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.

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