Flea Market in the City Park

Bolhapiac, Városliget, weekends, until lunchtime, 120ft.
Pest, XIV, Széchenyi Fürdő, (M1) 5 min

There are two major flea markets in Budapest – one is a train and a bus ride south, the kind of sprawling, ramshackle bazaar where you could easily imagine yourself haggling over a Mogwai in a battered box. The other is a good deal smaller, held in the city park at weekends.

For my money, this is a more sensible, manageable alternative; it's perfectly possible to roll out of bed, onto public transport, through Városliget and right up to the door. There's no better place to be on Sunday mornings except maybe, church.

Heading right, through the city park, brings you towards an ominous enclosure surrounded by sharpened tree trunks. From the outside it looks like a not-very-secure post-apocalyptic fortress. This is in fact Petõfi Csarnok, a sizeable concert venue which in recent times has played host to artists such as Method Man and Redman, John McLaughlin and Nick Cave. At the weekends though, it's a different animal – a flea market where anything goes, and what goes on sale can sometimes beggar belief.

Perhaps the ballsiest item I've seen available was an empty bottle of Unicum - the kind of thing that may well have been polished off earlier that morning, then stuck bravely on the stand in the hope that an unsuspecting tourist would be taken in. Staggered, I asked the stall-holder how much it cost, and he said '6.000 ft' (about 20 pounds). 'Why on earth does it cost 20 pounds?' I replied, and he tipped it up and pointed to a 'very rare mark' on the bottom of the bottle. A very rare mark on the bottom of the bottle?! I'll take two!

Like any flea market, this one has an extremely high junk to not-junk ratio, but there are a few pretty interesting items around. If you're on the lookout for gifts, some of the stalls give you an opportunity to purchase presents for all the family... should your grandfather want a completed stamp collection (4000 forint), your brother, an air rifle (12,000 ft), your Mum, a tablecloth (3000 forint), your Dad, a copy of Quad Desert Anal Fury (2000 ft), and an accordion with a toy spider attached for yourself (God knows how much).

A lick of Hungarian will help when it comes to getting that copy of Quad Desert Anal Fury down to 1400 ft – most prices are negotiable, so make sure you barter. There's plenty of characters there too. A couple of personal favourites are the lady who only sells toys from Kinder Surprise, and has an in-depth knowledge of all of them.

Another great stall is stationed near the entrance, just outside the toilet, run by a very friendly couple whose table is full of cheap communist-era badges and postcards. Although I know Hungarians who are unhappy about people selling this kind of thing (and me buying it), there's something undeniably fascinating about finding a handwritten card posted to Stalinvaros, a name which has long since been swallowed up by history.

For souvenir shopping - forget Váci utca, this is the best place around, and I'm not just saying that because I'm cheap. A final word of advice... the stall holders start packing up from around 11.45, so it's recommended to arrive reasonably early. And, even though they aren't really that great, it's probably not a bad idea to eat a sausage there either. Just so you can really blend in.

Andy T.



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