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Best gifts to buy if you’re flying home from Budapest

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  • We Love Budapest

20/06/2022 9.37am

Flying out from Budapest? A new self-service facility in town allows you to print off a tag for your checked luggage and leave it there safely before picking it up later and taking airport bus 100E from the Kálvin tér stop nearby. This not only leaves you free to shop for that special souvenir of Budapest, once you reach the airport afterwards, you can avoid the queues and breeze through using the self-service luggage drop. Here we suggest a few chic, unique and off-beat gifts you might want to buy in the meantime – and provide details of how to take advantage of this easy and convenient new luggage service.

So, you’ve had a great time in Budapest, seen the sights, wined, dined and partied, and now it’s time to go home. But first, that special souvenir you’ve been thinking about all weekend. Before you shop, rather than carry your bags around with you, why not pop into the new airport check-in and left-luggage service at Kálvin tér, right in the city centre, close to the stop for the 100E airport bus.

How to pack

Remember that the limit for liquids being taken through security as hand luggage is 100ml, and containers must be sealed and placed in a see-through bag. The size and weight of permitted hand baggage vary between airlines. Hold luggage is generally 20kg but this also differs from company to company. See here for English-language guidelines as to what can be taken on board and what should be packed away in the hold.

Drop, check-in and go!

Thanks to the new self-service facilities at Kálvin tér 4 (daily 6am-10pm), baggage check-in is now faster, easier and more convenient. Just print out and attach the tag to your luggage after scanning the barcode on your boarding pass. You can then leave it there safely to pick up later. You can also weigh it, measure it and wrap it, with a member of staff on hand to help with any problems. On-site is a Covid testing point, a Nespresso café, and wine and spirits provided by Bortársaság and Zwack. All within a short walk of the 100E airport bus! Once you've picked up your luggage and taken it to the airport, you can beat the queues and breeze through to the automated check-in desk. Self-service check-in is also available at both terminals. Currently you can use this facility for Wizz Air, Aegean, Air France/KLM and Norwegian flights. See here for guidelines.

So, with a little more time to spare in town, what should you buy? As Budapest is a one-of-a-kindenchanting capital of a country whose language few outsiders can speak, many items on offer are equally unique. It could be a cool designer T-shirt, a pre-war poster or a bottle of golden Tokaji wine to wow your friends with.

Here we provide a few tips. All outlets within easy reach of Kálvin tér.

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

DRK

1/25

1052 Budapest, Deák Ferenc utca 19

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Dorko, as it is called in its homeland, is a successful Hungarian streetwear and sports brand. Its distinctive acronymic sign can be seen above shopfronts across Budapest, Hungary and at Terminal 2A at the airport. Reviving training shoes from pre-’89, Dorko have made a point of collaborating with talented designers, musicians, artists and athletes. The Dorko Hungary Collection is worn by many top sportsmen here, including recent Wimbledon quarter-finalist Márton Fucsovics. Details

Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest

MONO art & design

2/25

1053 Budapest, Kossuth Lajos utca 12

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A one-stop shop for contemporary Hungarian design – outlet, gallery, exhibition space and concept store in one, in fact – MONO showcases the works of around a hundred local creatives. Funky accessories and items of home décor are its speciality, artefacts small enough to pack into a suitcase but original enough to cause genuine surprise and gratitude when your gift is presented upon your return home. Details

Photo: Juhász Norbert - We Love Budapest

Printa

3/25

1075 Budapest, Rumbach Sebestyén utca 10.

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The ever-creative Zita Majoros set up Printa way before surrounding District VII became the centre of Budapest nightlife. Staying true to her principles of sustainability, her store, art gallery, screen-print studio and café still stocks limited-edition, eco-friendly clothes and accessories with Budapest as their running theme, either urban history or local topography. Upcycling is a key dynamic here, those cool belts probably once part of a car tyre. Details

Photo: Rododendron

Rododendron Art & Design Shop

4/25

1052 Budapest, Semmelweis utca 19

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Rododendron was originally a tiny gallery, but it has since expanded into a more mainstream spot showcasing art and design, representing around a hundred local and selected international creatives and artists. The range of artefacts in dizzying, Budapest represented in necklace, art print, diary planner, notebook and poster form, including – ta-da! – We Love Budapest’s very own tote bags. Details

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

Tisza cipő

5/25

1075 Budapest, Károly körút 1

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Their flagship outlet diagonally opposite the Hotel Astoria, Tisza is a classic example of own-brand, Communist-era training shoes being rebranded and becoming ever so fashionable two generations later. First established in Martfű by the Tisza river in 1942, the footwear was given a unwittingly cool retro logo in 1971. Some Hungarians craved three stripes from the West – just as many here wore Tisza. With pre-’89 labels enjoying a revival in popularity a decade or so later, the iconic T symbol was dusted down to recapture the imagination of the Hungarian public. Excellent craftmanship and contemporary urban design did the rest. The Budapest Collection is what you’re looking for. Details

Photo: Hartyányi Norbert - We Love Budapest

Bortársaság - Ráday utca

6/25

1092 Budapest, Ráday utca 7.

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Budapest’s longest-established independent wine outlet, unveiled by enthusiasts from the UK and Hungary back in 1993, has flourished in tandem with the country’s blossoming wine industry. From showcasing labels by Attila Gere and József Bock back in the day, Bortársaság now highlights on-trend domestic winemakers such as Endre Szászi and Homola. Bubbles are in, too, look for names such as Kreinbacher and Sauska. Staff at the dozen or so outlets across Budapest are knowledgeable, English-speaking and happy to advise. Details

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

Culinaris

7/25

1055 Budapest, Balassi Bálint utca 7

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Hungarians go to this revered institution by Margaret Bridge for high-quality Italian pasta sauces and exclusive virgin olive oils – Budapest expats love Culinaris for Hungarian grey-cattle and venison salami, domestic smoked ham and artisanal honey. If you’ve plenty of space in the suitcase, they also offer a basket of Hungaricums, Hungarian specialities, the contents varying according to season and supply. This main branch also serves tasty sit-down lunches if you have time before your flight. Details

Photo: Magyar Pálinka Háza/Facebook

Magyar pálinka háza

8/25

1088 Budapest, Rákóczi út 17

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Hungary’s particular kind of clear fruit brandy, pálinka, comes in many forms and is made from all kinds of base ingredients. Produced as an eau de vie since medieval times, from peaches, pears, plums and other fruit, pálinka has been refined over the centuries and became fashionable around a decade ago. Brands such as Árpád and 1 Csepp now distill high-quality pálinkas in thin, trendy bottles. These also make ideal presents. You’ll find some 70 varieties lining the shelves of the Magyar pálinka háza near Astoria, with staff dispensing advice on what to buy and how to serve the drink once you get home. Details

Photo: Stühmer/Facebook

Stühmer

9/25

1137 Budapest, Pozsonyi út 9

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Chocolates are always an easy, portable option on any holiday or business trip, local brands often steeped in history and tradition, the boxes often in classic designs created by advertising teams generations ago. Such is Stühmer. Originally a master confectioner from Hamburg who came to Hungary in 1868, Frigyes Stühmer became the prominent chocolatier during Budapest’s Golden Age. Some five dozen outlets dotted the country, with branches in the Habsburg resort of Opatija and even in Paris. Their packaging was ahead of the pack. In a familiar story, the firm was nationalised after World War II, then its trademark revived after 1989. Recognised and revered, the brand has since expanded to 150 products, underscored by a sense of comfortable nostalgia. This really is like taking a piece of Hungary home with you. Details

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

Szamos

10/25

1051 Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 10

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Another classic Hungarian brand, this one with an outlet at the airport as well as a café, museum and store by Parliament on Kossuth Lajos tér, Szamos has been built on marzipan. It was Mátyás Szamos who learned the key to making high-end marzipan from a Danish confectioner in the 1930s, passing down the secrets to the next generation. Today, Szamos marzipan comes in bonbon, draguée, figurine and chocolate-bar forms, though the pretty presentation boxes might best suit the travelling customer. If you’re at the showcase branch on Kossuth tér, you can sit down with a coffee and slice of cake, and admire your purchase while the number 2 tram glides by past Parliament. Details

Photo: Bomo Art - Pest

Bomo Art - Pest

11/25

1052 Budapest, Régi posta utca 14

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Bomo Art Budapest is a small and stylish stationery store with an atmosphere that echoes the Belle Époque. Offering original notebooks, postcards, calendars, diaries, wrapping paper and all kinds of fine tools for calligraphy, Bomo Art is a true treasure trove of pen and paper. There are lovely gift sets, too, the ideal present for the creative child, as well as gift boxes. You can even pick up a kaleidoscope. Details

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Citygraph

12/25

1055 Budapest, Falk Miksa utca 6

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Leisurely Falk Miksa utca is the go-to destination for antiquated artefacts in Budapest, lined with auction houses and art galleries. Of the more contemporary outlets to open in recent years, the most notable is Citygraph, a brightly lit shop selling map-like graphics of Hungary’s capital, all hand-drawn in great detail. Urban illustrations showcase historic Budapest through the ages. It’s all the work of Béla Magyar, whose painstaking precision creates one-of-a-kind maps, prints, stationery and T-shirts. Details

Photo: Bódis Krisztián - We Love Budapest

Great Market Hall

13/25

1093 Budapest, Vámház körút 1-3.

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One tram stop from Kálvin tér on Fővám tér, the Great Market Hall is the easiest go-to destination to pick up strings of bright-red paprikas, distinctive small packages and tins of the powdered variety, cheeses, goose liver, wines and other Hungarian delicacies. The building is a tourist sight in itself, opened in 1897 when a canal ran through it, allowing traders to transport their wares up from the Danube alongside. Head upstairs for handicrafts and traditional souvenirs, including clothes and fabrics created with the so-called blue-dye technique, kékfestés, typical of Hungary. Details

Photo: Magma/Facebook

Magma

14/25

1052 Budapest, Petőfi Sándor utca 11

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Magma is a little boutique in the city centre whose strikingly original artefacts have been created by
Hungarian artists only. The vast selection holds everything from décor items, fashion accessories, posters and textiles, to all kinds of knickknacks. If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind shot glasses, playing cards or chimney-cake air freshener for the car, here’s where you’ll find them. Note also the autistic art notebooks, their covers created by people living with autism, taught by contemporary artists. Proceeds go towards residential homes for the autistic. Details

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Memories of Hungary

15/25

1052 Budapest, Váci utca 14

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When you’ve got ten minutes to browse, choose, purchase and go, and yet still take a piece of Budapest home with you, Memories of Hungary is ideal. With branches at the airport, at tourist hubs around Buda Castle and here on the city’s mainstream shopping drag of Váci utca, this long-established souvenir store offers a surprising number of gifts above and beyond the standard fridge magnets and snow globes. Among the near 10,000 objects, you can pick up a scary mask of the type worn at the Mohács Busójárás Carnival, T-shirts bearing the portrait of Hungarian football hero Ferenc Puskás and figurines to dangle on the Christmas tree whenever that time of year comes around. Details

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

Herend

16/25

1051 Budapest, József nádor tér 10-11

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Approaching its bicentenary, Herend porcelain is one of Hungary’s most revered brands, sold to the Hungarian aristocracy from the 1840s, showcased at London’s Great Exhibition in 1851 and commissioned by Queen Victoria. On your next visit to Hungary, you may wish to take a trip to the Herend factory near Lake Balaton and see how it’s all done, but for now, the showcase Palais Herend store in the city centre would be your best port of call to select a hand-crafted figurine, jewellery box or decorative dish. There are more elaborate items, too, with prices to match, but whatever you purchase will be delicately wrapped for you to transport. Details

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

NUBU ZEN STORE

17/25

1061 Budapest, Andrássy út 13

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Sophisticated urban wear for both sexes is the stock in trade of NUBU, a long-established Hungarian fashion brand with a significant presence in the US, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The showroom is found on showcase boulevard Andrássy út, diagonally opposite the Opera House, the ideal setting for NUBU’s eagerly awaited seasonal collections. Material is sourced locally, designs are subtle yet classy and, along with ready-to-wear-pieces, you’ll find accessories and leather bags.

Photo: Hartyányi Norbert - We Love Budapest

Tipton Eyeworks

18/25

1092 Budapest, Erkel utca 6.

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As Hungarian-American designer Zachary Tipton sums up his sought-after glasses and how to best purchase them, “Handmade since 1998, worn globally. Get your contactless eye exam and have a cocktail after. Walk-ins welcome”. Starting out by swiping a few vinyl records from his dad’s precious collection and fashioning them into cool frames for glasses and sunglasses, Tipton went from wowing his friends with his Vinylize collection to a series using photographic film, Cinématique, examples of which are highly prized today. Today, Elton John, Robbie Williams and Quentin Tarantino wear Tipton, the frames usually black or transparent, the price tags hefty but reliability and durability a given. Details

Photo: Varga Design/Facebook

Varga Design

19/25

1052 Budapest, Haris köz 6

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In business for the best part of half a century, Miklos Varga started out as an expert silversmith, branching out to master all kinds of precious metals, crafting exquisite jewellery in gold, platinum and silver. Also putting together his own team of young artists and artisans, Varga oversees the production of gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, brooches, rings and earrings, not to mention cufflinks, medals and buckles. All is beautifully presented, the ideal solution if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift for that special occasion, a wedding, an engagement or a graduation. Details

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

Vass cipő

20/25

1052 Budapest, Haris köz 6

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Crafted from finest calfskin, horse leather and various exotic varieties, Vass shoes are ready to wear once you walk into this pleasingly old-school boutique in the heart of town – or you can have a pair made to measure and dispatched to your address. Established by László Vass in 1978, the brand honours the venerable tradition of shoemaking, allowing the customer seeking customised footwear to decide on colour, stitching, soles and design. For those looking to walk out in something smart and durable straight way, Vass stocks sizes 39 to 47 as well as half-numbers in between. All hand-made and meticulous with it. Details

Photo: Antik-Bazár/Facebook

Antik-Bazár

21/25

1071 Budapest, Klauzál utca 1

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A short walk from Astoria, Antik-Bazár is an Aladdin’s Cave of authentic Commie kitsch, a flea market squeezed into a two-floor store of secondhand treasure. Caps, badges, posters, banknotes and postcards, all items here were used at one time or another before 1989. Browsing is a real delight, you’ll never know what you might find on the next shelf, and if you’re looking for something specific, the lovely old shop owner can point you in the right direction. As Hungary is laudably a make-do-and-mend culture, you may pick up a useful item no longer manufactured today, a needle for your record player perhaps, or a flint for your 1960s’ cigarette lighter. Details

Photo: Artibus365 Facebook

Artibus365

22/25

1054 Budapest, Hold utca 6

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Though utterly desirable, much of what you see in this haven of authentically retro furniture is not exactly portable. But, sadly passing over the sofa designed by Danes in the 1970s or that dining table crafted in yé-yé era France, your beady eyes might still settle on a must-have Italian bedside lamp or ashtray you last saw in a Melville movie. There are plenty of Hungarian artefacts, too. All form part of a collection gathered by Tibor Nagy from Debrecen, part of which he sells on commission. Tibor’s aim is to make sure all his objects fall into the right hands, to people who will love and look after what they’re buying. Details

Photo: Medgyesi Milán - We Love Budapest

Központi Antikvárium

23/25

1053 Budapest, Múzeum körút 13-15

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Leading from Kálvin tér, main Múzeum körút opposite the National Museum is Budapest’s equivalent of London’s Charing Cross Road, a row of secondhand bookstores beckoning almost all the way to Astoria. Along with mainly Hungarian books, they also stock maps, posters, postcards and vinyl. The granddaddy of them all, the largest of its kind in Hungary, has been in business since 1891. Announcing its presence with a neon owl in bright blue, the ‘Central Antiquarian Bookshop’ displays vintage advertising posters in its many windows, and around the large main room centrepieced by glass cabinets containing rarities and autographed editions. The posters, stacked back-to-back to one side, carry hefty price tags, so if you’ve fallen for the gorgeous Orion radio ad from the 1920s, be prepared to pay for it. This is the kind of place which hires out the gilded Mirror Room at the Festetics Palace for auctions. Details

Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest

Múzeum Antikvárium

24/25

1053 Budapest, Múzeum körút 35.

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Along the antiquarian avenue of Múzeum körút, this charming store was opened by four bookworms more than 30 years ago, an attractive space decorated with the vintage advertising and film posters all for sale. If you’re after an original poster with lettering in Art-Deco style advertising the XXXIV International Eucharistic Congress in May 1938, this is where to come. The English-friendly website lists far more books, exhibition catalogues, maps, postcards and manuscripts than could possibly fit into these intimate surroundings, but if you’re just browsing for random treasure, you’ll spend a very happy half-hour here. For specific rarities, look out for their online auctions. Details

Photo: Juhász Norbert - We Love Budapest

Tordai

25/25

1077 Budapest, Király utca 31

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The owner, who originally trained as a cinematographer, eventually decided to give in to his love for books, and opened his own secondhand bookstore in 2005 on bustling Király utca. While the majority of the items don’t fall into the antique category, some of the volumes here were printed in the 17th and 18th centuries. The shop’s old-world feel is enhanced by paintings, typewriters, sketches, cameras and a collection of 30 vintage mechanical watches, some adorning the interior and the shop windows. It’s all a short walk from Deák Ferenc tér, two tram stops from Kálvin tér. Details

This article was published with the support of Budapest Airport.

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