Take two - Issue 169 - Magazine | Monocle

thumbnail text

Budapest’s charms are twofold: the city famously consists of two distinct halves divided by the Danube river. On one side there is the quieter, more residential Buda, with its hills and soaring baroque castle. On the other there’s the bustling Pest – the beating heart of which is the fifth district, the place which contains many of the shops listed over the next few pages. Even the bridges connecting the banks are worth visiting, with the most beautiful being the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. Let’s take a stroll. 

Basic brilliance 

In 2016 Éva Klément and husband Zóltán Nádasy (pictured) took a backpacking trip through North America and Asia before quitting their corporate jobs to set up Pauza. “That trip taught us to appreciate beautiful, functional everyday things,” says Klément. This sentiment is reflected in both the shop’s motto – “Basic but brilliant” – and its inventory: from coffee cups by Hungarian ceramicist Anett Sáfrá and minimalist enamel kettles from Japanese maker Noda Horo, to woollen blankets by Finnish brand Lapuan Kankurit. Our pick? The colourful backpacks from YKRA, a Budapest brand inspired by 1970s mountaineering gear.
Vitkovics Mihály utca 7


Fine wining 
Marlou Wine Bar & Store

Owner Jean-Julien Ricard first started coming to Hungary 20 years ago. “I instantly fell in love with Budapest,” he says. In March 2020, Ricard opened Marlou, just behind Budapest’s Opera House. The first coronavirus lockdown began just days later but the business was a success: first as a shop and then as a bar and bistro in its own right. Part of the reason is Marlou’s selection of wines from both Hungary and France. We recommend the Atlas pinot noir from István Bencze, a natural winemaker from the hills around Lake Balaton.
Lázár utca 16


Spin city
Kalóz Records

Five years ago, Kristóf Kürti – a sociologist by training but a DJ and record-collector by vocation – was talking to a business-minded cousin who told him that he could turn his passion (and a 30,000-odd record collection) into a business. Kürti started Kalóz (or “Pirate”) Records, which, buoyed by a global interest in vinyl, has managed to captivate both diehard enthusiasts and younger people for whom vinyl is a new format. Business has been so good that in 2021 Kürti opened a second shop in Szeged in southern Hungary.
Bródy Sándor utca 25


Sugar rush 
Ghraoui Chocolate

Ghraoui left its home country amid civil war in 2012. Syria’s loss was a win for Hungary. The company relaunched there in 2017; you’ll find its boutique close to the Opera House. One of its best-sellers, Szaloncukor (flavoured chocolates in foil), is a variation on a Hungarian Christmas speciality.
Andrássy út 31


Visual feast 
The Garden Studio & Café

Run by Hungarian fashion designer Dóri Tomscányi and Turkish restaurateur Merve Ilgım Deprem, the shop carries a super selection of bags, shoes and homeware from Hungarian designers. Centre stage is given to Tomscányi’s womenswear, almost all of which features bold floral patterns (hence the “garden” name). In the café part, Deprem serves her take on Turkish cuisine; gözleme stuffed with aubergine and pumpkin pancakes are recommended.
Paulay Ede utca 18


The A-game 

The female fashion brand’s first permanent shop opened in November 2022 and is everything Aeron founder Eszter Áron likes: clean lines, earthy tones and playful details. “After years of pop-ups, this is a place that gives a sense of home for our pieces,” marketing manager Máté Dávid tells monocle. The shop offers the full Aeron catalogue and includes the brand’s signature suits, made in its Budapest atelier. The oversized blazers with high slits, peaked lapels and signature buttons in the shape of the letter A are customer favourites. 
Szervita tér 8


Bound for greatness 
Lúd Labor

Named after a nearby Jewish marketplace that dealt in poultry (“lúd” is Hungarian for goose), this paper shop is run by bookbinder Noémi Mónus and gallerist László Böröcz. “We fused [our two careers] together and opened this space in 2019 because bookbinding is a dying art in Hungary,” Mónus tells monocle. Lúd Labor’s speciality is handbound notebooks and planners made on-site using a technique where pages are sewn directly onto the spine. Mónus-designed wrapping paper and cards suit your festive needs.
Klauzál utca 31


Food for thought 
Írók Boltja 

Literally “The Writers’ Shop”, Írók Boltja started in 1950 as a bookshop and a meeting place for the city’s writers, artists and intellectuals. According to staff, there’s at least one Hungarian writer shopping here on any given day. With regular poetry readings and presentations, the shop specialises in contemporary literature, philosophy, psychology and art, plus translated Hungarian fiction. This season’s bestseller is Breaking Through: My Life in Science by Katalin Karikó, winner of the 2023 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine.
Andrássy út 45


Lace space 
Vass shoes

Launched 45 years ago as a maker of fine women’s footwear, Vass switched to men’s and now makes ready-to-wear and made-to-measure shoes using calf-leather from France and Italy. Founder László Vass manages the production while his daughter, Éva, can often be seen in the shop, whose upper floor – visible from both outside and inside – contains rows upon rows of red shoe boxes marked with customers’ names. Expect great service from two shop assistants (Judit and Gábor) and leave more time for a made-to-measure order; they’re popular at this time of year.
Haris köz 6


Wall furniture 
Budapest Poster Gallery

Ádám Várkonyi has been collecting vintage posters for 20 years, a passion that led him to open this gallery in 2010. “We deal in posters from other countries too but our focus is on 20th-century Hungarian poster art,” Várkonyi tells monocle. Visits are by appointment.
Paulay Ede utca 20


Screen scene 
Printa Concept Store

Printa is a design shop, art gallery, screen-printing studio and café under one roof. True to its name, Printa’s emphasis is on artistic prints, mostly designed and produced in-house by employees including shop manager Anna Szabó. The space also boasts sustainable upcycled clothing, the preserve of Printa founder Majoros Zita, who also makes ceramics and homeware. All Printa products are produced sustainably and visitors with some time can take part in screen-printing workshops: it always leaves an impression.
Rumbach Sebestyén utca 10


Mid-century marvels 

Not to be confused with a similarly named Italian restaurant, Fabrika sells restored mid-century furniture and lamps, including desk and ceiling lamps from Hungarian designer Tamás Borsfay. Highlights include armchairs by Czech designers Jaroslav Smidek and Jindrich Halabala. Owner Mariann Kollár started as a customer and says the shop is as much about community as retail. “Every few months, I organise exhibitions and get-togethers for like-minded people,” she tells monocle on a tour. Currently on display? Rugs by Hungarian designers Anna Katalin Lovrity and Eszter Révész. 
Szondi utca 94


In the groove 
Tipton Eyeworks

Created by entrepreneurs Zachary “Tipton” Milaskey and Yulia Tishchenko (pictured below), Tipton Eyeworks makes its glasses frames from vinyl records (the first one was reportedly a Creedence Clearwater Revival LP). There’s an ongoing collaboration with rockers AC/DC, mostly made from copies of the band’s Back in Black album. Depending on how busy things are at the time, customers can also bring beloved records to be made into a frame to a Tipton design (there are 100 to choose from). The store doubles as a workshop and an optician.
Erkel utca 6


Retro kicks 
Tisza Shoes

In 2002, while on a walk in central Budapest, entrepreneur László Vidák spotted a man wearing a pair of communist-era Hungarian trainers. He liked their retro look and knew the brand: “Tisza”, named after a river that flows through most of Hungary before joining the Danube. The following year he took over the brand, then all but dead, and quickly made it into a cultural phenomenon. All shoes are made in a small town on the Tisza in eastern Hungary. We recommend the classic Martfü model named after the brand’s original factory.
Károly körút 1


Market madness

The Vörösmarty Christmas market in the heart of Budapest is the city’s oldest seasonal shopping treat. Come by for artisanal Christmas decorations, spicy Hungarian sausages and steaming mulled wine. Falk Miksa utca (street) is flanked on both sides by antiques shops and fine art galleries, which are great for window-shopping. It is also home to a statue of American actor Peter Falk as Columbo; he and 19th-century Hungarian journalist and politician Miksa (Maximilian) Falk were related. Finally, Ecseri Piac on the eastern outskirts is the city’s largest flea market, peddling everything from homeware to Soviet-era memorabilia.

Treat yourself
Omorovicza Boutique & Spa

The Omoroviczas were a noble Hungarian family who in the early 19th century built a famous thermal bath on the Buda bank of the Danube. Two centuries on, scion Stephen Omorovicza met young US diplomat Margaret de Heinrich, they married and launched what quickly became one of Hungary’s premier luxury beauty brands. Book a spa appointment well in advance if you want a treat. If there are no slots available, get Omorovisza’s best-seller: Queen of Hungary facial mist.
Andrássy út 45


Waste not 
Medence Concept Store

Medence has been making bags, backpacks and baskets using old advertising and construction netting since 2006. “If one of us sees an interesting net at a building site, we’ll ask the workers to give it to us afterwards,” says Réka Kozalek, one of the Medence team. Most of the time, however, advertising and construction companies donate unprompted. The shop, in the Bartók Quarter, also offers workshops where visitors can make their own bags. Among the existing stock, our favourite is the Bob bag – compact yet big enough for a laptop and daily essentials.
Ménesi út 1


Treasure trove 

Buried deep in an industrial zone next to the disused art deco Kelenföld Power Station (worth a visit for design buffs), Artkraft isn’t easy to find. Once there, be ready to lose yourself in its enormous showroom overhung by vast, salvaged industrial lamps. Here, design magazines and used books are scattered around mid-century desks, tables, chair sets and wardrobes. There’s little in the way of organisation or categorisation here but it’s worth the journey and the rummage – a little effort will unearth some gems.
Budafoki út 70


Design classics 
Palmetta Design & Textile Art Gallery

Run by Itsván and Anna Regos, whose textiles, pillowcases and bags form a core part of the selection, Palmetta is the sole Hungarian distributor of the German homeware brand Remember, plus a wide range of Alessi kitchenware.
Bartók Béla út 30


Green space 

Located on the glass-fronted first floor of an impressive 1940s building – part of the listed Madách Imre Square housing project – Plante is full of lively flora. Not to mention everything that goes into raising and maintaining it, from soil to watering cans to books. Co-founder Katalin Tóth (pictured) has a background in economics and design, not botany. Plante’s biggest sellers are pots by ceramicist Viktor Erdei, made for the shop near the southern city of Pécs.
Madách Imre utca 8


Touching treats

Dea Bilau (pictured) has co-run Prezent since 2018 and her brand Touch Me Not Clothing is a top seller. Every piece comes with a card that names all of those who were involved in its production for transparency. Prezent’s other speciality is its own backpack brand, Blind Chic. The bags are made on the first floor by seamstress Sára Orbán, who goes by “Saci” and is always happy to receive visitors and explain her process and work. Ask the staff first, though, and don’t be spooked by the sewing machine noise upstairs.
Döbrentei utca 16


Glass menagerie
Ajka Crystal 

A glassware manufacturer whose history dates back to 1878, Ajka Crystal is well-known for its wine and champagne glass sets decorated with intricate motifs. Ajka also makes vases, decanters and Christmas-tree decorations. The shop’s vast interior stretches away into the dazzling distance.
Kossuth Lajos utca 10


Turning the page
Massolit Bookstore & Café 

One of Budapest’s first dedicated English-language bookshops, Massolit (an acronym for a literary organisation featured in the novel The Master and Margarita by Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov) stocks some 4,000 titles, new and used, with a focus on Hungarian authors in English translations. Make it your first stop if you’re in the market for a Budapest guidebook. Visitors can hand in their own books in exchange for credit or coffee (both good options here).
Nagy Diófa utca 30


Elegant stationery 
Bomo Art

This cheerful stationery shop on the Pest side of the Danube (with a further outlet on the Buda bank) is beloved for its leather-bound notebooks and journals, whose cover designs are made by in-house illustrator Éva Hollósi. Boom Art also collaborates with contemporary artists and designers such as Zsófi Barabás, who created limited-edition notebooks for the brand’s 20th anniversary a few years ago. Children might like Bomo Art’s kaleidoscopes or praxinoscopes (versions of early animation devices invented in the 1870s). 
Régi posta utca 14


Indie threads 

Now one of the best-established independent fashion labels in Hungary, Nanushka (a childhood nickname of founder Sandra Sándor) started in 2006. It quickly became a household name in Budapest and then, increasingly, in other cities across Europe and beyond. Its flagship shop is a few steps away from fellow fashion store Aeron (see #6); both belong to the same group, Vanguards, that also owns Milan-based brand Sunnei. The shop features both men’s and women’s collections, all of which lean towards big silhouettes and long forms. 
Bécsi utca 3



Restored wonders 
Daken Studio

In the decades after the collapse of communism in 1989, many Hungarians threw out their Soviet-era armchairs and sideboards as symbols of the system. In the years since, mid-century furniture and homeware flooded the market and Daken Studio’s sister-brother founders, Zsófia and Dániel Koma, took advantage. Their love of 20th-century Czechoslovak, Polish and Hungarian design stems from their grandparents, who were celebrated artists during the communist period. Whatever comes their way is lovingly restored and displayed in their shop near the city’s Jewish quarter. 
Horánszky utca 5


Address book

On the Pest side: Párisi Udvar opened in 2019 in a glorious art nouveau arcade that formerly housed the Central Savings Bank.
Petofi Sandor utca 2-4

On the Buda side: Hotel Clark offers a clean and clear modern design that honours the engineer behind the nearby Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Scotsman Adam Clark.
Clark Ádám tér 1

Lui: An artisanal bakery next to the postcard-pretty parliament building with some of the city’s best pastries.
Aulich utca 7

Menza: From Tisza shoes owner László Vidák, it reimagines Hungarian favourites such as goulash and galuska (egg noodles), in retro-inspired surroundings.
Liszt Ferenc tér 2

Onyx: A Michelin-starred minimalist affair, which offers great food and wine tastings. Beware the odd opening times and reserve well in advance.
Vörösmarty tér 7-8

Gerlóczy Café: Looking onto a quiet square, this Parisian-style café on the ground floor of a grand building that houses a boutique hotel boasts some of Budapest’s best coffee.
Gerlóczy utca 1

Getting here
The Ferenc Liszt International Airport is 25km southeast of the city centre. A taxi, shuttle bus or train will get you to town in less than an hour. If you are travelling by rail, the chances are that you will arrive at the Keleti, or Eastern, train station, a late-19th-century masterpiece of glass and iron.

Share on:






Go back: Contents



sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio


  • Global Music