Tourists have told me that Budapest’s shopping options are surprisingly meager compared with other European capitals, both in luxury fashion and local designer stores. This may be true, but there are nonetheless a number of local specialty shops, often hiding on quiet side streets, where it’s well-worth spending your money. Before we get to them, below is a summary of Budapest’s general shopping landscape.
Andrássy Avenue is where you can quickly shell out a fortune at stores like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Rolex. Big commercial chains like Zara and H&M and tourist-aimed folklore shops are located mostly along the busy Váci Street in downtown, Budapest’s version of La Rambla. In between, both price-wise and geographically, is Fashion Street — a short pedestrian row with labels including Hugo Boss, Lacoste, and Massimo Dutti.
As in other cities globally, shopping malls have siphoned away customers from downtown. This is partly why, for example, the once truly grand Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút) appears so forlorn these days. If you’re curious about a Budapest mall, try WestEnd City Center, a gigantic commercial space set along the Nyugati Railway Station.
Now, in thematic order, find below some of my favorite specialty stores in Budapest. They’re scattered around in different neighborhoods but almost all of them are in or within walking distance of downtown.
ANTIQUES AND FLEA MARKETS
#1 - Antique row on Falk Miksa Street (€30-10,000; location; usually 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-2 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): More than 35 antique stores line this leafy street near the Hungarian Parliament building. Although you can unearth some inexpensive bric-a-brac, most places here sell pricey silver tableware, porcelain sets, turn-of-the-century paintings, and art deco furniture. Keep an eye out for Zsolnay’s signature biomorphic design items. My favorites stores include Pintér (#10), Artcore (#12), Antikvitás (#12), Pethő (#24), and Virág Judit Galéria (#30).
#2 - Herend Porcelain (€30-20,000; location; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-2 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Around since 1826, this hand-painted china maker is one of Hungary’s iconic brands, counting Queen Victoria and the Rothschilds among its numerous prominent clients. The prices of some of the elaborate vases and tea sets are exorbitant (the vase in the window retails for €50,000), but wallet-friendly small gifts like figurines are also available.
#3 - Ecseri flea market (€20-1,000; location; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon-Fri, 6-3 on Saturday; 9-1 on Sunday): Budapest’s biggest and best-known antique flea market lies about a half-hour bus ride from the city center. As with other flea markets, the main draw here is the cast of eccentric characters. A word to the wise: go on a Saturday, and be sure to get there before 9 a.m. for the fullest experience.
#4 - Bakancsos flea market (€1-20; location; 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fri-Sun; closed otherwise): For a truly, deeply local experience, journey out to this flea market on the outskirts of Budapest, about an hour from the city center by public transport. Mainly Roma vendors hawk used flip phones, shoes, clothes, and a sea of tchotkes. Compared to Ecseri, this one is grungier and and customers have more room to negotiate. Here too, the action is on Saturday mornings.
#5 - Klauzál flea market (Antik Placc) (€5-100; location; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, closed otherwise): For a mellower and more conveniently located flea market, you'll only need to trek to the historic Klauzál Market in Budapest's Jewish Quarter, near the city center. Here, you'll find the classic secondhand repertoire — porcelain dishware, folk clothing, vintage cameras, used vinyl albums. Bargaining is allowed and expected. Open only on Sundays!
BOOKSTORES (with English-titles)
#6 - Írók Boltja (€7-20; location; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri, 11-7 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Since its opening in 1952, this snug bookstore has been an island of peace and quiet for local bookworms. The English-language books, located on the upper floor, feature translated works of Hungary’s leading writers, including Péter Nádas, Sándor Márai, and Péter Esterházy. (I hope they never remove the vintage sign above the entry door.)
#7 - Bestsellers (€10-30; location; 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, 11-6 on Saturday, 12-6 on Sunday): Situated in the heart of the city, Bestsellers is a dedicated English-language bookstore that’s especially popular among local expatriates. The array of international magazines (Vanity Fair, Wallpaper, The Economist, GQ, etc.) and extensive Budapest-related guide books can make a visit here worthwhile.
#8 - FUGA - Budapest Center for Architecture (€7-20; location; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wed-Mon, 10-2 on Saturday; closed on Tuesday): Architecture buffs shouldn’t miss this downtown bookstore which doubles as an exhibition gallery. The front of the space is chock-full of architecture and Budapest-related guide books — with many English-language titles — while the rear and downstairs sections are dedicated to temporary exhibits. (Find here the city's top buildings to see.)
#9 - Massolit Books & Cafe (€5-15; location; 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-7:30 on weekends): This dim café and English-language bookstore inside the Jewish Quarter is a hallowed ground for brainy locals and tourists alike. The book-lined interior eschews the usual trappings of contemporary coffee shops, instead featuring worn-out furniture and greenery.
SKINCARE & PERFUMERY
#10 - Omorovicza (€60-225; location; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-6 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): This premium skincare line harnesses the supposed healing powers of Budapest’s mineral-rich thermal waters. The brand has conquered half the world since their launch in 2006, but their flagship store, also offering face massages and mud masks, is right here in Budapest.
#11 - Madison Perfumery (€100-1,000; location; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-7 on Saturday; 12-6 on Sunday): This upscale, multi-brand perfumery is located inside a mahogany-fitted boutique on Andrássy Avenue. Instead of celebrity and mass fragrances, they carry cult lines of the likes of Nasomatto, Byredo, and Clive Christian. Romania-based Madison also has stores in Bucharest and Reykjavik.
#12 - Nanushka (€80-500; location; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Sat, 12-6 on Sunday): This swanky downtown store is the flagship location of Nanushka, Budapest’s leading women’s fashion label. Nanushka’s easy-to-wear cosmopolitan pieces, distributed around the world, often playfully riff on the classics. If you need an energy boost, order a shot of espresso from the specialty café inside the store.
#13 - The Garden Studio & Cafe (€60-300; location; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon-Sat; 9-3 on Sunday): Hidden on a winding backstreet parallel to Andrássy, this contemporary fashion store doubles as a hip Turkish breakfast restaurant and specialty café. You'll find here everything from local designer clothes to edgy ceramics to cute home decor stuff. Those who are fortunate will visit during one of their recurring in-store sales.
#14 - Berlin (€60-300; location; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Sat, 10-6 on Sunday): This ill-named fashion store has little to do with the German capital, instead being the depository for about 35 leading Hungarian designer clothing labels. The limited selection of men’s clothing comprises Sandor Lakatos’s black-and-white pieces.
#15 - Eszka (€50-100; location; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tue-Sat; closed on Sun-Mon): Chic and comfy knitted long coats are the claim to fame of this adorable Hungarian clothing line started by Kriszta Szakos. At €100 apiece, they’re relatively affordable for a designer item. Matching sweaters, blankets, and pillows are also available.
#16 - Retrock (€30-100; location; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon-Sat, 11-8 on Sunday): If aged denim jackets, worn-in plaid flannel shirts, and quirky tweed jackets are your design choices, be sure to head to Retrock, the mecca for vintage clothes in Budapest. Besides secondhand retro items, they also have a colorful collection of rugged sweaters and imported bags from Ecuador.
#17 - Ludovika (€20-€60; location; 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Fri, 12-6 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): If Antifactory, below, leans toward “trash vintage,” then Ludovika, a tiny store in the Jewish Quarter, is quite the opposite with cute and approachable throwback items. Highlights include the blouses adorned with Hungarian folk motifs, bohemian denim dresses, and a motley array of bracelets and silk scarfs (check out the upstairs, too).
#18 - Jajcica (€5-€60; location; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-2 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Local fashion-insiders will tell you to head to Jajcica for a true-to-Budapest vintage shopping experience. Whether you're into a chic 1930s look or heavy metal fashion, this labyrinthine store offers something for everyone. They're especially well stocked with second-hand Levi's jeans, shoes of all kinds, and Hawaii shirts. Being located a bit outside the city center means that prices tend to be more wallet friendly.
#19 - Antifactory (€30-€60; location; 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Sat; closed on Sunday): Chipped plaster walls, a neon sign flickering in the background, and hip-hop music piping through the speakers — this slick vintage store is designed down to the minute detail. Their selections are limited and veer toward a scrappy ‘90s look. A range of dapper suede bomber jackets and the obligatory plaid flannel shirts are also available.
#20 - Szputnyik (€20-100; location; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Sat, 10-6 on Sunday): If you haven’t found what you were looking for, then give Szputnyik a chance. It's yet another vintage store inside the Jewish Quarter, but apart from retro items, they also carry popular global brands like Toms shoes and Kanken backpacks — a true hipster paradise.
#21 - MONO art & design (€10-€100; location; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-8 on Saturday; 11-6 on Sunday): It’s easy to spend more time and money than initially planned at this downtown store bursting with local designer products ranging from cool ceramics to jewelry and notebooks. Keep a special eye out for Agneskovacs bags, PomPom’s natural skincare products, and Nubu’s clothes.
#22 - Printa design shop (€20-€150; location; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Sat; closed on Sunday): This lively concept store inside the bustling Jewish Quarter marries a designer store and an artist’s studio. Peruse screen-printed drawings, posters, T-shirts, and Budapest-inspired gift items made by Hungarian artists, then round out your visit with a cup of coffee next door at Blue Bird.
#23 - Rododendron (€20-€40; location; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-5 on Saturday; 11-3 on Sunday): This lovely design store tucked away on a quiet downtown backstreet sells prints and posters made by Hungarian designers. My favorites include Anna Holló’s poignant cartoons and Marcus Goldson’s colorful Budapest characters. You’ll also find notebooks, postcards, jewelry, and some clothes here.
#24 - Vass shoes (€500-1,800; location; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-4 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): This upscale men’s shoe store is nothing short of a pilgrimage site for shoe-fanatics: Vass’ handmade suede loafers, high-polished oxfords, and classic derbys are considered to be among the top globally. They keep an inventory of all the models in-store, but customers can also order a bespoke pair.
#25 - acb art gallery (€1,000-50,000; location; 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tue-Fri; closed Saturday to Monday): Budapest's leading art gallery represents Hungary's seminal contemporary artists so you'd better show up here with a full wallet. Acb specializes in conceptual Hungarian art from the 1960s and '70s, but there's also more recent works. Give them a heads-up before you go (+36-70-310-2458). Find here some of the other top galleries in Budapest.
#26 - Bortársaság wine store (€8-150; location; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-7 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Most people have heard of Hungary's famous Tokaj wines, but other wine regions like Somló, Balaton, and Szekszárd have remained under the radar internationally. This wine store, part of a national chain, sells a wide range of local bottles. When in doubt, ask the informed and helpful staff. Here, you can learn about Hungarian wines.
#27 - Rózsavölgyi Chocolate (€7-30; location; 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, 12-6 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Budapest is hardly known as a chocolate capital, but this family-run local chocolate maker produces some world-class varieties. They import single-origin cocoa beans directly from farms in Venezuela, Peru, Tanzania, and Madagascar, and process them in-house to let the natural flavors shine through. Dark, milk, and flavored kinds are all available.
#28 - Wave record store (€8-30; location; 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Mon-Fri, 11-5 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): Wave is more than a record store — it’s been the go-to hangout for fans of Hungarian alternative music since the ‘90s. They’ve lived through all cycles: from vinyl to tape and then CD, and survived even when nobody wanted to pay for music. With current releases from all genres, especially Hungarian folk, jazz, and beat-selections, almost anyone can find treasures here. (Here's the full list of Budapest's top record stores.)
#29 - Tipton Eyeworks (€280-450; location; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10-3 on Saturday; closed on Sunday): What do Elton John, Quentin Tarantino, and Robbie Williams have in common? The unlikely answer is they all own Vinylize glasses, frames made of recycled vinyl records by local designer brand Tipton Eyeworks. Their downtown showroom sells hundreds of prescription- and sunglass-ready vinyl frames, and here you can also get a glimpse of the meticulous production process.
#30 - Budapest Poster Gallery (€150-20,000; location; by appointment only: [email protected] or +3630 662 7274): With more than 2,500 original Hungarian vintage posters, this gallery is a treasure trove of graphic art. The collection includes art nouveau and art deco pieces made by big-name local artists, and also posters done during the communist era. It's an appointment-only gallery, so try to peruse their online catalogue before you go.
Memories of Hungary folklore and gift shop (€5-100; location; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Sun): Sure, folklore stores often represent the worst of the tourist-trap genre, but if you need a last-minute gift for your in-laws, there's often no way around them. Yes, this folklore store is overpriced, but you'll find a decent selection of Hungarian textiles, porcelain, postcards, fridge stickers, or whatever other knick-knack you're after. You can also try your luck next door and across the street from here.