on August 30, 2010
There's much to be said for the virtues of markets as hubs in which to experience something of the real flavour of a city, and Budapest's Great Market Hall is this in part at least, with something of a touristy lean to it. Wander amid piles of paprika and seas of sausages before gobbling goulash and drinking something suitably alliterative at one of the food stalls upstairs, surrounded by the impressive architecture of the Hall, built over a hundred years ago and given a mid-nineties makeover. The paprika's a celebrated Hungarian speciality, and you'll find a hundred variations on dried peppers throughout the market, with some stalls given over to just about nothing but the stuff.The Market Hall is a hundred yards or so from the point where the Liberty bridge crosses the Danube to Buda, and is a short walk from the nearest metro station (Kalvin Ter, on the blue/number three line). On the ground floor where you enter, an extensive food market spreads out, grouped roughly, if not completely, by type of product - a cluster of greengrocers are gathered by the entrance, with butchers, bakers and cheese further back. In this, the largest of the city's indoor markets, the amount of produce is dazzling, creating a labyrinth of colours and fragrances that are almost built for looking as much as buying. If you do purchase here, prices seem pretty reasonable.Downstairs, there are some supermarkets and oriental spice shops, whilst at the upper gallery level, stalls tend to sell a more touristy flavour of goods; plenty of embroided fabrics, clothes and handicrafts, plus a bird's eye view of the to and fro of the main floor of the market below. Around the edges of the upper level, a variety of stalls, bars and restaurants make a good lunchtime stopping-point, raised above the mountains of food below but still wholly infused by the atmosphere. There are options for all budgets, with plenty of hot snacks and meals-on-the-go available alongside sit-down venues.Above the main entrance, the quite magnificently-named Fakanal restaurant is probably more expensive than it should be for what's a pretty basic set-up, but the food's good and filling, and there's substantial choice of meals and beverages. It's a kind of cafeteria design, with an L-shaped counter that takes in hot foods, including an extensive array of delicious-looking meats and soups, salads, pasta dishes and the usual choices of drinks. The meat in particular is a little pricey, but there are cheaper options, and the ever-present Goulash (around 1000 Forint/£3ish) is a deceptively filling lunch. Take a table "outside" - that is, outside the glass shell of the restaurant - if you can, to get away from the slightly stifling air indoors and the occasional fiddling-squawking musicians in the corner.From here, there are plenty of choices to continue a day's sightseeing, with the Danube to the west and both the Basilica and Synagogue a kilometre or two to the north. If you're somehow not stuffed after a market-visit, Raday utca is a long, narrow street barely two hundred metres to the east lined with possibly hundreds of bars, cafes and restaurants. Leave plenty of time, as it'll take several hours to decide where to eat - although perhaps that's just me and my world-class powers of procrastination.
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