Budapest is definitely becoming a strong gastronomic scene of Europe recently. Having the best chef in Europe (Széll Tamás, Bocuse d’Or Europe winner, 2016), more restaurants are being recognized by the Michelin guide (5 1-star restaurants), and the authentic market halls, which still keep their original function for more than 100 years, turns the reflection of food lovers more an more to Budapest, and Hungary.
The market halls play an important role in the everyday people’s life, just as in restaurant owners and chefs, who search for fresh vegetables, spices, meat and fruit products. The construction of the market halls started at the end of the 19th century, when -after a long research in other European cities- the local authorities of Budapest decided to build 5 market halls, instead of the several uncontrolled and unsecured open-air markets. It took a long time for the farmers and vendors to get used to the idea of the market halls, to accept the fact that they cannot argue with the customers, there were certain rules of manner here, that they had to pay for they place/stalls and tables/, that everything is controlled and cleaned.
Some of the market halls are nicely renovated now, and you can see and feel the atmosphere what attracts the customers here. While others, are also on their way to renovation, and we truly hope that they will soon shine in their authentic glory.
The Great Market Hall was the first market hall to be opened in Budapest, in 1897. “Great” refers to the size, and often called as “Central” Market Hall, because of the location. Grandiose as it is, and besides that, it was a very modern market hall at the time of the opening: a channel from the river Danube led straight inside the market hall, made it easy for the boats and ships to deliver the products. Also, a tram line connected the market hall to the neighboring warehouses, transportation this way, was smooth and comfortable. Neither of these “features” of the Great Market Hall exist any more, but the wide arrays between the stalls (instead of the channels and tram lines), make it possible for the massive amount of visitors to stroll down the isles, and shop for food.
The Great Market Hall is one of the most visited sights of Budapest currently, while other market halls can also be a lovely surprise for the visitors. Belvárosi Piac (Belvárosi Market Hall, Hold utcai Vásárcsarnok), offers not only high quality products, but some of the best chefs of Hungary opened their street food venues here, on the top floor. The ground level is for the vendors, among which you can find a stall great venison products, one of the best cheese producer of the country (Zsendice), and fantastic products from truffles (as Hungary is a great location to find truffles).
The top floor of the market hall deserves more words, unfortunately often forgotten how great eating places can be found here. Buja Disznók -by Bíró Lajos, focuses on breaded pork meat and ear-, Steamboo – Asian steamed specialty noodles-, Moszkva Tér– Russian cuisine-, Vörös Homár – Seafood and fish dishes-, are just some of the great, quality restaurants in the market hall.
Visiting Újlipótváros (13th district) is another lovely area of Budapest. Pozsonyi út and Szent István Park are the most popular parts of the district. Strolling down Pozsonyi street you find several popular cafés and restaurants, and taking a right on Ipoly or Victor Hugo street you can easily get to Lehel Csarnok. The modern building is often called “kofahajó” (costermonger boat), and was built instead of the open air market on the square. Specialities of the market hall: a great selection of Eastern spices, rice and ingredients can be found in a shop, just behind the egg tables. In the middle of the costenmonger tables you find fresh herbs and spices. The tops floor is for offices, pharmacy, cheap clothes and kitchenware.
Rákóczi téri Vásárcsarnok (Rákóczi tér Market Hall) is also among my preferred markets. The building was built in 1894, and was opened as the senond market hall of Budapest. Due to a fire, the building burnt down in 1988, but was reconstructed in the original architecture style and re-opened in 1991 (source: www.budapestcity.org). Nice selection ofHungarian wines, -straight from the barell-, are sold in the side isle. The costenmongers are selling certified mushrooms in the middle row.
Batthányi téri Vásárcsarnok and Klauzál téri Vásárcsarnok, are also two beautiful market halls, the buildings are renovated, and also popular places to shop. Unfortunately currently they only provide a nice location for the supermarkets and smaller shops, florists, eating places, kitchenware etc. Hunyadi téri Vásárcsarnok is an authentic market hall, with a great open air market in front of the building, with vendors selling vegetables, fruit and flower. The building is not renovated yet, therefore it gives you a bit of a dirty feeling, hopefully we can see it in it’s former glory.
If you wish to visit the Great Market Hall with us, please join us on our culinary walking tour!
If you are interested in the Hungarian delicacy products, and one of the best street food scenes of Budapest in the Belvárosi Piac, join our Basilica Food Tour!