Központi Vasarcsarnok

Fővám tér, Pest end of Liberty Bridge

The Grand Market Hall – Central Market Hall by its official name – is the largest indoor market of Budapest, found in the 9th district, on the border of the inner city and Ferencváros, under Fõvám square 1-3. The Market Hall has been portrayed in several TV news around the world as many prestigious political guests of Budapest have purchased garlic and ground red paprika here in front of the cameras. Everything from meat through spices to vegetables is available here in the most beautiful, largest and richest market of Budapest.


The construction of the building began in 1894, but due to a fire disaster a few days prior to opening, it was opened to the public only on February 15, 1897. At the same time, 4 other modern market buildings were opened in the city (Hold street, Rakoczi square, Klauzál square and Hunyadi square). The total cost of construction was 1 900 000 HUF, almost as much as the cost of the other 4 markets of the district altogether. Following the opening ceremony, the first cargo train rolled into the hall and one day after, “life” began in the market hall.

The first director of the market was Nándor Ziegler, who established firm rules of functioning. One of the provisions for example was that the vendors could only use the facilities of the market and were not allowed to make their own booths. Company logos and advertisements had to be approved by the management. Rental fees were based on the type of goods sold. The highest rent was to be paid by those selling fish, because of the cooling facilities. Hygenic provisions were also numerous, and it was forbidden to promote the goods by yelling, singing or whistling. Swearing was also not allowed and a strict schedule of opening hours was introduced. These rules were not very popular among the vendors. Not all goods met the higher quality standards not seen before. Several critical articles were published and clients complained about prices, mean vendors and that they were cheated several times. Goods quality was supervised continuously and bad quality goods were often confiscated by the management. Following the disputes of the first few weeks, the vendors soon realized that the revenues were growing from month to month. During the years, both the inside and the outside of the building was further facilitatated, for example the fish hall was constructed along with the arcades on the outside.

During World War I, however, prices skyrocketed and rumbles and stealings were not an uncommon scene. Significant damage was caused in the building during World War II. The so-called ground-level “chicken hall” and the Pipa street crossship were damaged badly. During the renovations, ceramics stored in the basement were used, but unfortunately, speed was of higher importance than precision. In the 60’s, standardized booths were placed in the building, leading to a loss of the old atmosphere. Eventually, the market was shut down in 1991 because the structural damages of the building acquired during World War II became life threatening. Renovations were finished in 1994 and the market hall once again became one of the most prestigious buildings of Budapest. In 1999, it won the most prestigious internaional prize of the architectural world, the FIABCI Prix d’Excellence.

Everyday life in the market

Visiting the market hall in Budapest is a must for all tourists. Entering the market through the main entrance, you won’t know which way to turn as the colorful booths and the mouth-watering vegetables and meats will immediately catch your eye. If you are able to resist the temptation of the first booths, it’s best to begin in the basement where you can taste the famous Hungarian sour vegetables and visit the oriental stores. In addition, you’ll also find a place here where you can have breakfast, a grocery and the chemical products discount store. Coming back to ground level, we’ll hopp right into the busy life if the market, zig-zagging through the vegetables and fruits, fresh meats and processed meat products. You are best off enjoying this with a fresh baked small bread in your hand… Furthermore, there is a hairdresser on the ground level. Climbing the stairs to the galery, rest a minute and look back at the busy life beneath you and the firm structure of the building itself. Goods on this level are mainly gifts, souvenirs and wines. Also, several buffets are available here, offering a chance to taste original Hungarian recepices locals love. If you have time, it’s really worth looking around on all three levels and even if you are not purchasing anything, it’s a great experience just to see for yourself what locals are buying and how people are behaving in the market. (From: ohb.hu)

Just across from the Kalvin Ter metro stop on the Pest side of the city is the Central Market. This building is huge and a great place to get all your gifts in one stop. The central market hall has been up and running since the end of the 19th century and is the largest of all the markets in Budapest. The bottom floor, where you will enter, is bright and so nice and warm on a winter morning. It was packed with locals buying their groceries. Every kind of meat, fruit, or vegetable was on display, which makes for some great photographs as well as shopping. There were stalls hanging meat, long sausages, and ham legs, and others just piled high with paprika. Some stalls just had local alcohol, such as the Tokai dessert wine, Unicum, or Bechrokova liquor. Upstairs is the equivalent of a fast-food court, with many stalls selling homemade goulash and such. Farther on from the food are the handicrafts: jewelry, bags, embroidery, wooden toys, and so on. I love markets. I love the smells and the atmosphere of knowing I am shopping alongside the locals. I must say that I did run into plenty of tourists, though, so word is getting out about this shopping experience. Prices were better than the shops, especially for food products. Its best to get there early, as then the locals will be in full force. (From: community.roughguides.com)

Central Market Hall resides at the end of Vaci Street. While it is on the less commercial end of the street, it does get its fair share of tourists. When I ate lunch here the other day, everyone around me was speaking some form of English. The main floor has plenty of permanent booths (think store fronts) selling meats, fruits, vegetables and tourist paprika/trinkets. For those who would actually have the facilities to cook, the selection and quality is first rate. On the top level, you will find tons of stalls selling typical tourist goods and a few really excellent prepared food stalls. Although weird, I always go to this one stall that sells fried sweet bread with your choice of toppings. I get ketchup and cheese, though sweet toppings are also available. The hall itself is remarkable: cavernous, architecturally interesting and clean.


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