If there is a large food market in a city I am visiting, I’m going! The food markets are so telling about the culture of the country and it’s a great place to pick up some of my favorite souvenirs – spices & food!
I decided to start my day by going to Budapest’s Great Market Hall/Central Food Market. It was just a short walk along the popular and main pedestrian street, Vaci Utca on the Pest (east) side. It was hard to miss since it’s directly at the end of Vaci Utca by the Liberty Bridge. Since it was late morning, I was hoping there would be some prepared food stalls and I could enjoy some local food in this unique environment and justify this meal as my breakfast/lunch.
It’s a beautiful building from the outside and it’s huge! 10,000 sq. meters in size – like I said, huge! It was built in the 1890’s, the entrance gate is neogothic style and the roof is the eye-catcher, covered with colorful Zsolnay tiling. During the World Wars, the building was extensively damaged, but luckily it was meticulously restored in the 1990’s.
I knew the Central Food Market was a big building but I was taken back to how massive it felt as I walked it! I didn’t expect multiple levels, nor did I expect the beautiful architectural details inside. A high, high ceiling with beautiful windows framed in what looked like iron to me. Iron walkways and stairways around the perimeter and the building is long! It seemed like an airplane hanger, but the prettiest one I’ve seen.
Surprise to me, turns out the market is on three levels: the main floor is filled with meat, fruit, spice, pastry and liquor stalls. The second level has prepared foods and what I’ll call food courts, also on the second level there are local handicrafts; embroidered clothing and tablecloths, leather goods, ceramics and some standard souvenirs. The lower level has butchers, fresh fish stalls and all sorts of pickled items. Sadly, I missed the lower level of the market. I was so taken by the vastness of the main floor and my hunger lead me to the second floor food courts, that I didn’t even notice I could go down a level. Guess I’ll just have to return one day because I do like pickles!
* Tip: Buying spices at the market. You’ll find all of the spice vendors on the outer aisle of the main floor – tons of stalls selling similar items like paprika, dried chili peppers and such. The closer the stands are to the ends (by the entrance) of the long aisle, the more expensive the spices. I found that the better priced items were towards the center of the aisle – same spices, same packaging, but cost less.