We should thus start chronologically, with Red Bus Bookstore which we've found a long time (ok, prehaps not AS long) before Bookstore Guide had been conceived. It all happened somewhere in June last year while we were wandering about Budapest. Unfortunately, the bookstore was closed at the time of our discovery (either it was Sunday or past 6pm, or perhaps both) but we made sure we came back a couple of months later and we were left breathless both by the prices and the selection. Red Bus Bookstore is one of our favorites to this very day since it will be very hard to beat the impression it had left on us. Not once had we left without a book. Or two. Although it's usually more than 4.
After Bookstore Guide had been born, we stumbled upon some websites which listed Treehugger Dan's bookstore and it was only after we recieved a recommendation by one of its customers that it got a place among all of the bookstores in the Guide. Treehugger Dan's has two locations (due to the first, original one being overpopulated with books - Dan, the owner himself said that even his toilet is to this very day cramped with books) and we visited them both. The old one (the one in Csengery utca) is by far better stocked with books, with the prices usually ranging from 900HUF to a few hundreds HUF more, with an excellent selection of fiction and non-fiction both. Be sure to check out the new arrivals because it was there that we found the most interesting books (the 'new arrivals' section is something every bookstore should have, especially if you are a regular customer since you shouldn't go through all the shelves over and over again). We had a pleasant chat with Dan about bookstores in Budapest while we were book browsing.
Our next stop came as a huge surprise because at the time we thought we had already exhausted all the second-hand, afordable bookstores. Although located a bit far from the center, Bookstation definitely deserves the attention from all the book lovers with the shelves from floor to ceiling (literally), from English languge to French, German and even Spanish. While trying to balance ourselves on the high ladders while trying to reach the books, we found some real gems among all of them (perhaps it is also important to mention that one should look behind the books on the shelves because there is a whole another row of books behind the visible ones). We also found an interview made with Marton Gulyas, the owner of Bookstation. "Choosing a bookstore is a little like choosing a dentist - you want to create a sort of relationship, where you feel comfortable, especially if for whatever reason you spend a significant portion of your income on books." (taken from Budapest Funzine)
We certainly agree with Mr. Gulyas and we hope that many people would choose Bookstation for their "dentist" as they most likely won't get disappointed.
Budapest, being a large city as it is, hides more bookstores in its numerous streets. Another one of them is D2K (certainly an unusual name for a bookstore although we haven't tried to guess the meaning behind it). This specialized bookstore is just around the corner from Treehugger Dan's Lounge and it stocks books on design, art and architecture - something certainly useful for students of arts and art lovers. The interior of the bookstore is very interesting, since it is spacious and "artsy" itself and the book selection is carefully chosen and unique. After this bookstore, we headed on north to Pendragon Books (a bookstore which stocks only new books). Pendragon (which got a name after a legend - we did some research on this one) has a wide assortment of books out of which we were most impressed by the children's books section (something that most bookstores do not pay a special attention to). We also went to Bestsellers, a bookstore just a 5 minute walk from the very center of Budapest. This bookstore also stocks new books and it is especially useful if you're looking for specialized books, for example on literary criticism or politology. If you are an expat living in Hungary, you also won't be disappointed by their stock of foreign newspapers and magazines - just to catch up with the current trends of your native country.
And thus our three day Budapest bookstore hunt had ended (thanks to the Hungarian railway strike - originally we planned a two day stay but were held in the city a bit longer) with 13 books in our bags and our shelves. We will add the titles and prices of some of the books into the Comments section of the respective bookstore. Perhaps it would be important to mention another two bookstores we visited but haven't added to our guide - one of them being the bookstore chain Libri and the other bookstore being Alexandra. Both of them stock mostly books in Hungarian but some English language books can be found as well. Alexandra, just across the Nyugati trainstation, is particularly interesting since it spreads on four floors and is open until midnight.
To sum it all up, the search for English books in Budapest does require a certain amount of energy, but its results are most rewarding. Several English bookstores, each of them unique and special in its own way, wide selection and in some cases more than friendly prices, all these aspects make Budapest almost impossible to leave (in our case literally) and will surely draw us back soon.
Check out our Reports from other European cities.