When I travel it’s my pleasure to shop for small souvenirs that create memories of my travels. They have to be light and fun, because who wants to be burdened with too much stuff, spend a lot of money that could have bought another holiday, or pay for extra baggage? As I’m a hand-luggage only girl, my souvenirs have to squeeze in between the clothes and the laptop.
On our recent spring break in Budapest with Avios, we had our fair share of strolling the famous boulevards of Váci utca and Andrássy út, lined with designer names and top international brands. But my heart was in those folk-art gift shops, sifting through the striped woven table cloths and cut felt cushions, thinking about the work of some lady in the Hungarian steppes, who might be using skills that she learned from her grandmother.
Budapest is full of tempting and original souvenirs to buy, so here are some of the things to look out for when you visit;
Traditional Hungarian Folkart
As we were there just before Easter, I was drawn to these baskets of pretty painted eggs with colourful Hungarian motifs. The gift shop in the square of St Stephen’s Basilica had a great selection of these and other traditional Hungarian crafts. I bought a few in pinks and creams to hang up at Easter and one in red and gold to come out again at Christmas to hang on my tree. These painted eggs are perfect to hang from silver twigs or spring branches in a vase to decorate the house at Easter. I also saw some beautiful dyed and patterned real eggs in intricate patterns in the Central Market where the food stalls were downstairs and the handicrafts and souvenirs upstairs.
In the main shopping area we enjoyed looking round the Folkart Kézművészház shop that was full of textiles, red and white woven cloths and cut felt designs from the Hungarian steppes as well as hand embroidered blouses and table cloths.
Folkart Kézművészház, 1052 Budapest Régiposta utca 12
A modern twist on Hungarian crafts
The distinctive Hungarian embroidery designs cropped up again at Fian Koncept, a shop that we discovered along the road from Ruszwrum Cukrasda where we’d been having coffee after looking around the Fisherman’s Bastion. This store was packed with souvenirs and gifts that are modern interpretations of the traditional designs. Here I bought a gold leather purse with colourful Hungarian motifs by Gabriella Lukács and admired the embroidered zip bags that would make a great sponge bag or even a clutch. The owner offered us some dried apple from Fruitfull.hu which seems to be a local speciality and I also bought a red embossed notebook from Szia! for my travel notes. I loved the way that Hungarian motifs had been used on all sorts of desirable objects from Cinq Filles scented candles, to Hungarian gift cards from Moha Design; you can see some beautiful examples on the Fian Concept Facebook Page.
Fian Concept H-101 Budapest, Uri u. 26-28
Hand-painted Herend Porcelain
Herend is the world famous porcelain of Hungary and you can’t go too far in Budapest without seeing the classic, handpainted plates and ornaments. My parents used to collect Herend and gave me some years ago a beautiful plant holder that I kept on my mantelpiece, without realising the Budapest connection. If you are a serious collector, you need to watch out for fakes and be sure to buy from the Herend stores or from a registered stockist, and you should be given a little card of authenticity with your purchase. We passed the Herend Store on Andrássy út with this enormous painted lion which was far to big to bring home in the suitcase so instead my sister bought my mother a pretty little heart shaped dish to put on her dressing table.
Herend, 1061 Budapest, Andrássy út 16
Honey and candles
Walking under a covered arcade near the Intercontinental Hotel where we were staying, we spotted a small shop selling honey and beeswax products. There were all kinds of ornamental beeswax candles on sale as well as jars of local honey and some pretty decorative biscuits. They seemed to be keepsakes to give to that special person in your life, and as Valentine’s day had just been and gone, I wondered if they were just for Valentine’s day or sold all year round. The pretty heart biscuits were a more refined version of the decorated gingerbread that is sold in Christmas markets, more for display than eating.
Mehzi, Budapest 5th District, Erzsebet Square 1 (under the arcades)
Paprika, Sausages and Palinka
For edible souvenirs, we went to the Central Market where the downstairs is full of stalls selling more variations of paprika than you could possibly imagine. On other stalls, cured sausages hang in rows, flavoured with paprika and other spices, ready for you to add to a rich, hearty Hungarian stew. Another speciality is the goose live pate sold in small tins at all the meat stalls. If you want to drink the flavour of Hungary try a glass of Palinka in one of the restaurants you visit – it’s a strong spirit that’s flavoured with fruits such as cherry, strawberry and apricot. When I tried a sip at the Strudel House after dinner, it made my eyes water – I can see why it’s traditionally drunk in the morning to wake you up!
Great Market Hall, 1093 Budapest, Vámház körút 1-3
If you love to look and shop at beautiful handicrafts and textiles you’ll find plenty to buy in Budapest – enjoy looking and bring a little piece of Budapest home with you.
If you’ve been to Budapest, what were you tempted to buy as a souvenir?
More things to enjoy in Budapest
We booked our Budapest spring break through Avios, who offer ways to earn points at the places you shop everyday, that you can convert into a flight, hotel or holiday. There’s plenty of inspiration on the Avios website to start planning your next weekend escape and you can follow Avios on Twitter @AviosUK or on their AviosUK Facebook page and see some flying lawnmowers on the Avios YouTube channel
Through Avios we booked the luxurious 5 star Intercontinental Hotel Budapest which was perfectly positioned beside the Danube for sightseeing. The hotel can be booked using your Avios Points or directly on the Intercontinental website if you are not an Avios member and it’s worth looking out for packages that include breakfast and use of the exclusive Club Lounge. You can follow the Intercontinental Budapest on Twitter @ICBudapest and on their Intercontinental Budapest Facebook Page.
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