Hungary has brought to life some of the world’s most innovative designs, including the rather handy ballpoint pen – aka Biro – and the must-have puzzle game of the 1980s – the Rubik’s cube. Today Budapest has more designers than ever. Many keep up the rich tradition of “designing for life”, as venerable Hungarian designer László Mohany-Nagy once called the point of artistic invention. Which means fashion-savvy technology and art aficionados should be pleased that in the last few years a massive outcropping of Hungarian design shops has occurred in Budapest. Potential finds include clocks made from bicycle spokes, vintage Hungarian porn on the sides of eye glass frames and Soviet-style retro Hungarian shoes. Here are five design hot spots in walking distance of Budapest’s centre. All their products are designed and made in Hungary and well worth a gander.
Words and photos by Monika Jones
Tisza CipőIn the 1970s, Tisza Cipő was a Hungarian shoe factory that mostly produced for the German brand Adidas. In the late 1980s, just when flocks of style-conscious Hungarians were waiting outside the shop to buy the iconic Western footwear the brand, and factory, sunk into debt and closed. Lucky for all, in 2003, a Hungarian investor and self-proclaimed “sneaker freak” reopened Tisza Cipő and reinvigorated the brand using high quality leather and a few modern design twists. No longer an outsourcing centre, Tisza Cipő has since been known as Hungary’s retro shoe factory. The cozy flagship store in the city centre of Budapest features limited edition shoes for men and women most of which have the characteristic “made in Hungary” on the shoe tongue and the Tisza “T” in bold colors on the side. Tisza Cipő also carries bags, shirts, and accessories. Shoes cost around Ft 16,000-20,000 (€60-90). The coolness factor you’ll get by sporting authentic Soviet nostalgia might be worth the investment, or at least a look.
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Tipton Eyewear at Orange OptikaSince 2001, Zach Tipton of Tipton Eyewear has been perfecting the art of melting down vinyl records and remolding them into retro eyeglass frames. First, of course, the music on the LPs is preserved with one last recording. Meanwhile, Tipton also produces frames made from – and featuring – recycled celluloid film strips on the glasses’ arms. Tipton Eyewear is famous. It’s been featured around the world but all frames are made at a factory in Hungary. A pair ranges in price from Ft 20,000-55,000 (€75-200). More recently, Tipton launched a line of porno glasses, which feature scenes from vintage stag films from the 1950s-70s on the arms. Considering Hungary’s infamous status as the porn capitol of Europe – and popularity with the stag groups – this seems appropriately risque for Hungarian wearable eye-candy. See for yourself with a visit to Tipton’s local digs. Tipton Eyewear at Orange Optika.
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Printa AkadémiaEco-design attire and home ware shop. Silkscreen studio. Art gallery. Coffee shop. Since opening in 2009, Printa Akadémia has been true to the goal of being a “concept” shop. If you don’t know what that means, visit and find out. Printa features Hungary’s most prominent graphic artists and showcases many more Hungarian designers making furniture, clothing and accessories for men, women and kids. Prints include futuristic takes of cityscapes, playful hand drawn figures, and graffiti-inspired graphics. Beyond being a printmaker’s paradise, Printa is one of the few spots in Budapest that serves up French-pressed, fair trade filter coffee. This is the kind of shop that you’d find in New York or London, and prices reflect that urban chic. Located in the up-and-coming Jewish district, Printa is across the street from the Rumbach Street Little Synagogue.
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Design Terminal’s WAMP MarketThe old abandoned central bus station at Erzsébet tér is now the hub and headquarters of Budapest’s largest Hungarian design collective, WAMP. In the park-like space above the popular Gödör Klub and adjacent to a pool and park, Design Terminal stages regular markets, exhibitions and shows. And it’s the bi-monthly design markets that are worth a wander through. Literally hundreds of Hungarian designers come together to put up booths showing off – and selling – their latest. A good place to find a one-of-a-kind handbag, skater shirt or handmade toy for a tot, this is no old-fashioned market but a flea market for etsy-lovers. Check the WAMP website to see when loitering around the old bus terminal means going somewhere forward thinking.
Kék LóKék Ló (Blue Horse) made this list for being eco-friendly, extremely affordable, and for serving beer. Virág Toth, the self-taught fashion designer and bar proprietor, designs men’s and women’s attire which she sells in her small lounge/shop in the heart of the Jewish district. Some are fashioned from second-hand clothing, such as a black dress made of a pin-striped suit, an ivory hooded sweatshirt embellished with old-fashioned, handmade Hungarian lace, or the men’s two-toned tees. Prices range from Ft 2,500-5,500 (€9-€20). The best part of her shop are undoubtedly the prices. It’s hard to find local unique designs with such an attractive price tag. And beers at the bar are cheaper than at Szimpla, probably the most famous Hungarian ruined garden bar (romkert) which happens to be across the street. Possibly the only drawback of Kék Ló is precisely the scene. Having a clothing shop coupled with a bar in a country where smoking indoors is still legal means the attire does appear to have the faint aroma of lounge life.
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For tips on attractions, hip hotels, restaurants and bars, head over to our Budapest city guide.