You may be asking yourself why you need some Budapest shopping tips. The answer is simple: there’s sooo much good stuff that you’ll want it all!
Add to that the fact that there’s a lot of cheap shopping in Budapest, and you’ll need some tips just to narrow it down, otherwise you’re going to have the unexpected hassle of buying extra bags and checking them in. Trust me on this, because yes, I had to buy an extra bag when I was there. I regret nothing, because I am an unrepentant souvenir hound, but having to upgrade my airline ticket and baggage allowance was not the most fun thing ever!
So, that’s why this guide exists: I’m going to share with you what souvenirs to buy in Budapest, and even where to find the best souvenirs in Budapest. Like the rest of Hungary, the city has such a rich historical and cultural heritage, and I’m going to help you find gifts which reflect that – whilst still being fun!
- 1 Where to find the best souvenirs in Budapest
- 2 What souvenirs to buy in Budapest
- 2.1 1. Tokaji wine
- 2.2 2. Paprika
- 2.3 3. Historical souvenirs
- 2.4 4. Palinka and/or Unicum
- 2.5 5. Painted eggs
- 2.6 6. Ajka Crystal
- 2.7 7. Hungarian costume
- 2.8 8. Metro t-shirt
- 2.9 9. Embroidered goods
- 2.10 10. Hungarian sausages
- 2.11 11. Hungarian porcelain
- 2.12 12. Hungarian puzzle boxes
- 2.13 13. Stuhmer chocolate
- 2.14 14. Painted housewares
- 2.15 15. Hungarian arts and crafts
- 2.16 16. Shot glasses
- 2.17 17. Matty the Raven
- 2.18 18. Hungarian dolls
- 3 Share this Budapest souvenirs guide!
Where to find the best souvenirs in Budapest
Good news! You are completely spoiled for choice in your quest for quality Budapest shopping!
Whilst there’s a multitude of shops all over the city selling Budapest souvenirs, particularly down the main shopping street of Váci utca (which is also the place to pick up some fabulous fashions – feel free to drool on the windows of Michal Negrin, because I certainly did), you have three main places where you can find the best souvenirs in Budapest. These are the Central Market, Memories of Hungary, and Paprika Market.
What to buy in Memories of Hungary
Memories of Hungary is possibly my favorite standard souvenir shop in Budapest, and you’ll see a few branches dotted around the city. There’s a small one on Váci utca, two branches by Fisherman’s Bastion (one for Budapest souvenirs, and one for food items), and even one in the airport. But the best one is by St. Stephen’s Basilica, where there’s much more stock available, and the staff are extremely helpful! Memories of Hungary is the best place to pick up t-shirts, crystal, and historical gifts – check out their shamanic masks by the door!
What to buy in Paprika Market
Paprika Market is located just slightly off the home of Budapest shopping, Váci utca, and prides itself on being the biggest souvenir ship in Budapest. Entering through the door is somewhat akin to going into a large toy shop: fellow souvenir-lovers will be gleeful at how much range they have! From the smallest trinkets to quality Budapest porcelain figurines, this is the best place to get alcoholic gifts, porcelain, and chocolates. It also has an online service, in case you missed anything!
What to buy in Budapest Central Market
Okay: this is the place to find the best souvenirs in Budapest. Although the downstairs floor is completely devoted to food, pop upstairs, and you’ll find the absolute ultimate in cheap shopping in Budapest. Market stalls pack the sides of the narrow walkways (take note: it does get rather busy up here, even quite early in the day), but you’ll find a lot of the same souvenirs you’ll find elsewhere in the city for much cheaper prices. You won’t find the same range of items that you do in the standard shops, but it’s definitely the best place to get Hungarian dolls, embroidered goods, and wooden gifts!
Now you know where to find the best souvenirs in Budapest (cutting out all of that time-consuming exploring of other, less-awesome souvenir shops!), you want to know what to buy. Don’t worry, my gift-hunter friend; I’ve got you covered!
Let’s take a look at the best Budapest has to offer – and find the gifts that will bring back treasured memories, delight your friends and family, and invoke envy in that person from the office that you don’t like. Go on; admit it.
1. Tokaji wine
The Hungarians are very, very proud of the wine produced in Hungary – and so they should be, because it’s completely up to standard with anything made in France or Italy!
So what better excuse to
get slightly sloshed on wine celebrate Hungarian culture, than with a bottle or three of their most famous produce, Tokaji wine! You too can admire the skill of the vineyards, whilst providing expert commentary such as “I like the subtle aroma and flavour provided by the volcanic soil of the Carpathian Mountains”, as you sip from your glass. Repeatedly.
But in seriousness, Tokaji wine is genuinely excellent, and definitely one of the best souvenirs to buy in Budapest. It’s so good that it’s mentioned in the Hungarian national anthem, and there’s a huge range of varieties to try – one of them, Eszencia, is considered one of the most exclusive wines in the world. Tokaji wine is a classy must-buy for your Budapest shopping list!
I have a confession to make: before I visited Budapest, I had an irrational fear of paprika.
Feel free to laugh, because it’s ridiculous. I think I was scarred by the experience in a pub at home in the UK, which clearly had a shipment of stolen paprika they needed to dispose of, because every single item of food I ordered was coated in paprika. It was thick, clumpy, and nasty, and completely overpowering. They even put it on the dessert. Seriously.
If you’re similarly paprika-affected, have no fear about traveling to Budapest, because you’re going to fall in love with it! I did, and trust me, I did not think that was ever going to be possible. The Hungarians are masters of paprika – the plant was brought here from the New World, and immediately became associated with the nobility. Hence, using the spice for cooking was instantly popular, and a lot of Hungarian dishes have paprika as their keystone ingredient.
Hungarian cooking uses paprika with a fine touch, using both sweet and spicy varieties, and you’ll soon love the flavour! So if you’re plotting to make your own version of goulash back home (you will once you’ve tasted it!), consider picking up some paprika. You can get both sweet and spicy versions packaged for your convenience, or even the dried paprika fruit itself. Pick some up from the Central Market, and get the tastiest of Budapest souvenirs!
3. Historical souvenirs
As a museum worker and a history fan, I do love a good historic souvenir. Hungary has a rich past – most of its modern history is steeped in the tragedies of being under the tyranny of Nazi Germany and a brutal Communist regime – but go back a bit further, and there’s a wonderful historic tradition.
So, the next of our Budapest shopping tips is to track down some epic gifts! Take a look at the website of Szkíta Kézmúves Bolt, one of my very favourite shops in Budapest, and look at all the awesome loot you can buy. You can find the shop on Kossuth Lajos utca, which is a small diversion from the main Budapest shopping street of Váci utca or the Elizabeth Bridge, and I highly recommend it. You’ll find some other historical bits here and there – Memories of Hungary does a nice line in shamanic masks – but Szkíta is the motherlode.
What did I get? Well, my boyfriend and I really couldn’t resist this rather lovely Hungarian horse-archer’s hat. The most legendary of Budapest souvenirs!
Look on most people’s wishlist of what souvenirs to buy in Budapest, and you’ll generally find that the local tipples of palinka and Unicum feature quite strongly. This is entirely appropriate, because both of them are pretty effing strong.
Palinka, or regional variations of it, are popular all over central and eastern Europe – but for the really good stuff, you’ve got to go to Hungary. It’s a fruit brandy, most often flavoured with apples, pears, apricots and cherries. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the presence of fruity flavours means that this is a mild alcohol! Noooo. I admit that I’m somewhat of a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, but I had one sip of palinka and it almost blew my head off. So if you’re a connoisseur of spirits, this is the one for you – plus you can buy it for your friends, and enjoy their startled reactions!
If you want something that’s equally Hungarian, and equally tastebud-wrecking, then you’ll want to sample some Unicum. It’s one of the national drinks of Hungary, and is a herb-laden liqueur. Most often compared to Jägermeister, Michael Palin once drank some on one of his documentaries, and described it as “like drinking a forest”. It comes in a full range of sizes, from dinky tiny ones, to massive great vials, so you can choose just how smashed you want to get (note: That Anxious Traveller is not responsible for what you might get up to in Budapest under the influence of vast quantities of Unicum. I’m not getting you down from the top of the Liberty Statue!).
5. Painted eggs
Even if it isn’t Easter, painted eggs should definitely be on your Budapest shopping list!
No matter what time of year you visit Budapest, or the rest of Hungary for that matter, you’ll see eggs painted in a myriad of different colours and patterns. It’s all down to the traditional activities on Easter Monday in Hungary, which involves throwing cold water at various women, and getting eggs in return. No, really.
Hungarian tradition has it that on the day, men should recite beautiful poetry to women (fine so far), and sprinkle some perfume on their heads (also okay) though it’s also acceptable to use a bucket of cold water if you really like them (wait, what?). In exchange, the dripping lady gives her male admirer some wooden eggs and palinka, presumably with a slightly fixed smile.
In reality, the bucket of water only occurs as a bit of fun with someone that you know well – think of it as being like April Fool’s Day – so you’re unlikely to receive a drenching yourself! And there’s no bad feeling on either side. So if you’re looking for some cheap shopping in Budapest, and a gift which gives you licence to throw water over your loved ones, go for these beautiful souvenirs!
6. Ajka Crystal
Like many countries in Central Europe (especially the Czech Republic), Hungary is famed for its crystal. If you’re looking for souvenirs to buy in Budapest to really impress the folks back home, you need some of this!
Ajka Crystal is one of the most high-end producers of crystal in the world. They supply crystal to Tiffany’s – I think that probably tells you all you need to know about the quality. Basically, their product is hella beautiful and exquisitely crafted: the kind of crystal that’s going to make you feel like royalty if you sip your champagne from it.
Based in the Hungarian town of Ajka (funnily enough), they’ve been making exclusive items since 1878. That amount of experience certainly shows: you’ll see the very typical coloured crystal flutes and goblets quite a lot in Budapest shopping centres, but keep an eye out for the slightly different stuff. My favourites are the Pate de Verre figurines of various animals, which are absolutely gorgeous.
If you want one of the best traditional Budapest souvenirs, whilst simultaneously blinging up your house, get some Ajka Crystal! You’ll find it all over town, but there’s also two branded stores on József Attila utca, and Kossuth Lajos utca.
7. Hungarian costume
As soon as you start your Budapest shopping expedition (it is like going on an intrepid hike, right? All those bags…) you’re bound to see these. And you’ll fall in love with them, because they’re freakin’ awesome.
The Hungarian national costume is soooo pretty. Women’s outfits involve pretty embroidered blouses, floaty skirts, and a lavishly embroidered shawl and headpiece. Men’s costume includes a shirt (you can go completely plain, or have a little bit of embroidery), and a waistcoat which is absolutely covered with embroidered traditional patterns. Yes, there’s a lot of embroidery going on.
Before you start thinking “but I can’t walk around at home in traditional Hungarian costumes!“, I have a solution for you. Both the male and female costumes are made of constituent parts, so you don’t need to wear all of it at once. The embroidered blouse will go perfectly with a pair of jeans. The men’s shirt can just look like a particularly fashionable piece of clothing. The skirt will match up with whichever top you choose. You won’t have to worry about looking like you’re doing some cultural appropriation!
The best place to buy in Budapest is at the Central Market, where you’ll find racks of clothing at good prices. If you want the really good stuff, take a boat trip up to Danube to the little town of Szentendre – amongst loads of really lovely craft shops, you’ll find Rózsa Folklór, who are really helpful and stock gorgeous handmade costumes!
If you want to see how it all looks together, here I am! My cat was rolling around on my feet when this was being taken, by the way.
8. Metro t-shirt
I’m going to talk to the train geeks who are looking out for the best souvenirs in Budapest here, because I know that there’s more of us than we care to admit. You are going to want a t-shirt with the Metro map on it.
Non-train geeks? You’re going to want this, too. There’s something quite effortlessly cool about a city’s metro map. They’re always beautifully designed, colour-coordinated, and have that whiff of “I’m an urban adventurer” about them. Think of how many cities use their metro map in souvenirs – I’ve got a t-shirt I picked up in New York with the map on, and the London Underground probably sells as many souvenirs as it does tickets.
Plus, Budapest’s Metro needs to be celebrated. Did you know that it’s actually the oldest metro system in mainland Europe? It’s true, and if you go on Line 1 (which takes you to the rather fabulous Szechenyi Baths), you’ll see it in its full, classical glory. Old-style stations with wooden furnishings, and older trains – it’s all rather wonderful.
A Metro t-shirt is also kinda useful – wear it when you’re doing the rest of your Budapest shopping, and you’ll never need to stop and consult a map again! Though you will need to stare at your own chest quite a lot.
9. Embroidered goods
You may have noticed that I was quite enthusiastic about the embroidery on the Hungarian national costumes above. It’s true: I absolutely LOVE the style of embroidery found in this part of the world. It’s such skilled work and colourful, and going into Budapest’s shops and seeing so many items featuring it made my heart sing.
But what if you love the aesthetic of the embroidery, but you’re not sure if you can pull off a Hungarian blouse or shirt? Or you’d be too terrified to wear it in case you spilled something over it?
Don’t worry, I’ve got a solution for you. Instead of decorating yourself, how about decorating your home? Because you’ll see a lot of household items which are decorated in the same style – Matyó embroidery is the most typical pattern available, and it’s absolutely gorgeous, with different meanings assigned to different colours. Anything you can have in your home which can be embroidered is up for grabs, from tablecloths, to doilies, to blankets.
If you want to buy some Matyó embroidery on a slightly smaller scale, you can even buy bookmarks and bags featuring the designs!
10. Hungarian sausages
When considering what souvenirs to buy in Budapest, consider this: everybody loves a good sausage.
Stop giggling, you.
Seriously, you can do far worse on your Budapest shopping trip than to stock up on delicious Hungarian sausages. These are usually similar to a salami, making them considerably easier to transport back home than a fresh one, and they really are the business. The most popular one is a “winter salami”, which is made in the height of summer. Not really! As the name suggests, it’s made in the cold air of the winter, where it’s slowly smoked, and is made of a mouth-watering combination of pork and spices.
As with so many things, and especially those related to food, the best place to buy sausages of any variety is the Budapest Central Market. The lower floor of this grand hall is taken up entirely by food stalls, and a lot of them will be meat sellers. You’ll see more sausages than you ever thought possible. If buying pre-packaged sausages, be sure to buy ones made by the Pick company; most Hungarians seem to agree that they make the good stuff.
11. Hungarian porcelain
Much like crystal, porcelain is made in many countries around the world – but Hungarian porcelain more than holds its own at the top of the world stage.
A mainstay on any list of Budapest shopping tips, you’ll see a lot of homewares and figurines in the shops, thanks to the country’s fine tradition of making it. The Herend company even used to supply porcelain to the Habsburg dynasty – yes, the guys who got incredibly inbred in some individuals in Spain, despite running half of Europe – because it was so fine. Heck, if Europe’s most prominent ruling family liked it, then it’s surely got a place in your humble abode! Unless you are actually royalty yourself, in which case thank ye for readin’ me ‘umble blog, yer majesty.
So, you’ve got two options . You can buy some of the more commonplace Hungarian porcelain (ie the kind of stuff you won’t have to bring a wheelbarrow of cash into the shop in order to buy a set) in many of the souvenir shops along Vací utca. Is it absolute top-quality stuff? No, probably not. But is it perfectly serviceable, decorative, and a nod to Hungary’s fine tradition of porcelain manufacture? Yes, it is.
However, if you’re feeling pretty fly, how about getting some Herend porcelain for yourself? Be warned though: it doesn’t come cheap. But if you’ve got the spare cash, anything from their plate sets to the exquisite figurines will soon have you feeling like royalty! You can also visit their shops on József Nádor tér or Kossuth Lajos utca in order to gaze lovingly at the craftsmanship.
12. Hungarian puzzle boxes
You might be reading this article thinking “hmm, what are the best souvenirs to buy in Budapest?”. Or you might be thinking “what can I buy in Budapest which will really infuriate my loved ones, causing them to swear incoherently at their own gift?”. If so, I like you.
One of the best souvenirs you can buy in Budapest is the Hungarian puzzle box. These are so devious, so fiendish, and so innocent-looking – much like a small child. Except that small children are not made of wood and sold in shops, one would hope. But otherwise, the comparison stands! Go to any souvenir shop in Budapest, or the Central Market, and you’ll see dozens of these boxes in a variety of colours. Pick one up, try to open it, and you’ll instantly think that it’s stuck. “Huh, poor woodworking”, you may think to yourself.
Au contraire! Actually, super-amazing woodworking! These are puzzle boxes, and you just have to work out the exact sequence of moves to open it. Yes, it all sounds a bit like the plot of Hellraiser, but I can assure you that these ones are much more fun, especially if you’re watching someone else try to open them. Mwahahaha!
Curious as to how they work? Or are you still trying to work out how to open them? Watch the below!
13. Stuhmer chocolate
Forget diamonds; chocolate is a girl’s best friend. You’ll certainly have the opportunity to try out this theory on your Budapest shopping trip!
Despite the not-particularly-Hungarian name (the company was founded by a German in 1868), Stuhmer is the Hungarian chocolate brand, and their huge range of confectioneries are bound to get you drooling. They really do have something for everyone – even sugar-free chocolate, which isn’t something you come across too often!
If you’re visiting around Christmas, then you should definitely stock up. Stuhmer appear to have brainstormed “things that are super Christmassy which we can throw into some chocolate”, and come up with delights such as mulled wine-flavour chocolate, champagne chocolate, and even palinka-flavoured chocolate. Let’s face it: that’s going to be waaaay better than the boxes of chocolates you can buy as gifts back home! Plus, if you want to keep all these boozy candies to yourself, I ain’t gonna judge. You’re just celebrating Christmas in a traditional Hungarian way, right?
You can pick up Stuhmer chocolates just about everywhere (Memories of Hungary have a selection), but to see the full range, check out one of their shops. The most centrally-located one is on Teréz krt, just around the corner from the boulevard of Andrássy utca.
14. Painted housewares
You’ll see a lot of painted wooden housewares for sale in Budapest, and there’s a good reason why they’re included on this list of Budapest shopping tips. They’re freakin’ awesome, and they’ll make your home look pretty awesome too!
There’s quite a few different patterns available, but my favourite is the dark blue with colourful, flower-like strokes on top of it. If you fell in love with the Matyó embroidery but didn’t end up buying any, then this is very reminiscent of it! There’s also a huge variety of what you can buy, from small trinket boxes to miniature chests of drawers. You can even buy sets of painted wooden plates, which are way, waaay too nice to eat off!
However, one of my favourites is the little paprika pots, which are covered over (got to keep that paprika safe and cosy!) with a little opening for a spoon. Slide it open, and you have your perfectly-sized spoon ready for adding in as much spice as you desire. They’re nifty!
These Hungarian wooden gifts are one of the best things to buy at the Central Market. You’ll see a number of people selling them, and they’re generally pretty happy to haggle on the already-reasonable cost. Plus, you can pop downstairs, and buy the paprika to fill your pots!
15. Hungarian arts and crafts
Budapest has a thriving arts and crafts scene – is it any surprise, in a country which produces such gorgeous embroidered lace? Arts are practically in the blood.
Take some time on your Budapest shopping trip to source out some Hungarian arts and crafts, whether that be leatherwork, weaving, or handmade toys. The extra bonus is that there’s plenty of places to find them, as Budapest has some great craft markets! The most well-known of these is Goszdu Antique Market, which has a whole range of stalls selling everything artsy – it’s definitely not just antiques! Expect to find quirky decorations, cute plushies, and other items with a traditional yet modern twist nestled amongst the general antique fare.
If your interest in Hungarian arts and crafts lies more with the clothing side of things – or if you’re just after that perfect Instagrammable outfit for your photos! – take a look at WAMP, Budapest’s monthly design market. The hippest of the city’s designers meet up here to launch their creations on to the public, and it’s a brilliant place to pick yourself something truly unique. After all, how many people are you going to meet back home who’ve got the same outfit as you? (shock horror!) Answer: none.
In addition, you’ll see plenty of small markets operating every day, selling small gifts. There’s one daily in Erzsébet ter, and another near the Liberty Statue at the top of Gellért Hill, which is where I bought this adorably derpy cat made out of socks.
16. Shot glasses
Well, c’mon. This is a country which has given birth to palinka, after all!
I’m not much of a drinker, but I’ve got to admit: shot glasses are a great souvenir. One: they’re small and easy to pack. Two: they often come with the symbol of the city you’re visiting emblazoned on them, so they’re pretty awesome to display all together at home. Three: they probably remind you of some great nights out!
The trouble is that they can be a little bit…generic. It’s good to have souvenirs that reflect the culture of a place, and shot glasses are a bit meh on that level. Go into any Budapest souvenir shop, and you’ll find loads of them on the shelves, looking like they’ve been mass produced in Taiwan. How do you find one which is a bit more unique, and which can remind you of your revels without being unbearably bland?
Well, you need to take a trip to our old friend Szkíta Kezmúves Bolt on Kossuth Lajos utca. This fantastic little shop believes in gifts which reflect Hungary’s history whilst still being useful in the modern age, and you’ll find some shot glasses made out of horn. Yup, actual cattle horn, heated and moulded! Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s plastic – horn has been described as “natural plastic” because of the similarity in texture. This way, you can have an epic Budapest souvenir, and feel like a total badass when you’re drinking out of it!
17. Matty the Raven
This is one of the more specialist Budapest souvenirs, as you can only buy him in one place, but he definitely reflects the culture and history of the city!
If you go into the Matthias Church in Budapest, you’ll be absolutely blown away by the interior decoration. It’s a stunning building, with an interior which isn’t quite as old as it looks, but which is visually arresting. Colourful patterns are on every surface, recreating the scene which might’ve existed in the church’s earlier history – and you’ll notice a recurring theme of ravens. Turn to your left when you enter, and you’ll see a wall emblazoned with canny corvids. What’s all that about?
Well, the church is named after Matthias Corvinus, one of Hungary’s most famous kings. Apart from being a decent guy and a total badass, he was also popular due to the folklore attached to him – namely, how he got his surname. Some say that when he was to be crowned king, his mother sent for him with a raven carrying a ring in its beak. Others say that the raven stole Matthias’ ring, and he killed it to get it back, taking the raven as his symbol. Quite what the unlucky raven thought about this was unknown.
Either way, pop into the small souvenir shop in Matthias Church, and you can pick up their mascot – Matty the Raven. He’s even got his own little gold ring! He’s a cute little bugger, and a perfect reminder of this wonderful building!
18. Hungarian dolls
Like many of the ideas on this list of Budapest shopping tips, Hungarian dolls are seen in pretty much every souvenir shop in the city. But we’re cool with that, because they make wonderful Budapest gifts!
Do you love the Hungarian national costume, but don’t really want to buy one for yourself? Purchase a doll: these little sweeties come fully equipped with their own traditional Hungarian dress, embroidered and bedazzled with beads. They’ve even got the little headpiece on! You can pop her on a shelf, and admire her outfit as if it were your own.
Looking for a Budapest souvenir for the kids? Well, look no further! You can’t help but be charmed by their adorably happy faces, and they’re nice and soft, meaning that they’re perfect for cuddling at night.
You don’t even have to be shopping for a kid to buy one of these. Yup, I got one just for myself, and I have zero shame! The best place to get them is Budapest Central Market: I got mine for a bargain 2000ft (which equates to 6 US dollars). Inexpensive, in keeping with Hungarian traditions, and adorable – what more can you ask!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on what to buy in Budapest, and that it’s given you loads of inspiration for your Budapest shopping trip! You can’t go wrong with any of the ideas here: whether you’re buying for yourself or a loved one, you’re going to get something which is rooted in Hungarian tradition and culture, without breaking the bank (well, unless you splash out on the crystal or porcelain, but I totally wouldn’t blame you there!).
So if you fancy helping out another souvenir hound, how about using the buttons below to share it? Or pin it to Pinterest – not only will you help others, but you’ll have it saved for when you need it! How’s that for convenience?
In loving memory of Rob and Mike – gentlemen, teachers, inspirations, and most beloved friends.
By the way! This article contains some affiliate links. These incur zero extra cost to you, should you decide to buy something, but they help earn some pennies which go towards the running costs of this blog. Anything extra gets spent on my costly Stuhmer chocolate addiction. Send help.