Most first-time visitors to Budapest will have the Central Market Hall on Vámház krt. on their sightseeing list, and so they should. Opened in 1897, the building uses coloured ceramics from the famous Zsolnay factory. Inside, the huge hall is brimming with all manner of foods Hungarian, from paprika and dried meats to breads, biscuits and, of course, pickles. Upstairs hosts a number of gift stalls as well as a few places to grab a quick bite. It also makes a great place (if you can find a gap) to look down on the people and produce below. The hall regularly hosts events, celebrating festivals and world cuisines as well as crafts, which make it worth popping into even if you have been before.
The Central Market Hall is, however, just one of many market halls in the city. It may also be the largest but there are many others with much to recommend them. Take Lehel Ter market, that brightly-coloured yellow, red and blue construction on Vaci Ut (Note that Ut – this isn’t the touristy Vaci utca shopping street closer to the river.) Just beyond the WestEnd Citycenter shopping mall by Nyugati railway station, the market has a much more ‘local’ feel. Equally colourful inside, you can again climb the stairs or take one of the lifts to look down on the stalls, watch the people buy, talk and just sit passing time on the circular benches, wonder at the range of produce on offer or admire the architecture. On our visit, I think my favourite stall would have to be the one selling jars of pickled vegetables arranged to look like animals. The goat in the teddy-bear shaped bottle and the fluffy dogs in jars.
Further out from the centre and well off the beaten tourist track, a short ride on the blue metro line to Újpest központ brings you close to Szent István Ter in the Fourth District, and the Újpesti Piac és Vásárcsarnok. Set in a building described optimistically by one blog as “architecturally down-to-earth”, this is a real market for locals, with a wide range of enticing stalls inside, several more stalls and small shops of interest outside and a friendly atmosphere.
Worth a mention for being on the same street as our apartment, the Hunyadi téri piac (Hunyadi tér market) is a low-key affair considering its location. Not the grandest but interesting nonetheless.
Interesting for another reason and not really quite a market, the Klauzál téri piac (Klauzál tér market) is a favourite for us. The market building now houses a slightly incongruous Spar supermarket and a selection of fleamarket type stalls selling a variety of small miscellanea. Need a red, yellow and blue glass duck? An old medal? An old pair of binoculars? Then this is the place for you!
Also not a food market, the Petőfi Csarnok, a cultural centre in the middle of the Városliget (city) park, houses a large, bustling fleamarket on Sundays. Well worth a visit if you are in town, with a wide mix of clothes, bric a brac, furniture, glass, camera batteries, paperweights, war medals, mop heads….
And that makes 6 markets. There are others – several others – plus, it should be mentioned, the Sunday artisan food/farmers markets that have become popular in recent years in places like the Millenáris and Szimpla Kert ruin pub.