm. We guarantee you won’t be able to resist entering this store when you smell the baking Kalacs.
Where to find it:
Molnar's Kurtoskalacs:
Address: Vaci utca 31, Budapest, Hungary.
Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday 7:00 am - 9:00 pm
On the weekend 9:00 am - 6:00 pm.

Other Interesting Souvenirs from Hungary

If traveling to Hungary is not on your immediate agenda, or you simply can't afford an extra space in your luggage, fortunately, these days, you can find a wide selection of authentic and truly interesting Hungarian souvenirs online. Presented here are some of the Hungarian products sought by foreign visitors, now available online for your convenience.

1. Negro Candy - Hungarian-made Negro “throat sweeper” candy really does the job clearing up a throat, at least judging by the chimney sweep depicted on its packaging. The original recipe of this candy is said to include residues from menthol and anise production, however, the exact formula is heavily guarded. The available flavors include honey, menthol, menthol-honey, extra strong eukaryotic menthol, among others. Not suitable for kids under 4, though.

2. Hungarian Cookbooks - If you're a foodie and want to learn about salami, goulash, and other specialties of Hungarian cuisine in detail, plus to explore Hungarian viticulture, acquainting yourself with Tokaj, the king of Hungarian wines, or to dig deep into the “fiery” history of Hungarian passion for pepper, then you will definitely want to read some of the authentic Hungarian cookbooks replete with the wealth of such information. Hungary is the country where the Orient and the Occident melted centuries ago, creating a variety of recipes that have inspired international gourmets ever since, wax enthusiastic about the wonders of Hungarian cooking.

3. Hungarian music - Hungarian folk and classical music inspired by richness of the country's musical tradition, created by both Hungarian (Ferencz Liszt) and foreign composers (Johannes Brahms), featuring the world-famous “csárdás” and other catchy tunes.

4. Hand Painted Hungarian Wooden Items - Wooden spoons, jewelry boxes and other decorative pieces lovingly hand painted by Hungarian artisans, reflecting the country's rich artistic tradition. A truly lovely gift from Hungary for the dear ones or, perhaps, some very special Hungarian in your life.

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