Souvenir Shopping (Self Guided), Budapest

It will definitely be a pity to leave Budapest without exploring local specialty shops and bringing home something authentically Hungarian. A large number of Budapest specialty shops are found on Váci street, a pedestrian thoroughfare extending for more than 15 blocks. Follow this self guided walk to search for souvenirs, unique to Budapest, that you might like as a memento of your 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: 8
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: Daniel
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Great Market Hall (Nagyvasarcsarnok)
  • Millenium Antik
  • Folkart Centrum
  • Molnar's Kurtoskalacs
  • The Handicraft store
  • Laszlo Vass Shoes
  • Herend Porcelain
  • Ajka Crystal
1
Great Market Hall (Nagyvasarcsarnok)

1) Great Market Hall (Nagyvasarcsarnok) (must see)

Budapest's central market is one of the mandatory places to visit for those newcomers to the Hungarian capital. The largest and oldest marketplace in the city, it was built in the late 19th century courtesy of the first mayor, Karl Kamermayer, who subsidized its construction out of his own pocket and under whose tenure Budapest turned into the country's political, economic and commercial hub, much as one of Europe's cultural centers.

Clad in steel, with an elegant entrance gate featuring neo-Gothic design, the market is spread over three floors, covering the total area of 10,000 square meters. A particularly distinctive feature of this building is the roof recently restored and adorned with colorful tiling. Badly damaged during two world wars in the 20th century, the market remained closed for several years. The restoration works undertaken in the 1990s brought it back to the original splendor.

If you're a foodie with the taste for regional specialties, the stalls of Hungarian goodies such as lángos (deep-fried discs of dough smothered in sour cream and cheese), paprika, Tokaji wines, túró rudi curd snack, and caviar, as well farm-made sausages, sauerkraut, stuffed peppers and other delights sold at very reasonable prices, are not likely to leave anyone indifferent. Most stalls on the ground floor offer meats, pastries, candies, spices, and spirits, while the floor above accommodates eateries and souvenir stands. The lángos stand, widely regarded to be the best one on this market, sits here serving this delicious snack with regional beer. At the basement there's a supermarket, a fish market, and pickle stalls offering traditional cucumber, cauliflower, cabbage, beet, tomato, and garlic pickles, to mention but a few.

Other than quality food, the market offers a wide choice of moderately priced non-edible items as well, such as handicrafts, folk art, porcelain, crystal and souvenirs of various sort. Take your time to search for the best value for money, since many vendors here sell identical items. So if you're looking for handcrafts, be sure to get all the way around the back. Note that the market is largely a cash-only operation, except for the souvenir section. But the good news is that some businesses equally accept both the European Euro and the Hungarian Forint.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 6am-5pm; Tue-Fri: 6am-6pm; Sat: 6am-3pm; closed on Sundays
2
Millenium Antik

2) 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, Millenium Antik carries 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.
3
Folkart Centrum

3) Folkart Centrum

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 Street (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.
4
Molnar's Kurtoskalacs

4) Molnar's Kurtoskalacs

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.

On Vaci Street you will find a shop, 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. When you smell the baking Kalacs, you won’t be able to resist entering this store.
5
The Handicraft store

5) The Handicraft store

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.
6
Laszlo Vass Shoes

6) Laszlo Vass 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 Street. You may either order an already crafted shoe, or request a custom made one.

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 10am-7pm; Sat: 10am-4pm; Sun: closed.
7
Herend Porcelain

7) Herend 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 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 cheap, 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.
8
Ajka Crystal

8) 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.

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