Souvenir Shopping (Self Guided), Budapest

It would be a pity to leave Budapest without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Budapest, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.
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Souvenir Shopping Map

Guide Name: Souvenir Shopping
Guide Location: Hungary » Budapest (See other walking tours in Budapest)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 km
Author: Daniel
Zwack Unicum Heritage Visitors’ Centre

1) Zwack Unicum Heritage Visitors’ Centre

What to buy here: 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 26. Soroksari Ut. The museum is open Monday-Friday from 10am-6pm, and the gift shop opens an hour earlier and closes at 6pm.
Nagy Csarnok (The Great Market Hall)

2) Nagy Csarnok (The Great Market Hall)

What to buy here: 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.
Millenium antik

3) Millenium antik

Established in 2000, Millennium Antik is an impressive antique shop located at Váci Street, in the very heart of Budapest. The store is a treasure trove full of 19th and 20th century antiques, such as Herendi and foreign porcelains, beautiful old glass and ceramic objects, silver plates, bronze sculptures, lamps, chandeliers, furniture pieces, as well as glazed porcelains, vases, ceramic pots, bowls and nostalgic figurines.

What to buy here: 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 66 Vaci utca that sells a wide selection of paintings, prints and drawing. The store is open on weekdays from 10 am to 6 pm and on Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm.
Folkart Centrum

4) Folkart Centrum

What to buy here: 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.

5) Kalacs

What to buy here: 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.
The Handicraft store

6) The Handicraft store

What to buy here: 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 store at 23 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.
Laszlo Vass Shoes

7) Laszlo Vass Shoes

What to buy here: 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.
Herend Porcelain

8) Herend Porcelain

What to buy here: Hungarian 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 Vaci Street 19-21. They are open every day from 10:00am-7:00pm and their employees speak quite good English.
Ajka Crystal

9) Ajka Crystal

What to buy here: 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. Their store at 11. Kossuth Lajos is especially lovely and has a wonderful selection of Ajka products available. It is open Monday through Friday from 10am-6pm.
West End City Center

10) West End City Center

What to buy here: 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.

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