Pipe, Tobacco & Cigar Stores in Budapest, Hungary

There are a couple of pipe & tobacco & cigar stores in Budapest (some of them also sell cigarettes, although most of the well-known cigarette brands are available at major kiosks, especially in shopping malls).

Budapest Shopping Map gives you a user-friendly guide on where you can buy tobacco, pipes, cigars in Budapest Hungary. The map icon I have used is the green flames, and you can find further details of the stores at the bottom:

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I have made good use of the list of the Hungarian pipe club site (Pipa Klub: pipaclub.hu). Based on their description, I had the impression that the most serious pipe store in Budapest is Gallwitz pipe and pearl shop in Régi Posta utca 7-9. (see the map above), founded in 1880 by Leopold Gallwitz, then continued by his sons, the Gallwitz brothers. Besides selling pipes (e.g. Peterson, Vauen, Savinelli, Dunhill, Missouri Meerschaum, Charatan, GBD Chanell etc.) and contemporary as well as antique pipes (from 22,000 to 65,000 HUF), they also offer walking sticks on sale (and repair). The other major section is pearl jewelry.

Address: Régi Posta utca 7-9. Budapest 1052
Phone: 00-36-30-297-5000 or 00-36-1-318-5139

Cigar Shop in Mammut Shopping Mall

Although it’s easy to find the shopping mall, the pipe store is slightly hidden on the 3rd floor of Mammut II. building (the one on the right side). Their shelves are featuring e.g. Peterson, Brebbia, Vauen, Hillson, Savinelli, Falcon, Vauen churchwarden in addition to normal cigarettes, zippos, etc.

Pipatórium in the 8th district, Budapest
Specialized in pipes and pipers, they have a wide range of tobaccos, pipes, etc. and the salesmen are informed too.

Phone: 00-36-1-210-3404
Address: 1085 Budapest József krt. 38.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-18:00

Tobacco Shop in Florian Shopping Center

Phone: 00-36-1- 250-0080 / extension: 149
Address: 1033 Budapest Flórián tér 6-9., the first floor of the center
Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 10:00-18:00, Sat: 09:00-13:00

Davidoff Tobacco Store in Vaci utca

Mid-range pipes from top to bottom. The vendor is a pipe-smoker himself, so he is well-informed.

Address: Vaci utca 13. Budapest (Vaci utca shopping street in district V.)

Pipe store in Sas utca

It’s close to Deák tér metro station (also to Arany János metro station). Pipes: from top to bottom brands, tobaccos: moderate range.

Address: 1051 Budapest Sas utca 5.
Phone: 00-36-1-266-5085 or 00-36-1-30-565-4652)
Opening hours: Mon-Thu 10-17h; Fri 10-16h

Cheese Shops (Sajtbolt) in Budapest

Budapest has currently a very small handful of specialist cheese shops that are worth mentioning.

Cheese Shop in the inner city

The cheese shop of T. Nagy Tamás is conveniently located in the city center, close to the Deák tér stop of all metro lines, Váci utca shopping street, etc. “Although precious few specialist cheese shops exist in Budapest, lovers of Italian, French and British cheeses will no doubt find “Big Tom’s” excellent range (and personal service) a real delight. Recommended. ” (Talking Cities UK). This is also one of those few places where truffle (original and canned) is sold, and where the owner took part in a French Truffle 001 course in France, once he decided to sell the product. In addition to cheeses, you can get dried fruits and some wines here too.

Cheese shop in Budapest Gerloczy utca Sajtbolt T Nagy Tamas

Address: Gerlóczy utca 3, Budapest 1052
Phone: 00-36-1-317-4268
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9 am – 6pm, Sat 9 am – 1 pm

See the location of the cheese store on the Budapest Shopping Map (map icon: the little yellow balloons with a dot).

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Szega Cheese Shop at the Market Hall in Fény utca

There are more Szega cheese stores in Budapest, and this one is comfortably located in the popular market hall, the Fény utcai piac (close to Moszkva tér, the Mammut Shopping Mall, or the Royal Palace in the Buda Castle District).

Address: Lövőház u. 12. (Fény utcai piac) 1024 Budapest
Phone: 00-36-1-345 4259

Dutch Cheese House in Duna Plaza shopping mall

Dutch cheeses on the second floor of the shopping mall. Cheese plates, gift packages are also available. What’s more the Hungarian specialty Szamos marzipan is also on sale here. The mall is right on the route of the blue metro line, so it’s very easy to get here (get off at Gyöngyösi utca station).

Address: Váci út 178., Budapest
Phone: 00-36-1-288-01-33
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10.00 – 21.00, Sun 10.00 – 19.00

Szega Cheese Café in Budagyöngye Shopping Center

The cheese shop & café & ham shop is specializing in Camembert cheeses and sells hams too. Vegetarians, please skip this part. Mouth-watering Hungarian indigenous pork (mangalica) ham, prosciutto, jamon iberico, etc. hams are hanging above your head. It’s on the Buda side – alas a bit farther off the tourist tracks (unless you happen to take the Funicular Railway, or the Children’s Railway, or for any reason you should be strolling in the Buda hills on the route of the trams/ streetcars number 56). It’s a relatively new store, highly praised and compared to French cheese shops by locals. (Very close to one of the wine shops of the Hungarian Wine Society). In March 2007, the cheese shop won the Best of Budapest award.

Address: Gerlóczy utca 3, Budapest 1052
Phone: 00-36-1-317-4268
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9 am – 7pm, Sat 8 am – 3 pm

See the location of the cheese store on the Budapest Shopping Map (map icon: the little yellow balloons with a dot).

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Szega Cheese Shop at Rózsakert

One of the Szega cheese stores in Budapest is located in the Rózsakert Shopping Center
Address: Gábor Áron u. 74. 1026 Budapest
Phone: 00-36-1-391 5814
Opening hours: 10 am – 8 pm, Sat 10 am – 4pm.

Soma’s Cheese Store

The third cheese shop, Soma’s Cheese (Soma Sajt) is really off center, so it’s for the cheese-freaks and dedicated ones, but it’s worth mentioning because of the specialty Orda, goat and sheep cheeses the store has on offer. The originally Transylvanian Orda is an easy-to-cut, fresh cheese (great for salads, meat dishes, simply with bread and butter or toast, or just by itself T. Nagy Tamás). It’s also ideal for dieters due to its light texture & low calorie content (125 kcal/ 100g). SomaSajt offers orda in 5 varieties: garlic-parsley, paprika-chives, dill, sesame, chives. Before you dive into a 1-2 hour journey to the shop, check out major stores, which will sell some of the Soma’s ordas, cheeses & ricottas: Auchan, CBA, G-Roby, Rothschild, TESCO to name but a few.

Somas Cheese goat sheep orda from Budapest Hungary Somasajt

Address: Péceli út 240., Budapest 1171
Phone: 00-36-1-258-6667
Opening hours:

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Budapest Wine Shopping: Budapest Wine Society

Several Budapest Wine Society vendors were praised on traveler forums, so let’s have a closer look at the Society. It was founded in 1993 by a group of friends under the initiatives of Attila Tálos and Tom Howells.

Bortársaság Budapest Wine Society in HungaryThe Wine Society started off with a store at the Buda Castle Hill, and now they have a national chain, still growing. These days they have about 50 Hungarian and foreign wine growers’ 500 different wines on their shelves. As they put it:

“We are the exclusive dealer of the winemaker’s product as follows: Konyári János, Légli Ottó, Bussay László, Etyeki Kúria, Györgykovács Imre, Dúzsi Tamás, Heimann and sons, Günzer Zoltán, Mayer Márton, Németh cellar, St. Andrea, Tokaj-Oremus, Királyudvar and Szepsy István and accentuated dealer of Jásdi cellar’s, Bock József’s, Gere Attila’s, Szeremley Huba’s wines. Bortársaság is the exclusive importer of the french Champagne Veuve Clicquot house, the spanish Torres and Vega-Sicila wineries, and the italian brands of Antinori, Prunotto, Fonterutoli, Tormaresca, Corvo and Santa Margherita.”

Of course, the Society has its own rules, and membership card entitling members to all sorts of discounts, special opportunities, etc.

Here’s a map of some of their shops: check out the Cocktail Glass signs on the Budapest Shopping Map for wines & spirits in Budapest. By clicking on a symbol you can learn more about the shops (addresses, opening hours, etc.).

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Market Halls in Budapest: Fény Utcai Piac

Fény Utca Market Hall (Fény utcai Piac) is located just behind the Mammut Shopping Mall. It is not as elegantly rustic, and architecturally grand as the Vásárcsarnok (Central Market Hall) on the Pest side, but it is a good market with fresh fruits, vegetables, paprika, home-made dairy products and honey, bakery, herbs, fish, meat, poultry, and an amazingly good Lángos (fried dough)!

There are about 10,000 – 25,000 shoppers at the market per day.

Feny Market Hall Feny utcai Piac in Budapest

Address: Lövőház utca 12., Budapest Hungary
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 6am-6pm, Sat 2pm, Sun (up to individual vendors)
Phone: 00-36-1-345-4101
Getting here:

  • Metro: red line, get off at Moszkva tér stop and walk 2 min towards Mammut Shopping Mall.
  • Trams/ Streetcars: number 4 or 6, Moszkva tér stop

Location of Budapest Fény Market on the Budapest Shopping Map:

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What else can you do at Fény utca Market Hall?

Once you decide to go to Fény Piac in Budapest, you can connect this program with various other programs:

Mammut Shopping Mall (from high end boutiques to international journals, electronics, perfumes, books & maps, batteries, sports equipment, restaurants, cafes, bars, movies, arcade games etc.) – right next to the market (basically one building). Children-friendly places: Child care (in Mammut 2 building), Libri Book store with a kid section, Movie, McDonald’s, etc.

Millenary Park (Millenáris Park): a huge complex offering ongoing entertainment, and educational programs, surrounded by a bigger park

Buda Palace in the Castle District: from the market it should take about 15 minutes or so to go up the hill to the Castle District on foot (you can take the Vár minibus from Moszkva tér – make sure you have a ticket or a Budapest pass)

Children’s Railway: it’s about 35 min to go up to the Children’s Railway on Széchenyi hegy (see detailed explanation about the mini train, the attractions, location etc. in the Children’s Railway Budapest article). By taking the train, you can also get to the highest point of Budapest where there is a nice Lookout tower (Elisabeth) on the hill ( János hegy). Good for taking panorama photos.

Market Halls in Budapest: Lehel Piac

Lehel téri Piac (Lehel Square Market Hall) is one of the most popular market halls in Budapest – more appreciated by locals than tourists though.

Locals are price sensitive and Lehel piac has usually better prices than the more expensive, beautiful, multicultural and touristy Vásárcsarnok (Central Market Hall). Yes, the market is located in a tasteless colorful building of various contradictory elements – but let’s put aside its architecture now.

If you should decide to venture into this truly rustic place, a good sociological study for the less wealthy Hungarian strata, you may wish to try some of the local foods offered here e.g. pickled cabbage, lángos, sausages, goulash, black pudding (hurka), salamis, paprika etc.

There is a take-away restaurant called Lehel íze étterem right in the market hall, which may not be impressive by its look (at all), but it serves great-great really home-made dishes at very cheap prices (best buy). Suggested meals: Csülök Pékné módra (roast pork), Húsleves (meat soup), Sült libacomb (roast goose leg), etc. Let your eyes decide.

Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 6am to 5 pm, Sat 6am-2pm
Getting here: blue line Metro, get off at Lehel tér stop
Address: Lehel tér, Budapest, 1134 Budapest
Phone: 00-36-1-340-2942

Check out the Location of Lehel Piac on the Budapest Shopping Map (the Yellow Basket sign indicates Market Halls in Budapest, click on the yellow basket sign to learn more about market halls):

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The Shopping map shows Budapest market halls, designer clothing shops, accessories, jewels, interior design objects, wine shops, palinka houses, pipe stores, electronics, gifts, souvenirs, etc. – all indicated with a unique symbol and more info on the stores.

Vásárcsarnok in Budapest: Central Market Hall

Vásárcsarnok (Central Market Hall) in Budapest offers a great rustic market experience in a beautiful building: you can buy several Hungaricums, as well as organic vegetables, home-made andouille sausages, salamis, pastries, etc. Great place for buying gifts, souvenirs (e.g. Szeged or Kalocsa paprika, embroidered tablecloths, blouses, Hungarian spirits like Zwack Unicum, cans of goose liver, various Russian dolls, etc.). As you can see all sorts of people here Vásárcsarnok (say: vaash-are-char-knock) is also a great place for people-watching! Here’s a photo of Budapest Vasarcsarnok on a less busy day:

Vasarcsarnok Budapest Central Market Hall on a less busy day

What is worth trying?
Tastes differ, but for a gastronomical tour you may wish to try the following foods, dishes, drinks:

  • Lángos (say laan-gosh) is a sort of salty fried dough, usually served with sour cream and grated cheese (Tip: put some garlic dip on top of the lángos, under the sour cream & cheese toppings, to make it even tastier). Don’t look at the calories, enjoy the little vice of your taste buds! :) Lángos is a great favorite of Hungarians especially in summer between two dips in the water on beaches and lidos (e.g. at Lake Balaton, on Csillaghegyi Strand, etc.)
  • Goulash soup: forget the canned versions of goulash and try the real Hungarian goulash for authenticity. It is filling and great with some spicy paprika.
  • Organic fruits: try some organic fruits produced in Hungary. I suggest the wide variety of apples, pears, apricots, peaches, plums. Yummy. They might not be huge & pleasing to the eye, but they are not watery, they are really full of flavor.

Opening hours: Mon: 6.00 am – 5.00 pm, Tue-Fri: 6.00 am – 6.00 pm, Sat: 6.00 am – 3.00 pm, Sun: closed
Address: Vámház körút 3, Budapest Hungary
Phone: 00-36-1-366-3300
Getting here:

  • Trams/ streetcars: number 2, 47 or 49
  • Metro: blue line, get off at Kálvin tér stop and walk towards the River Danube for about 5 min.

Vásárcsarnok, Central Market Hall on the Budapest Tourist Map (see the yellow basket in the middle):

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Video of Budapest Central Market Hall
Here’s the video made for budapestinfo.hu:

If you are absolutely in the shopping mood in Budapest, here’s a great map for Budapest Shopping,, nothing else but shopping: ranging from wine shops through designer jewelry or hats to fake 18th century umbrellas on the Ecseri flea market. The different types of shops and stores are color and symbol coded, which hopefully will save you time, money & headache. For example, click on the symbol of a Cocktail Glass for wines, spirits, palinka etc.

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History of Vásárcsarnok Budapest

The idea of establishing a central market hall came in the 1860s. In fact, the idea was not simply to have a well organized venue for selling foods and farm produces, but also to improve the quality of products by ensuring quality assurance standards in the new market. The newly formed Food Committee put together a proposal in 1883 to establish market halls. They chose the present venue of the Central Market Hall in Fővám Square, on the site of the Salt depot. The location was very logical as it could be easily accessed from the River Danube, by rail, by wagons, or on foot. As the plot was the property of the state treasury, “the royal government relinquished the plot for the sake of the capital”, according to the history of Vásárcsarnok. There was a tender for design announced in 1892. The most practical design came from Samu Pecz, and basically the Central Market Hall was built from 1894 to 1896.

design from 1893 for Vásárcsarnok Central Market Hall Budapest
Samu Pecz’s design for the Fővám Square front (1893

Just ten days before the completion of the market, however, there was a sudden fire breakout, which caused serious damages. The investigation into the fire accident, which lasted for a whole year, could not reveal what caused the fire. Then Samu Pecz started the repair works, this time with additional structures in order to increase safety. Petz worked with well established names in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, like Schlick (iron foundry making the steelwork for the building), or Zsolnay (making the pyrogranite coloured ceramic roof tiles), etc. The Central Market Hall finally opened its gates in 1897. The Central Market Hall supplied goods both to the capital and the countryside, and people were not always satisfied. Clients often complained that traders lacked manners and cheated with the measures.

Zsolnay tiles on Vásárcsarnok roof, Central Market Hall Budapest
Zsolnay pyrogranite loft ventilation caps and chimney pots on the Fővám Square front

The Association of Market Hall Traders established in 1897 was formed to solve such problems, come up with better rules to create a fair competition. However, when World War I broke out and the market police disappeared from the Central Market Hall, prices surged, so police had to be called back to resume order. Unfortunately, in WW2, the market hall was heavily damaged. Despite reconstructions in the 1960’s, the pillars of the building badly deteriorated, so the market hall was closed down in 1991. Vásárcsarnok was reopened as a protected monument, and a city favorite in 1994. Now you can hear the market hall clocks play Zoltán Kodály’s folksong tune, “I went to the fair…” every hour.

Current Public Holidays in Hungary

As you are coming to Budapest, it is good to know which days are the public holidays in Hungary. Most shops (even in shopping malls), banks, restaurants, etc. are closed and public transportation is less frequent (instead of 2-5 minutes you may have to wait 10-20 minutes for buses, trolleys, trams etc. – however, the metro/ underground is still very frequent coming every 5 minutes or so). Most of the public holidays are celebrated by outdoor events, public concerts and shows, contests, excursions, picnics, if weather allows, alongside official national celebrations.

Here’s the complete list of the Hungarian public holidays:

  • 1st January (New Year)
  • 15th March (commemorating the 1848/49 revolution and war of independence against the Austrian rule)
  • Easter Sunday and Monday
  • 1st May (Labour Day)
  • Whit Sunday and Monday
  • 20th August (threefold celebration: the celebration of Bread, the name day of Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary, and the foundation of the Hungarian state). Budapest fireworks on August 20 national holiday.
  • 23rd October (anniversary of the 1956 revolution and war of independence)
  • 1st November (All Saints’ Day): most people go to the cemetery, and there’s a handful of Halloween parties (Halloween is relatively freshly imported – similarly to Valentine’s day).
  • 25-26th December (Christmas in Budapest) Watch out for Dec 24! Although December 24 is not an official public holiday, people go home at about 3-4 pm to celebrate Christmas Eve with their families, so most shops close, some restaurants are open. More about Christmas opening hours in Budapest here.

Some History

During communism in Hungary (up until 1989 when the democratic transition took place), the list of the public holidays was slightly different – most notably October 23rd was not celebrated (1956 was called ‘anti-revolution’), while March 21, April 4 and November 7 were. April 4 was the most powerful and most colorful reddest holiday. April 4 1945 was the day when the Soviet soldiers defeated the Nazi troops, and also the very same day that – retrospectively – meant the beginning of totalitarianism for most Hungarians. The day is not exactly the last day of World War II for Hungarians, and most people simply said that ‘the Russians came in in 1945’ which referred to the two-edged move later on (liberation and occupation). But not in 1945 necessarily as many people in 1945 assumed that the Soviet soldiers (who stayed in Hungary until 1991), would go home after the peace pact (1947). Not so.
Also, people were celebrating differently: many of them were forced to celebrate of course. Forced to put on a broad smile and believe the lies that Hungarian economy was thriving, Hungarian factories were outdoing any western factories, Hungarian pigs were always giving the highest number of piglets possible, etc. etc. Even if people were forced with direct physical contact, they were under the constant mental pressure of potentially being spied on through the effective spying system, where you had to watch your neighbour and your friends (!) – all potential spies for the communist government. You did not have to hold an important position to be monitored. But descendants of former Hungarian aristocracy, religious people, writers, poets, artists were especially under control. Maybe your friends were just spies in order to survive or protect their families, if they were threatened by communists (and oftentimes they were). But maybe they believed in the system or were simply brutally unscrupulous survivors.

Due to the general mandatory celebrating spirit, the vast majority of Hungarians was staying with the officially celebrating crowds. All schools – without exception – even kindergartens were happily celebrating the end of WW2 and the beginning of soviet Hungary: Soviet inspired poems, songs were performed, red balloons, little red flags and Hungarian flags made of paper and wooden stick were waved by the smallest children and the biggest adults. Kids were marching in scout-like groups (senior high school kids, so called pioneers were wearing red-scarves, junior high school kids, so called ‘little drummers’ were wearing blue scarves to their blue and white uniforms), and the TV showed the best moments of the parades. Everyone smiling, happy, full of soviet power and energy to transform the world into – prosperity?

I must add though that as a kid (aged 3-12) I was pretty much enjoying the parades, the big choirs, the competitions, the whole event – and had no clue what was behind these false happy celebrations, why adults were whispering strange things, why they are laughing at political humorist Géza Hofi, why some of the teenagers and young people burnt their red scarves as a sign of rebel, etc.. So I am from a generation that got relatively the best & most humorous part of communism, the weakening tail of it, and then suddenly grew up in a young chaotic democratic Hungary from 1989.

Here’s a slideshow of Hungarian pioneers with the most typical upbeat pioneer song entitled Mint a mókus fenn a fán. It was The Greatest Hit, so to say, with an easy lyrics: Like the squirrel on the tree, Pioneers are so happy, they do not stop singing for a moment. If they strike a camp somewhere, they will start to sing as well, and they don’t stop singing for a moment, etc. etc.

These days? No, you won’t see huge masses of hundreds of thousands of people. Many people either stay at home and watch TV, or tend to the garden, go to the parks and the free concerts taking place, climb hills and relax with friends, drink a beer or two, or three, etc. But at this moment as I am writing these lines, I feel that it may not be true for the next couple of years – at least taking into account some recent Hungarian political events and the reactions of several interest groups.


October 23 (commemorating 1956) is particularly touchy – marked by the conflicts between the two major parties (Hungarian Socialists and the Young Democrats – the former party thought of by several Hungarians as the legacy of the communist era, while the latter party thought of by several critics as overtly nationalistic.). So if you should be staying in Budapest during October 23, I suggest avoiding the major scenes of national celebration (there is no blood shedding, or major physical dangers, but you may be pushed around with the crowd, or just feel uncomfortable to see quarrelling and shouting people).

source (in Hungarian) for the fictitious April 4 1945 date from Domonkos Szőke historian on Nol.hu

Budapest: Vaci Utca the Shopping Street

Váci utca (say Vaatsy ootsaa), which is not to be confused with Váci út (Váci Road) has been a pedestrian only, shopping street for decades. It is well worth taking a leisurely stroll along the street, where one end runs into Vörösmarty tér, the elegant square where Café Gerbeaud is located, while the other end of the street leads you to the Central Market Hall in Fővám tér.

Suggested Tours:

Start in Café Gerbeaud (you may try the Hungarian cake called Dobos), walk through Vörösmarty square (Mihály Vörösmarty, after whom the square was named has his marble statue in the middle of the square). It takes about 20 minutes to walk through Váci street flanked by many 19th century residential and commercial buildings, banks, trendy and classic boutiques, souvenir and antique shops, bars, etc. (interestingly enough, restaurants in Váci utca are not really highlighted in guest or professional reviews). Peep into side streets. Cross to the other side of Váci street (after the white bridge, Elisabeth Bridge). Do some shopping in the Central Market Hall (closed on Sundays, end closes early on Saturdays).

See Vaci utca indicated with a blue line.

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Art Gallery Tour

Buying arts and crafts: zoom in on the map by double clicking, check the purple balloons for art galleries, antique shops. You may find the following places of interest in Váci utca:

  • Auction House, City Center (Belvárosi Aukciósház). Address: Váci utca 36. Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am – 6 pm, Sat-Sun 10am- 4pm
  • Arten Galéria/Arten Gallery fine art studio (mostly Hungarian contemporary art works). Address: Váci utca 25. Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am – 6:30 pm, Sat 10am- 6pm
  • Abigeil Galéria/ Abigeil Gallery (auctions, exhibitions). Address: Váci utca 19-21.
  • Sziget Galéria/ Sziget Gallery (exhibitions, sales from 19th to 21st century art). Address: Váci utca 63.

Have a look at this video on Váci utca made by Tamás Kulcsár and a Hungarian girl, Gyöngyi:

During the communist era, Vaci utca was The Shopping Street with luxury boutiques tagged with unavailable prices for most Hungarians (even the Hungarian version of the board game Capitaly had Vaci street as one of the most expensive lots to buy). These days, real high-end boutiques are not only in Váci utca, they are either scattered or in malls too, or simply not represented in Budapest. Is the street touristy? Sure, it is, but you will still enjoy its beauty, the chic boutiques, the good cafés with terraces to people-watch, etc. When looking at the prices, keep in mind that VAT is included in the price, so what you see is what you pay. Opening hours for non-food stores are generally from 10 am to 6 pm or even up to 8-9 pm (especially in malls).

History of Váci street

The story of Váci utca goes back to the Romans (“what have the Romans ever done for us? The aqueduct?”). They have built Contra Aquincum in the 3rd century, which was opposite – surprise, surprise – Aquincum on the other side of the river. As the River Danube was strategically quite good for the then Roman ruled Pannonia, they needed fortresses, baths, places for the soldiers, etc.Later on the ruins of these fortresses were used by the Magyars who conquered the area and settled down in the 9-10th century after years of wandering, nonstop horse-riding and backward shooting with their fierce arrows. Chief Árpád brought Muslim tradesmen and Bulgarian plus Slav ferrymen in this area who co-habited with the local Hungarian ad Slav agricultural workers. Between 1218 and 1225 German craftsmen and tradesmen arrived, and then Jewish settlers, so the developing Pest was a real melting pot. The Germans reused the good stones of the former fortresses to build their houses and the Pest side had only weak wooden walls.No wonder the whole city got ruined by the armies of Batu Khan in 1241, who had spies reporting him about the weakness of the settlement. Alas, the winter weather also liked Batu Khan, the grandson of Ghengis Khan, as the frozen river let the armies cross from the Pest side to the Buda side, and not only flatten the buildings of Buda (todays’ Old Buda or Óbuda), but go on to proceed to today’s Austria, Dalmatia and Italy. Luckily for the rest of the Europe, Batu Khan had to go back home for a big CEO meeting after the old khan died and the grandsons had to discuss who is going to be the heir.

In the middle ages, Váci street was called Big or Main street in the 15th century trading city, which had 3 gates to let people in and out through the thick protective walls (they learned from the 1241-42 spectacular defeat from Batu Khan).

Then came the Turks in the 16th century, and decided to love this city and linger on for another 150 years. Most of the city dwellings were in ruins after the long siege, and wooden houses, minarets, Turkish baths sprang up. The street had a Turkish name (Big or Nagy Mahalle), and the hygienics of the middle ages (many dead animals left rotting along the Mahalle). By this time, Turkish tax registries show that most of the settlers were Hungarians of Christian religion and the two major minorities were Germans and Jewish.

1686 was the next turning point that said goodbye to the Turks under the leadership of the Habsburg emperor Leopold I. The city started to rebuild and re-flourish. Again, many peoples found their homes here, including Greeks, Macedons, Armenians, Serbians, Slovakians and of course Germans who got the plots from the Emperor for a few ‘cents’. Most of the settlers, besides Hungarians, are Germans. The Nagy Mahalle (today’s Váci street) is named after the victorious emperor as Leopoldgasse. The city gets back its privileges as a free royal city, which hastens its dynamic growth into a modern commercial and cultural centre.

So much so that Váci utca becomes a fashionable walking street for civic residents to show off new clothes, to gossip, tp fall in and out of love, to talk about serious political issues, etc. And to window-shop, of course! So elegant boutiques concentrate their business efforts in the street already in the 19th century. The tower guard cries the hours every hour and the Svab German milk-women as well as other tradesmen sell loud their produce all day long. The water of the river Danube is sold for drinking, which today is hardly suitable for even bathing.

In 1838, a big-big flood washes away many things, animals and people, while ten years later the firy spirit of the Hungarian revolution upsets peaceful promenading in the street. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867, when Hungary is given some freedom, both the Pest and the Buda side gains even more impetus for development, and the two sides join in 1873, giving birth to Buda-Pest, i.e. Budapest.

The two world wars, needless to say, bring about a long sad and ruinous break, followed by another ruinous communist era when the shopping street was turned into just a plain street with offices, stores and state-owned shops with uniform products. In 1964, Váci utca becomes a pedestrian only zone, and the gradually softening goulash communism slowly lets back elegant boutiques – after all, the wives of prominent communist leaders also like shopping western quality things.

Some of the historical buildings in Váci utca

No. 9 Pest Theater today, and one time inn, where 11-year-old Ferenc Liszt gave a concert.
No. 11 The facade is covered in Zsolnay ceramic tiles.
No. 39 Three reliefs show that the Zsolnay’s had an office, apartment and store here (1, a man making pottery, 2, a poet 3, the five-tower porcelain factory emblem).
No. 42If you watch hard, you will see owl statuettes at the balconies – once the house of a famous Hungarian doctor (Frigyes Korányi). The facade is covered in Zsolnay pyro-granite ceramic tiles. Pyrogranite was developed by Vilmos Zsolnay, the greatest Hungarian potter achieving international appreciation for his porcelain, eosin and pyro-granite products.

Sources (Hungarian): BP Archiv and Világjáró Magazin.