Budapest’s independent record stores can hold their own when compared internationally, and within Central and Eastern Europe they offer one of the most diverse musical selections. The records run deep from avantgarde French jazz all the way to contemporary indie rock, with plenty in-between. Naturally, it’s with the regional releases, be it ‘70s Hungarian alternative rock or Polish jazz, that even the most serious vinyl junkies can unearth some treasures.
#1 - Wave (location; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri, 11-5 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Wave is more than a record store—it’s been the mecca for Hungarian alternative music since the ‘90s. They’ve lived through all of the cycles: from vinyl to tape and then CD, and survived even when nobody wanted to pay for music. So now, in the current era of vinyl-revival, it’s their time to shine. Almost anyone can find treasures here. Musical focus: Current releases from all genres, Hungarian folk, jazz, and Beat-influenced.
#2 - Newport Records (location; 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tue-Fri; closed Sat-Mon): Hidden in the courtyard of a pre-war building lies the shoebox-sized record store of Ferenc Bálint. He’s without a question the most knowledgeable person in Budapest when it comes to music on vinyl—he understands both the music and the technical aspects at the highest level. Newport’s collection isn’t huge but it’s meticulously curated, focusing mainly on traditional jazz and blues. The French folk, pop, and rock collection is also notable. Newport was the record store of choice of Sonic Youth frontman, Thurston Moore, who snatched up all kinds of records from the smooth jams of Joe Albany to Hungarian wildlife sounds. Highly recommended! Musical focus: Jazz, blues, rock, and classical.
#3 - Kalóz Records (Bodry) (location; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri, 12-6 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): One of the top things a capital city desperately needs is a well-curated, second-hand record store. Budapest finally got what it needed with the recent opening of Kalóz Records in the blooming District 8. Kalóz has everything from traditional Cuban music to Japanese cult albums, Hungarian and Transylvanian jazz, and grim sounds of death metal. The staff is cheerful and knowledgeable. Musical focus: World music, jazz, metal, avantgarde, soul, and rare local records.
#4 - Deep (location; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Sat, 12-4 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): If you’re looking for fresh releases within most electronic genres, Deep is the place for you. At Deep, I usually get my Stones Throw sets, and they also have by far the largest hip-hop selections. You can find both hot new titles, and older, rare plates, that somehow haven’t caught the attention of regular customers. Their website is up-to-date (most titles even have a sound clip) so you can come prepared. Deep is near Akt Records, another electronic music-focused store on this list, so you can bounce back and forth between the two. Musical focus: Electronica, hip hop, and drum & bass.
#5 - AktRecords (location; 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Sat, 12-4 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Isu, who runs AktRecords, is an institution on his own. He's a passionate synth connoisseur of a rare breed, organizing memorable parties since the late ‘90s, and spinning records to this day as the core member of Technokunst. The walls display fresh releases, while the bins can surprise you with second-hand gems. Also, if you happen to have your clothes ripped by a wild pack of stray dogs, you can upgrade your combat gear, as half of this store is dedicated Carhartt and New Balance. Musical focus: Techno and house.
#6 - musicland (location; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri; closed on weekends): Home of Neon Music records distribution, this cavernous store is a good place for both new stocks, with a more than decent independent selection on vinyl, and also a paradise for second-hand CDs. I scored many of my plates here that are now worth triple the original price. Warp and Southern Lord are among the many big-time labels that Musicland carries. This is a cool place to get lost in music. Musical focus: International and Hungarian pop and rock.
#7 - Rock’s CD (location; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-2 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Don’t let the generic name and this dimly lit, below-ground space deter you from entering. Inside, you will find a fast-talking, charismatic owner and, among others, rare Hungarian and Polish jazz records for moderate prices. If you know what you’re looking for, Rock’s CD can hook you up with some serious scores. I found great records by Tomasz Stanko, Namyslowski, and Kulpowicz in the Polish jazz section, an insanely rare Mongolian folk music box set for a mere €17, and a Hungarian record by electroacoustic composer, László Dubrovay. Musical focus: Contemporary mainstream rock, jazz, folk, and local records.
#8 - Laci bácsi lemezboltja (location; 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri, 9-1 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Some consider this to be the best Eastern European second-hand vinyl store, but I wouldn’t go that far. You can find some good things, especially if you like classical and other genres hipsters haven’t ruined yet. The jazz and Hungarian music selections are above-average, although on the pricier end. The fact that you can’t listen to the records kind of kills the vibe, and a record store with dead-silence is weird in my books. But if you’d like to check out what the fuss is about, you should, as Laci bácsi lemezboltja is located centrally in District 7. Musical focus: Classical, jazz, sounds of the Eastern Bloc, and rock.
#9 - Média Pont a Lemezbolt (location; 1:15 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Sat; closed on Sunday): If you’re interested in popular Hungarian records like ‘60s beat music or ‘70s prog, you can find a good amount at Média Pont in all prices and conditions. Sometimes the tape selections have rare titles, but you really have to be lucky to unearth something golden. I’d recommend Média Pont for people who like to dig through vinyl records in clearance sales with the occasional silver in the mine. The good bits go on their Facebook and Instagram first, so the best stuff doesn’t always hit the shelves. Musical focus: ‘60s and ‘70s Hungarian music, and bargain-bin treasures.
#10 - Colosseum (location; by appointment only: +36 70 312 2124): You will have journey to the outskirts of Budapest, but it’s worth it for this record store. Beforehand, you can check their Discogs page and see that they don’t joke around with their stash. Obscure synth music from the ‘70s, contemporary classical gems, Romanian folk music—you will find it all here. Highly recommended for people who don’t care about much else than buying records, as perusing the bins here will eat half of your day. Make an appointment first, as their opening hours are quite elastic. Musical focus: Obscure records of all genres—from jazz and contemporary sounds to rock.