This open air market ranks among one of Europe’s grandest for its unique setting, vast size and sheer variety of displays. Conveniently located just near the famed chain bridge of Budapest and sitting on the side of the river near the parliament, Kozponti Vasarcsarnok is an attraction full of intrigue.
From the outside the covered hall looks out of place, part industrial, part artistic. Once inside the charms come to life as a barrage of colors, smells, sounds and senses surround you. The feeling is like a giant train station, only instead of platforms there are shops, stairwells and alcoves selling all manner of goods. The ceiling is a mosaic of red canopy and yellow tiles. From the high walls colored glass panels and skylights let in rays of sunshine. The whole feeling can be described as being in a city within a city.
Crowds of people come and go, but thankfully the place is spacious enough to let one shop in comfort. There are market stalls selling all sorts of local meat cuts, from smoked sausages to pickled pigs feet. Fruit stall have a citrus smell that makes the atmosphere vibrant even in colder months and flash fried potatoes, freshly baked breads and strudel like sweets are hard to resist. Locally made cheeses are savory and spices like paprika and saffron are abundant. Fishes and Tokay wine are also found in abundance.
The hall originated over 100 years ago and has seen various states of glory and disrepair. Its most splendid days there was an indoor canal where produce was sold from boats, but now it is a wide lane paved with sea blue tiles. Objects like fish and meats are on lower floors due to cooler temperatures while the iron clad stairwells and raised levels sport all kinds of clothing, articles, souvenirs and virtually almost anything one can imagine.
Of course it is never a good idea to go food shopping when one is hungry. That’s why thankfully the first stop should be Fakanal Etterem Restaurant. This on site kitchen serves up many traditional Hungarian dishes, which will satisfy you appetite to shop more sensibly. Enjoy the goulash and chicken paprikash especially. There are even cooking classes offered from time to time to really immerse oneself in the heart of Hungarian cuisine.
The market is best visited on weekday mornings when supplies are fresh and traffic is slower. It is most crowded on Saturday and it is closed Sunday. The Kozponti Vasarcsarnok is a real immersion into local culture and it is a great way to encounter the fascinating intricacies of fresh Hungarian cuisine.