Close to the river Danube, Budapest's Great Market Hall is a huge food market in a stunning three-story neogothic building that dates back to the late 19th century. The ground floor features stalls selling meats, cheeses, pastries, wine, spirits and seasonal fruit and vegetables. Work up an appetite while browsing traditional Hungarian produce before heading upstairs to tuck into hearty dishes like goulash and chicken paprikas. Here are our top seven items to try and buy while you're exploring one of Budapest's must-see sights.
Libamáj (Foie Gras)
While its seen as an expensive (albeit controversial) delicacy throughout much of the world, libamáj (foie gras made from goose liver) is pretty easy to come by at Budapest's Central Market. It's also extremely affordable. You can expect to pay less than half of what you'd pay in the US or UK. Pick up a tin of this rich, buttery pâté from any of the meat stalls and slather it on fresh kifli, a crescent-shaped bread roll that's eaten throughout Hungary.
Sausages are a big deal in Hungary. They feature in dishes served at breakfast, lunch and dinner and pop up in stews, soups, salads and pastries. Kolbász is the catch-all term for Hungarian sausage and there are many different varieties on offer at the market that are served cooked, boiled, cured or smoked. There are tons of stalls selling all sorts of different types including csabai kolbász, a spicy sausage flavored with paprika; Gyulai kolbász, a beech wood-smoked sausage from the town of Gyula; and májas hurka, a boiled liver sausage. It's probably best to sample kolbasz while you're in Hungary to avoid any complications at customs.
Pálinka (Fruit Brandy)
This traditional Hungarian fruit brandy dates back to the Middle Ages when it was sipped for its medicinal properties. It remains one of the nation's favorite tipples and you'll see it on drinks lists at restaurants and bars throughout the country. Pick up a bottle from the market where some of the stalls will let you try before you buy. It's typically made from fruit grown in Hungary including apricots, plums, cherries and pears although as it's a potent spirt (at least 37.5% ABV) you may only be able to detect subtle differences in flavor.
Töltött káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage)
After you've worked up an appetite hopping from stall to stall on the ground floor, head upstairs to sample some classic Hungarian dishes. There are a number of outlets lining the balcony of one side of the hall that serve hearty food like goulash, kolbasz and chicken paprikas at the benches overlooking the market. Don't leave without trying some stuffed cabbage. The Hungarian speciality features cooked cabbage leaves loaded with ground pork and beef, rice, tomatoes and sauerkraut. As with many Hungarian dishes, it's generously flavored with paprika. This comforting dish is usually eaten in winter and is definitely worth sampling when you're at the market as it's fiddly to assemble at home.
Magyar Tojasos Metelt (Hungarian Noodles)
Like pasta, Hungarian egg noodles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and you can pick up packets at the market to create your very own Magyar-inspired meals at home. Made from flour, eggs and salt, the noodles are rolled, pinched or grated and feature in popular dishes like chicken paprikas and Pörkölt and in soups like Tyúkhúsleves. Look out for Nokedli (drop dumplings similar to German spaetzle), Csipetke (pinched noodles used in soups and stews) and Csiga (small noodles made on special grooved wooden boards).
Piros Arany (Paprika Paste)
You'd struggle to find a household in Hungary that didn't have a tube of piros arany (red gold) in its kitchen. This handy condiment is a paste made from quality minced paprika and it's used to flavor all sorts of traditional dishes like goulash and chicken paprikas. Add a dollop to soups and stews or use it to marinate meats and fish. You can buy sweet, smoked and spicy versions and the tubes make great, affordable gifts for food-loving friends and family.
Sajtos Pogácsa (Cheese Scones)
For a carby on-the-go snack, pick up a Sajtos Pogácsa, a light, fluffy and comforting cheese scone served crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. These bite-sized savory scones are typically served with hearty soups and stews but they're delicious on their own too.