Gift hunting in Budapest doesn’t have to mean lugging home industrial quantities of Hungarian paprika and outsize (though no doubt delightful) works of embroidered folk art. In fact, there are few more diverse places to go shopping – and find pretty much exactly what you’re looking for – than here.
The Hungarian capital is famous for its design scene, and a number of collectives now showcase their wares in huge, gallery-like spaces around the centre. There’s also no end of excellent wine shops. Vibrant flea markets overflow with one-of-a-kind antiques. Vintage stores offer truly dazzling selections. And a heavenly farmers’ market regularly takes over the city’s best-known ‘ruin bar’. So grab a tote and get ready to splurge – these are are just a handful of the very best places to go shopping in Budapest.
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Best places to go shopping in Budapest
Hidden in an arcaded courtyard in the V District, Paloma is a design emporium that brings together around 50 local makers and shakers. The line of boutiques above the winged staircase on the first floor features a curious selection of clothes, jewellery, bags, shoes and more. The best thing about this place? You get the chance to meet the designers in person and find out the stories behind their creations.
Nanushka is Hungary’s most famous fashion label. The brand was founded by Sandra Sandor (whose childhood nickname was Nanushka). The brand is now renowned across the globe, but the headquarters of her fashion empire can still be found in downtown Budapest. Her designs blend femininity and function with a modern worldliness. Prices can reach a few hundreds, but are still lower than other international brands.
On Sunday mornings, Budapest’s most famous ruin bar opens its doors to a different crowd. Stalls line the gritty, graffiti-clad walls with fresh local produce like herbs or smoked cheeses, sausages and cold cuts, freshly baked bread, and jams and conserves. A charity cook-a-thon takes place in the courtyard serving huge goulash, stews and soups for the price of a donation, while live music entertains the crowds. Come early if you want to avoid the crush.
Budapest’s largest vintage shop overflows with fashion curiosities – selling not only second-hand garb, but also upmarket designer pieces. However, this is no charity shop: everything sold is top quality, and that’s reflected in the prices. If you can’t decide whether you want a vintage dress or a designer shirt, it’s still worth browsing this two-storey shop. You never know what eccentric gear you might find.
This basement in the heart of the VIII District is the ideal stop for oenophiles. Here you’ll not only find an impressive collection of regional wines – particularly Tokaji – but can also enjoy generous, joyous tasting sessions. Even if you can’t get along to one, the store’s friendly, knowledgeable, English-speaking staff will help you pick the right bottle for any occasion.
For antiques, head straight to Falk Miksa Utca. The street starts at the bronze statue of Lieutenant Columbo on the corner of Grand Boulevard and ends at the Hungarian Parliament. Along the way, you’ll find dozens of shops specialising in art and antiques. Try Kieselbach Gallery for modern art by renowned Hungarian painters, and the BÁV, a three-storey shop dating back to the 18th century, for everything from furniture to porcelain to jewellery.
This small independent bookshop and café brims with well-curated English-language reading material, from classics to obscure history and sociology books. There’s also a decent selection of local travel guides, plus Hungarian literature in translation. If you need a break from sightseeing, order a ‘Dirty Hippie’ (chai with a shot of espresso) and slip into one of their luxuriant armchairs. This bookshop also hosts readings and signings, so keep an eye on their calendar.
Hop on the 54 or 55 bus from Boráros Tér to reach Budapest’s largest flea market at Naszód Utca. Even if you don’t intend to buy, it’s worth heading to this vast market for the atmosphere and people-watching alone. There’s no shortage of vintage treasures to be found here, either: the stands are stacked with ceramic figures, portraits of communist leaders, and retro cameras and gramophones. You may well need to haggle to get a good bargain (prices aren’t listed).
Herend is world-renowned for its porcelain and pottery. This ceramics company began in the 19th century near the town of Veszprém, and counts innumerable royalty and celebrities among its clientele – even Arnold Schwarzenegger is a collector. Visit their flagship store in the V District or the boutique on Andrássy Avenue if you’re looking to take home a vase, figurine or tea set.
This stationery boutique is filled with charming notebooks adorned with retro drawings of hot air balloons, Budapest cityscapes, vintage aviaries, botanical illustrations and more. You can get them in all sizes, designs and colours, and also take home diaries, phonebooks, recipe template books and sketchbooks. Got creative pals? Head here for the perfect gift.
Hungary’s thermal water is said to have beautifying properties – which is how luxury skincare brand Omorovicza began. Their boutique on Andrássy Avenue sells all kinds of creams and lotions that harness the cosmetic benefits of the local H2O (and blend it with other ludicrously high-end ingredients). If you’d prefer not to fork out hundreds for a cream, take home a small bottle of their staple ‘Queen of Hungary’ spray. It’s a delightful pick-me-up with a hypnotising scent you and your skin will love.
For a silkscreen print inspired by Budapest’s landscape and culture, try this eco-friendly design shop in the Jewish Quarter. Kickstart your new no-waste lifestyle with a vintage-style paper sack with Budapest motifs on it, or go for a more traditional souvenir like one of their silkscreen print T-shirts. The shop has a cool, young vibe, and the pieces are so beautiful it feels more like an art gallery.