Walk to the southern end of the touristy pedestrian shopping street Váci utca and you reach the Great Market Hall, an immense indoor market with an intricate roof tiling job by the famous Hungarian manufacturer Zsolnay.
Shopkeepers sell produce and food products on the first floor and clothing, souvenirs, and delicious cooked meals on the second. Just strolling aimlessly around the market has a festive feel.
Tourists and locals alike shop at the market (usually locals on the first floor and tourists on the second for the view and cooked food). You can tell if you’ve reached a less touristy stall when it’s covered with price per kilogram paper signs instead of vaguely promised discounts (and you hear Magyar instead of Dutch or English). The first-floor stalls also have good prices on paprika.
The second floor sells trinkets that make good souvenirs like painted eggs, Russian dolls, and lace, though watch the high prices.
Why hello there hammer and sickle… I thought you were banned in Hungary?
This symbol is definitely forbidden to display in public, but policies on the red star are more controversial. Hungary bans it but the European Union does not, and the two sets of laws cannot be at odds by definition of membership status.
Shopkeepers flat-out refused to haggle with me, which left me quite disappointed with the country’s business culture until I met Anna, the enthusiastic owner of the stall with my favorite merchandise. She went down on prices significantly and was a friendly conversationalist as well. If you visit and see her on the left side of the second bridge on the far side from the main entrance, please tell her that she and her stall are online and that the American tourist with the Hungarian deer leather case that Anna’s boyfriend measured to fit a harmonica says hello.
The main attraction at the Central Market is the row of food stalls selling sausages, goulash, and Lángos, a Hungarian deep-fried flat bread treat. Many tourists follow the smell of Lángos up the staircase on a direct route from their hop-on hop-off tour bus to the stall.
Popular Lángos toppings include grated cheese, mushrooms, and sausage. Mandatory Lángos toppings include garlic oil and lots of sour cream.
I topped off the heavy Lángos with an even heavier but delicious beef goulash soup accompanied by a local Dreher beer. Fun fact: Hungarians traditionally don’t clink glasses together, supposedly because the Austrian Habsburgs clinked beers to celebrate their victory over a Hungarian rebellion in 1848, and the Hungarians vowed not to do the same. I didn’t get to try this out because I drank alone, which is an acceptable practice for beer blogging.