Discovering The Great Market Hall - Budapest

I believe that a local market place in any city is usually a wonderfully alive microcosm of a city’s cultural life, and a mirror of its people’s lifestyles. And nowhere have I seen it spring to life more than the streets of Budapest, alive with music, dancing, laughter, great food, locally crafted products, graffiti, and did I say great food? There isn't a dull moment in what’s perhaps one the greatest indoor markets in Europe. You push through the magnificent doors and get embraced by the sights and aromas that make the Great Market Hall one of the most coveted tourist destinations in Budapest.

The Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall is located at the end of the popular pedestrian shopping street Vaci Utca, on the Pest side of the Liberty Bridge. It was revived and restored through the 1990s, after being completely damaged during the World Wars. Its architectural brilliance is brought alive by the raw and vibrant energy that inhabits its three floors, each one replete with its own local charm.
On the ground floor, which is the busiest section of the market, you will find rows of stalls filled with strings of red paprika and garlic, salamis, sausages, hams, candies, fresh pastries, Hungarian wines, palinka, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables tempt the enthusiastic shoppers. A little snooping around, comparing the prices will reveal that the shops to the right side of the main entrance are a bit pricier than the other aisles. So, no matter how enticed you feel into buying the beautifully packaged, authentic Hungarian food products as soon as you enter, hold yourself back, and look around for better bargains. I suggest walking through the stalls, row by row, and making a mental note of the things you want to buy, enquiring at several stalls for the same product, and then going back to pick up the best bargain. Stock up on saffron, Hungarian paprika powder, dried fruits, tokaji aszu and salami, and head to the North end of the Hall for some fresh and dried mushrooms and homemade honey.

After your long walk through the ground floor’s many aisles, the first floor offers are welcome respite with its many Hungarian food stalls. Apart from the eateries, there are many stalls selling heirloom Hungarian embroidery, peasant shirts, and local arts and crafts products. The unpretentious and reasonably priced food stalls on this floor offer Hungarian fast foods like fried sausages, black pudding, pancakes, gulyás, and the popular deep fried snack, lángos. Wash these down with some excellent draught beer. I found a Nougat Roll that I hope will be a part of my last meal on this planet. Large, succulent sausages, cabbage rolls, toasted breads, a chicken cooked in a mango sauce later; I had lost my heart to this iconic market.

An escalator will take you down into the basement, where a supermarket, fish market and pickles await you. Apart from the traditional cucumber pickles, you can shop for pickled cauliflower, cabbage, beetroot, and garlic as well.
The Market Hall is a place for hours of pleasure, just walking around, shopping for local souvenirs, downing some full-bodied Hungarian beers, and just plain old people watching. The stalls have that all encompassing sense of well-aged camaraderie that is so commonplace in many European cities. An old lady emphatically showed her appreciation for my bracelet. A shopkeeper offered generous tips on how a certain preserve can be used either as a dessert filling or an accompaniment. We decided to go really early, and were among the first ones to enter the Market Hall that day. Though we walked around a bit, waiting for the stalls to open, we got some great bargains because we took the time to browse, and see what stalls offered the best prices. 
If you are travelling to a new city for a very short duration, I’d suggest you go visit at least one of the markets there. See how the people of that city go about their daily lives, what they take home, what they eat. It’s such an amazing way to get under the skin of a city’s character. And if you are lucky, you will unearth some timeless jewels and create some lasting memories. The Great Market Hall in Budapest is just the place to begin such a quest.  

Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


  1. Very interesting,
    I couldn't visit any market place there: lack of time. :(

  2. Beautiful images, interesting facts...would surely love to visit once

    1. Hope you go there soon, Jhilmil. It's lovely!


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