Sometimes it’s neither advised nor a well-founded decision to put an equals sign between souvenirs and lousy quality; although it must not be an unfortunate coincidence that we tend to identify the latter with the former. In our compilation below, we’ll present shops and products which are desirable for both foreigners and Hungarians, and which provide satisfactory alternatives for overly touristy bric-a-bracs.
Located a couple of matyó laces away from Szent István Bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica), Memories of Hungary Souvenir Shop’s selection won’t shock you like a thunder strike, though it still holds many surprises. The first impression is deceiving, since the souvenirs characterized by classic Hungarian folk motifs, easily recognizable visual symbols, and well-known figures and individuals – Ferenc Puskás, hussars, the Bob Marley of dogs, a.k.a. the puli, or the Hungarian gray cattle – aim to put something new on the table (or on your fridge) by rethinking dime-a-dozen schemes; thus drawing a line between trivial Váci utca (Váci Street) souvenirs and the selection of Memories. There’s a well-though-out concept behind the form and the content, with both being the courtesy of up-and-coming artists and experienced marketing gurus. The 300 square-meter shop offers approximately 3,000 pieces of various souvenirs giving cultural traditions a youthful, contemporary edge; so you’ll certainly have a tough time making a decision what to take home.
Located in the courtyard facing the entrance of both the student magnet, known as Könyvtár Klub, and ELTE’s Faculty of Humanities, Insitu is an all-in-one design store. The selection is made up of everything and anything your aesthetic sensibilities and your nostalgic desire could wish for. Jewellery crafted from vinyls, red paprika earrings grown in the Gyöngyhalász workshop, messenger bags and laptop skins made of fire hoses and bike tyres, notebooks, books, wall stickers – including the creations of Diána Nagy -, and Richárd Seiben’s mesmerizing postcards reinterpreting the Budapest-themed photos of Fortepan; and, last not least, striptease pens not really suitable with civil wedding ceremonies. The majority of Insitu’s products originate from Hungarian artists, and the nostalgic collection is highlighted by old school goodies like the jumping rubber frog, a game called the Babylone Tower, the psycho-eyed hip-hopping bunny, and a board game focusing on public transportation that used to be popular when The Beatles were in their prime.
Housed by one of the ground floor premises of Grandio Hostel and Bar, a spot legendary for its wild parties, Grand Village can be charaterized as the combination of Memories of Hungary and Insitu. Before jumping to baseless conclusions about concept-thievery, we’d like to emphasize that the essence of this loveable store orchestrated by the Buttondoll Design-duo – namely Mária Kis-Németh and Márta Szabó – lies in preferring Hungarian motifs, recycled materials, and modernized souvenir schemes. The selection is constitued by the formerly mentioned bags and laptop skins made of bike tyres - courtesy of Balkan Tango-, and countless creations of A-plus names such as Viki Szunyoghy and Matyódesign. Besides well-established brands and designers, freshly-graduated artists also contribute to the store’s wide-as-the-Danube product range, since the door is always open for young creators. Jewellery made of tiny alcohol bottles and glass medicine bottles, wallets folded from recycled paper sheets, matyó-patterned pillows, drawings of Budapest, Gubolyka bags, Barbara Katona’s watches, and last but not least, DVDs serving as both fridge magnets and virtual photo books.
To find a proper polygon-parallel for the multifaceted nature of Rumbach Sebestyén utca’s (Rumbach Sebestyén Street) Printa, we’d be obliged to ask for the help of a maths coursebook; but let us avoid the world of numbers, and stay with words instead. Printa is a coffee joint serving cups of milky-sugary caffeine made from direct trade beans; a gallery, a screen printing workshop, and an eco-friendly design store at the same time and place. The gallery exhibits serigraphs courtesy of renowned artists such as Kamilla Szíj, János Sugár, Judit Fischer, or Attila Stark. Some of these limited edition masterworks are available for purchase, though you have no reason to lay your head low if you’d like to get the hang of screen printing, since Printa regularly organizes workshops orchestrated by seen-it-all professionals. As for souvenirs, we’d recommend the Budapest-centric eco-collection consisting of, amongst others, cooler-than-an-iceberg T-shirts covered in downtown Budapest’s most significant street names.
Those familiar with P.G. Wodehouse-novels must have heard about rhododendrons, since the most coveted representative of English humour used to write about pathways lined with the plants cited above all the time. But ever since Judit Katalin Elek’s design shop was opened on Semmelweis utca (Semmelweis Street), in the vicinity of Deák tér (Deák Square), Wodehouse had no other option but to surrender his leading spot on the toplist of rhododendron-associations. The selection is made up of the creations of Hungarian artists – without the aim of completeness: Attila Stark, Írisz Agócs, László Nagy, Zsolt Vidák, Tibor Kárpáti, and Anna Nemesi -, although books, Lomography cameras, pins, wallets, plush figures can also be bought; moreover, Rododendron regularly gives home to exhibitons and literary nights.
BP Shop operates two stores – one on Wesselényi utca (Wesselényi Street), next door to Garzon, and another one in WestEnd City Center – in the city, and both venues attract costumers from all over the underground scene the way marble ledges attract skateboarders. At BP Shop, Budapest-patriots will certainly find what they’re looking for: BP-branded full caps, T-shirts with unique graphics more than capable of represinting your love for Budapest, jackets, hoodies, and boxer shorts with labels not so complimentary for the ladies and gentlemen working to preserve law and order.
First of all, let us try to translate the archaic name – which, by the way, recalls the vibe of Goulash Communism - of the odd-one-out in our compilation: Flag Manufacturing Association and Embroidery. Located on the corner of Dob utca (Dob Street) and Kisdiófa utca (Kisdiófa Street), at Klauzál tér (Klauzál Square), this is most definitely an unusual souvenir-source, where ever-fashionable bags sewn from flag fabric decorated with Kalocsa-motifs can be bought for surprisingly low prices.