- 6 Jun 2023 10:01 AM
Most will have an English-language section and even if it doesn’t, there should be enough unusual maps and curious prints to have you browsing for hours.
You’ll also see street carts of secondhand books parked at key locations around the city, most notably outside the Prága Kávéház at the Kálvin tér end of Baross utca, and on the Károly körút side of Madách tér.
The most central of Budapest’s secondhand bookstores, Atticus sits shoulder to shoulder within a row of terrace cafés, so you can sit and peruse your new purchase over a coffee right away.
Here, 40,000 volumes fill the ground floor and gallery, the business overseen by a former book collector and graduate in library studies who knows his onions. The stock is mainly Hungarian, of course, but you should find enough English-language titles to have you happily browsing for a fair while. Framed prints accentuate the erudite atmosphere.
1075 Budapest, Asbóth utca 19.
Open Mon-Fri 10am-6pm.
Image from Atticus FB page
2. Dani’s English bookshop
In the heart of the Castle District, Budapest’s tourist central, this intimate store is run by an eccentric character who studied at Oxford – hence the stock here, the bulk of which is the whole gamut of English literature. It’s not all heavyweight stuff, crime and histories also feature strongly.
If you’re looking for something rare to invest in, you might find it tucked away beside the door, although don’t expect any bargains. Be aware that the opening hours are unreliable, so phone ahead just in case or pop in on the off chance as part of a stroll around the city’s main historic sights. There’s no website or Facebook page.
Dani’s English bookshop
1014 Budapest, Országház utca 18
(+36 30 633 0558)
Open daily 10am-2pm but phone ahead.
Names in celebration of a Transylvanian publisher and cartographer known to the English-speaking world as Johannes Honter, Honterus is one of the many secondhand bookstores lining Múzeum körút opposite the National Museum.
Its mission is the “collection, care and sale of cultural traditions directly related to paper-based legacies, old books, maps, magazines, engravings, manuscripts, prints, postcards etc…”
The English section is modest – don’t come here for some chick lit for the beach – but the stock is a fascinating trove, as the shop’s mission statement suggest.
You can spend hours here lost in rare maps or painstaking etchings, gentle classical music in the background, while the suitably venerable staff can happily advise. It also operates as an auction house – check the Facebook page for dates.
1053 Budapest, Múzeum körút 35.
Open Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-2pm.
4. Kárpáti és Fia
A family business as its name suggests, Kárpáti & Son will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024, marking a half-century of activity, operating for the last two decades along Budapest’s antiquarian row opposite the National Museum.
Also big on old prints and rare maps, this welcoming store allows you to lose yourself in history and geography.
Head to the shelves in the middle of the room if it’s only English-language books you’re after, or time your visit around one of the biannual auctions.
Kárpáti és Fia
1053 Budapest, Múzeum körút 29.
Open Mon-Fri 10am-6pm.
5. Központi Antikvárium
Justifiably revered as the most venerable of Budapest’s secondhand bookstores, it’s also the largest. The ‘Central Antiquarian’ has been operating since 1891, long before the Astoria Hotel that stands nearby, and has seen its fair share of history from its location facing the National Museum.
Best known for its classic neon sign of a rather bookish owl, the Központi Antikvárium is decked out in lovely old posters of Budapest which you’ll covet and then probably shrink away from once you hear the price tag.
Other rarities are kept under glass, and there’s a curtained-off side room for professional collectors. For common or garden English-language books head to the left-hand side as you walk in for novels, biographies, histories and travelogues, and if there’s something you see higher up, avail yourself of the handy communal stepladder.
1053 Budapest, Múzeum körút 13-15.
Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm.
Words & photos by Peterjon Cresswell
Peterjon has been researching the byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website liberoguide.com