12 treasured traditional and new-wave Budapest souvenirs
Photo : Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
07/6/2016, 10:04 AM●7-minute article
Beyond the generic coffee mugs, kitschy keychains, unimaginative fridge magnets, and ubiquitous “I Love Budapest” T-shirts, the city’s souvenir shops offer many genuinely appealing Hungarian keepsakes, including both traditional items and new-wave presents. From elegant porcelain plates or a bottle of golden Tokaji Aszú to a cute card game and a chic city map, here are some essential finds to bring home from Budapest – and all of them are not only great to give as gifts, but are also ideal personal mementos after an unforgettable stay in the Magyar metropolis.
Hungarians have a long tradition of making hand-crafted wooden objects, like toys, tools, and ornaments that have been made here for centuries, and those splashed with decorative layers of colorful dyes are especially intriguing for the eyes. Many souvenir shops proffer blue-colored timber trinkets with heritage flower patterns, all adorned with Hungary’s colorful Hartai motifs, a design originating from the community of Harta in western Hungary. We can also discover various baubles, like handy pepper mills, decorative jewelry boxes, classic combs, or slender figurines, all perfect gifts for anyone who likes folk art.
Young Hungarian artist Zsolt Vidák has been capturing Budapest through vibrant illustrations for a long time, and gazing at these modern-day artworks instantly evokes the bustling life continually happening in the Hungarian capital. Portraying city dwellers in everyday situations, monumental buildings, city construction works, or ordinary scenes from Budapest’s public transportation, these urban depictions perfectly resemble commonplace (and oftentimes surreal) settings in the Magyar metropolis, and so these graphics are ideal presents for those who have experienced a wide variety of city life here.
Mothers and grannies around the world will give a thumbs up to a delicate piece of ornate ceramics to add to their china collection, and luckily Hungary boasts a number of high-quality heritage brands, offering porcelain dinnerware and decorative ornaments. Secure a slender vase or tea set adorned by vibrant butterflies from Zsolnay, a historic Hungarian company whose works festoon various landmarks citywide, like the roof atop the Great Market Hall, or the stations of Budapest’s Millennium Underground. For those who are after exclusive earthenware, Herend Porcelainoffers gold-plated marvels with classic patterns, with products including majestic bombonieres, or fascinating figurines. Meanwhile, Hollóházi’s traditional tableware provides excellent value for money for anyone with a limited budget.
When heading home, some vacationers pack sand from the beach, water from the sea, or rocks from the mountains to show where they’ve been and what they’ve done… so why not take a can of ethereal Air from Budapest? Filled in stylish packaging that features bright hues and silhouette drawings of major city landmarks, this stylish gag gift is as funny as it is appealing for the eyes. Besides the urban-scented vapor, Air from Balaton is also available, and even though it’s difficult to track down the exact origin of this intangible content, the colorful canisters are actually filled in Lake Balaton and in the Buda Hills.
Elaborate needlework embellishes Hungary’s traditional textiles, all bearing the Magyars’ customary folk-art design with inspiration taken from nature, featuring green grapes and blooming flowers – two of the most prominent techniques are the Kalocsai and Matyó embroideries, made with lengthy and intricate stitching techniques. The traditional tablecloths, decorative pillow covers, and refined garments have always been cherished by elderly customers, but in recent years products featuring classic Magyar embroidery spread like wildfire among the younger generation here in Hungary. These precious pieces are light in weight and high in value, and they are ideal for anyone who appreciates handcrafted merchandise.
Take your Hungarian language skills to the next level or teach unexpected Magyar words to your pals in an easy-peasy way with these jolly playing cards designed by JÖF. Two sets of cards demonstrate characters from the 44-letter Hungarian alphabet, with each letter connected to a traditional character – in this regard, “H” stands for Huszár (“Hussar” in Hungarian), “M” for Mangalica (a local pig breed), and “Sz” for Szürkemarha (“Grey Cattle” in Hungarian). One set of cards showcases the Hungarian meaning of the words, while the other pack displays their English equivalent.
Hungarian cuisine is known for its hearty meat dishes and the heavy use of crimson paprika powder that make local meals so irresistibly appetizing. For your carnivorous peers grab a zesty winter salami (“Téliszalámi” in Hungarian), a luscious link encrusted in white mold, or secure a canister of tender goose liver, or take a savory sausage made of Magyar Mangalicapork meat. If you want to pass on traditional Hungarian recipes, from Budapest you can easily procure the basic condiments needed for preparing a traditional meal, like a small pouch of powdered paprika, or a tube of goulash cream.
Demonstrating miniature scaling of monumental landmarks, Urban Sidewalker’s meticulous city map presents a fresh perspective of Hungary’s capital. Mapping almost all of Budapest’s major sights and classic constructions, these hand-drawn graphics playfully capture the city’s streets and modern spirit, making it an ideal souvenir for those who want to get a closer view over the Magyar metropolis. Any time we immerse in the intricate design, we come across a fresh detail, like random people on the streets, or a bus passing by, and this just adds to the unique flair of this eye-opening product.
Attracted by an abundance of local booze, many visitors flock to Budapest to feast on Hungary’s intoxicating pleasures by imbibing local reds, whites, and rosés, and even to chug traditional high-spirited potables. Those who want to share this inebriating experience with family or friends should take a bottle of golden wine, a sweet libation from Hungary’s Tokaj wine region, while anyone who wants to gift an extraordinary elixir should hunt down a bottle of , a herb-infused alcohol made of secret ingredients. For a tongue-tickling treat, a bottle of local is your best bet, a high-spirited fruit-based brandy made in Hungary.
Anikó Róth’s playful notebooks feature well-known locales across Budapest, including the city’s iconic buildings, renowned downtown lanes, and traditional public transport conveyances. Whether it’s the crimson trolley buses, the iconic yellow trams, or the ’s bustling Dohány Street that you have fond memories of, these jazzy jotters are not only perfect choices for reasonably priced gifts but they will also evoke some unforgettable Budapest moments if you decide to keep them for yourself.
Wear a piece of Hungarian tradition by Zema, a local jewelry designer dedicated to represent authentic Hungarian culture and arts through gorgeous pendants, flashy earrings, and elegant bangles. All of the jewels are handmade using a fine porcelain base, and it’s decorated by various patterns inspired by Art Nouveau, Baroque, or Art Deco styles. The characteristic Magyar motifs include Kalocsai, Matyó, and Kékfestő (traditional local textile dyeing technique) design, while the brand has recently been innovating with modern elements.
From a starry-eyed shepherd to a jolly winemaker to a skillful wrangler, a collection of folk characters represents traditional Hungarian occupations, and aims to inspire today’s society with simple and witty messages that come with each figurine. Displaying a piece of traditional Magyar culture, these sleek symbols are cool souvenirs from Hungary for our friends and colleagues, and besides these figures made of resin Folqa has recently launched a jewelry line, where these comical characters appear as pendants or earrings, making them a perfect pick for lighthearted ladies.