Before I visit a place the first thing I research is where the markets are. As a foodie, I love markets and I found the best market in Budapest on my travels. It gives an insight as to what is seasonal and what I should be ordering at the next restaurant I go to. The difficulty I have is not buying everything I see, especially when I know that I am on a long trip and I will have to carry in my suitcase for weeks.
The Great Market Hall or the Central Market Hall is the oldest covered market in Budapest. In Hungarian, it’s known as Nagyvásárcsarnok. It is on Fővám tér in District IX. This, of course, is totally unpronounceable for me and even after a few attempts I still could not get it to sound anything like it should have! Luckily enough there were more than enough people who spoke English and were able to help with directions.
Whilst the exterior of the building is not pretty the roof is stunning. The roof tiles are Zsolnay Porcelain. The factory received worldwide acclaim for its innovative frost-proof products. This meant that buildings could be ornamented as never before. It became even more popular during the Art Nouveau period and many buildings still display this form of decoration.
Guide to the best market in Budapest
The Ground Floor
The ground floor of the market has everything you would expect to find at a market. The freshest vegetables gleam as though they have been polished to within an inch of their existence.
Hungarian Salamis are delicious. I tried quite a few of the tasters available in the market and end up buying 2 different types for a snack later in the day. Mangalitsa salami is made from a local pig which was crossed with a boar amongst other breeds. It is the only pig to have a thick woolly coat a bit like a sheep.
Pickles in all forms seem to be eaten with most meals. The obvious choice is pickled cabbage, but I saw any number of vegetables in jars, some with cut out animals as a decoration which I found rather strange.
Paprika is the national spice in Hungary and is used for flavouring goulash. Hungarian paprika is made from roasted peppers that are blended to create the different varieties and flavour profiles.
There are 8 different grades of paprika. If you would like to understand the subtleties a bit more then this link explains it quite well.
You will find beautifully packaged paprika to take home as a gift or to buy for your own use. The prices are similar at all the stalls so just choose the one that appeals to you the most.
Many stores sell this famous wine from the Tokay (Tokaji) region in Hungary. I always thought that it was the only sweet wine that was made in the region, but I was mistaken. I had a pretty good dry white from Tokay which was a bit of a surprise for me, but equally enjoyable.
If you are anything like me then wherever you go you end up buying wine, then carry it around carefully for the rest of your trip cursing that you bought it in the first place. The bottles soon mount up. The next issue is do you have enough wine storage space when you get home? Quite honestly this is a never-ending battle for me, so either I need to drink more when I am travelling or buy less wine to take home. It’s a good theory, but I think that putting it into practice is going to be a bit of a problem! I like the memories it brings back when I am at home.
I am not sure why, but for some reason, I was surprised to see the amount of pasta sold in the market. I knew that dumplings called Nokedli or Spätzle were eaten, but not the more familiar Italian style pasta. There are also a huge number of Italian restaurants and pizzerias in the city.
The First Floor
It is impossible not be hungry when you look at the delicious food on display. Head upstairs to any one of a number of restaurants or food stalls for a taste of Hungary on a plate.
The first floor of the market has all the souvenirs you could wish for in brightly coloured displays. I fell in love with the glassware. There are also Russian dolls, embroidered fabric, folk art painted items, the ubiquitous t-shirts and other touristy mementoes.
When to visit
The market is always busy early mornings and on Saturdays, the market is at its busiest. If you want a bit of space to take photographs rather arrive a bit later in the day. I was there at around 11 am and it was perfect.
The market is closed on Sunday and time vary on different days so check the website for updated details.
Trams : 2, 47 or 49
Metro : Blue line – Kalvin ter stop, then a short walk
Walking : Start at Vorosmarty square and walk straight down Váci utca to the end of it. The Central Market Budapest will be on your right.
CNN Travel rate this as the best market in Budapest and is their no 1 choice in Europe. I must admit that I was surprised at the variety and enjoyed the area upstairs to grab a bite to eat. If you are a foodie then you will love this market.
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