The most famous market in Budapest is the Central Market Hall. Locals and tourists frequent this place. The main floor offers an array of produce, meats, cheeses, breads, and other edibles. The upstairs offers some eateries, textiles, goods, and touristy bric-a-brac. I bought a scarf here during my interview trip. The lower level offers an odd and limited assortment of food and goods. (I’ve only been downstairs once, and I’m not sure why I’d go again.) Central Market Hall is open every day except Sunday, the day I tend to do my shopping, so I rarely go here. But it’s a lovely building, and I always enjoy my visits.
During my interview trip, I also went to a newer local market: Szimpla Kert Farmers Market. This market occurs on Sunday only, yet I’ve only gone once. It’s pretty small, but it’s got character. It’s actually in a permanent ruin pub.
Ruin pubs are just what the name implies—makeshift bars that open up in unused (often dilapidated) buildings. Szimpla has become so popular that it’s become a permanent fixture.
Although not as convenient as some others, my market hall of choice is Lehel Market. It’s the only big market that I know that’s open on Sunday. It’s a somewhat out of the way, locals only place. It doesn’t offer an attractive building or area, but the food is fresh, there are tons of stands, and the prices can’t be beat.
There’s one main rule at these markets: you line up to buy things on the right. One time, I purchased something off to the left, and a fellow shopper let me know my faux pas. She did it in Hungarian, so I didn’t understand her words, but I got her message. I think she was annoyed that I went in front of her. However, to my credit, the woman had been picking out cucumbers, and the vendor approached me, so I didn’t feel bad.
In my earliest visits to Lehel, I found myself becoming a lurker. I would walk around the place to get a sense of what’s available and at what price. If I saw someone buying bags of cucumbers, then I would get my one cucumber there. There are people who seriously get bags and bags of an item. They’re either working at a restaurant or having one big family dinner!
Now that I’m getting used to the place, and I have some stands that I know, shopping goes a lot faster. At Lehel, I buy produce, bread, cheese, and meat. I buy milk, yogurt, cereal, butter, pasta, and things like that at a supermarket. For soap, facial tissue, throat lozenges, deodorant, detergent, make up, nylons, and things like that, you go to a health and wellness store. And for prescriptions, you go to the pharmacy. I actually haven’t been in a pharmacy yet, so I’m not sure what else is in there.
Coming up: Bratislava