Shopping for Gifts and Souvenirs
A perfect start to a combined culture and shopping trip begins in Andrássy Avenue – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most elegant high street in the city where luxury stores rub shoulders with the State Opera House. It's a pleasure to walk down nearby Fashion Street, two blocks of high end retailers and five star hotels. Or consider leafy Falk Miksa Street, filled almost exclusively with art galleries and antique stores, stretching between Margit Bridge and Parliament. You will definitely want to take a little piece of the city home with you, and you are spoilt for choice when it comes to picking the perfect souvenir.
To start with the classics, a taste of Hungary will bring back the pleasant memories long after you have left. You can't go wrong with salami, paprika, goose liver paté or a bottle of Tokaji Aszú. Be the life of any party by introducing others to pálinka, it's a guaranteed conversation starter. You will find all these edible goodies at the Great Market Hall on Fővám Square, but the stalls upstairs also offer many other traditional tourist souvenirs, such as leather goods, embroidered tablecloths and furry winter hats. For something sweet, stock up on award-winning artisanal Hungarian chocolates by Rózsavölgyi, Tibor Szántó and ChocoMe, masterfully crafted marzipan figurines from Szamos, old-fashioned handmade sweets from Cukorka or cookies from Sü. Craft fairs and festivals are also wonderful opportunities to find folk and handmade products. Mesterségek Ünnepe, held every August in the Buda Castle, is a celebration of traditional arts and crafts and possibly the biggest village market you will ever see. In December you can lose yourself amongst the many Christmas markets of Budapest that spring up around the first Advent Sunday. Vörösmarty Square or Szent István Square hold so many artisanal treasures that you will run out of acquaintances to buy for, before you run out of presents to buy: handmade soaps, beeswax candles, gingerbread men, wooden toys, ceramic mugs, sheepskin gloves, Christmas tree ornaments made from straw and dried fruits, you will just have to buy yourself a little something too. For a contemporary take on gifts, the WAMP Christmas design fair offers products from Hungarian designers, many of which take their inspiration from folklore. The Folqa Collection is made up of wooden figurines that represent traditional occupations with charm, humour and big moustaches. Talpra Magyar puts folk motifs on flip flops while MIMM Textile Design turns them into modern jewellery. For great Hungarian design presents – for friends or yourself – visit Printa, Portéka, Rododendron Art & Design, Magma Gallery or Lánchíd17. Once you've got all the ingredients, don't forget to buy a Hungarian cookbook to recreate the goulash or Hortobágy pancakes in your own kitchen. The Alexandra bookstore on Andrássy Avenue is worth a visit on its own - the café decorated with Lotz frescos is one of the most beautiful places in the world to read a book over coffee. Take home great Hungarian literature in translation from Libri, Írók Boltja, Lattitudes, Bestsellers and Massolit Books & Café bookstores.