Shopping in Poland and Hungary. What to bring as a souvenir?Russ Bily
Tourists frequently travel from Poland to Hungary and back, as it’s easy to find rather economical and comfortable way to go from one country to another. So that, now it has become one of the most popular destinations.
Both in Poland and in Hungary there is a lot to see! Just think about the most ancient Malbork Castle, amazing Krakow, fascinating mountains in Zakopane, or Wawel Royal Castle in Poland. If you have ever visited Hungary, you know how cool it is to have a Danube cruise, to see Buda and Pest, or relax in the most popular bathhouses in the world.
In two of my previous articles “Best Things to Do in Budapest in 3 Days” and “The Best Way to Travel Between Prague, Budapest, and Vienna,” I wrote about the best places of interest you can visit between and in those popular among tourists countries.
In this article, To remember emotions for a long time from staying in Poland and share them with relatives and friends, you need to bring the most colorful Polish things.
I have already informed you about Shopping in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. In this article, I’m going to assure you that Poland and Hungary are also worth visiting if you love shopping. This article addresses the most popular shopping centers and hypermarkets of Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw, and Budapest, as these cities are attractive for profitable purchases.
What to Buy as a Present from Poland?
The most beautiful souvenirs can be purchased at the “Sukiennice” or “Cloth Hall or Drapers’ Hall” in Krakow, as well as at the annual August St. Dominique’s Fair in Gdansk.
In Gdansk, you can find a miniature copy of the ship “Dar pomorza”. Among all sailboats in Europe, it is considered one of the largest.
The Wawel Dragon (Smok Wawelski) is also worth mentioning. It is the famous dragon in Polish folklore. In Krakow, its figures are sold in various shapes and sizes, from tiny wooden to a meter long.
Lajkonik Horseman Traditional Doll is one of the most characteristic Krakow characters. This figure of the Tatar warrior on horseback is very popular. The origin of this Lajkonik can be dated back to the 13th century when the city of Krakow was attacked during the Tatar raids on Europe.
In addition, you can buy carved masks depicting a Polish face. It is believed that Polish people have a special type of nose in the form of a potato.
2. Bolesławiec ceramics, pottery, and glass
From the 15th century to the present, the production of ceramics is flourishing in Boleslawiec. A high-quality tableware is hand-painted and has a refined style. Such products perfectly complement the interior of every kitchen, as well as is a good gift for family and friends.
A large variety of tableware is sold in Poland. Here you can buy crystal and glassware dishes decorated with silver, amber, and metal.
Pay attention to the different kinds of glasses with painted or engraved by hand sights of Krakow or other cities in Poland.They will also be a wonderful gift.
3. Jewelry from amber
Especially in cities, located on the coast of the Baltic Sea, in particular in Gdansk, you will find an incredible array of amazing pieces of amber. Amber beads, earrings, rings and necklaces will be a wonderful gift for a woman of any age. In Poland, you can find not only golden amber. Especially popular are the ornaments from green and white stone.
4. Salt lamps
The famous Salt Mine in Wieliczka every year has an increasing number of tourists, and salt lamps are becoming popular all over the world now. These things perfectly purify the air, neutralize harmful radiation from technology, and have a beneficial effect on the nervous system.
Perhaps, this is the most useful souvenir from Poland.
Famous Polish cosmetics, known mostly for the creams for hands of the brand “Ziaja—Kozie Mleko” (in white packaging) is inexpensive, but very high-quality product.
6. Unique clothes and sheepskin tablecloths
In Poland, you can find linen cloth embroidered with beautiful patterns. Decorative national costumes are very attractive for travelers. There is also a large selection of sheepskin coats and all kinds of home footwear made of felt.
In cold winter evenings, you can always warm yourself with gural slippers made from natural sheep’s wool. Often, these shoes are decorated with cute embroideries, which gives them a special charm.
Famous carpets and sheepskin tablecloths perfectly convey the spirit of Poland. These products will be a good souvenir for people who love the warmth and rainbow colors.
7. Food, Sweets, and Drinks
I recommend you to buy oscypki, delicious sheep or goat cheese, which is prepared according to a unique Polish recipe. Oscypki can be stored for a long time, so you can easily bring it to your friends. Its taste cannot leave anyone indifferent.
Among meat products, the most delicious are pork products called “wieprzowina,” Polish thin sausages called “kabanosy,” and frankfurters.
Chocolate brands “Wawel”, “Wedel” and “Kruk” are always excellent gifts.
Over the years, Wawel has become synonymous with traditional Polish chocolate such as «Kasztanki», «Michalki», «Malaga», «Krowka», and «Kukulka». Candies «Tiki-taki» and «Kasztanki» are also amazing sweets.
“Torunskie pierniki” is considered traditional Polish sweets. They can be stored for a long time. I can also advise you to buy “Sekac,” a kind of traditional pie.
As for the drinks, try «Miod Pitney», Polish strong drink, which is prepared from fermented honey. You can also try liqueur «Krupnik», sweet hot wine «Grzaniec», plum brandy «Slivovitz», or «Zubrowka», traditional Polish beverage with apple juice.
Shopping in Warsaw, Poland
The experts on Polish shopping recommend to prepare for a trip in advance: visit the sites of major shopping centers and hypermarkets, compare prices in various stores, get acquainted with profitable sales, discounts, and various motivational programs.
In all of the shopping malls and other stores, located throughout Poland, you can find great deals and sales in different seasons. The sales seasons are the same as in the other parts of the Europe. They vary from 10-70% and generally start toward the end of each season of the year.
In Warsaw, you can choose from over 20 shopping malls, which are also the places of entertainment. They feature clothing stores, offering both Polish and foreign brands.
Take a break from shopping and rest in one of the numerous cafés and restaurants, watch a movie in a modern cinema, or go to a fitness club. Most shopping malls also have play areas for children, where you can leave your kids with some professional caregivers and enjoy your shopping.
Three of the biggest malls, Arkadia, Galeria Mokotów, and Złote Tarasy, are located near the center. Warszawa Wileńska and Blue City are also located close to Warsaw’s tourist attractions. Warsaw’s shopping malls are open seven days a week.
Arkadia is the biggest shopping mall in Warsaw and perhaps in all Poland. This is a very popular social place, which gathers Warsaw’s citizens and tourists for shopping and entertainment every day. There are over 200 shops, 30 restaurants and cafés, 15 screens of Cinema City theater, and Calypso Fitness Club.
You may also like to visit MODO, as it has more than 350 boutiques in the space divided into 3 zones: ART Fashion with collections of famous Polish and foreign designers (Łukasz Jemioł, Teresa Rosati, Ewa Minge, Lagerfeld, Natasha Pavluchenko, Mariusz Przybylski), BRAND Fashion housing stores of large well-known brands like Bugatti, Henri Lloyd, Monnari, Pierre Cardin, Gabriella, Inglot, Swiss, and POP Fashion with popular products (Ryłko, Mosquito, Merce, Caprice, Red Polo, High Fashion).
Among other shopping malls, you can visit Dom Mody Klif with its exclusive brands with over 100 boutiques with clothing and accessories from international designers, or Wars Sawa Junior, located in the downtown commercial center, with shops of well-known brands including Camaieu, C & A, Cropptown, Empik, Esprit, H & M, House, InMedio, Marks & Spencer, Reserved, Rossmann, Sephora, TK Maxx, Zara.
My last recommendation is Fashion House VITKAC, the most exclusive fashion house in Poland, housing dozens of boutiques of most luxurious brands, among them mono-brand stores of GUCCI, YVES SAINT LAURENT, LANVIN, Bottega Veneta and also shops with famous furnishings such as MISSONI HOME, FENDI CASA or FLEXFORM. The restaurant Concept 13 is located on the top floor and allows the customers to admire the panorama of Warsaw.
Shopping in Wroclaw, Poland
Wrocław’s shops are stocked with everything you would expect to find in a metropolis, There are several shopping centers located in different districts of the city. Downtown there are three big centers located in a walking distance from each other.
The first and the oldest is Renoma shopping center, located on the Swidnicka Street. The other great shopping spot is just a few blocks away.
Arkady Wroclawskie is located on Powstancow Slaskich Street. Here you can find have many well-known store brands, restaurants, coffee shops, and even a 10 hall Multikino cinema.
The main attraction of this center is Salvador Dali’s big sculpture and a 12-meter long oceanic aquarium in the floors of the building.
Galeria Dominikanska is another place where you can shop, eat, and have fun. The shopping center is located at the Dominikanski Square not far from the Market Square. It has over 100 shops, many coffee houses, restaurants, and other services.
The other shopping centers are a little bit farther away from the downtown, but close enough for the public trams to reach them.
So if you want to go shopping out of the center, you may visit Pasaz Grunwaldski at the Grunwaldzki Square or Magnolia Park which is the largest shopping-entertainment-recreation mall in Lower Silesia.
Odrzańska, Kiełbaśnicza and Mikołaja streets in Wroclaw are home to upmarket boutiques and galleries. Jatki is known for its row of artisan galleries, and souvenir hunters will find plenty in the small stores, hidden along the avenues underneath the Town Hall.
Finally, don’t miss visiting Hala Targowa for a truly Polish cultural experience, and don’t hesitate to bargain there. Most shops there close early on Saturday and take Sunday off.
Shopping in Krakow, Poland
While Krakow cannot be considered a shoppers’ paradise in the traditional sense, its artsy reputation makes it a great place to pick up antiques, artwork, and jewelry.
For typical Polish or even Cracovian souvenirs, visit Cloth Hall in the center of the main square. Here you can find glass work, lace, amber, wood carvings, local sweets, and stuffed dragons.
If you prefer the shopping mall experience, then Galeria Krakowska, Galeria Kazimierz, and Bonarka City Centre will be of interest for you. Let’s get closer to these famous shopping malls in Krakow.
Galeria Krakowska is one of the most centrally located shopping malls in Europe. It’s also one of the most crowded. Thoroughly modern, featuring photo booths and interactive playground, Galeria Krakowska offers 250 stores. Here you’ll find H&M, Zara, Reserved, Peek & Cloppenburg, Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Sinsay, Rolex, electronics giant Saturn, and Carrefour supermarket, plus 1400 parking spaces, and a bustling food court area. In fact, the mall itself and the large square in front of it are also home to frequent exhibits and events.
Galeria Kazimierz is still the most likable shopping center in Krakow. Here you can find 160 retail units including media giants EMPiK and Euro RTV AGD, dozens of fashion outfitters like H&M, Zara, Reserved, Reserved Kids, United Colors of Benetton, Big Star, Ulla Popken and Simple, cosmetic specialists Sephora, revered jewellers W. Kruk, YES and Swarovski, GO Sport Outfitters, and plenty of restaurant and fast-food cafes. For recreational needs, Galeria Kazimierz also has ten screen Cinema City complex and a fitness club.
Bonarka City Center is home to 190 shops, including Auchan, Leroy Merlin, Media Expert, and Smyk Megastore, over 20 restaurants and cafes, the largest cinema complex in the city, and 3,200 free parking spaces.
I recommend you to visit the open air market on Plac Nowy in Kazimierz. It is really worth visiting, as it represents the spiritual center of Krakow sub-culture. Sometimes called the Jewish Market, this flea market is best on Saturday and Sunday mornings when it’s full of stalls selling everything from clothing to comic books. On other days, you’ll find scattered tables with fresh farmer products, antiques, and different kinds of souvenirs. Late-night food stalls here operate until around 2 a.m.
Shopping in Budapest, Hungary
What to Buy?
1. Ajka Crystal
Ajka Crystal Factory is famous all around the world for the beautiful handmade crystal products. Their beautiful tableware and decor products are available in up to 20 different colors and come in beautiful, luxurious gift boxes. The crystal has a design etched into it by hand. If you can’t make it out into the countryside to visit the factory, the company has a number of beautiful showrooms around Budapest. They have locations at 10 Kossuth Utca and 7 Jozsef Attila Street, both of which are easily accessible. Their store at 18 Szent Istvan Korter is especially lovely and has a wonderful selection of Ajka products available.
The Hungarian traditional hand-crafted porcelain dates back hundreds of years. Truly the porcelain of royalty, Herend porcelain has been used in royal courts. Today, Herend still make their famous products at a small factory in the Hungarian countryside. Using a mixture of quartz, kaolin, and feldspar, this porcelain is fired at tremendous heat and then hand-painted by craftsman. Beautiful coffee cups, soup tureens, plates, and bowls are decorated with patterns of leaves, birds, and flowers. Herend porcelain is rather inexpensive, from between $75-$300, but it is well worth the price. The best place to purchase Herend porcelain is from one of the company’s showrooms around the city, such as the Herend Porcelain Store at Szentharomsag utca 5, Budapest, Hungary.
3. Traditional Clothes
Put a little color into your wardrobe, or the wardrobe of a friend, by bringing a traditional Hungarian shirt from Budapest. Although no longer worn every day, Hungarians still enjoy wearing it for folk dancing events or national celebrations. Folk costumes from Hungary are very colorful and have beautiful designs embroidered on them. Women’s clothing tends to consist of flared skirts with petticoats and blouses with puffed sleeves. Men’s costumes tend to be long sleeved and complimented with a vest or a sash. Boots and embroidered shoes are also a staple of their traditional dress. Folk shirts are usually white and hand embroidered with colorful designs. Sometimes ribbons are used to decorate the collar or cuffs. Vaci utca is home to the shops that sell these wonderful souvenirs. Visit Folkart Centrum at 58. Vaci utca for this interesting souvenir.
4. Traditional Dolls
Hungarian dolls have been exhibited at museums around the world. Their beautiful costumes, delicate features, and embroidered hats make them admired wherever they are shown. Hungarian dolls make a wonderful souvenir to bring back either as a gift or a collectible item. These beautiful handmade dolls come dressed in either traditional Hungarian peasant costumes, or in elegant, old fashioned, ball gowns. The Handicraft & Gift Shop at 32 Vaci Street is a treasure trove of dolls, embroidery, and traditional Hungarian crafts.
Give your dining room table an elegant, traditional look with a beautiful hand embroidered table cloth from Budapest. There are several different styles of embroidery that are popular in Hungary, the most prevalent of which are the blue on white patterns and the colorful floral designs. For a more colorful look, consider the bright red and green floral patterns that are embroidered onto white and black clothes. You’ll find these installs at the Great Market Hall at Fovam Ter.
6. Hungarian Secret Boxes
There is a great variety of secret boxes, from tiny ring sized to full sized jewelry boxes. Some are painted and some retain the original look of the wood they are carved from. There is a hidden compartment inside the box itself, in which you can store your most treasured possessions. Hand carved out of wood, these boxes make a wonderful gift for anyone who enjoys puzzles or values their privacy. They are on sale at many of the stands in the Great Market Hall.
7. Rubik’s Cube
Although you are probably familiar with these colorful puzzles, it may surprise you to learn that the original inventor was Hungarian. You can buy Rubik’s cube at any number of toy stores around the city, a number of which are located in the large WestEnd Shopping Center.
8. Paintings of the Danube
Walk along the Danube, and you’ll be sure to spot Hungarian artists sitting by the water with their sketch pads and paints by their side. You’ll find paintings, pastel drawings and black and white sketches. Although you can find individual artists selling their work by the river, there is also a lovely antique store at 66 Vaci utca that sells a wide selection of paintings, prints and drawing.
After your first taste of the famous Hungarian dish “Paprikas Csirke” (Chicken with Paprika) you’ll want to buy this magnificent spice. Hungarian cuisine is famous for its flavor, and one of the essential ingredients is Paprika. This spice is not only delicious and colorful but is also rich in Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants. Although you can buy paprika in the grocery store, lovely gift sets are sold in many of the stores on Vaci street. Most shops will sell a package of three cloth bags, containing sweet, spicy and very spicy types of paprika.
10. Kurtos Kalacs
Kurtos Kalacs or “Chimney Cakes” are one of the oldest, and arguably most delicious, pastries produced in Hungary. They are now sold on street corners all over Budapest. The baked cakes are sprinkled with caramelized sugar and other flavorings like vanilla, chocolate, coconut, and cinnamon. And, as if that weren’t enough, the desert is often then topped off with almonds or walnuts. Kurtos Kalacs are especially popular around Christmas time when you can purchase them hot in the Christmas markets. You can buy them at Molnar’s Kurtoskalacs on Vaci street 31.
11. Tokaji Wine, Palinka, and Unicum
During your trip to Budapest, I recommend you to purchase some Tokaji for your friends and family at home. Produced only in North Eastern Hungary, Tokaji wine comes in a variety of different tastes including dry, Szamorodni, Aszu, Eszencia, Fordiatas and Maslas. Wine in Budapest is very cheap and prices for Tokaji range from $7-$25. Tokaji is easily purchased at the Bacchus Borkereskedes liquor store located at 23 Vaci Utca.
Palinka is also a traditional Hungarian Drink at dances, wedding, and celebrations. If you go to any bar or restaurant in Budapest, Palinka will be on the menu. But pay attention that it is very strong. You can buy Palinka all over the city, including the Bacchus Borkereskedes Store at 23 Vaci Street. They have a wide variety of different flavors and types of palinka.
Finally, Unicum is also famous Hungarian bitter herbal liqueur, made from over 40 spices, using a recipe that has remained a secret for centuries. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll need to stop at the gift shop to buy some of your own. The museum and gift shop are located at 26 Soroksari Ut.
Where to Go Shopping?
1. Main Shopping Places
Shopping in Budapest offers plenty of options to find good bargains. Budapest has many shopping malls, including the largest shopping mall in Central Europe, the WestEnd City Center. As everywhere in Europe, they combine brand name shops with entertainment facilities. Most malls are located outside the City Center. The closest shopping malls to the City Center are Corvin Plaza, Arena Plaza, KöKi Terminal, Mammut, Árkád and Árkád2, Allee, Mom Park.
The main shopping areas are located in Pest’s City Center. One of them is Váci Street, perhaps the most famous shopping street in Budapest. Designated as a pedestrian precinct, it runs from Vörösmarty Square to Vámház körút (Central Market Hall), featuring a large number of fashionable shops, restaurants, and cafés.
Neighboring streets such as Fashion Street on Deák Ferenc utca, also offer a great shopping experience. Shops like Hugo Boss, Max Mara, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, and Mexx are some of the stores located here.
Other major shopping sections are the main streets radiating out from the city center. Andrássy Avenue has some of the most glamorous and expensive shops. Such boutiques as Louis Vuitton, Ermenegildo Zegna, Burberry, Gucci, and Roberto Cavalli are located here. Bajcsy-Zsilinszky utca and Rákóczi út have many shops as well.
2. Designer shops
Besides standard shopping malls, another reason to visit Budapest is that this city has an emerging design scene. There’s a monthly design market (WAMP), featuring homegrown fashion; Budapest Design Week takes place every October, Budapest Fashion Week each April; the city is the base for “The Room”, an international art and fashion magazine; and there are several shops selling creations by talented Hungarian designers. Visit unique shops of Hungarian designers, such as GOUBA, Insitu, Lokalwear, Matyodesign, Mono Fashion, Printa, Retrock, Szputnyik, Tisza, Varga Design, WAMP.
For some inspirational gift ideas from contemporary designers check out Király utca, Budapest’s Design Street, filled with design galleries and funky boutiques.
3. Outlet Stores
Budapest doesn’t have many options for outlet shopping. There’s only one outlet mall, Premier Outlet Center, which is located in the outskirts, southwest of Budapest. Premier Outlet Center is accessible by bus (buses leave from the Etele tér bus station in Buda) or by car.
A large outlet mall that many locals go to is a bit further away, on a route between Budapest and Vienna. This is the Designer Outlet in Parndorf, Austria.
4. Budapest Markets
There are five large market halls in Budapest. The first is Central Market Hall (Központi Vásár csarnok). This is the largest indoor market in Budapest. There is a huge variety of vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and meats. Souvenirs such as paprika and Tokaji are also available. On the second floor, you’ll find vendors selling folk art, as well as a small food court and a restaurant serving traditional Hungarian dishes.
Other popular markets are the following: Klauzál Square Market Hall (Klauzál téri piac), Rákóczi Square Market Hall (Rákóczi téri piac), Hold Street Market Hall (Hold utcai piac), Hunyadi Square Market Hall (Hunyadi téri piac).
Food stores and supermarkets are open from 6.00 or 7.00 till 18.00/22.00, Monday to Friday, on Saturdays from 6.00 or 7.00 till 18.00/22.00.
Some supermarkets, for example, Tesco is open 24/7
Other Budapest shops are open Monday to Friday from 10.00 till 18.00 or till 20.00, on Saturdays from 9.00/10.00 till 13.00.
Food markets are usually open from 06.00 till 17.00/18.00 from Monday til Friday and from 06.00 till 13.00/15.00 on Saturdays.
Having the shopping in Poland and Hungary, try to focus not on the recognized, international brands and franchises, but unique, home-grown businesses.
Shopping in those amazing countries will give you a lot of pleasure. In Poland, you will be offered a variety of souvenirs, from famous Bolesławiec ceramics, pottery, and glass to jewelry from amber and salt lamps.
Hungary, mainly its capital Budapest will surprise you with a variety of wines, liqueurs, as well as porcelain and crystal.
If you are thinking about the most suitable and comfortable way of transport during your shopping tour, be sure that traveling in a private car with a local driver guide, using our service.